IS EVERY PROMISE IN THE BIBLE REALLY MEANT FOR ME?
Recently, while I was relaxing on the living room sofa, my wife asked me the meaning of a certain Bible verse. She had already drawn her own conclusion regarding the text but she wanted my opinion to validate that she had come to the correct interpretation.
So I looked up the verse and started reading from the beginning of the chapter. Then I examined different translations and even reviewed some of the popular commentaries on the text. I think I annoyed my wife just a little because she really wasn’t asking for an in-depth Bible study. She just wanted my first impression upon reading the verse.
After several minutes of examining the verse, I told my wife what I believed was the correct meaning. Then, out of curiosity, I inquired why she had asked in the first place. She proceeded to show me an example of how the verse in question was being used by some of her online acquaintances. I stared at the quotes on the computer screen in disbelief. I just couldn’t comprehend how it was possible to draw such a muddied conclusion from what appeared to be a crystal clear verse.
Immediately, the moment brought to mind the lyrics to a popular children’s praise song.
“Every promise in the book is mine
Every chapter, every verse, and every line”
It certainly has a very catchy tune, but it simply isn’t true. While all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), each and every promise found within its pages are NOT all ours. It is so very important when reading the Bible to be careful not to wrestle passages out of their context, spiritualize or allegorize them, or apply them to our lives in a way the passage never intended.
GOD IS WITHIN HER, SHE SHALL NOT FALL!
In this particular case, Psalm 46:5 was being used by some well-meaning Christian women, as a promise that they shall not fall or be prevailed against because God is within them. While it is true that the presence of the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, this particular passage is not speaking of the power of God’s mighty presence in the lives of godly women. In fact, this verse really isn’t a promise for women at all, at least not any women who exist today.
Let’s take a look at the verse in question, in both the King James and New International Versions:
“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, and that right early.”
Psalm 46:5 (KJV)
“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”
Psalm 46:5 (NIV)
WHO OR WHAT IS THE VERSE ABOUT?
The first and most important question we should ask ourselves is “Who is the author of this Psalm writing about?” The use of the personal pronoun “her” seems to refer to a woman, but when we read the preceding verse, we will find that the word “her” is not referring to a person at all, but the “city of God,” Jerusalem. This verse isn’t saying that any woman with the indwelling Holy Spirit will not be moved. It’s saying that the city of God will not fall because God is in “her” midst. God’s very presence in the Tabernacle assured His people, some of which were indeed women, the victory.
The psalmist begins by declaring that God is Jerusalem’s source of refuge and strength. Because He is in the midst of the city (v. 4-5), the people need not fear, for they shall not fall. Though calamity and upheaval occur all around them (v. 2-3) and nations rage against them (v. 6), they will prevail, because God is on their side.
This is truly a tremendous promise for God’s people. God assures the deliverance of the people in His holy city, simply because He is in their presence. Who can prevail against the people of God?
SO WHAT ARE REAL PROMISES TO US?
There is, of course, a spiritual application that can be made from this passage. It brings to mind Romans 8:31, in which Paul triumphantly asks, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” The implication, of course, is “No one!” Then again Paul asks, in verse 33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” And again the implied answer is, “No one!” Then, two verses later, God inspires the Apostle Paul to ask one more time, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” This time, however, we need not determine the implied answer. Paul leaves no doubt, as he answers his own question, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 37-39)
Paul never promised that distress, famines, nakedness and even death would not visit the lives of God’s dear elect. He simply stated that none of these things can separate us from His love. All who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ are “more than conquerors.” We are justified, declared righteous, by the blood of our Savior. Though troubles, sickness, and death may afflict our mortal flesh, nothing can take away our “eternal crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4, that “crown of righteousness” that will be awarded us at our Lord’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).
The victory over sin and death cannot be achieved by an act of human will but only through faith in Jesus Christ and what He achieved for us. He is the Victor and we are victorious through Him. Though this is a very true and practical spiritual application that can be drawn from Psalm 46:5, the context of the verse is very clear that the psalmist is not speaking of a “spiritual victory” but actual “physical triumph” over the perils of that particular time. This is why he referred to God as a “very present help in trouble.”
Contrast this again with Paul, who said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:10). And with James: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience,” (James 1:2-3). And with Peter: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Clearly, the New Testament authors taught the possibility that believers might have to experience very real physical troubles and persecution. The author of Psalm 46, however, writes of the deliverance of the city of God from their present troubles. This is not a promise for believers today. Though believers in this life have spiritually overcome the grave, through Jesus Christ, we yet await our physical deliverance from the burdens of this life.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,
according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And not only they but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
But thanks be to God that we, like those during the time Psalm 46 was written, do not face our troubles alone. We have the Spirit of God within us. Continuing in Romans 8, Paul tells us that “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:” and “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” “according to the will of God,” (v. 26-27). Not only that, but Paul informs us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” (v. 28).
This is our promise. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before us, we too shall go through the fires of this life, but not alone. God will be in our midst, in the presence of His Holy Spirit. We need not walk alone. God is always with us. He may not rescue us from the hands of our enemies, but he is always with us when we face our enemies and, though our enemy may take our mortal life, he cannot take away the eternal hope we have in Jesus.
”For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope:
for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
THESE PROMISES GIVE REAL HOPE
The hope that Paul speaks of is not the same kind of hope one has for winning the lottery. This hope is assured. It’s a promise, something you can count on–something so wonderful, it’s worth patiently enduring troubles for. This is the kind of hope that caused Christian martyrs, like Perpetua and Felicity, to sing joyous psalms as they faced the unimaginable horrors of the Roman arena.
Perpetua knew the fate that awaited her. She saw in a vision that her battle was not with the wild beasts in the stadium but with the devil himself. She knew she already had the victory in Jesus Christ. Perpetua and her fellow martyrs were so confident of this hope that they saw the day of their martyrdom as the day of their victory, the consummation of that which began the moment they placed their faith in Jesus. Soon they would see their Victor.
Their hope was not in escaping their troubles. Despite the trials that awaited them, they rejoiced because they saw their hope at the end of their race ahead. They fought the good fight and their Hope was now in sight.
Our Hope today is the same Hope that inspired martyrs to sing and the psalmist to praise Jerusalem’s Source of refuge and strength. God is always mighty to save, whether it be from the physical troubles of Psalm 46 or the spiritual deliverance of Romans 8.
WHO IS IT TO, WHO IS IT FROM, WHO IS IT ABOUT?
When studying Scripture we must always consider the people to whom the passage is written. Just because Jerusalem was promised to receive physical protection from God, does not necessarily mean that we are guaranteed the same today. Could God deliver us from personal troubles today? Absolutely. But Psalm 46 must not be read as a promise for believers today.
One thing from Psalm 46 is true for all people at all times; Whenever God determines that something shall not prevail against us, nothing it throws at us will be able to move us, for our strength is not in ourselves but God alone is our refuge and our strength.
Do you have a popularized verse that you can’t quite fit into your theology? Or do you have a loved one who insists a certain verse is especially for her? I’d love for you to share your trouble verses with me, since this will be an ongoing series here on BBB.
God bless, and be a blessing!