A Present Help and a Future Hope

Psalm 46

God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song For Alamoth.

1     God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2     Therefore we will not fear,

Even though the earth be removed,

And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3     Though its waters roar and be troubled,

Though the mountains shake with its swelling.                                       Selah

4     There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,

The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

5     God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;

God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

6     The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;

He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

7     The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge.                                                              Selah

8     Come, behold the works of the Lord,

Who has made desolations in the earth.

9     He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;

He burns the chariot in the 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 refuge.                                                              Selah[1]

No river flowed through Jerusalem when it belonged to Jebusites or David.  No river flows through that city today.  And yet the Bible says, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” (Psalm 46:4)  But there is a river there.  It shall make glad the city of God one day.  Perhaps it moves underneath the city even now waiting for the established throne of David during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel speaks of a yet future millennial temple.  He says water will flow from under the threshold of that future temple and move toward the east (47.1).  Healing will line the banks of that wide and deep river, and they will be nourished by the healing waters (47.7).  John was shown “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22.1-2).

However, in a real sense we have this healing water even now.  “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37–39)

For the psalmist and for Israel, God was a very present help:

  • God was a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble for Israel (1).
  • God was in the midst of the holy place …the holy of holies in the tabernacle or temple (5).
  • God helped Israel (5).
  • God was with them as the LORD of Hosts …the Lord of Armies that cannot be numbered (7, 11).
  • God was Jacob’s refuge (7, 11).

How could God be less for us as Christians?  We are the temples of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.  The same instability Israel experienced is the instability we experience.  Natural calamities such as tornados, earthquakes, floods, and drought still haunt us.  War and violence still plague us.  It has come to our doorstep in America during recent years.

Psalm 46 reminds us that even though everything in this world seems chaotic, He is still all-powerful and in complete sovereign control.  “Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.” (Psalm 46:8–9) God will cause wars to cease!  He will create a new world without the carnal weapons of this one!  Isaiah wrote…

2  The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2     Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

That the mountain of the Lord’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

And shall be exalted above the hills;

And all nations shall flow to it.

3     Many people shall come and say,

“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

To the house of the God of Jacob;

He will teach us His ways,

And we shall walk in His paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

4     He shall judge between the nations,

And rebuke many people;

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore. [2]

Micah adds…

The Lord’s Reign in Zion

4  Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

That the mountain of the Lord’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

And shall be exalted above the hills;

And peoples shall flow to it.

2     Many nations shall come and say,

“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

To the house of the God of Jacob;

He will teach us His ways,

And we shall walk in His paths.”

For out of Zion the law shall go forth,

And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3     He shall judge between many peoples,

And rebuke strong nations afar off;

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

4     But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,

And no one shall make them afraid;

For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

5     For all people walk each in the name of his god,

But we will walk in the name of the Lord our God

Forever and ever. [3]

War will be done and peace will extend throughout the whole earth when Jesus reigns!  War and violence are results of sin and disobedience.  God will bring it all to an end.  Martin Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress, is based upon this psalm:

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.…

We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.…

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.

His kingdom is forever.[4]

Since God is a refuge for not only Israel but the Church …since He provides strength and grace through His Beloved Son …since He is still a very present help for all those who believe on His Son, we must not fear!  “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

If you’re going to be still in the chaotic world we live in today, you must believe that God will be exalted!  After September 11, 2001 people filled the churches to hear this Psalm.  Wicked men and nations bring terror and fear to the earth.  We respond not with fear but bold exploits on the Lord’s behalf.  We fight for the cause of a just and holy God and preserve for ourselves a free nation …no doubt.  But security will never come through human means.  Peace will never come as a result of sinful men and their ill-defined diplomacy.

God is with us even now.  Be still.  Know and accept that He will be exalted.  “Know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  Trust in God as a refuge and strength …a present help and a future hope!

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982) Ps 46.

[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982) Is 2:1–4.

[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982) Mic 4:1–5.

[4] James H. Waltner, Psalms, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2006) 237.

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