Our church spent the summer working through portions of the book of Psalms. They are all treasures in various ways and have different occasions for use. Psalm 46 is one worth noting, in that it was a crucial tool in the founding of the Reformational churches in the 1500s.
Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, paraphrased Psalm 46 in his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The hymn itself is in many ways a sermon put to song. As scholars are wont to do, there is much debate surrounding when Luther penned this psalm. What can be certain is that this hymn has functioned as the anthem of the Reformation. Luther’s hymn is still a great comfort to Christ’s church. It is a constant reminder to us as the people of God that our strength and sufficiency can only ever be found in the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of men. Do note, that Luther was rather unoriginal with this concept. He looked to the psalms to find his comfort and strength.
We must go and do likewise because our lives are rarely simple. Only you know the heaviness of your week. We may not all struggle with the same besetting sins, but none of us are free from the dangers, cares, and worries of this life. For some of us, perhaps this season is lighter; it’s been enjoyable, chaotic even, but manageable. But for others, perhaps it feels as if your world has been upended; up is down, down is up, left is right, etc. This can be overwhelming and crippling.
In moments such as these, temptations arise and it’s easy to wonder, “God, where are you?” How does Psalm 46 answer this question? We may not be Luther standing alone before the threat of death by burning at the stake. But we are ordinary believers, who need to be regularly reminded that God really knows what He’s doing. He even knows what He’s doing when every stable thing in our world appears as if it’s all floating away.
Psalm 46 is about a world that is coming apart at the seams. Everything has gone wrong. How did the psalmists respond? They learned to see their situations, however hopeless they appeared, in light of the hope-inducing character of God Himself. The whole psalm can be summed up in these words: Because God is the Almighty, Eternal King, neither the devastations of nature nor the rage of political powers can conquer Him or destroy His people. This is the sum of the psalm.
However, this is not enough. It is not enough for us to know bare facts about God that are true. Even the demons have that sort of knowledge. Apart from Christ, such ideas remain bound only to remain as intellectual truisms. No, we can’t have that at all. But because of Christ, these truths contained in the Book of books, that is, the Bible – these things become ours. They become our treasures! Our comfort! Our very life! And not only for us, but for our children to a thousand generations.
We must personalize this psalm. What would that look like? It’s very simple. Once we begin to understand that each psalm has its climax in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and that because we are eternally united to Him by faith these psalms become OUR psalms, and OUR songs, and OUR prayers. We personalize all of Psalm 46 in this way: We can have hope and peace in the midst of tragedy, whether natural, national, or any other – because our God reigns and is coming back in victory.
The Psalm is divided into three parts divided by that strange and untranslatable Hebrew word “Selah”. There is a thematic element to each of the portions. We first learn that God is over nature in vv. 1-3. Then we see God as supreme over nations in vv. 4-7. Lastly, we see that God is under none in vv. 8-11.
As we take in the fullness of what this psalm contains for our benefit, we learn quickly that God is the hero of our story, if we are found in Christ. He becomes our refuge, our strength, our very present help in trouble. He meets us on the very worst day of our lives. He sits with us in our living rooms when we have no words. He accompanies us on our drives to funerals. He holds our hand when we shout into the darkness. He guards us when Satan accuses us by pointing out our failures, our weaknesses, and all the ways we have forsaken God in the past. Yet, God remains by us nevertheless. He pitches His tent in our hearts and regardless of whatever storms of life come blowing through His tent remains well secured.
The text reminds us, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalm 46:7 ESV) God does not promise us that we will be without difficulties in this life. But He does promise us that because Christ is our Savior, and His Spirit is within us, we can have hope that one day on the Day of days that every difficulty will be undone by a single word of His power. It will not be a whisper when the King speaks. It will be the thunderous boom of a mighty lion whose roar causes all people to pause and cover their mouths. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts.” (Psalm 46:6 ESV) His roar is a shout of victory against creatures and nations who have the audacity to fight against Him. This is the God we serve. This is the God of the Bible. This is my God. Is He yours?