Be Still And know That I Am God – Psalm 46
The world that we are living in has changed in the space of a few months. These are difficult days. I don’t think that any of us thought that in our lifetime we would see such a thing as this. If we’re honest it all feels very eerie. But God has not changed, and He will not change. Therefore, we can anchor to His unchanging nature.
1) The shelter that God provides, verses 1-3
In this psalm, the psalmist seems to be addressing the nation of Israel in a time of crisis. We don’t know what the crisis was. But, as in any crisis, people are often thrown into panic and survival mode takes over. It can be very messy. People become less thoughtful and far more self-absorbed. We have seen a lot of panic buying lately and the chaos that has caused, and it has helped to spread more panic. The psalmist directs the people to the stability that they have in God, in the face of the changing scenes of life, verse 1. The word refuge here means shelter which is a place of safety. It reminds me of the cold wet, and gale-force winds blowing in Scotland, and how we would run home to the open fire. There was a sense of peace, safety and security as we come through the door. A shelter is a place of safety and security. God is our security, not our saving accounts or pensions. God is also our strength, and that strength is needed in times of trouble. The strength that God gives to us means that we have the ability to continue and not to be overcome by the terror of our circumstance. His word strengthens us internally and gives us a sense of wellbeing. As we saw last week, in our Sunday evening’s service, the Jewish people often saw the mountains as a symbol of stability. But when the things that give us the greatest sense of stability become unstable, then fear can roar and foam like a raging sea and our inner most being is shaken and we tremble. The disciples trembled when they were caught in a storm and they were accusing Jesus of not caring, Mark 4: 39. But Jesus never said that there would not be a storm, He simply said, “Let us go across to the other side,” Mark 4: 35. The psalmist prompts confidence, and closes this first part of the psalm with the word Selah, which means pause and reflect. He is calling his fellow Jewish men and women to reflect on the refuge they have in God.
2) The city of God, 4-7
The scene shifts from the trouble of the roaring seas to a peaceful one, where the city of God is the focus. Jerusalem seems to be the immediate focus. There’s a river that brings gladness. The city is also the “habitation of the Most High.” He is at the centre of the city. He is among His people! Therefore the city is secure. Not only is God the strength and the refuge of His people, but He lives with His people, verse 7a, 11a. That’s why He is a very present help in trouble. The whole story of the Bible is that God is with His people. Yet, this world is full of trouble, challenges and difficulties, that’s why God needs to be our habitation. This city, here, also points to the eternal city, where there will unbroken peace and tranquillity. There will be no sorrow. There will be no suffering. There will be no pain. It reminds me of a hymn that I used listen to and sing with friends.
There’s no disappointment in Heaven, No weariness, sorrow or pain; No hearts that are bleeding and broken, No song with a minor refrain. The clouds of our earthly horizon Will never appear in the sky, For all will be sunshine and gladness, With never a sob or a sigh.
Refrain: I’m bound for that beautiful city, My Lord has prepared for His own; Where all the redeemed of all ages Sing Glory! around the white throne; Sometimes I grow homesick for Heaven, And the glories I there shall behold; What a joy that will be when my Saviour I see, In that beautiful city of gold.
We’ll never pay rent for our mansion, The taxes will never come due, Our garments will never grow threadbare, But always be fadeless and new, We’ll never be hungry or thirsty, Nor languish in poverty there, For all the rich bounties of Heaven His sanctified children will share. [Refrain]
There’ll never be crepe on the doorknob, No funeral train in the sky; No graves on the hillsides of glory, For there we shall nevermore die. The old will be young there forever, Transformed in a moment of time; Immortal we’ll stand in His likeness, The stars and the sun to outshine. [Refrain]
Author: Frederick M. Lehman (1868-1953) Source: The Cyber Hymnal #6618
In that city there will be no falling mountains or roaring seas or nations in uproar. There will be no threats or fears. There will peace, love and joy. There is also a reminder, that the God of Jacob is our fortress, verse 7b. This is a reminder of all that God had done for Jacob, and the promises that God had made to Jacob, and his father and grandfather. This is a reminder of the history of Israel, how God had made Jacob into a nation. This recalls sacred history as God worked His divine power in to Israel’s circumstances over and over again. Again, the psalmist uses the word Selah as he calls the nation to pause and reflect on God and to calm their souls.
3) The works and command of God, verses 8-11
The psalmist invites his fellow Jews to come and view the works of God. God’s works testify to Him in creation and history. All the mighty deeds that He did for Israel. They are a reminder of the favour, love and kindness that He showed them. The psalmist invites the people to “come and see the works of the LORD,” verse 8. It could be, in the context of the psalm, that God had put down an army that threatened Jerusalem, as the next verse says that He makes wars cease to the end of the earth, verse 9. This will one day be the and final reality. God will end all wars. Israel, in her day, saw many threating nations being put down, and they had peace and security restored to them, Psalm 124. Verse 10 could have a double barrel meaning to it. It could be saying to Israel relax don’t panic. I, the LORD your God, am with you. Enjoy my favour, my peace and presence. At present, it feels that our nation and the nations are at war. People are looking suspiciously at each other. Everyone is a potential enemy. We need to follow the advice that we have been given by the government and the chief medical officer, but let us ask God to keep us in the Spirit of the gospel, which trusting in God gives to us. Let us still ourselves before Him. Let us not only look to our own needs but also to the needs of others. God is working His purposes out in the world, verse 6. We in the west have enjoyed a great deal. We have had our seven years of plenty, now we are faced with seven years of famine, verse 8. At such times God is calling the nations to repentance. It is a reminder that we are not in control, God is, verse 10. “Know that I am God,” means to make a right response, to give God His rightful place. Life is more than eating and drinking, buying and selling. We do not live by bread alone, Matthew 4: 4, but in the recent panic buying, people seem to think that we do. There is also a call to the church in all of this. The church worldwide has often not been what it should have been. It has had its internal conflicts and disagreements, often just our preferences; this derails us in our purpose. God is calling His people to repentance. The LORD says: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-14) This is a time for repentance for us all. Let us find comfort in repentance! Let us remember those who are on their own at this time and those whose families are in other countries; those who feel separated from their families. Those who are stranded in other countries and can’t get back home to their families.