July 24th 2020 – Psalm 46

"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.
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

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.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah"

Psalm 46

There is something else, however, and more immediate, than the calm after the storm, and it is this: when faith recalls the presence and victory of God, it brings one to the secret source of peace and blessing in the storm. The words in 4 could be literally rendered 'Behold a river!' - as if the Psalmist had suddenly been made aware of its existence. This is what faith does, this is what happens when faith begins to work. In terms of the immediate situation of the people of God this was meant to indicate that a constant supply of what was needful was always to hand, so that they could laugh at their enemies (see the second verse of the hymn 'Glorious things of Thee are spoken'). That this is the meaning is seen in what follows in 5: 'God is in the midst of her'. This leads to stability - 'she shall not be moved'. Then comes the promise of timely help (5b). Maclaren thinks there is a reference here to the pillar of cloud and fire, with God looking out of it and troubling the Egyptians (cf Exodus 14:24, 'In the morning watch', which worthily translates 'and that right early' here). The battle is next described - 6b is the origin of Luther's phrase 'A word shall quickly slay him'. This may be taken both as the exercise of faith, reassuring itself by recalling that in the past this is how God has done it, and as the record of something the Psalmist was actually seeing happening at the time. In the third stanza (8-11) faith, merging into sight, calls us to behold the desolations made by this 'word' from God (cf Isaiah 37:36 - 'When morning cometh' indeed!). This is what it means to pit oneself against the living God. But we should note also that this is the inauguration of the new life of peace: 'He maketh wars to cease...' (9). Finally, the 'voice' of God speaks again (10). 'God desires that His foes would cease their vain strife, before it proves fatal'. 'Desist', He says, 'let your hands drop; let be, and learn how vain is a contest with Him Who is God'. It is a word of warning, in face of the revelation of such a God, to submit to Him, and acknowledge Him as Lord.