Philippe R. Sterling
Are you shaken up by the events of our times (pandemics, natural disasters, economic crisis, terrorism, unrest among nations)? How do we keep spiritual sanity when everything around us is falling apart? How do we keep ourselves from being overcome with fear? Psalm 46 provides the solution to us.
The historical background of the Psalm is the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem when it was besieged by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. It seemed that all hope was lost for Jerusalem when the Assyrians came down to destroy the city and the people. However, God sent down an angel (one angel) to deal with the Assyrian army.
2 Kings 19:32-35 gives us the historical deliverance. Only one angel and one night! That is all it took. And the army was no more! 185,000 Assyrians lay dead on the ground! In response to God’s protection and safety this Psalm was written and then sung. We must remember that the Psalms were the hymnbook of Israel. Psalm 46 reminds us that whenever disaster strikes in our lives, and when it seems that all hope is lost, that God is with us. What seems like a total disaster to us is actually an opportunity for God to work in our lives and express His own loving care and protection to us during times of trouble.
At this particular time, when the Assyrians threatened the city, the people of Judah were aware of God’s presence with them. Are we aware of God’s presence in our lives? Is God real to us today?
Who will take care of me when everything is caving in and when life brings unexpected challenges and changes? It won’t be the positive thinkers of our day. It won’t be the politicians.
It can only be God and His sufficiency that calms my fears and meets my spiritual needs in life. It’s only God that can rescue me. Time and time again the Bible says; God is who we need!
The inscription of this Psalm says that it’s “A Song for Alamoth,” which is a word that may refer to soprano voices. Psalm 46 is likely a wonderful soprano solo with a hallelujah chorus in which we see the sufficiency of God, the security of God, and the supremacy of God! It was a song of praise commemorating the victory that the city of Jerusalem had over the invading Assyrian armies.
It is said of Luther that there were times during the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation when he was terribly discouraged and depressed. But at such times he would turn to his friend and coworker Philip Melanchthon and say, “Come, Philip, let’s sing the forty-sixth Psalm.”
What a song this is for each one of us today, who love God, and who are dependent upon Him to meet our needs. Let’s consider it together and let God’s hymnbook touch our hearts.
When our world is shaken up, let us rely upon God’s presence (46:1-3).
God appears at the beginning of the Psalm. He is not some generic force of good, but a personal and powerful God who knows our need. Those who have a personal relationship with God can be assured of His present help.
“God is our refuge.”
We can hide in God when storms come. We are safe with Him when our world is shaking. We are safer than in any storm shelter available.
This is a personal note when the writer says that “God is our refuge.” It’s God and me! We walk together in life. We have a personal relationship with Him and. In times of trouble, we can count on God through our personal, daily walk with Him! Are you walking close to God and depending upon Him.
God’s presence preserves us in the storms of life. This is because He becomes our place of “refuge” or shelter that keeps us safe and preserves our lives. God’s sheltering protects and preserves us through the storms of life. We have a “refuge” (shelter) in God.
We must remember that sometimes God physically shields us from what is going on around us. At other times we are afflicted and do suffer. In other words, God does not always shield us from physical suffering. However, the Lord always promises to shield us spiritually from the events that we are passing though in life, which can harm us and distress us. In all situations of life, we still discover that God is our “refuge” – a shelter in the time of storm. This is why Martin Luther wrote the well-known and beloved words:
“A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper He amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
“God is our strength.”
God gives strength to those who are weak. Waiting on the Lord renews our strength (Isa 40:31). What we need for daily living is unlimited strength and power to get us through life. I need divine power (God’s power) to give me ability, stability, and tranquility during life’s trials and tests.
“God is a very present help in trouble.”
Our Lord is always with us. He is greater than any trouble we face.
We live life in the present tense and God provides for us in the present tense. God is never late when it comes to assisting us and empowering us. He is a “very present help in trouble.” God is there!
Yes, God is a “very present help.” We don’t have to wonder if God will help us through our trials and tribulations. We can know that He is with us and ready to assist us at every moment.
“Therefore we will not fear” (2-3).
David knew about this when he wrote Psalm 23:4: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”
God is the answer and antidote to fear. Our relationship with Him and reliance upon Him is what we need! When everything seems scary – God is there! “Therefore we will not fear.” In other words, we will not be overcome by debilitating fear. Fear can cripple our lives. Fear can overtake our hearts and paralyze us from a spiritual perspective. Fear overtakes my heart when I refuse to place confidence in God. Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
No fear . . .
- though the earth should change
- though the mountains fall into the sea
- though waves rage on the seas
- though earthquakes shake the mountains.
Our Psalm likens the troublesome times that we experience to the convulsions or upheavals of nature. Using the figure of a catastrophic earthquake, the Psalmist describes how great the perils are that come into our lives. It was one way the writer could describe the experience of the Jews as they witnessed the besieging Assyrian armies surrounding Jerusalem.
