Psalms of Comfort, Part 3 - Psalm 46
April 2, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Throughout the centuries, followers of God and Christ have looked to the Psalms for comfort and guidance in the midst of trials. Some Psalms have come to be dearly loved and memorized. These Psalms direct our attention to the rock-solid character of God and his promises. Each week we’ll reflect on one of these Psalms, training our hearts to trust in the Lord more and more.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalm 46 has been a treasured psalm for centuries. It was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm, of which he wrote, “We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends his church and his word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh and sin.” This psalm became the springboard for Luther’s hymn we love to sing, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.
There are three stanzas in Psalm 46. The first stanza declares the hope we have in God as our refuge. The second stanza undergirds that hope with a view toward eternity. The third stanza confronts with the choice to submit to God’s rule and refuge.
Stanza 1: Refuge in the Storms of Life, verses 1-3
The psalmist opens with the beloved words, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This reminds us that God protects his people from evil. He shields us from harm. It also encourages us to draw strength from the Lord when we do endure trouble. “Our true security is in God, not in God plus anything else” (Derek Kidner). God alone is our refuge.
Verses 2-3 speak about the uncertainties of life, using metaphors of creation coming undone. With God as our refuge, we do not need to fear when “the earth gives way” around us. Families may fail us. Friends may abandon us. Our finances may be turned upside down. Our health may deteriorate. In all circumstances, God is “a very present help.” That’s comforting.
Stanza 2: The Immoveable City… our confidence for the future, verses 4-7
In the second stanza the psalmist turns our attention to the “city of God.” This is the eternal city of God where he dwells with his people (cf. Rev. 21-22). This city has a life-giving stream in her midst. This city will not be moved. This hope for eternity is the grounds for confidence today even when we face trouble. The trials of today are temporary. The promises of God are eternal.
This stanza closes with a reaffirmation that God is our refuge and comfort. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v. 7). With our eternal dwelling with God secure, there is great comfort in his presence.
Stanza 3: The Conquering God who Seeks to Quiet our Hearts, verses 8-11
The psalmist now invites his readers to respond to these truths. “Come, behold the works of the Lord” is an invitation to evaluate who God is and what he does and submit. The psalmist describes God as a conquering warrior who brings peace to the land by winning the battle.
The well-loved verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” is not so much an invitation to the quiet, contemplative life, but it is a call to surrender to your conqueror. James Montgomery Boice interprets this verse as saying, “Lay down your arms. Surrender, and acknowledge that I am the one and only victorious God.”
It is only when we surrender to God that we find him to be our refuge, help, and fortress. We surrender our own abilities and attempts for security. We surrender the loves of this life and world. We surrender our righteousness, acknowledging it is lacking. It is in that place of brokenness and humility that we find God is our refuge and very present help in trouble.