Praying With The Psalmists: A Study in the Psalms, Psalm 46
Praying With The Psalmists: A Study in the Psalms, Psalm 46, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on November 23rd, 2008
Psalm 13 is a short Psalm of lament that highlights the reality of our life in turmoil, yet given over to our Lord. Jesus clearly indicated that, “…in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, I have overcome the world.” This verse all too often gets interpreted in light of a physical overcoming of all our problems, but this is not only unbiblical, it is not our experience. Life, as we get older, poses some real conundrums as we encounter the reality of its harshness. If we live our lives with the viewpoint that the prize is the stuff of this world, we will continually be devastated by its cruelty. Only God can ultimately deliver the goods even when we feel like that is impossible. All too often our foundations (Which are often based on shifting sand), and the “Goods” we are hoping for are a product of our idolatry and desire for a comfort in this life, rather than hope in God. We look to family, employment, money, politics, education, human reason, etc. instead of trusting in the creator God of the universe!
In our Psalm today, we will see that only God can be our ultimate refuge and strength in harsh times. We cannot look to any other entity (Human or otherwise) for our peace.
From the Head…
God Is Our Refuge and Strength In the Midst of Natural Disaster (Psalms 46:1-7)
In the midst of any pain and disaster that the world can give us, God is our constant joy and peace. Verse one is the centerpiece of this passage, and governs the entirety of the passage. It is because of this reality that “We will not fear.” Many cultural anthropologists believe that humans assuaged their natural fears by creating gods to appease their fears, and stop the natural disasters that they are experiencing. There is probably truth somewhere in that statement, in that we humans still turn to our idols to mitigate our fears, instead of the river of life that is always present, and can tame the seas (Seas are often used in scripture as a metaphor for chaos). In John 7:37-39 we see that Christ is this river, who “Makes glad the city of God.” Our hope is ultimately in the “City of God,” which is a big theme in the Old Testament, but is a culminating theme in the New Testament (See Revelation 21:1-10). We are told by the psalmist to stop after the truth of the first two verses to meditate on this truth (The placement of Selah), then we are given a more advanced reason to not fear; “God is in the midst of His city,” which ought to give us hope in a very fallen and broken world. The segment ends in highlighting verse one by summarizing the truth that God is present in our trouble, and He alone is the only fortress that we can trust, which leads to the second time in this passage that we are told to meditate.
God Is Our Strength and Refuge In the Midst of Human Disasters (Psalms 46:1-11)
This second segment turns to the reality that human made disaster are just as painful, and equally consumed by the presence of God. He is the one who brings the “Desolations on the earth,” and the one that is able to stop them. He alone is the only one in control. No other entity is capable of changing world events, and world disasters, because there is nothing outside of His control. And the reason for that is He is God, and will be “Exalted among the nations,” and in the earth. He ends this segment in the same way he does in verse 7, and once again calls us to meditate on this clear truth.
…to the Heart
In our sinful state we demand flesh and blood to rule our kingdom, and the fact is, flesh and blood (As great as it can be), will always fail us. Israel wanted a flesh and blood king to rule their land, not this invisible, ostensible absentee god. But three times in this passage, we are called to stop and meditate on the reality that only God can help us when everything around us is crumbling, and seemingly hopeless. From a biblical point of view, we, as believers, should never live in a hopeless state. It is possible to be grieved, and hurting, but never fearful and hopeless. That comes when we move away from the truth that God alone is with us, and our fortress!
Books for Further Study: Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Wisdom and Psalms, Psalms Vol. 1-2, John Goldingay; Answering God: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer, Eugene Peterson; The Message of the Psalms: A theological Commentary, Walter Brueggemann, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Praying the Psalms, Thomas Merton; Bread in the Wilderness, Thomas Merton, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, Peter C. Craigie, New International Biblical Commentary, Psalms, Craig C. Broyles, The Book of Psalms, Robert Alter, Psalms Volume 1, James Montgomery Boice, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller