I want to speak to you on 'Our Almighty God', and we're looking at Psalm 48 - only looking at one verse of it, but of course the context is very important as always - beginning to read at verse 1: "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. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following" - and this is our verse this morning - "for this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death". Amen.
As we come to the Lord, let us pray that the Lord's presence may be very real to every heart gathered here this morning: Father, we cannot better the words that we have been singing, because they are based on Your word. We thank You for this holy book. We thank You that it is God-breathed, it is without error, it is infallible truth - but Lord, we thank You that it is not just a conglomeration of laws and rules, but it's a book that sets forth the eternal God. We thank You that through Your truth we can know You, Lord. Lord, whilst even language cannot describe the magnitude, magnificence, wonder, majesty of Your person, we thank You that the Bible is Your chosen means to declare Yourself. Oh Lord, we thank You that in the fullness of time You sent Your Son, and in these last days You have spoken unto us through Your Son, the Lord Jesus, the brightness of Your glory, the express image of Your Person. Lord, we would see Jesus today, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Lord, our eyes need to be heavenward. There is so much in this world to discourage us, and to drag us down into the mire - oh Lord, lift our eyes heavenward now, and let us see our God in His greatness, and our Saviour in all His beauty. May our lives be transformed for seeing God today. Help us now, help me, Lord, I need Your help as we come to Your word now. For Christ's sake, Amen.
I wonder have you ever considered that the most important thing about anyone, the most important thing about anyone, are their thoughts of God? What they think about the Almighty and, indeed, what they think about Christ - 'What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?'. It is the most important thing about you, what you think about deity. Indeed, I think it could be proven, if you were to study history, that no people, nation or religion has ever risen above its view of God. We hear our world view being talked about a lot these days, but our God-view colours everything in existence. It will affect religious belief, of course, most obviously, but it also affects national laws and national politics. What we think about God affects the educational policy of the nation. What we think about God affects our own personal development as we go through childhood, adolescence into adulthood, into maturity - but, of course, of paramount importance: what we think about God and specifically His Son, Jesus Christ, affects our own personal salvation. Nothing could be more important than that, therefore nothing can be more important than what your thoughts are about God and His Son, Jesus!
Indeed, the Lord Jesus in that very famous passage, John 14 verse 1, emphasised this. We often think of that passage as to do with heaven, but there's more depth than that in it. He said: 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me'. You see, He was pointing out that He was God's Son, and later on down the passage, verse 6, of course Thomas said: 'We don't know where you're going, and we don't know how to get there', and He said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me'. Now the problem, even for many believers today, is that after their conversion to Christ they think very little about God. I'm afraid that is to our detriment, and even more so when we consider that we think very little about God at the expense of thinking quite a lot about ourselves.
Indeed, a casual perusal of even Christian bookshops today would show you where the emphasis lies. You can go to the self-help section of secular bookshops, but our Christian bookshops seem to have them as well. You can see there myriads of paperbacks, hardbacks, all to do with ourselves and the problems that we have. Christians tend to focus more today on themselves than they have ever done, and the problems that they have more than upon their problem-solving God. One author I was reading recently happened to go into a Christian store and was looking at the titles of many of the books, and here were several of them: 'Love Yourself - The Art of Learning to Love Yourself', 'Living In Your Own Shadow', 'You Can Feel Good About Yourself'. He said that there was only one title of one book that he could agree with, and it was entitled 'Leave Yourself Alone'.
The tragedy is that so often we are so preoccupied with ourselves that we never think of God. Let me say that, even as Christians, you might engage your thoughts with spiritual truth - and that is to be commended - but focus little on the Person of the Almighty and how the reality of His great Person and His attributes relates and affects our very real problems down here on Earth. Now I think we all know Isaiah 26 verse 3: 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee' - but too often our minds are focused on our own things, but Christian: our minds can be focused on right things at the expense of the right One, the only One who is worthy of our attention, and indeed the only One who can actually help us in whatever needs we have.
Sadly, today, I believe that Christians have been affected by the spirit of the age in many ways. One way is this, as A. W. Tozer put it: 'The spirit of the age, even in the Christian, spawns great thoughts of man, and leaves room for only small thoughts of God'. The Christian church today, I believe, has been infected by low views of God. A. W. Tozer wrote on this many times, and in one other portion he says: 'The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge - and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic'. I heard A. W. Tozer preaching on a recording, actually condemning what he called these 'teddy bear gods' that men have made in their own image. He lamented that that was the cause of a hundred lesser evils among the children of God.
