PSALM 46 - Our Very Present Help in Trouble.
1. To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.
The sons of Korah were charged with the ministry of music in the Temple.
The 'Alamoth' {lit., 'virgins'} probably comprised a choir of soprano voices, which often sung antiphonally with the 'sheminith' or male choir [adapted from ScofRB].
God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 [Though] the waters thereof roar [and] be troubled,
[though] the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
God is...
  • our refuge {HB=machaseh, shelter, place of refuge} -
    He is the fortress in whom we hide in time of trouble.
    But His protection is only for those who trust in Him. Psa 62:7,8; 91:1-3; Heb 6:18-20
  • our strength - He is the One who sustains me in my weakness (eg., 2Cor 12:9,10).
  • a very present help in trouble -
    Is that true for you, when your world is thrown into total chaos?
    The troubles that come our way may be...
    • natural disasters (as described in v.2,3),
    • personal tragedies (eg., business failure, health crisis, marital stress, death of a loved one...)
    • church struggles (eg., persecution, division, disarray of leadership, disillusionment of people...)
    Where is God in those times?
    Verse 1, in the NIV, says: God is our "ever present" help. But the meaning, here, goes far beyond His 'always being around.' Other translations say that He is 'readily found' in time of trouble. Yes, but He is much more.
    God is a 'very' {ie., exceedingly, greatly} present help.
    Caught in a storm on the sea, Jesus' disciples were terrified (Mark 4:35-41). They knew their Master was 'ever present.' They readily found Him asleep in the stern of the ship. But they did not know the greatness of His Presence, or the exceeding capability of His help. When His 'help' revealed who He is, their hearts were moved from despair to worship.
    "When all around, my soul gives way,
        He then is all my hope and stay..."
    [excerpt from hymn: The Solid Rock]
Selah...- 'Pause' and rest in the One described in v.1-3.
4 [There is] a river,
the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,
the holy [place] of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God [is] in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, [and that] right early.
6. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved:
he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts [is] with us;
the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.
There is a river...-
In stark contrast to the crashing sea (of v.3), this river is the essence of peace.
     For a time, the editor was privileged to minister to a few small villages along the upper Yukon River in Alaska. At the end of a long summer day of fishing or other toil, village people were often found resting on primitive benches along the river bank. There is something inexplicably therapeutic and calming, in simply watching the flow of the majestic river. But the peace derived from that river is limited. Kitty, one of the village believers, could not take it with her, to the hospital in Fairbanks where she died. In her time of trouble, she drew peace from the River described in this Psalm, which was one of her favorite Bible passages.
     What is this River?
God is in the midst of her...-
This River flows from the Presence of God, timelessly through all ages, unchanged and undiminished through all seasons. It is He who nourishes His people and supplies them with peace and strength according to their need, whenever and wherever they live.
     This River flows to...
the city of God, the holy [place] of the tabernacles of the most High.
This statement applies to the present day and also to the prophetic future. It applies corporately (to the nation of Israel, and to the true Church) and also individually (to individual believers).
  • the city of God - is Jerusalem during the Messiah's future Millennial Kingdom (Eze 47:1-12), and after that, the New Jerusalem of Christ's Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21:1-6; 22:1,2).
         But Jerusalem does not yet know the peace for which we are admonished to pray (Psa 122:6).
         At the present time, we are living in the first half of v.6: The nations are raging. The Lord has not yet uttered His voice to calm the storm on the sea of humanity.
         You and I live in a time of trouble. We cannot physically access the City of God. But that day will come, for the promise is sure:
         "God shall help her, and that right early" {lit., when morning appears, cp. Psa 30:5; 2Pet 1:19}. What a day that will be! When the Tabernacle of God is with men... When God makes all things new!
    Yet, individual believers can know the Peace of God's Presence, today...
  • the holy place, of the tabernacles of the Most High -
    Today, the Lord dwells within the hearts of His people, who are called 'saints' because they have been set apart (made holy) for Him. 1Cor 3:16,17; 2Cor 5:1
    As the mighty River flows, its 'streams' {rivulets} deliver nourishment and peace to each of God's children (Php 4:6,7; 2The 3:16).
