Psalm 46

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 6, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

If I had to choose a favorite psalm, it would definitely be Psalm 46. I grew up Lutheran, and this is the psalm that inspired Martin Luther to write the powerful hymn A Mighty Fortress. In addition, many years ago my late Uncle David taught an intergenerational Sunday School class one summer on the psalms. For the lesson on Psalm 46, he gave everyone a small rock with “Ps 46” written on it to remind us that God is our rock. I carried that rock in my pocket for a number of years. Also, when I was attending seminary, my project for the Psalms and Wisdom Literature class was to transcribe the professor’s Hebrew analysis of a psalm, so of course I chose Psalm 46, which you can read here.

The overall meaning of this psalm is that God is our help in times of trouble. He is our strong tower and our fortress. Catastrophes can (and will) happen, but God will never change!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (verse 1)

The name of God used here is Elohim, which is the majestic name for God used in the Creation account in Genesis 1. This name shows God’s strength and power. The literal translation of this verse from the Hebrew would read, “God is for us a refuge and a strength. A help in narrow places, He is found exceedingly.” The word for “exceedingly,” translated as ever-present in the English, is the same word used to show that God’s creation is VERY good in Genesis 1:31.

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (verses 2-3)

No matter what happens, we WILL NOT fear. It doesn’t say that we might not fear, but that we will not. The imagery of the earth giving way and the mountains falling is one that we should be fearful of, as nature is one thing that we as humans cannot control, even with all our modern technology today. Just ask any meteorologist, or a person who has gone through a natural disaster of any sort, how well they can control nature. We naturally fear what we can’t control.

But, God is unchanging and powerful, and He can be trusted, even with what we can’t control. He is our refuge and our strength. We are always secure when we’re in the Lord.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (verse 4)

I love the contrast between the chaos of waters roaring and mountains quaking in the previous verse with the calm river that provides water for the city of God in this verse. God’s presence is like that river; it makes us glad! This is representing God’s calming presence in our lives, and that should give us joy no matter what type of chaos is raging around us. Dwelling with God is what we long for as believers. That’s the hope we know we can count on when we make it to heaven - that we will be able to dwell with God and in His holy presence for the rest of eternity, in that holy city.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (verse 5)

God is present with His people, and God will help us through our difficulties and our chaos when we have a relationship with Him. That doesn’t mean He’ll remove everything difficult from our lives, since we need those trials to grow and mature and learn to trust Him with our whole lives. That doesn’t mean that everything will work out the way we want it to and we’ll always be happy, but we can rest in the assurance that God will always help His people.

“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.” (verse 6)

We see in this verse how God will come to judge the earth. Chaos will happen, but at God’s command every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. All of the evil will melt away in the presence of the holy and perfect God of the universe.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (verse 7)

Earlier we had Elohim as the name of God, but here instead it’s YHWH. The psalmist makes it clear that it’s not just any god who is with us, but it is the God of Jacob and the Lord Almighty. It is in this verse that we see the reference to how God is our fortress.

“Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.” (verse 8)

Don’t let this verse confuse you. God hasn’t caused problems here on earth; humans have with our sin. God has brought desolation on earth because we humans have disobeyed Him. God created the world so He makes the rules, and that’s the consequence for disobedience. The psalmist encourages us to come and see; notice what God has done, and notice what God is going to do!

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” (verse 9)

We saw in the previous verse that God allowed desolation as a result of mankind’s actions, but God fixes all of that with His redemptive power! There will be perfect, eternal peace one day. God will get rid of all war and violence that we have brought on ourselves.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” (verse 10)

The “Be still and know that I am God” part of this verse is often quoted. But the context may surprise you, now that you’ve seen the rest of the psalm before it. In context, it means to stop destroying the earth and God’s holy city. Recognize Him as God of all the universe! We need to stop any chaos that we’re causing in our own lives and have intimate relationship with our creator God. We need to understand that God is truly Lord of all and put our hope, faith, and trust in Him - not anyone or anything else. He is the one who deserves to be and will be exalted everywhere.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (verse 11)

The repetition of this verse is both like a chorus in our modern songs, and to emphasize the point of the psalm: that God is always with us, and He is our fortress.

As we read this psalm today as believers in Jesus Christ, we can certainly say that in Jesus Christ we have a stronghold – a place where we can go for refuge and strength. Jesus is certainly a very present help to us in times of trouble and distress. God is consistent, regardless of what happens on earth or in our lives. He is our mighty fortress, forever. We are privileged to be able to have that relationship with Him and be able to get to know the almighty God of the universe, through the work of Jesus Christ.

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