What is your view of God like? J. B. Phillips translated a translation of the New Testament that's quite well known, but he wrote another book and he entitled it 'Your God Is Too Small'. Is your God, I mean your concept of God, too small? Well, in the last verse of Psalm 48, verse 14, we read: 'For this God is our God'. Now let's not go on any further just yet: 'This God' - 'What God?', we ask. What God is 'This God' that the Psalmist is talking about? Let us say first that this is not the nondescript God of post-modern pluralism. This is not the God that all roads lead to that you hear about in the media and in popular society. This is not the God who is content to share space with other gods, other deities, in some competitive trophy cabinet of world religions.
It is not the nondescript God of post-modern pluralism, neither is it the 'cuddly toy' version of God that we find in modern Christendom. What am I talking about? Well, without going into too much detail, He is not the God that many clerics have fashioned in order to be acceptable to a politically correct society. This is not the God from whom has been extracted His wrath, His righteous anger towards sin. This is not the God whom liberalism presents, that has no exclusive rights and power to redeem men's souls. Modern Christendom has devised and invented a God that can neither condemn men nor save them, a God that can neither wound nor heal - an impotent God.
Who is this God? Well, this God certainly is not the nondescript God of post-modern pluralism, He is not the cuddly toy version of God of modern Christendom - He is 'this God', the God of the Bible, the God of the Old and the New Testament, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we see Him set forth graphically in Psalm 48. Now you may have been confused a little, and you should be, as you read the Psalm - because the Psalmist appears, apparently, to confuse the Lord Himself with the city of Zion. But that is on purpose, because the presence of the Lord was to dwell in Zion, and so what he is doing is: he is personificating the great city of Zion itself as a depiction and an illustration, a representation of the greatness of Almighty God who dwells in her. So He refers in verse 1 to 'a mountain of holiness', Zion is 'beautiful for situation' in loftiness, she is the joy of the whole earth - one of the wonders of the world, if you like - a royal city where the King resides, where processions parade the streets in pomp and majesty. It's set forth as a city where all the kings of the earth come to conquer, but when they arrive Zion's strength and impregnability causes them to tremble and they flee away!
The greatest Navy that was known then was from Tarshish, and she was no match for the fortress of this city. It is an eternal city, the Psalmist says - her towers, her bulwarks, are without number. Her walls of defence are round about her, and to look upon her would just take your breath away. There are palaces of splendour that generations after will talk about and reminisce of. What we have here is effectively a presentation of the presence of God, as it was manifest in the holy city of Jerusalem. Verse 1, it is spoken of as 'great'. In the second half of verse 1 'holy'. In verse 2 it is 'joyous'. In verse 3 it is 'a refuge'. Verses 4 through to 8 graphically depict how it is a defence. Verse 9 speaks of lovingkindness, unfailing lovingkindness; verse 10, righteousness; verse 11, justice - this is a picture of God, our great God!
Martin Luther was one man against the whole empire of the Roman Church. You know the story, I'm sure, as well as I do. He had rediscovered the God of the Bible, not the God of the church, the God of the Old and New Testaments - incidentally, through translating the word of God. He found great solace through Psalm 48, so much so that he wrote a hymn that went like this:
'A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing...
...And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us'.
He had such a grasp of our Almighty God, this God, that through him and several others - but particularly him in Europe - the Reformation came, which was a revival in the understanding of God's word: our God, who He is, a God of grace that we can know through faith. Our Almighty God.
Now God's omnipotence, His all-powerfulness as El Shaddai, Almighty God, is a very favourite theme of the Bible. Take a few instances of it. We face, with the characters of the Bible, some impossible scenarios - and yet God comes up with the answer, because He is the omnipotent God. You will remember Genesis 18, Sarah laughed at the message that came from God, that she was to have a child so late in life. The answer that came back was: 'Is anything to hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son'. You know that Job experienced many tragedies in his life. We'll not list them, but you know how deep and piercing his experiences were - and yet, at the end of them all, when God began to reveal Himself in a new way to Job, in Job 42 he said: 'I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee'. The God of the impossible!
He is found again, of course, in the New Testament - the Nativity story in Luke 1:37. Mary was told, after exclaiming 'How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?': 'For nothing shall be impossible with God'. In Matthew 19 a rich young ruler can't get by his own pride, and the problem of humility comes very forcibly on the minds and hearts of the disciples. They despair: 'If this man, who has kept Your law so devotedly, cannot be saved - then who can be saved?'. The answer the Lord Jesus gave: 'With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible'. In the book of the Revelation chapter 19, after many events of the great tribulation period are passed, there are a group of people who have been looking to heaven, where our help, and our hope, and our salvation comes from - and the Bible says that in a day that is yet to be, that great multitude 'as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, say, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth'. God is in control, God is the Almighty!
