I wanted to say something this morning that would capture our deep sense of national sadness. I wonder whether that is possible. What words would be adequate to express our grief for those who are dead and missing, our anguish at the way their lives were taken, our shock over our sudden vulnerability, or our fury at the harm that evil men will bring? At the same time how can we possibly convey our admiration for the heroism of ordinary citizens or our renewed passion for our freedoms as Americans?
At this time of sorrow, in our lingering melancholy, we seek a Christian perspective. What does it all mean? How does God want us to respond? What does he want us to think and how does he want us to feel?
If there is one thing the people of God need to hear and believe this morning, I think it is this: That even when everything else falls down, God is still standing. Yes, even when everything comes crashing down to earth, we are still safe, because God cannot be moved.
That great truth is beautifully expressed in this morning's Scripture Reading, which was specially chosen for this week. Psalm 46 begins and ends by affirming the absolute safety of those who trust in God. He is our refuge, our strength, our fortress. The reason this is so important is because our world is not safe. There are reminders of this all through the psalm. It speaks of storms and earthquakes, wars and other disasters. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is collapsing right underneath our feet. But God is not moved. He is strong and secure. The way that Psalm 46 shows this is by comparing him to a strong city.
The psalm says something about the city of God that I suppose I have always known, but that has never seemed so desperately important as it seems right now. What it says is that the city of God will not fall. Notice the way verse 5 begins: “God is within her, she will not fall” (Ps. 46:5).
I sometimes talk about God's city with my children. We have a song we like to sing before bed. Actually, it comes from the beginning of Psalm 48, and it goes like this: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King.”
Sometimes, as we lie down in the quiet stillness of the evening, we talk about God's city. I will say, “Do you know what Mount Zion means?” And one of the children will say, “It means heaven,” or “It's the city of God.” Then I will ask, “What do you think it will be like? How big is it? How high does it reach? Who will be there?” Before we're finished I will remind them that the very best thing about the city is that God is there. It's his city. It's where he lives and rules. And that is why it will never fall. The city of God is as strong as God himself. It is absolutely impregnable.
So take courage, my friends. This is the Lord's Day, the beginning of a new week, the day on which we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over death. I believe that in the coming days our lives ought to be characterized by a holy defiance, not simply because we are Americans, but because we are Christians. We are undaunted by evil. We recognize it, but we are not afraid of it. Rather than living in fear, we are called to do everything by faith, working as hard as we ever have worked for the glory of God. This is because we belong to an eternal city—a city with everlasting foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
That city will never fall. I tell you that God's people are always safe in God's city. Surely that includes all the believers whose lives were lost on Tuesday. Some of them must have suffered greatly in their last moments of life. We continue to mourn their loss, horrified by the way they fell blazing from the sky to the earth. But they have landed on their feet, and now they are beyond all suffering. Like us they are waiting for God to glorify himself, for him to be exalted in every nation on the earth, as he has promised.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. ©2018 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org