The images of tremendous earthquakes that cause the “earth to be removed” and “the mountains to be carried into the midst of the seas” and the “waters thereof” to “roar and be troubled” (flood waters) and the “mountains to shake” illustrate just how difficult life’s trials can often be. The figure of the earth shaking, the mountains sliding into the seas, and the storm tossed seas picture a terrible disaster. These convulsions of nature represent the difficult times that we face in our lives. Life can shake us up at times! Life can become shaky around us! We can become overwhelmed and sense that the bottom drops out of our life. This is why Psalm 46 is a song for the all shook up!
Are you ready to rest in God’s sovereignty? The “shaking” experiences will come; however, it’s wonderful to contemplate that when everything seems to be moving, shaking, and changing around us, God does not change! He is our refuge and strength! When the most stable things in our lives become unstable, there should be “no fear” because of the strength and stability that God brings into our lives.
“Selah.” This word in Psalm 46:3 is actually a technical musical term showing pause or interruption in a musical piece. In our Christian life, it means that we are stop, pause, and ponder what is being said! It’s as if the writers is saying, “There, what do you think of that!”
We need a few more “Selah” moments in our lives these days. We need to pause and ponder what God is saying to us from His Word. God isn’t in a hurry! However, we often are in a hurry and don’t meditate on God’s truth, and allow it to become manna to our soul.
A large old Bible, frequently used by Abraham Lincoln during the critical years of the Civil War, falls open easily to the 34th Psalm. If you examine that page, you will note that it is smudged at one spot. It seems obvious that the long, tapering fingers of Lincoln often rested on the fourth verse, which reads: "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Lincoln had come to realize that God is a mighty refuge. The awareness of His presence garrisoned the President's heart during his most severe difficulties and trials.
When our world is shaken up, let us rely upon God’s peace (46:4-7).
In our second major point of the Psalm, we once again recognize that God takes care of His children in the time of trouble. This is seen in His provision of peace.
Peace takes hold as we place our hope in the world to come (4-6; see Rev 22:1-6).
“There is a river”
The “river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4) may allude to the tunnel (underground water system) that King Hezekiah built to guarantee a continuous water supply for Jerusalem in times of war. 2 Chronicles 32:30 records: “This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David.” The reference to the “river” could also mean that the very presence of God in Jerusalem was similar to that of a refreshing life-giving river.
Of course, many Psalms also have prophetic overtones attached to them. They often depict an historical fulfillment but also look ahead to a future fulfillment. Psalm 46 does this as it looks ahead to the Millennial Kingdom and the peace that Jesus will bring on earth, when He returns as the King. Therefore, the “river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” is also looking ahead to the river that will flow forth from Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom and bring refreshing water to the people of God.
Zechariah 14:8-9 “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” In the coming day, the Jewish people of God will experience God’s supply of water in the earthly Jerusalem and also enjoy the presence of God with them in the person of the King Himself – Jesus. So there is a historical and prophetic fulfillment to this Psalm. However, there is a practical application of this Psalm to our lives today.
“Whose streams make glad”
Historically speaking, we can be sure that the river which carried water from the Gihon spring outside the city to a cistern inside the walls brought great joy to the people of God. So when the invading Assyrian armies besieged Jerusalem, the unstoppable stream of water made the whole city glad. As the water continued to flow into Jerusalem, even during the invasion of the Assyrians, it made “the city of God” (Jerusalem) glad and the people were filled with joy.
In a similar way, God makes His own people glad and joyful through His continuous provision during the times of trouble. The protection, care, and strength that He gives to us flows like a river into our lives and it’s a river that will never run dry. It’s also a river that produces great joy and gladness in our souls during the difficult seasons of our lives. Oh be glad!!
Are you sad today? Why are you sad and overcome with sorrow? Psalm 42:11 asks this very question: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”Be glad!! In other words, discover God’s joy in the midst of your difficult times. Experience God’s inner joy.
"The City of God"
Since God abode or tabernacled in Jerusalem the city enjoyed great security! In the past, God made His tabernacle or dwelling place in Jerusalem, but today He tabernacles or abides within our hearts.
The city of God will one day be established upon the earth. In the coming kingdom the Lord Most High will be exalted among the nations and Jesus will rule. Even though the present world is shaken, with the nations raging and the kingdoms of men tottering, we will not fear, since we know that God is our present help in time of trouble.
“God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved”
The fact that the city “shall not be moved” speaks of stability. When something can’t be touched, it’s because it’s stable and strong. As God protected Jerusalem against the invading Assyrian hordes, so He protects us against the fears, which seek to invade our lives. As a result, we can have stability in life.
