Sermon

Text: Psalm 46

 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

 

Think of yourselves in a city this Reformation Day.  Its name is the City of God.  It is the city where God rules.  He is in control of everything that happens in this city.  He is the wall of this city.  His Spirit prowls the ramparts of this city.  His angels guard and protect the inhabitants of this city.  They stand at every gate.  The Psalmist saw his God (and our God) as an ever present help in trouble.  It is a safe city.  It is an eternal city.  We are in this city.  We are people of “the City.”  We are Metropolitan Christians on this Reformation Day.  We live in God’s safe city and not as hermits.  We are in the company and neighborhood of others who believe like we do.  

 

THERE IS A CITY OF GOD

1. There is an enemy

2. There is a fortress

3. There is a river

 

1. There is an enemy

This City of God is a besieged and beleaguered city.  It is surrounded by evil.  This evil is constantly trying to enter the city and scale its walls and infect its air and stain and sully its splendor.  Martin Luther wrote about the enemy when he penned his mighty hymn of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  He was inspired to write it as he saw the City of God in his day and saw it attacked and assailed.

 

Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us.

We tremble not, we fear no ill;

They shall not overpow’r us.

This world’s prince may still

Scowl fierce as he will,

He can harm us none.  

He’s judged; the deed is done!

One little word can fell him.  (CW 201, vs. 3)

 

There really are enemies.  The city is safe not because there are no enemies but in spite of the enemies.  The City of God is at war.  The enemies have not capitulated.  They have been dealt a death blow but there are still skirmishes and incidents.  Shots are still being fired.  The rest and peace is still being disturbed in the City of God.  Every day it is.  And although it is hopeless for the enemy because of the standard our Savior and Champion planted on Calvary, enemies are still active and desperately trying to drag as many down with them as they can before the final terms are read and they are forever put beyond the danger of threatening the City of God.

 

Recognize your personal enemies.  Materialism and the love of things is a terrible enemy that overpowers---if allowed---people who want to live focused on Jesus and his daily rations.  (Remember the Lord’s Prayer…Give us this day our daily bread.)  Materialism makes you uncertain of God’s provisions.   Shallowness is an enemy that fatally distracts some.  Reality shows, vapid music, television’s senseless and mind numbing presentations.  The enemy money and its sirens lure you to the rocks of financial trust on something you cannot trust…and ruin comes to many.  Money is an enemy.  And there are the other enemies: addictions to sex and drugs and alcohol and food are black masked assassins and enemies.  Lies and the Liar are terrible enemies you have that try and take God’s right and make it wrong and take this world’s wrong and make it right.  You can see this enemy at work right now in God’s right of marriage.

 

So there are enemies.

 

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall…  And it is so today.  There enemy nations: North Korea; the consortium of evil that constitutes militant Islam and terrorist warfare; Iran with its threatened atomic warfare; China as it silently and certainly gathers all the wealth of the world; the present assimilation of the European nations into Islam.  He lifts his voice, the earth melts.  And all this commotion and threat is there and our God lifts his voice.

 

But in this awful cacophony the wonderful words are proclaimed over the City of God with its enemies threatening: Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  Know that our God is up to defending us from evil.  He taught us in his Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.”  That was taught us because there is an enemy.  But we tremble not nor fear no ill.  They shall not overpower us.  That’s what we sing.  That’s what we believe. That’s why we can be still.  Jesus died to protect the safety of his people.  He wasn’t just a martyr to the cause.  He is the cause of the peace and the quiet.

 

2. There is a fortress

But there is a fortress and it is a mighty fortress indeed.   God is our refuge and strength. The City of God is the fortress of God.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.   Martin Luther saw it that way five hundred years ago during the Reformation.  We see it that way in the unerring and unchanging Word of God…

 

A mighty fortress is our God,

A trusty shield and weapon;

He helps us free from ev’ry need

That has us now o’ertaken.

The old evil foe

Now means deadly woe;

Deep guile and great might

Are his dread arms in fight;

On earth is not his equal.  (CW 201, vs. 1)

 

There really is an enemy, and without knowing the enemy and his insidious ways, we would never appreciate the fortress.  But there is a fortress where we are absolutely safe.  The City of God has enemies…no doubt.  But for those who live within its walls, there is no fear that the walls will be breached and the fortress overtaken.  No Trojan Horse will inveigle its way into the City of God, this Fortress.  This is the Fortress which is the place …where the most high dwells.  What makes us so certain in our city is that our God lives here.  God with us.  How could we fear knowing this?

