When I am afraid, I often turn to Psalm 46. This Psalm, which is like bedrock for the soul, begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Imagining the Unimaginable
We don’t know what was so threatening, but whatever it was led the Psalmist to imagine the unimaginable. He compared the crisis to an earthquake so violent that mountains crumbled and slid into the heart of the sea! Yet, he was not gripped with fear because He knew God was near.
God With Us
Long before this terrifying moment, God created man in His image. We lived in peace, enjoying God and each other. But when we sinned against God, peace evaporated, and fear filled the void. Unable to draw near to God, He chose to draw near to us. God came to Abraham and promised to bless him, make him into a nation, provide a land, and send a Redeemer to save the world through his line. God made good on His promise, and the nation of Israel was born. Amid this current threat, the Psalmist repeatedly found hope in God’s nearness. Twice he exclaimed, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7, 11).
River of Peace
Notice what God’s nearness did for the Psalmist. He writes, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns (Psalm 46:4-5). This is the difference in belonging to the world during crisis, and belonging to God. Some hearts churn like a violent ocean; others rest like a peaceful river. The Psalmist is writing people in Jerusalem, saying, “There is a river that is going to make you glad.” Do you know why this is so stunning? There is no river in or around Jerusalem, but there would be soon!
For in the fullness of time, God sent His Son, Jesus, as the Redeemer. One day while walking in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). Jesus wants to do in our hearts what no earthly river can do. He wants to satisfy us and restore our peace!
Some Steps Forward
First, no matter what happens in life, remember that God wants to be near you. As sinners, sometimes we feel God may want to leave us. It is no accident that twice we read, “The God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7, 11). Jacob was a wicked deceiver, yet God drew near to Him to change him. Every time you read, “God of Jacob,” think, “There is hope for me!”
Second, as the devastation is recounted, remember that God is the Lord of hosts. He is Almighty. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). When life feels random and reckless, remember that God is not finished working. One day, we will see how God saved through the suffering, and we will say, “God, you do all things well!”
Third, when you are restless, remember God’s final instruction in the Psalm. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). If you have never trusted Christ, this is an invitation to stop striving and trust Christ’s strivings on your behalf. If you have trusted Christ, this is an invitation to be faithful to God’s Word, and then drop your arms in trust. He is God.
In 1529, while studying Psalm 46, Martin Luther wrote this famous hymn.
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 doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever
I pray the words of Psalm 46 and the words of Luther’s hymn bring you great hope today!