Many Christians live a roller coaster life. They are up and down. They don’t have very much stability simply because they are not relying on God. As a result, they possess the “roller coaster syndrome.” Is this a picture of your life today? If so, you can stop the roller coaster ride by relying on Him.
Why can we remain stable in life? Because God is with us! “God is in the midst of her.”
“God will help her when morning dawns”
God did help Jerusalem when the morning dawned (v. 5 “right early”), for the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and sent Sennacherib home (Isa. 37:36). Psalm 46:6 states “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted.” The nations raised their fury against Jerusalem but God interceded and brought victory for His people. When the Assyrians, along with other various nations and peoples that the Assyrians had conquered, lifted themselves up in opposition to God and Israel, the Lord overthrew them. The same will be true when Jesus returns as the King to earth in order to rescue His beloved people – the nation of Israel (Rev 19:15-16).
We need God’s assistance. He is with us, so He can help us. He is with us, so He can sustain us.
Peace takes hold as we place our hope in the world to come (see Rev 22:1-6).
- The river of life is there.
- The city of God is there.
- Jesus is preparing a place for us there (John 14:1-3)
Meanwhile, the Lord of hosts is with us right now (7).
He repeats the same message in Psalm 46:11: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” The word “refuge” in these verses is different than in verse one. It refers to a defense, stronghold, or fortress. This provides us with great assurance. The God of all the angelic hosts of Heaven is with us. The Creator and Leader of the angelic beings of Heaven, the great God of all creation and the universe is our companion in life. He is by our side, waiting to help us through our perils and problems that we face in life. Selah! Now what do you think of that!
When our world is shaken up, let us rely upon God’s promises (46:8-11).
“Come, behold the works of the Lord”
Of course, this event happened on a local level and throughout the known inhabited earth, when God destroyed the Assyrian soldiers, who were invading Israel. However, the teaching of this verse leaps the centuries and also envisions the end times, when Jesus will return as the King of Kings to planet earth and destroy the armies of Armageddon (Rev. 19:17-20) and bring peace to a war-stricken world for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3).
“Come, behold the works of the Lord.” When we see God, as the great Victor, we also can know that the victory is ours, since the Lord is the One who gives us the victory. He works the victory through our lives. 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
“Cease and know that I am God”
Psalm 46:10 – “Cease and know that I am God.” In essence, this statement means to trust God and His plan. It is a call for trust in God’s saving power in anticipation of the coming of His kingdom.
This is a favorite verse of mystics. Many quote the first part of verse10, “Be still and know that I am God,” to endorse a form of meditation that involves techniques on “quieting” the mind or going beyond the mind. Is this what the verse is referring to? This verse is not about contemplative prayer. It simply means to stop and acknowledge that God is in charge.
The word “know” means to understand and perceive who God is (character) and what He is doing (course of events). In this context, to “know” who God is and what He is doing is best explained in the following words: “I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” This was true historically, when He wiped out the Assyrian soldiers coming against Jerusalem, but it will also be true on a greater and far vaster scale, when He returns and destroys the millions of soldiers in the land of Palestine, and becomes the exalted King over planet earth. God was exalted over the Assyrians and in the days to come He will once again be exalted over all mankind when He rules and reigns with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15; Isaiah 11:4-5).
We can experience peace, when we know that God is in charge of what is happening around us and with us. We trust God and whatever He chooses to bring to pass in connection with our own lives.
I was driving on the road the other day and was approaching a squirrel that was in the middle of the road. The squirrel didn’t know what to do. It was nervously moving to the right and then to the left. It went in circles and stood up before it finally got out of the way of my approaching car. The fidgeting squirrel reminded me of someone who was all shook up! Is this a picture of you? We can move about with fear. But God is calling us to a higher way of living. He summons us, “Be still and know that I am God.” In essence, God is saying, “Relax and stay calm. I’m in charge.” Stop fretting and fidgeting; stop panicking.”
Affirm God’s presence and take refuge in Him (11).
“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.”
Selah! Now what do you think of that!
Rely upon God’s promises.
- God is at work even when our world is shaking.
- God overrules in the affairs of men.
- We can be still and leave the future with God.
When the foundations are shaking and the dark clouds are forming, we can take refuge in Him! God is sufficient when our world is shaking.
Elisabeth Elliot suffered the loss of two husbands. The first, Jim Elliot, was killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador while trying to reach them with the gospel. The second, Addison Leitch, was slowly consumed by cancer. In relating what these experiences were like, she referred to Psalm 46, saying that in the first shock of death “everything that has seemed most dependable has given way. Mountains are falling, earth is reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken.” She added that the thing that is most needful is to do what the psalmist said, “be still and know that God is God.”
Nations are in an uproar. Mankind seems to be falling apart. But we as believers don’t have to be. We can stand steadfast because God is our refuge and our strength.
Benediction: 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!