My wife and I are reading through the Psalms in our evening reading and occasionally a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.
1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 46, such a well known psalm, consists of a number of passages within it that are very familiar. Our first verse is such a verse, speaking of God and our need of Him in troubling times
The psalmist begins with declaring God’s abilities first.
Notice our opening phrase “God is our refuge and strength” does not speak of any specific time or occurrence in the saints life where God was needed. This phrase sets forth a truth of God, in that His nature is that of protecting and providing. Yes, the psalmist refers to God as “our” refuge, and we shall venture into the relationship we are privileged to enjoy with this All-Sufficient One. But let us consider the God the psalmist presents to us in this verse
God is a refuge.
When this term refuge appears in my reading, I usually ask which danger is present that requires the refuge, for a refuge is not required when all is at peace. A refuge is needed during dangerous times. Therefore as the psalmist speaks of God as a refuge, he is also indirectly expressing a danger that is present.
A common alternate translation for this Hebrew word is a shelter, and it is sometimes related to the physical arena.
Isaiah 4:6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
More often than not, this term speaks of the spiritual arena, where it caries with it the idea of hope, a shelter from lies and deception, even from ourselves. Consider Psalm 62:8
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
One of my favorite verses in the Psalms speaks of God’s people openly pouring out their hearts before God, and then declares God as our refuge. Is the Psalmist telling me that I can have freedom in expressing my heart before God without fear of danger?
I cannot resist one final verse on the topic of God being a refuge.
Hebrews 6:18 – so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
As believers, we have fled for refuge in the Lord Jesus. Jesus is a refuge!
Not only is God a refuge, He is a providing God.
The psalmist speaks of God as providing strength, or might. This term is used in multiple applications, ranging from strengths in the personal, social, political, and physical arenas. Implications of this term include boldness of the one receiving the strength, for if one has strength, fear and intimidation fade into the background. Note that confidence (or boldness) is also associated with the sense of safety provided by a refuge. Consider Hebrews 6:18 above.
Since it is God that is providing strength, one more implication is that we are weak. In all our strengths, God is stronger. In areas we deem we have sufficient strength, it may be necessary to reconsider our position. Our self estimation may become a dangerous position for us to reside in.
But I understand that God is One who protects us and provides shelters, even from ourselves. He is overall and superior to us in everyway, though the psalmist focuses on protection and provision in this first verse.
God can (is able) to provide and protect, but is He too far away, is He too busy, or is He not interested? Foolish questions as I write them, yet how often have you quietly thought the same? The psalmist addresses our thoughts, with the very pleasant outcome that God is not only able, but available!
He also is available.
One who can provide and protect, but that isn’t available is of no comfort or use to those who are in danger, to those who are weak and in need. But the psalmist does not describe God as One who is unwilling or unavailable.
The truth of His continual existence gives confidence, but this term does not directly speak only of a continual existence, for we know of God as being the eternal, everlasting One. This term speaks of a One who is not hiding from those who seek Him, but of One who is “findable” (Is that a word?)
When we read the term “present” in this verse, the root meaning in the Hebrew seems to be “to attain”, or “to find”. Could we, without damage to the message the Psalmist is providing us, consider this phrase to be understood as ” a very findable help in trouble”?
This very thought is continued into the New Testament in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The Hebrews author speaks of the believer finding grace to help. Not only is this passage speaking to the “findability” of help in the Lord, but also of the provision of mercy as we may receive.
Let’s consider verse 2 & 3
We have spent the majority of this post on one phrase within the first verse, and rightly so, for if we understand Who God is, or should I say, if we are learning of Who our God is, (for He is more than we can ever fully know), we can enter into the experience the psalmist describes in the two verses above.
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. Selah
The Psalmist uses the logical term “Therefore” in verse 2, and as a young believer I was taught to always check why the “therefore” was there for! To remember that the message following the “therefore” is based on the previous information, this being the God Who is described in verse 1.
One last dip into verse 1 is important to bring up. He is our refuge and strength. The earlier descriptions focused on Who God is, and rightly so, but in all of that description, we need to come back to the relationship with God that is stated, and upon which the therefore is there for!
No matter the disasters that occur, fear is a decision that is not required to be entered into as a saint belonging to the Living God. But what is the fear caused by?
Earth Giving Way
The psalmist speaks of the earth giving way. That ain’t good, no matter how you slice it! The Hebrew term for earth in this verse is ‘ereṣ, and is translated as “earth” over 700 times in the Old Testament. But the Hebrew word is used over 2,500 times in the Old Testament, with it translated as “land” more than 60% of the time.
Therefore, if the psalmist was speaking of the physical earth, the entire planet we exist on, he may be describing catastrophic geological upheaval that results in a near or complete loss of all life on earth (for if the earth is the subject, the geological changes would result in massive death and destruction.)
If the psalmist is thinking land, as opposed to earth, he may be describing massive changes within the “land” (of Israel), and speaking of a national localized upheaval. Something to consider.
Moving onto the shaking mountains, there are some places in the Old Testament that the terminology of mountains speak of kingdom, of political power structures.
One of these examples may be found in Jeremiah, where he addresses the Babylonian Kingdom, and addresses it as a “destroying mountain”
Jeremiah 51:24-25 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the LORD. “Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, declares the LORD, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain.
One other example may be found in the book of Daniel, where Daniel speaks of the God of heaven setting up a kingdom.
Daniel 2:35, 44-45
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. …
For this short study on “earth” and “mountains”, my intent is to offer my reader a possible interpretation of the circumstances the psalmist is describing. (If the entire earth is being referred to, fear may not be the issue at all for we all shall have perished!)
This understanding of the psalmists message in relationship to government stability is so applicable to us who are watching the current upheaval within our own systems, and a national breakdown that seems to have no good end in sight. Deterioration of our moral and social order that we took for granted just a decade ago has suddenly given way to a new thinking, and a new way of understanding our culture and way of life. Supply systems are broken and misinformation is rampant. It is impossible to determine what is correct, and therefore what to base decisions on. Things are out of control!
Yet, as we shall be refreshed to see in the next passage, there is a source we can find gladness in. Verse 1 speaks of our God as a refuge and a strength. A findable help in times of trouble.
Our current days are sufficient to require every believer to reach out to our God, to find Him and to take the shelter and provision He gladly provides.
In finding Him, we shall loose the fear we may be walking in, as we see things falling apart. Take courage my friend, in the Lord and Him only, for He is good.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.