“The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” Psalm 46:7
Dawn Robinson moved from the open spaces of rural Georgia to Bible college, then on to California, and finally to the fast paced life in New York City. She found a management position with the financial firm Morgan Stanley on the 61st floor of the World Trade Center. Soon, Dawn found opportunities to witness to Cassie, her co-worker about her love for the Lord Jesus Christ. This new friend would listen with interest and probe her with questions. Near the end of their conversations together, as the subject would turn to spiritual things, Dawn would point out the pressing issue of sin and urge Cassie to trust Christ as her Savior. Each time Cassie would answer, “You know I’m searching, but I don’t think I’m ready to get on the bus.” But at 8:45AM on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th everything changed. Both Dawn and her co-worker had just arrived to work at the south tower of the World Trade Center, when suddenly a large fireball burst from the north tower filling the air with smoke and debris. Over the inter-office loudspeaker came the announcement, “Do not leave the office, do not panic, everything is under control.” Despite the announcement, Dawn grabbed Cassie and they began to make their way down the winding stairways to the bottom floor. As they entered the stairwell, United Airlines flight 175 exploded into the south tower. Soon the stairways were choked with people, thick dust and debris began to litter the passageways, and water from the sprinkler systems soaked their clothes. After about 30 minutes, the two found their way to the ground level exit, and joined the thousands who were running franticly for safety before the towers collapsed. Soaked, shaken, and exhausted, the two took refuge in an abandoned, debris-covered bus. They huddled together as hot tears streamed down their faces. They both realized that, except for the mercy of God, they would have lost their lives along with the thousands of others. This realization gripped Cassie powerfully. She now understood that if she had perished with the others, she would have faced an eternity without Christ. But there in an abandoned bus, amid the cries of terror and fear that filled the blackened sky outside, peace and security began to fill the heart of Cassie who finally “got on the bus” and trusted Christ for her eternal salvation. (1) Amid all the confusion, terror, and conflict that rages today, our God remains a refuge of grace and strength. He stoops down to us in our need and misery to lift us up. Then, through acts of omnipotence and power, He makes known to men that the sovereign God of the universe is still on the throne. He is a God who is there in times of tragedy, and crushing need, as well as in times of joy and triumph. He is a gracious and strong God who is faithful and true. In these difficult days, the families of victims of 9-11, all of New York City, and indeed the entire world need the touch of a merciful and gracious God. It is He who asks us to “cast all our care upon Him, for He cares for us”; and it is He who desires “to show Himself strong on their behalf”. This is the kind of God that Psalm 46 tells us about. This God, the writer says, is God strong and mighty—“The Lord of Hosts is with us.” But He is also God tender and compassionate, never forgetting the needy—“He is the God of Jacob, our refuge”.
Lord of Hosts is With Us
Psalm 46, it is believed, was written on the occasion of the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian King Sennacherib and his 185,000 veteran troops. The northern cities had already been ravaged, its walled cities razed to the ground, and their crops burned in the army’s wake. Sennacherib now besieged Jerusalem, sending his envoy, Rabshakeh, to ask for King Hezekiah’s unconditional surrender. Rabshakeh mocked the God of the Jews, and scoffed at His power. Hezekiah, encouraged by the word of Isaiah, and buoyed by a season of sincere prayer, refused to surrender. Then one night, God sent an angel to deal with the besieging Assyrian army. One angel… One night… One God, and the Assyrian army was no more! The powerful, arrogant invaders were now thoroughly defeated. The Lord of Hosts had manifested Himself with glory. Truly there is much meaning is wrapped up in the words “Lord of Hosts”! This divine title, although not used in the Bible until the book of 1 Samuel, is frequently used in the Psalms and by Isaiah. The term seems to refer to God’s sovereign power over all earthly and celestial rulers in the universe. “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory” (Ps. 24:10); “O Lord God of Hosts, who is a stong Lord like thee?” (Ps. 89:8); and “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is filled with His glory…then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of Hosts” (Isa. 6:3,5). But here, in Psalm 46, the writer tells us that the Lord of Hosts is with us (v. 11). The high King of Heaven’s compassion, mercy, and nearness to the needy and and downcast is emphasized. This universal power, this unlimited sovereignty, this unbounded omnipotence is shown to be strong on our behalf. In war, tragedy, calamity, natural disaster, and terrorist attacks, the Lord of Hosts is not distant and far removed from our lives; but very near, for He “is with us”, showing Himself strong on our behalf. Although from our earthly vantage point this world appears to be in chaos and confusion, we must acknowledge that He is still in control.