Oh, we could go on and on - Jeremiah 32: 'Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee'. The Psalmist in 62: 'God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God'. This God, what God? The omnipotent God, the Almighty God, this is the God of creation. Out of nothingness, with a mere word He scattered the heavens and space with stars, the planets across the universe - and even to this very day and millisecond He sustains it all perfectly in equilibrium and harmony with the power of His word. This God is the God of the burning bush, He is the God of the exodus that brought the children of Israel out of Egypt's bondage, the God of the Red Sea who took them across that great ocean miraculously. This is the God of the smoking and the thundering mountain, where the law was given - and this is the God whose finger wrote it upon stone, and we have it to this very day. This is the God of the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel, who sustained the pilgrim people through the desert for 40 years supernaturally!
This God is the God of the prophets, ordinary men who spoke the articles of God, for this is the God of the supernatural, this is the God of the miraculous. This is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the God who prophesied His birth hundreds of years before it happened. This is the God who, by His Spirit, conceived His divine and yet human life in the womb of a virgin teenager. This is the God who spoke to His Son and through His Son, and wrought wonders in this world that it has never seen nor will ever see the like of! This is the God who, in Christ, reconciled the world unto Himself. This is the God who raised the dead corpse of His Son back to life again, which is the greatest display of God's power in the New Testament. Is it any wonder that Paul the apostle could cry with a heart of intercession for the Ephesians: 'I wish that you could know that power!'.
'What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places' - do you know that power? Do you know this God? I'm told that power is measured in megatons, and one megaton is the explosive equivalent to a million tons of TNT. Well, that is nowhere near to the power of Almighty God! Isaac Watts put it like this:
'I sing the almighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies'.
This God - what God? Almighty God - but something else: whose God is this God? 'For this God is our God' - whose God? Our God! Now I know this Psalm is a Psalm of the Israelites, and He was the God of Israel - but, you know, the New Testament is all about this: that through His Son, the Lord Jesus, this God can be our God! He has come to show us Himself in His Son, John 14 verse 1: 'You believe in God' - this God - 'believe also in me'. John 1 verse 18: 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him' - and so the miracle of the incarnation is not just the virgin birth, but that the Lord Jesus Christ is God walking among men!
There's a great mystery where the incarnation is concerned. 'Without controversy', Paul said, 'great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh'. We cannot know everything about how His divine nature and His human nature are related, but there's one thing that's absolutely sure: when our Lord Jesus, the Word of God, came in human flesh - now listen carefully - He did not cease to be what He always was, as God, but He became something that He had never been, man. Why do I say that? Simply because Christ is God acting as Himself. Christ is God acting as Himself among men. The Lord said to Philip: 'If you've seen me, you have seen the Father'. The point here is that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He came to earth and was clothed in human flesh - though, as Philippians says correctly, He emptied Himself; He only emptied Himself of the outward glory of deity that was manifest from before the world began - but He didn't lose one attribute of His deity, that's an utter impossibility. Everything that it means to be God, the Lord Jesus Christ was.
Now, of course, it is true generally that, in His life down here on earth, He voluntarily relinquished the use of many of His attributes. He chose to live as a man among men, as a man totally dependent upon God - but He was still God, and He still had all the attributes. There were times when that power broke through, the Transfiguration is an illustration of that - but you remember the Lord Jesus said to the religious body of His day: 'Destroy this temple, and in three days' - He didn't say 'God will raise it from the dead', He said 'I will raise it from the dead'. In John 10 He says that 'The Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father' - and this is the point: while He came in humility, and He didn't grasp at His divine attributes to live His life down here on earth, this is your Lord, if you're a Christian today! He's as much Almighty God as the Father in heaven! Because He was made flesh, because of His incarnation, He now understands what it is to be flesh. He never ceased to be what He always was, but He has now become something that He had never been: a man. He understands our struggles:
'Jesus knows all about our struggles,
He will guide till the day is done;
There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!'.
