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Try to recall a time when you experienced God’s deliverance or rescue. How did you feel both before and afterwards? Remind yourself of what happened and turn the memories into praise.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah 8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields 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 Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This psalm has sustained believers (and not only believers) for the best part of 3,000 years. Given the way that Jews use the psalms there’s a good chance that Paul sang it during his two years’ captivity in Caesarea. He certainly had a reputation for singing hymns in prison (Acts 16:25,26)!
This psalm is for people in turmoil. It doesn’t matter whether we are facing natural disaster (vs 2,3), political chaos (v 6), war (v 9) or straightforward trouble (v 1) – the fact is that God is there. Not only that, he is always there (v 1) – he doesn’t go away. Why not pause for a moment and remind yourself that however you are feeling just now, God is there with you.
God speaks, things change
But in our turmoil God is not just present, he is at work. He is there to help (v 5), when he speaks things change (vs 5,6,8,9). Are there things you need him to change just now?
The core truth is in the repeated refrain (vs 7,11). God is with us and he is our fortress, he is present and protects. Perhaps you could memorise that refrain today.Emlyn Williams
‘A safe stronghold our God is still, a trusty shield and weapon; he’ll keep us clear from all the ill that hath us now o’ertaken’ (Martin Luther).
This psalm is a much-loved hymn of praise, celebrating God’s deliverance. It may have been written when the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kings 18:13 – 19:37). It inspired Martin Luther’s famous hymn, ‘A mighty Fortress is our God’ and was almost certainly a liturgical psalm sung in Temple worship.
This psalm has a deep relevance today, particularly as people suffer from the fear of mountains or cities suddenly crumbling into the sea owing to an earthquake, tsunami or nuclear blast (cf vs 2,3). It is easy to live in terror when we see such tragedies on television, but the psalmist says that even if the world were to end, we need not fear. In the face of devastation, the writer expresses a quiet confidence in God’s saving ability. The Bible is clear – God is our refuge and strength, even in the face of destruction. He is not merely a temporary shelter, but an eternal sanctuary who can provide strength, no matter how traumatic the situation.
The psalm ends with a sublime call to quiet and peace (v 10). War and destruction are, sadly, common and tragedy is unavoidable, but God’s ultimate victory is also certain and, when it happens, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is the Lord (Isa 45:23; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:9–11). As the next line of verse 10 says, ‘I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’ (italics added). How appropriate, then, that we learn to be still now, to acknowledge his power and sovereignty today. Surely a discipline of daily quiet can make all the difference in a world full of noise, worry and fear.Daniel McGinnis
The message of this psalm is quite simple, yet it is put so poignantly that it has inspired multitudes of songs. In proclaiming that ‘the God of Jacob is our fortress’ (vs 7,11), the psalmist lays claim to the promises God made to Jacob: that he would be with him and watch over him wherever he went (Genesis 28:15).
God’s presence with his people means help, refuge and strength. Yet the psalmist goes further. He paints a vivid picture of a natural world in upheaval and human society teetering on the brink. It is in this context that he brings the psalm to its climax with God’s words: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (v 10).
Most commonly, this exhortation to ‘be still’ is interpreted as a soothing word to God’s people to relax or let go. The Message interprets it this way: ‘Step out of the traffic.’
Without doubt, our lives are busy and noisy and the enemy exploits our distractedness so that we might drift away from intimacy with God. Quiet contemplation – ending the storm in our minds and reflecting on God’s sovereignty – is a powerful discipline in drawing close to God.
But there is another interpretation of these famous words, pointed out by the writer of the NIV Study Bible note on the verse:
‘The Hebrew for this phrase probably means “Enough!” as in 1 Samuel 15:16 (“Stop!”)’ (The NIV Study Bible, Hodder & Stoughton, 1987, p816).
Such a reading suggests that God will only tolerate the chaos of the world for so long and then he will speak one earth-melting word to bring all things to a conclusion. He will break, shatter and burn the tools of war and he will bring desolations upon the earth.
So this psalm becomes an apocalyptic word of judgement, as well as a comforting word of refuge.
Peter Holford (adapted from Encounter with God JS09)
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