Psalm 46 encourages us to hope and trust in God, and His power, and providence, and His gracious presence with His people in the worst of times. It directs us to give Him the glory of what He has done for us and what He will do for us.
We are here taught to take comfort in God when things look very black and threatening. We are to assure ourselves that God who has glorified His own name will glorify it yet again, and to comfort ourselves with it. It is said that when Luther heard any discouraging news, he would say, ‘Come let us sing the forty-sixth psalm’.
Psalm 46 – A Psalm of David
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth and breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Henry says – The psalmist here teaches us to triumph in God, and His relationship to us and His presence with us. (Ps. 46:1): God is our refuge and strength; we have found Him so, He has engaged Himself to be so, and He will ever be so. Are we pursued? God is our refuge to whom we may flee, and in whom we may be safe, secured upon good grounds.
He bears us up
Prov. 18:10 Are we oppressed by troubles? Have we work to do and enemies to grapple with? God is our strength, to bear us up under our burdens, to fit us for our services and sufferings. He will by His grace put strength into us, and on Him we may stay ourselves.
Are we in distress? He is a help, to undertake for all that we need, a present help. One whom we have found to be so. It has been tried as Christ is called a tried stone, Isa. 28:16. Or, a help at hand that is always near. Or, a sufficient help accommodated to every case. Whatever it is we cannot desire a better help, nor shall we ever find the like in any creature.
God is our strength and our help in the gravest of dangers. An all-sufficient God to us, therefore we will not fear. Those who, with a holy reverence, fear God, need not with any bewilderment be afraid of the power of hell or earth. If God be for us, who can be against us to do us any harm? It is our duty, it is our privilege, to be thus fearless.
This is an evidence of a clear conscience, of an honest heart, and of a lively faith in God and His providence and promise: “We will not fear, though the earth be removed, though all our creature-confidences fail us and sink us. Even if that which should support us threaten to swallow us up, as the earth did Korah. While we keep close to God, and have Him for us, we will not fear, for we have no cause to fear.
We will not fear
If we can imagine the earth to be removed, and thrown into the sea. Even the mountains, the strongest and firmest parts of the earth, to lie buried in the unfathomed ocean. If we can imagine the sea to roar and rage, and make a dreadful noise. Even with enough violence to shake the mountains, Ps. 46:3. Though kingdoms and states be in confusion, embroiled in wars, tossed with tumults, and their governments in continual revolution. Though their powers combine against the people of God and aim at no less than their destruction. Yet we will not fear for we know that all these troubles will end well for them. See Ps. 93:4.
If the earth be removed, those have reason to fear who have laid up their treasures on earth, and have set their hearts upon it. But not for those who have laid up for themselves treasures in heaven, and who expect to be most happy when the earth and all the works that are within will be burnt up.
Let those be troubled at the troubling of the waters who build their confidence on such a floating foundation. But not those who are led to the rock that is higher than they, and find firm footing there. How well-grounded the defiance of this danger is, considering how well guarded the church is, and that interest which we are concerned for.
Even in the most melancholy and sorrowful times (Ps. 46:4) there is a river where the streams shall make glad. Even then when the waters of the sea roar and threaten it. When we consider what God has provided for the comfort and safety of His people, we shall see reason to have our hearts fixed, and set above the fear of evil news.
There is a stream that makes glad
Here is the joy to the church. It alludes to the waters of Siloam, which went softly by Jerusalem (Isa. 8:6, 7). Though of no great depth or breadth, yet the waters of it were made serviceable to the defence of Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s time, Isa. 22:10, 11. But this must be understood spiritually. The covenant of grace is the river, the promises of which are the streams.
The Spirit of grace is also a river (John 7:38, 39), the comforts of which are the streams, that make glad the city of our God. God’s Word and ordinances are rivers and streams with which God makes His saints glad on cloudy and dark days. God Himself is to His people a place of broad rivers and streams, Isa. 33:21. The streams that make glad the city of God are not rapid, but gentle, like those of Siloam.
The spiritual comforts which are conveyed to the saints by soft and silent whispers, are sufficient to counterbalance the most loud and noisy threatenings of an angry and malicious world. Though heaven and earth are shaken, yet God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved, Ps. 46:5.