In John ch.7, we are given a powerful illustration and direct application of the Peace of God's Presence, in the earthly life of Jesus, and in the spiritual provision for those who trust in Him. Here is a brief look at that chapter [for more, see the Book Notes on John ch.7].
  1. The Setting (John 7:1,2)-
    • The Feast of Tabernacles -
      This feast was an annual reminder that God had been with Israel in the wilderness, when the people lived in tents in a hostile land. God 'tabernacled' among them, watching over and leading them. At this particular feast, Jesus, 'Emmanuel' {'God with us'} was dwelling in a 'tabernacle' of flesh among His people, though few recognized Him.
    • A time of trouble -
      1. The Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus. John 7:1
      2. The natural brothers of Jesus, who did not believe in Him, dared Him to show Himself in spite of the danger (John 7:3-5).
      3. The people were in confusion, fear, and turmoil concerning Him (John 7:10-13).
        On the one hand, they were troubled by rumors and misinformation (John 7:25-27). On the other, some wavered on the verge of belief (John 7:30-32). In response to this movement toward faith, the rulers were moved to take action against Him.
        Can you sense the turmoil of the times?
  2. The Picture of Peace - In the midst of this turmoil, Jesus was at peace.
  3. The River of Peace (Joh 7:37-39)
    On the 'great day of the feast,' water was ceremoniously poured out at the altar, accompanied by the reading of Isa 12:1-6.
    Jesus identified Himself as 'the well of salvation'... 'the Holy One in the midst...' Whoever drinks, of Him, will be abundantly satisfied with rivers of living water flowing from the Holy Spirit dwelling within his innermost being. Here is the River of God's very Presence, refreshing the earthly tabernacles of God's people, even in the midst of trouble.
The LORD of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Verses 7 and 11 are identical. These verses employ a different word for 'refuge' than used in v.1 (where the emphasis is upon the protection of those who flee to God). Here, the word {HB=misigab, a cliff, an inaccessible lofty place} emphasizes that God, our refuge, is far above the reach of any enemy.
     In John 7:45- 8:1, Jesus took refuge in that place. While His enemies went home to stew in their hatred and to scheme their evil, Jesus went to the place of prayer for communion with God, far beyond their reach.
     We, like Jacob, are undeserving of the LORD's favor. Yet, through the Grace of God in Christ Jesus, He is with us who belong to Him (His 'hosts' or 'multitudes'). The most High God came down and dwelt among us, in order to lift us up into His Presence, which was otherwise inaccessible to sinful men.
Selah.- Pause and rest in the One described in v.4-7
You and I are invited into this lofty refuge...
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I [am] God:
I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts [is] with us;
the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD...
Rather than being pre-occupied with our troubles and injustices, in a world out of order... we are called to study what the LORD has done, and what He promises to do.
  • what desolations {HB=shammah, astonishment, desolation, destruction, waste}...-
    This word refers to the severity of God's judgment. As He judged His people in the past (eg., 2Chr 29:8; 30:7), so He will judge all nations in the future (eg., Jer 51:37).
  • He maketh wars to cease...
    This promise awaits the Messiah's Kingdom, when war shall be no more. Isa 2:4; 11:9; 60:18; Eze 39:9,10
Be still...
Set your complaints and murmuring aside. Who are we to 'darken counsel with words without knowledge'? (Job 38:2) Who are we to say 'What doest thou? Why hast thou made me thus?' (Rom 9:20)
     Wait patiently for Him. Psa 37:7
...and know that I am God...-
Rest in Who He is. There is none above Him. His purposes are sure.
...I will be exalted...-
It is the LORD's purpose that all nations will know who He is. eg., Psa 9:16; 83:18; Eze 38:23
He will accomplish His purpose... 'among the heathen {ie., the nations}'... 'in the earth'... as He fulfills His promises to the nation of Israel (eg., Eze 36:32-38; Jer 16:19).
...The God of Jacob is our refuge...-
The gods of the nations are idols. The true and living God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yet, Jacob did not rest in that refuge, until the LORD brought him to the end of himself (Gen 32:24-28).
     Salvation is of the Jews, for through them, God gave us His written Word, and gave His Son to save those sinners who own their need for the Savior (Joh 3:16).
Selah.- Consider: Are you resting in that 'high, inaccessible place' which is in Him? Eph 1:3

This Concludes the study in Psalm 46.
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