Joseph Stalin and Jewish Nation
However, God’s divine ordering and purposes in the world cannot be discerned by simple observation. Providence is the work of God that can only be truly appreciated and discerned by the eye of faith. This is nowhere more clearly seen than in the history of the Jewish nation. God preserved the Jews through the hands of Moses in Egypt, and later through the bravery of Mordecai and Esther; but one of the most remarkable acts of providence took place in the Soviet Union in 1953. On March 1, 1953, Josef Stalin unveiled a proposal to liquidate the three million Jews then living in the Soviet Union. Stalin, a paranoid Jew-hater, had put to death thousands of Jews in the 1930’s, including many loyal Jews who had supported the Communist cause since the beginning of the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin’s anger against the Jew was rekindled after World War II, when Israel’s first ambassador to Moscow, Golda Meir, was invited to a reception held by Soviet Jews. Soon afterwards, Stalin suddenly announced that a “plot” to kill him had been discovered. He explained to the Soviet press that the clever and sinister plot was arranged by Jewish medical doctors. Soon denunciations against all Jews from leading Communists were broadcast on government-controlled radio and television and circulated in the print media. On March 1, 1953, at 12:00 noon, Stalin called a meeting of the Politburo in the Kremlin and read to the Soviet leaders his plan for the extermination of the Jews. However, Stalin’s evil plan to exterminate the Jews never took place. On March 2, nearly 24 hours after outlining his plans and exactly one week before the devastation would begin, Josef Stalin died of a stroke. He lay in state for a week and was buried on March 9, which was the Jewish holiday—Purim. (2) In the human mind, the calendar dates of the week, month, and year often are forgotten, but the mind of God remembers always. Purim is the Jewish holiday which remembers God’s deliverance of Jews from extermination by the hand of Haman in the book of Esther. God is still in control. His sovereign hand is at times imperceptible, yet His divine purposes and ordering are being worked out “in the kingdoms of men”. “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge”.
The God of Jacob, Our Refuge
The heart of God is no better defined than by the phrase, “the God of Jacob is our refuge”. For the Bible records no greater example of deceit, selfishness, and craftiness than Jacob, the supplanter. There is, perhaps, no one more unworthy of God’s grace than Jacob. Yet the words “God” and “Jacob” are now linked together in grace to show us the heart of God. The sovereign Lord of the universe, the Lord of Glory, is none other than the God of all grace, who bends low to the lowly and undeserving. “The Lord is high about all nations, and his glory above the heavens…He humbles himself to behold things that are in heaven and in the earth. He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the needy…” (Ps. 113:4, 6,7). He has the individual on His heart as much as nations, governments, and history. God’s values and man’s values are as distinct as heaven is from earth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heaven is higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). Man values the mighty and strong—governments, nations, industry, and wealth are the focus of his eye; but the Lord’s eye is upon the weak, the hurting, and the needy. This grace is nowhere more vividly set forth than at Calvary, when the Lord Jesus Christ was forsaken of God on the cross so that God would never leave or forsake us. There our Lord was shown divine wrath of God without mercy that we might enjoy divine mercy without wrath. The “God of Jacob” is our refuge. What a high, strong tower it is which was purposed and designed by the mind and heart of God for the Jacob’s, the Dawn’s, the Cassie’s, and the nations of the world. Unassailable. Impenetrable. Impregnable. Eternal. Scottish expositor Alexander Maclaren declares, “The God of Jacob is our refuge, and so we may say to the storms of life,—blow winds and crack your cheeks, and do your worst, you cannot touch me in the fortress where I dwell. The wind will hurtle around the stronghold, but within all will be calm.” (3) How rich are His promises, how strong is His love , how great is His grace, and how secure is His refuge! “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of Host is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:10-11).
(1) James Cymbala, God’s Grace from Ground Zero, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002),(tape)
(2) Harold Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, (Wheaton, IL, Tyndale, 1981), p.253
(3) Alexander Maclaren, Exposition of Holy Scripture, Psalms, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), p. 350