God has assured His people of His special presence with them and concern for them. His honour is established in them, He has set up His tabernacle in them and has guaranteed the protection of it, and therefore they shall not be moved. They shall not be destroyed, nor removed, as the earth may be Ps. 46:2.
It shall not be moved
The church shall survive the world, and be in bliss when that is in ruins. It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It shall not be disturbed or moved, with fears of the day. If God be for us, if God be with us, we need not be moved at the most violent attempts made against us.
Though her dangers be very great, God shall help her. Who then can hurt her? He shall help her under her troubles, that she shall not sink. The more she is afflicted, the more she shall multiply. God shall help her out of her troubles, and early—when the morning appears. That is, very speedily, for He is a present help (Ps. 46:1), and very seasonably, when things are brought to the last extremity and when the relief will be most welcome.
This may be applied by particular believers to themselves. If God be in our hearts, in the midst of us, by His Word dwelling richly in us, we shall be established. We shall be helped and so let us therefore trust and not be afraid. All is well, and will end well.
This Psalm gives glory to God both as King of nations and as King of saints. He rules the world by His power and providence and overrules all the affairs of the children of men to His own glory. He does according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth, and none may say, What are You doing?
Behold the works of the Lord
He breaks the power of the nations that oppose Him and His interests in the world (Ps. 46:6). The heathen raged at David’s coming to the throne, and at the setting up of the kingdom of the Son of David, compare Ps. 2:1, 2. The kingdoms were moved with indignation, and rose in a tumultuous furious manner to oppose it. But God uttered His voice, spoke to them in His wrath, and they were struck into confusion.
The earth itself melted under them, so that they found no firm footing. Their earthly hearts failed them for fear, and dissolved like snow before the sun. Such a melting of the enemies is described in Jdg. 5:4, 5 and see Luke 21:25, 26.
When He pleases to draw His sword, and give it commission, He can make great havoc among the nations and lay all waste. (Ps. 46:8) Come, behold the works of the Lord. They are to be observed (Ps. 66:5), and to be sought out, Ps. 111:2. Particularly take notice of the desolations He has made on the earth, among the enemies of His church, who thought to lay the land of Israel desolate.
The destruction they designed to bring upon the church has been turned upon themselves. War is a tragedy which commonly destroys the stage it is acted on. David carried the war into the enemies’ country and O what desolations happened there! Cities were burnt, countries laid waste, and armies of men cut off and laid in heaps upon heaps.
Let all who fear Him, trust Him
Come and see the effects of desolating judgments, and stand in awe of God. Say, How frightful You are in all Your works! Ps. 66:3. Let all who oppose Him see this with terror, and expect the same cup of trembling to be put into their hands. Cause all who fear Him and trust in Him see it with pleasure, and not be afraid of the most formidable powers armed against the church.
Let them gird themselves, but they shall be broken to pieces. When He pleases to sheathe His sword, He puts an end to the wars of the nations and crowns them with peace, Ps. 46:9. War and peace depend on His Word and will, as much as storms and calms at sea do, Ps. 107:25, 29. He makes wars to cease unto the end of the earth, sometimes in pity to the nations, that they may have a breathing-time, when, by long wars with each other, they have run themselves out of breadth.
Both sides perhaps are weary of the war, and willing to let it fall. Aggressive princes are removed, and peace-makers set in their place. Then the bow is broken by consent, the spear cut asunder and turned into a pruning-hook, the sword beaten into a ploughshare, and the chariots of war are burned.
At other times it may be in favour of His own people. He makes those wars to cease that were waged against them and designed for their ruin. He breaks the enemies’ bow that was drawn against them. No weapon formed against Zion shall prosper, Isa. 54:17. The total destruction of Gog and Magog is prophetically described by the burning of their weapons of war (Ezek. 39:9, 10), which intimates likewise the church’s perfect security and assurance of lasting peace.
He who sits in heaven, laughs
The bringing of a long war to a good issue is a work of the Lord, which we ought to behold with wonder and thankfulness. He is the King of saints, and as such we must concede that great and marvellous are His works, Rev. 15:3. He does and will do great things, for His own glory (Ps. 46:10): Be still, and know that I am God.
