A Mighty Fortress
God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable],A very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should changeAnd though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, Though its waters roar and foam,Though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved;God will help her when the morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved;He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us;The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord,Who has brought desolations and wonders on the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;He breaks the bow into pieces and snaps the spear in two;He burns the chariots with fire. “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God.I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us;The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah.
Imagine living within a walled city under siege from a foreign army. Soldiers milling and marching on all four sides, siege ramparts under construction, and the terror of flying firebrands from outside. Add to that the lack of food, the prospect of death or slavery, ravaged families,and loss of communication with the outside world.
Your focus is impending doom. You have lost the offensive posture in life. All you can do is sit and wait. You are forced, by circumstances, to be on the defensive. Your fate really lies outside your control. Can you outlast the enemy?
The siege wears on and on. Depressive circumstances never quit coming. Forced to maintain a defensive, survivalist posture, you are not cheerful or optimistic. Dominant moods are despair, depression, and fright. Safety within the city walls appears very tenuous and temporary.
Though the circumstances surrounding Psalm 46 are unknown, the encouragement given applies to anyone under siege- in a war torn part of this world, from disastrous personal circumstances, or an emotional nightmare which gives no hint of going away.
The first thing Psalm 46 tells us is that God is with us. The first verse cuts through our personal darkness as a brilliant shaft of life: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”
These are the words that inspired Martin Luther to pen his hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” after the siege of Vienna in 1529 was lifted.
George Wood writes: “We find ourselves in Him. We may be “in” trouble- but we are not outside of God’s care, protection, and love. Our resources won’t last- but His strength will.”
In those times of need and distress, our enemy may tell us that God is never present, seldom present, or sometimes present; but the truth is Jesus is ever present-omnipresent.
Psalm 46 leaps to a more foreboding prospect than a siege; a horrific natural disaster, an earthquake in which the mountains collapse into the sea creating tidal waves that roar in and cause the mountains to tremble. Yet the psalmist says, “Therefore we will not fear.”
We have a choice. We can choose to trust God and not fear or not trust Him and fail. We can get no comfort or emotional benefit from the presence of God unless we realize that He is here; our help, strength, and refuge.
Second, Psalm 46 tells us that God is above us. Verses 4-7 are parallel to John’s vision of heaven received while exiled on the island of Patmos. Above the conflicts and tumults of earth, the desperate continuing acts of evil and troubles, there is a city, pure and undefiled in heaven. This world may be chaotic, but His is not. Psalm 46 lifts our hearts and minds out of the city under siege up to the eternal city of God.
Night will end for “God will help her at break of day.” Daybreak ended Israel’s bondage when the waters of the Red Sea obliterated Israel’s enemies. Christ arose from the dead “early on the first day of the week.” When the Lord returns, the long darkness will end with the golden daybreak of eternal day- there will be no night there.
George Wood says, “All is well in the Jerusalem above. God is in residence. Nations below may be in uproar, but when God lifts His voice kingdoms fall and the earth melts.”
The psalmist declares, “The Lord Almighty is with us” and he also states, “The God of Jacob is our fortress.” Why is Jacob mentioned? Perhaps because Jacob had struggled and prevailed. Jacob knew the insecurity of not being the favored child, being a fugitive from his brother and being tricked and cheated. Jacob knew loss: his beloved wife and the presumed death of his adored son. Without those struggles God would have remained as “the God of my father Isaac and grandfather Abraham.” But by his struggles the Lord became very real to him in a personal way.
Third, Psalm 46 says that God is over the earth. From his vantage point in the eternal city, the psalmist looks down on the besieged earthly city. From that view he sees God’s line of sight and not just that one spot where all hell is breaking loose.
This larger perspective helps us understand that God has won victories in many human desperate situations. We are given an invitation to “come and see” and given a tour of His conquered battlefields. Such a visit produces a great calm within. We must make the connection: if God has won victories elsewhere, He can do so here and with me.
The greatest victory God has won thus far is the war against sin and the devil. His resurrection declares His victory. Since He has won our liberation from the slavery of sin, we ought to believe that winning against our other battles is also possible and probable. The greatest battle- to win us eternal life- has already been won. God is capable of winning every other battle as well. He is truly our “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Dr. John Thompson