Questions for Littles: Who is our refuge and strength (v1)? When is God a very present help? If God is with us, when do v2-3 say we should not fear? What does the river in v4 do to the city of God? What does the second half of v4 call this city of God? Whom does v5 say is in the midst of the city? How long does He wait to help? What does v6 say is the effect of the nations raging? What is the effect of the Lord giving His voice? What two things do v7 and v11 call God? What does v8 tell us to do with God’s works? What kinds of works does that specifically mean in this passage (v8-9)? What does God tell these raging and warring nations to do in v10? Why should they stop?This week’s Invocation and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 46. This Psalm was the basis for Martin Luther’s great Reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
Luther’s life was certainly full of trouble. That’s not rare for believers, as we can see from this Psalm. What kind of trouble is this? The biggest kind. The earth removing, mountain-tossing, ocean-boiling, nations-raging kind.
I’m afraid that we often want to think of the Christian life as including just enough bumps along the way to polish us up. But that’s not really the picture of what goes on around the church in this Psalm is it? As Paul said when “strengthening” the souls of believers in Acts 14:22, “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” It strengthened believers to hear about MANY tribulations?
Of course it did. Not only does God know about our trouble in advance, and bring us through it, and use it to sanctify us for glory… He’s with us in it. He is a very present help (v1). He is in the midst of His people (v5). He is with us (v7). He is with us (v11).
In times of quiet and comfort, the Lord’s being with us sweet. But in times of trouble, the glory of God’s presence with us stands out all the more by contrast. One does not know Him as refuge, unless one needs a place to hide. One does not know Him as strength, unless one feels the need of that strength.
But the Lord gives His people so much more than a little rest in the middle of the trouble or just enough strength to make it through. He makes them stunningly courageous (v2-3) and surprisingly glad (v4) in the midst of the greatest difficulty?
How does God do that? He is Yahweh of hosts—King and God over armies of angels, and the sovereign Lord over all things in all places at all times. Even when the nations are raging, they are only able to make a change here or there in the kingdoms of the earth (v6a). But as soon as the Lord utters His voice, the very fabric of this world begins to melt (6b)!
His power isn’t just contest-winning power; it’s war-ending and even world-ending power (v8-9). “Be still, and know that I am God” isn’t saying “snuggle into a chair with cocoa and meditate.” It’s saying, “let all the self-deceived superpowers of history shut up, and give up, because all of the glory on earth belongs to ME alone!”
Why does such a God help us? Because He’s merciful. And because He keeps covenant. Notice that He calls Himself the God of Jacob. Jacob had gone through a name change. “Israel” meant “God wrestles.” Much better than the original “heel grabber,” which meant something like “deceiver” or “supplanter.” But the truth is that even after a long life of growing in grace, there’s still all too much of the original “Jacob” left in us believers. But God is a merciful God who keeps promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
What great troubles are you in now? How would more worship more sincerely lead to courage and joy?Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Strength,” or HB381 “God Is Our Refuge and Strength”