Let His enemies be still, and threaten no more. But know it, to their terror, that He is God, one infinitely above them, and will certainly be too hard for them. Let them rage no more, for it is all in vain. He who sits in heaven, laughs at them. In spite of all their impotent malice against His name and honour, He will be exalted among the heathen and not merely among His own people. He will be exalted in the earth and not merely in the church.
Men will set up themselves, will have their own way and do their own will. But let them know that God will be exalted, He will have His way and will do His own will. He will glorify His own name, and where they deal proudly He will be above them, and make them know that He is so.
Let His own people be still, let them be calm and sedate, and tremble no more. But let them know, to their comfort, that the Lord is God. He is God alone, and will be exalted above the heathen. Let Him alone maintain His honour, to fulfil His own counsels and to support His own interest in the world.
He will work for His great name
Though we be depressed, let us not be dejected. For we are sure that God will be exalted, and that should satisfy us. He will work for His great name whatever becomes of our little names. When we pray, Father, glorify Your name, we ought to exercise faith upon an answer given. Christ Himself prayed, ‘I have both glorified it and I will glorify it yet again’. Amen, Lord, so be it.
God triumphs in His people’s safety and protection. ‘I will be exalted; they triumph in this’, Ps. 46:7 and again Ps. 46:11. It is the burden of the song, “The Lord of hosts is with us, He is on our side and is present with us and president over us. The God of Jacob is our refuge, to whom we may flee, and in Whom we may confide and be sure of safety.”
Let all believers triumph that they have the presence of a God of all power. The Lord of hosts is with us. God is the Lord of hosts, for He has all the creatures which are called the hosts of heaven and earth at his beck and command. He makes what use He pleases of them, as the instruments either of His justice or of His mercy. This sovereign Lord is with us, sides with us, acts with us, and has promised He will never leave us.
Hosts may be against us, but we need not fear them if the Lord of hosts be with us. We are under the protection of a God in covenant, who is not only able to help them, but is engaged in honour and faithfulness to help them. He is the God of Jacob, not only Jacob the person, but Jacob the people.
His grace quiets our minds
He is the God of all praying people, the spiritual seed of wrestling Jacob. He is also our refuge, by Whom we are sheltered and in Whom we are satisfied. By His Providence He secures our welfare when outside there are fightings, who by His grace quiets our minds, and establishes them, when on the inside are fears.
The Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, has been, is, and will be with us and has been, is and will be our refuge. Mark this, and take the comfort of it, and say, If God be for us, who can be against us?
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
God is our Refuge and Strength God is our refuge and strength A very present help in times of need. Closer than the closest friend He is our only source of true feed. He is our refuge; Let us in Him hide. He is indeed our strength For He never leaves our side. Let us array ourselves with Him. Upon Him let us lean For He is our very present help, The Director of every scene. Let us repose in Him now Calling on Him for He is near. We know we need not have Any grounds for fear. The Lord is the controller of all things Whether they be small or huge. An ever present help is He The God of Jacob our refuge. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer for the Day
Prayer: Father, I come to You. I declare that I put my hope and trust in You and Your power, and Your Providence. May Your gracious presence be with me in the worst of times. I give You the glory of what You have done for me and what You will do for me. May I take comfort in You when things look very black and threatening. I am assured that You who has glorified Your own name will glorify it yet again.
You are my refuge and strength to bear me up under my burdens, to fit me for my services and sufferings. I ask for Your strength and that on You I may stay myself. May I with a holy reverence, fear You, and not with any bewilderment be afraid of the power of hell or earth. Cause me to keep close to You, and not fear, for I have no cause to fear. For I know that all my troubles will end well for me. May I lay up all my treasures in heaven, and so be most happy when the earth and all the works that are within are finally burned up.
Let Your Word and ordinances be rivers and streams with which I am made glad on cloudy and dark days. May I not be disturbed or moved with fears of the day. Cause Your Word to dwell richly in me and so shall I be established. Thank You for the perfect security that is in You and the assurance I have of lasting peace.
Though the enemy be threatening, You sit in heaven and laugh. Yet I will be still, calm and sedate, and tremble no more. For You the Sovereign Lord is with me, sides with me, acts for me, and has promised that You will never leave me.
By Your Providence You secure my welfare and by Your grace You quiet my mind, and establish me. If You be for me, who can be against me? In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.