Psalm 46

God, Our Strength

When have you depended upon God? How did he help you in your time of need?

We've all faced tough times in life. The question those times ask is simple. How do we react? Do we reach out for help? Or, do we close down and look inward, despite the good intentions of others? Faith gives us the answer to that question. We need to reach to God for his help and comfort. In times of struggle, God is there for us.

Psalm 46 is a song of such faith. It describes God as a pillar of strength despite times of trouble. It foresees a place of God's presence for his faithful. It proclaims a time when strife is overcome.

For the Chief Musician. By the sons of Korah. According to Alamoth.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes,
though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas;
3 though its waters roar and are troubled,
though the mountains tremble with their swelling.

Selah.

World English Bible

“God is our refuge and strength.” The beginning line of the psalm set its tone. God is the center of life, in the face of tribulation. There is some controversy whether this hymn describes the end times or not. We can be certain that psalm painted a condition of extreme, even catastrophic, change. Earthquakes and floods (46:2-3) threaten, but God will see the faithful through.

4 There is a river, the streams of which make the city of God glad,
the holy place of the tents of the Most High.
5 God is in her midst. She shall not be moved.
God will help her at dawn.
6 The nations raged. The kingdoms were moved.
He lifted his voice, and the earth melted.
7 YHWH of Armies is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah.

There is some disagreement over the identity of the river mentioned in 46:3. Is the river the Euphrates, or the river seen in Ezekiel's vision (Ez. 47:11-12)? If we set aside the question of identity, the river image still evokes the ideal of life in the desert. Even in a desolate environment, Jerusalem (God's city) would be nourished to withstand the siege of the nations (46:6a). With provisions provided by the Almighty, the city would flourish, despite the threat of enemies (45:5).

8 Come, see the works of YHWH,
what desolations he has made in 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 in the 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 YHWH of Armies is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah.

46:8-9 seemed to mark a turn in the battle for Jerusalem. The YHWH of armies no longer defended city against the siege but went on offense. He inflicted a crushing defeat upon his enemies so they could no longer mount a campaign. Their armaments were destroyed (46:9) and their lands laid low (46:8). God himself exacted tribute from Israel's foes (46:10b). The psalm ends with a refrain of national trust: “YHWH of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge” (46:7, 11; some scholars believe the refrain should be added after 46:3).

As a final note, the structure of the psalm revealed a liturgical hymn that was reinforced with the superscript. The “sons of Korah”were a sub-tribe of Levites known as porters (Temple guards?) and singers (see Psalms 42; 44-49; 84-85; 87-88). The term “Alamoth” means “young girls” (a chorus of maidens?) but could also refer to a style of singing.

Psalm 46 shouts out a confident faith, even in times of trouble. God is with us and defends us, no matter the situation. He is our refuge and our strength, in good times and tough times.

How have difficult times strengthened your faith?