Psalm 46 - God is our refuge and strength
To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
1) God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3) though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
4) There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5) God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6) The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7) The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8) Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9) He makes wars cease to the end 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 am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11) The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 46 (NRSV*)
The Great Vigil of Easter
Proper 4, Sunday between May 29 and June 4, Year A
Christ the King, Sunday between November 20 and November 26, Year C
Psalm 46 is beloved of warriors, and a number of its features speak to soldiers and fighters. It has an "in your face," "I shall not be moved," resolute confidence in the face of danger. It understands the value of refuge, for no person or army can be in perpetual 24x7 battle. It speaks of the desolations of conflict. And it anticipates and awaits God putting an end not just to war, but to war-making. It hopes not for victory, but for peace.
The Lutheran tradition in which I was raised knows Psalm 46 as a pillar of support upon which Martin Luther relied. Seeking to change beliefs and customs, and challenging the powerful, practically guarantees trouble. Yet when you are committed to this course, from your core, relying on the Word of God and the love of God's hope for humanity, well, you're gonna need some help.
The psalm knows an answer. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear... Not anything.
God as our refuge and strength is not a temporary respite or a power-pill like Popeye's spinach. This is not a fix-it project. God has a vision.
The old order is tottering and will melt away or collapse under its own evil.
Even better than a vision, God has a holy reality. God is in the midst of the city. It is the holy habitation of the Most High. In it these is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. Perhaps that river is the one visioned by Ezekiel, which nourishes the healing of the world. Maybe it is the streams of people ascending the hill to this vision of righteous peace.
If the Lord of hosts, the exalted One, is with us, is not God's plan likely to be better than our hopes? "Be still, and know that I am God!" In the midst of tumult, it is helpful to remember that God's got it.
Grunt16 (Ömer Yavuz), Karimi Forgotten Wall. Public domain, Pixabay license.
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 It may be that the psalm spoke to Luther of one of his favorite New Testament texts, Romans 8, which includes the claim that nothing can shake God's love for us.
"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.'
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).