At CCRC we are endeavouring to learn/focus on a Psalm or song each month. Psalm 46 – “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength” from the Cantus Christi hymnal was our song of the month. Below is a mediation.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he utter his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
There are two distinct sections to Psalm 46.
1. Verses 1-6 are a corporate meditation upon the conflicts and flux of life. However, the meditation is from the perspective of knowing that God is near and that God is our help. Thus, this meditation leads to doxology — a corporate declaration — the “refrain” in verse 7: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!”
2. Verses 8-10 takes the prior doxology and applies it to a future vision of peace, a meditation on how God will sovereignly bring an end to war. The prior confession in divine help, in verses 1-6, is the foundation for the subsequent meditation upon the optimistic view of the future. Thus, this additional meditation leads to additional doxology — another corporate declaration — the repeated “refrain” in verse 11: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!”
The corporate nature of this Psalm is obvious; the plurals “our” and “we” and “us” are used throughout, and are reinforced by the militaristic refrain “the Lord of hosts”, i.e., “the Lord of armies”, “is with us.” Both sections, verses 1-6 and 8-10, conclude with the same “refrain” which emphasizes God’s divine presence and divine help.
Israel is proclaiming that God is near. Israel is proclaiming that God is her divine help, see verse 5 — “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” Israel is also proclaiming assurance in the fact that God is her divine help, see verse 10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”
In this Psalm Israel meditates upon conflicts and flux, but Israel meditates in light of the fact that God is present. Israel’s confession of faith in divine help and her corresponding assurance organically flow from her knowledge of and placing her trust in the presence of God. This should also be the case today for Christians: we know that God is near to us in Jesus Christ and that God through Jesus Christ is our divine help. God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Indeed, because of Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts is with the Church. Indeed, because of Jesus Christ, God is refuge and strength of the Church.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Consider how Psalm 46 is . . .
- Profitable for doctrine because we are reminded of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, which ought to be a constant source of comfort. God is sovereign and he is sovereign all the time! Even if the world were to “fall apart” and chaotic waters cover the mountains, God would still be our refuge and strength! This means that no matter what happens to us in life we have assurance that God is near and that God is our help.
- Profitable for correction because this Psalm will most forcefully confront us when we are walking through the “hard providences” of life — those times which are more-often-than-not a road or a type of journey that we never would have chosen of our own volition. It is especially easy (tempting) during those times to doubt that God is near and that God is in control. And yet this Psalm mentions conflicts (meditates upon them!), but only in order to declare that such uncertainties are overshadowed by God’s presence and sovereign care. This Psalm looks affliction in the eye from the vantage point of dwelling in the presence of God. And from that vantage point Psalm 46 provides correction: even when we emotionally feel like God is distant and not in control we learn to trust God and place our assurance in God. When we are plagued by doubts God speaks to us in Psalm 46 and reminds us that he is near and that we need to place our trust in Him. We learn to do this by obeying God, who commands us to “be still” and know that He is God.
- Profitable for instruction because it teaches us that God will not only be our strength and refuge today but also in the optimistic future (verses 8-10). God’s sovereignty applies to the future, and God has revealed that He will be victorious in the future, and thus, that it will be peaceful – “He maketh wars to cease” (verse 9) . . . I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (verse 10). Christians are wise to be instructed by verse 10: the God who is near is the “Lord of hosts” of a peaceful future, and because of the work of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, it is a peaceful Christian future. Through the work of the Cross and the preaching of the Gospel, God is making wars to cease, breaking bows, cutting spears in half, and burning chariots with fire.
As Scottish minister John McCheyne said, writing in a pastoral letter in 1839, “It is no small joy to be able to sing Psalm 46 in the dark and cloudy day.” The realization that God through Jesus Christ is near and our divine help is “no small joy,” particularly when conflict, affliction, and the flux of life are all too near. In such turbulent times we need to meditate — “Be still, and know that I am God.” And our meditation will lead to doxology, we will join the congregation and corporately declare “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!”