 

God is within her, she will not fall;  God will help her at break of day.  Because of this fact, we can sleep well.  People in the City of God sleep well.  How could they not when God is within her and will be there to help day and night?  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  (Psalm 4:8)  and  I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.  (Psalm 3:4,5)  Sleep well, City of God.  Be well!  The Kingdom yours remaineth.

 

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our Fortress!

 

3. There is a river

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

 

With Sennecharib the Assyrian upon him, Hezekiah the King of Jerusalem did a wonderful thing.  Jerusalem was going to be besieged.   Hezekiah knew it.  Sennecharib knew it.  The people would need water to drink.  The water source was outside the wall.  So Hezekiah had a tunnel dug through the solid limestone from the Pool of Siloam inside the wall to the Gihon Spring, the Virgin’s Fountain so called today, outside the wall.  The Bible said it would be.  Critics scoffed that it could have happened.  600 meters through solid rock!  At at .6 degree gradient!  Done from both ends at once and meeting in the middle! But they found the tunnel and the little river of water and they found the ancient Hebrew carved in the rock that described the meeting of the two teams of diggers.

 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.  Hezekiah’s river wasn’t there when the sons of Korah wrote their psalm.  But they could see its goodness under the siege of the enemy in their minds.  God let them see that the besieged city is glad when the river with streams enters it and provides water that the stopped up well outside the walls denies.

 

And it is so still today.  There is a river that flows to the people of God that provides them with special Water those outside the wall can’t have.  It is God’s Word that is the river.  It makes us glad.  It makes our city glad.  It brings us life.  It brings us health.  It brings us purity.  It brings us truth.  It waters the Tree of Life.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.  There is even that wonderful river in Heaven, clear as crystal, flowing down the middle of the streets of the city and on both sides the tree of life bears its fruit in every month, of every year, for eternity.

 

The Word they still shall let remain,

Nor any thanks have for it;

He’s by our side upon the plain

With his good gifts and Spirit.

And do what they will

Hate, steal, hurt, or kill---

Though all may be gone,

Our victory is won;

The kingdom’s ours forever!  (CW 201, vs. 4)

Who will stand against the Word?  Though all may be gone, our victory is won; the kingdom’s ours forever.

 

And the Psalmist invites, “Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.”

 

In the Battle of Kadesh between the Egyptians and Hittites in 1200 B.C...one third of Egyptian army and probably the same for the Hittites.  (The Hittites sold Abraham his burial site at Machpelah.  Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was a Hittite.)   30,000 dead at Aphek in 1 Samuel 4.  The Philistines were responsible for that. When Napolean met his  Waterloo in 1815…70,000.  In our country during the Civil War at just one battle in 1863, the  Battle of Gettysburg…50,000 casualties in three days time.  From 1914 until 1918 1.3 million young Frenchmen died in the First World War.  On D Day alone there were  40,000 casualties, and in the Second World War in total there were 20 million who died.  In the Vietnamese War, 12-13% of the total population died.  If the same proportion had been true for the United States at that time, we would have lost 28 million.  Pol Pot in Cambodia and the dreaded and awful killing fields: 2 million dead.   Rwanda...800,000 Tutsis killed by their fellow countrymen and countrywomen, the Hutus.   No doubt tens of thousands have died in Iraq.  The count as of yesterday for military deaths of our soldiers in Iraq was 4,355.  

 

This is the view of the people peering down from the walls of the City of God.  This is the carnage they survey.  But the Word stands there.  The peaceful river meanders with God’s love and his promise.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.

 

Without a Savior, everyone dies.  It isn’t one in ten or one in five.  It is one in every one cases.  100% die without Jesus.  That is the ultimate statistic.  But for those who believe…100% live.  All are victors.  All are winners.  Know the peace of Jerusalem.  We pray for that peace.  We know it through the words of the beleaguered Apostle John who saw the way it will be for the City of God:  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:2-4

 

And as we began, so we end: The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress, Selah.  Thank God that there is this city!  Amen.