by: Chip Ingram
Psalm 46 promises more than God’s protection, security in His strength, and gladness in His presence even when times are hard and fearful. This song of praise promises deliverance by God’s power.
The psalmist says that God is within the city and “she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.” For us, “break of day” may bring to mind images of a gentle sunrise, but an Israelite in the psalmist’s day would have though immediately of the exodus. “Break of day! Remember when Moses led us out of Egypt and the soldiers were chasing us? We were standing at the shore of the Red Sea, feeling trapped, when God parted the waters. Then, at the break of day, Moses prayed and the sea closed back up.”
The psalmist’s reference to “break of day” is a reference to deliverance. In the midst of our greatest fear and trouble, God will deliver us. He will be our security. He will give us what we need. He will protect us and sustain us. He will deliver us, one moment at a time.
Few people have modeled God’s moment-by-moment deliverance better than Paul Graeff. Only 54 years old, Paul went in for a routine check-up after some mild symptoms caused some concern. He learned he had cancer of the colon, but the doctors had high hopes that they had caught it early. Unfortunately, surgery soon revealed that the doctors had been overly optimistic. The cancer had already spread to Paul’s liver.
A day or two after surgery revealed the fact, I visited Paul and his wife Vicky. During my time with them I saw with my own eyes evidence that God’s presence gives protection and a sense of security. When I asked Paul and Vicky, “How are you really doing?” Paul smiled and, with his head tilted a little bit, said, “You know, considering where we are, we’re okay.” Although they didn’t use the specific words, they communicated, “God has given us grace. We have peace in the midst of a hard time.” Before I left they did say, “We’re just going to live one day at a time. God will give us what we need, one day at a time.”
Paul and Vicky are saying with the psalmist, “The presence of God is with me. I will not fall. He will deliver. He will help.”
The opposition may be strong. The nations (and “our world”) may be in an uproar, but when God lifts His voice, the earth melts. Even when there is trouble, God’s people can know joy, protection, security, and peace. And all these things come from His constant presence with us.
Consider how this theme is repeated in verses four through seven of Psalm 46. The psalmist doesn’t want us to miss this timeless truth. In four verses, he tells us of God’s presence and provision five different ways: “The city of God, the holy place is where the most high dwells”: “God is within her”; “God will help her at the break of day”; “The Lord Almighty is with us” (and “with us” literally means “for us”); and “the God of Jacob is our fortress.” The God of hosts not only makes all His power available to us, His people but He meets us wherever we are. That’s what Psalm 46 teaches about God, the Lord Almighty, the God of Jacob.
Now you may be secretly thinking to yourself, “Oh sure, God manifests His supernatural power and presence for pastors, missionaries, and other spiritual giants. But I’m going through a horrendous time and I know I’ve not been the Christian I am supposed to be.” You reason, “God is faithful to the godly, but can someone who has a checkered past and a less than stellar track record expect God to hear his cry when he’s afraid?”
In answer to your question, notice that the psalmist refers to the God of Jacob. Why didn’t he refer to the God of Abraham or the God of Isaac or the God of Israel? Jacob was one of the three patriarchs, but his name means, literally, “the grasper of the heel” or “deceiver.” Jacob was always messing with people, lying, manipulating, and jockeying for position. Jacob was always doing people in. But Jacob is the patriarch the psalmist refers to here, and the fact should be a real encouragement if you’re feeling like God’s presence and power are only for the godly and truly spiritual among us. It is true that God will not play games, cut deals, or be manipulated. But the moment we come before Him humbly and honestly, He promises to be there, regardless of our past!
What a wonderful message of grace! God is the God of Jacob: He shows up for manipulators and schemers and people who are leading double lives and hypocrites and folks whose lives aren’t perfectly put together. In fact, God often uses our times of greatest need to do the most radical transformation of our hearts. In those seasons of pain we learn to acknowledge our pride, we reconsider our priorities, we reevaluate our relationships, and we review our values. In short, we look at things we didn’t want to look at before. We hurt so deeply and so badly that we stop and face the real issues of life. Then, even if you are a Jacob, God says, “I’ll show up for you.” Isn’t that encouraging? Isn’t it awesome to know that, despite all our failures, we have a God who is eager to forgive and restore us the moment we come to Him broken, humbled, and ready to depend on Him?
One more note of encouragement. Spiritual superstars like Paul and Vicky and the Psalmist aren’t born. Instead, these people of faith have learned to trust. And most of them, like most of us, learn to trust, not because they’re noble and godly and have it together. They, like we, learn to trust because their worlds came crashing in upon them and they simply had no other options but to turn to God. How about you? Do you need to admit that you’re spiritually and emotionally bankrupt and that you need to experience the power and presence of God like never before?
Chip Ingram’s passion is to help Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, coach and teacher for more than twenty-five years, Chip has helped people around the world break out of spiritual ruts and live out God’s purpose for their lives. Today Chip serves as senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and president of Living on the Edge – an international teaching and discipleship ministry.