John T. Willis

Saturday, November 26, 2016

God is our Refuge--Psalm 46

The author and historical background of Psalm 46 are unknown. The superscription says:
     To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
     Scholars have written extensive efforts to try to determine this, but there is no agreement. "Of the Korahites" appears also in Psalms 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 88. Some scholar have put these psalms together and tried to find significant themes in these psalms. "According to Alamoth" may refer to a well-known tune, but this is uncertain. The superscriptions of the Psalms are later additions, and it would be a great mistake to date any psalm based on a superscription.

The theme of Psalm 46 is "God is our refuge." This term appears in Psalm 46:1, 7, 11. Verses 7 and 7 are clearly choruses or recurring refrains.  This very common in many biblical psalms or songs, and in many modern songs or hymns. Think of "Up from the grave he arose," or "Are your ready?" or "It is well with my soul." In Psalm 46, the poet declares that those who dwell in Zion [Jerusalem] have refuge [protection, security] in God. "Selah" at the end of Psalm 46:3, 7, 11 has no meaning at all, but is a musical signal that the song or poem comes to an end, and the next verse begins the next stanza. Psalm 46:6, 9-10 indicate that Zion has recently been attacked by enemies and God has delivered the city, but the precise setting is unknown. Some scholars suggest this refers to Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in 701 BCE [2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37], but there is no enough evidence to demonstrate with certainty the historical setting. Psalm 46 inspired Martin Luther to write his moving song: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in 1529. Psalm 46 falls into three stanzas.

1. The Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are FREE FROM FEAR. Psalm 46:1-3.
    a. The poet begins with his theme: "God is our refuge and strength." God is always present to help in times of trouble. This is clearly a great encouragement for all who truly trust in Yahweh. 46:1.
    b. Since God is always present to help in times of trouble, God's true followers "will not fear." It does not matter if the earth should change or the mountains shake in the heart of the sea or the waters roar and foam or the mountains tremble with its tumult. No crisis, no matter how large and threatening it may seem, God's true followers will not fear because God is always present to help in times of trouble. 46:2-3.

2. Then, the Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are IMMOVABLE. Psalm 46:4-7.
    a. The psalmist declares that there is "a river" whose streams make glad the city of God. Scholars debate over the meaning of the "river" in this verse. Since Psalm 46:5 says: "God is in the midst of the city," it is likely that the "river" in Psalm 46:4 is God. Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13 compare Yahweh with "the fountain of living water." Or course, the meaning of this metaphor in Psalm 46:4 is debatable. This verse describes Jerusalem or Zion as "the holy habitation of the Most High." 46:4.
    b. Since God is in the midst of Zion, "it shall NOT BE MOVED." As in Psalm 46:1,  God will HELP when the morning dawns. 46:5.
    c. The surrounding world, the surrounding nations, the surrounding kingdoms, are in uproar and totter, but God utters his voice, and the earth melts. When we become anxious about all the problems and issues of life, we need to remember that God is in control no matter what things might look. 46:6.
    d. The Lord of hosts [The Lord of the heavenly armies--see Psalm 103:19-22; 2 Kings 6:17] is WITH us, the God of Jacob is OUR REFUGE. Just as there was no danger for the boat in the storm sea when Jesus was aboard (Luke 8:22-25), there is no danger for Zion in time of trouble because Yahweh is always present. 46:7.

3. Finally, the Psalmist declares that those who have refuge in God are VICTORIOUS. Psalm 46:8-11.
    a. The psalmist tells his hearers and readers to behold the works of Yahweh, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 46:8.
    b. Unstated nations had attacked Jerusalem or Zion, but Yahweh intervenes and "makes wars cease" to the end of the earth by breaking the bow, shattering the spear, and burning the shields with fire. As Isaiah 2:4=Micah 4:3, Yahweh causes warriors to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Miraculously, God brings peace between people and nations. 46:9.
    c. Because of this, Yahweh declares:
        "BE STILL, and KNOW that I am God!
          I AM EXALTED among the nations,
          I AM EXALTED in the earth."
It is very clear that Old Testament thought has to do with the whole earth, not the land of Canaan or Israel. Our God is a universal God, not a local God. The God of the Old Testament is the very same God as the God of the New Testament. There is no difference at all between the Old and New Testaments about the nature and work of God and his chosen people. New events present new festivals and practices, but essentially, God does not change.  The song "Be still and know that I am God" contains this powerful concept. 46:10.
    d. For emphasis, Psalm 46:11 reiterates the chorus or recurring refrain in Psalm 46:7.

What an uplifting, encouraging, inspiring Psalm. Share YOUR experiences and events and reversals and problems and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis



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