Weds 16 February - Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, ‘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 Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
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Meditation on Psalm 46
When did we last sing this hymn that was written in German by Martin Luther somewhere between 1527-1529 and wasn’t translated into English until 1853?
‘A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.’
The inspiration for this hymn came from Psalm 46 – ‘God is our refuge and strength.’
This hymn is often referred to as the ‘battle hymn of the Reformation.’ It was sung in the streets; it was sung by the poor; it was sung by martyrs at their death. Troops were ordered to sing this hymn before they went into battle.
Here is a celebration of the security of Jerusalem as the city of God.
Here is a celebration of the security of the people of God today, wherever they are around the world and whatever their circumstances might be.
- THE SECURITY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD Verses 1-3
Note the present tense in the opening statement – ‘God IS…’
Note the help He is – ‘an EVER-PRESENT help…
Isn’t this confirmed by Jesus when, as He was about to ascend back to heaven, He made this wonderful promise – “and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Let the worst happen – creation itself is imploding: the earth gives way; the mountains disappear; the waters are in chaos; the mountains are shaking – ‘therefore, we will not fear.’
Isn’t this what Habakkuk is also saying – Habakkuk 3:17-18?
When all around seems to be crumbling, there is God.
Luther is quoted as saying when he was in great distress he called for this psalm, saying, ‘Let us sing the forty-sixth psalm in concert and then let the devil do his worst.’
When we look around the world today – nearly 500 years on from Luther - aren’t we wondering whether the earth will give way; the mountains will shake; the waters are in chaos? Whatever happens, we can have absolute confidence in the God who is our refuge and strength.
- THE PRESENCE AND PROVISION OF GOD Verses 4-7
Jerusalem doesn’t have a river running through it as so many major cities did then.
And yet, there was a ‘river’ which poured God’s blessings on His people and on the place where He dwells.
Fast forward to the Temple in Ezekiel’s day – Ezekiel 47:1-12 – and watch another river coming out from the Temple. This river brings life.
The psalmist is referring to such blessings – rejoicing; holiness; safety; security; divine help. And all because
we are in the place where ‘the Most High dwells.’
And this looks forward to the end of the age when Jesus returns. John sees this in his vision in Revelation 22:1-5. He sees the ‘water of life’ flowing from the Throne of God – water that brings life.
The link between all three is that God is there and therefore there isn’t failure, even though it seems like it. Because He is present, He supplies all our needs.
It seems as if ‘nations are in uproar’ which is what Jesus said would happen when He talked about the lead up to His return.
Even though there will be tough times ahead as there have been before, we have the three-fold assurance of…
- the presence of God – ‘with us’
- the mercy of God – ‘the God of Jacob’
- the security of God – ‘our fortress’
Isn’t that the message of Christmas – ‘Emanuel – God with us’?
Why does the psalmist refer to Jacob – surely there are better examples of men and women who have obeyed God, trusted Him and served Him? But that’s just it – in spite of all Jacob’s weaknesses and failures, God hadn’t finished with him. In His mercy He kept him on track as He does with us today.
- THE VICTORIES OF GOD Verses 8-9
God reigns over all the earth. Nations, kings, Queens, Presidents, all peoples are under His control. He will have the ultimate victory – ‘breaks … shatters … burns’
Remember that ‘the kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever and ever.’
- THE INVITATION FROM GOD Verses 10-11
This sentence speaks for itself – in a world that rushes on; in a world that’s crazy with noise, God invites us into His stillness so that we know Him who is King.
He is exalted.
He will be exalted.
He is with us.
He is our refuge.
This is our God.
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