But here's where the difference is made: not only does He understand it because He was flesh, but because He is Almighty God He can do something about it! Is that not wonderful? He can help us. Someone said, rightly so, 'As Christians we never come closer to omnipotence than when we pray in the name of the Lord Jesus'. I think that's wonderful. It's as if the Lord Jesus were making the request of the Father! Now I want to challenge you just now: can you say 'This God is my God'? Is He your God? He's not your God if you're not saved! He's not your God if you have never come to the position of realising that you're a sinner and realising that Christ was sent to die for your sins, and that you by faith must partake of that. Oh, that today you would get a glimpse of this wonderful God, and how He has revealed Himself in the magnificent Saviour - you would say, like old Jacob as he vowed: 'If God will be with me, then shall he be the LORD my God'.
Is He your chosen God and portion for evermore? Maybe you are saved, and like many Christians - as I said in my introduction today - you have lost sight of your God, of who He really is. You can't say, like Paul said, 'I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded' - you don't know as sure as you used to, you're not as persuaded as you used to be. Maybe there are situations in your life that you think are insolvable, no answer to them - you're not listening: this God is your God. This God is your Saviour, and:
'The Saviour can solve any problem,
The tangles of life can undo.
There's nothing too hard for Jesus,
There's nothing He cannot do!'.
Oh, it's wonderful. This God - what God? The Almighty God. Whose God? Our God. Another question: for how long? 'For ever and ever'. Verse 14: 'He will be our guide even unto death' - even unto death, and sure, anyway, afterwards. If you're saved and He's your God, you'll be with Him after death. This just means: for an eternity. Does that not mean something to you, believer? 'Nevertheless I am continually with thee', the Psalmist could say, 'thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory... Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever' - for ever and ever, even unto death.
Now I know - look - I know I'm not telling you anything new this morning. You could have stood up here and said exactly the same as I've said to you, but I think you're missing the point if that's what you're thinking now: are you, in your heart of hearts, laying hold of this Almighty God? Our Almighty God? Are you reckoning Him as your God? Is He the One whom your focus is on in the problems you're in, in the crises that are going on in our nation and our world, in your illness, in your domestic problems? Is this God real to you?
Do you know what happens? Many of us start to look within for strength, and you don't find it - and you'll not find it, for looking within for strength is like casting the anchor inside the boat, it'll do you no good. Here's a formula you need to remember, and it's been a great blessing to me: 'To be occupied with self will bring despair' - some of you know all about that, I do - 'To be occupied with self will bring despair. To be occupied with others will bring disappointment. But to be occupied with the Saviour will bring delight'. 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee'.
I love reading biographies, missionary biographies, and stories of Christians of bygone eras. I read a story just last week about Elizabeth Elliot whose husband, of course, was martyred by the Auca Indians in South America. She, later on in her life, visited China and went to a home of the China Inland Mission. The story goes that she walked into that very sparse place, and she saw a picture, a text on the wall - but it wasn't Scripture. It had a verse on it that read like this, listen this is powerful: 'The sun stood still, the iron did float, this God is our God for ever and ever. He shall be our guide even unto death'. If you don't know what those two things are, you need to read your Bible more. The sun stood still, the iron did float. She went on to remark that, having seen that, listen carefully: 'This God, the One who, in answer to prayers of an ordinary man, stopped the sun in its course, the God who suspended His own law of gravity and made an axe head float, this is the God to whom I come. This God is the One whose promises I am counting on - and can He help me out of my predicament? Whatever my predicament may be, as soon as I compare it with the circumstances surrounding the miracles of the sun and the axe, my doubts seem comical'.
This God - what God? Almighty God. Whose God? Oh, if you're saved: your God, my God. For how long? For ever and ever, even unto death.
Let's all bow our heads, just for a moment please, and just in the quietness - because I'm afraid some of you are going to miss this, maybe most of you - two words: This God, this God! The God of the Bible is your God, and I'll tell you: He's not dead, and He's not asleep. He is the God who is, and is not silent - but some of you, it's a long time from you've heard His voice, it's a long time since you've seen His face. Maybe it's a long time since you've been at the Table to remember what He did? Oh, that you would grasp hold of this: He's your God, and I'll tell you there's nothing, nothing, that will transform your life more than that realisation.
Father, oh how pitiful our attempts are, and we say it reverently: even Your holy infallible truth cannot communicate all that it is to be God, all that Your power is. Oh Father, may we be overwhelmed, and may our hardened hearts be melted as we gaze upon the ungazeable, and we touch the intangible, as we draw near to the One whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. Immortal, invisible, God only wise - and yet the One who, in His Son, deigned to become flesh for us. May we get a fresh glimpse of that now as we linger at the Table, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Coagh Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Our Almighty God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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