Psalm 46

Introduction

This psalm, along with the next two psalms speaks about the strength of God to help His people. The psalmist encourages the righteous by revealing God’s awesome power to control and destroy everything which exists.

We don’t know what the historical background is to this psalm, although some believe this psalm looks back to the deliverance from Sennacherib, Psalms 46:5 / Isaiah 37:36.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Psalms 46-48 form a group of three which we may assign with little doubt to the reign of Hezekiah, when Sennacherib’s army was suddenly destroyed, 2 Kings 19:35. They all three strike the same note of gratitude, confidence and praise, which is found in Isaiah’s references to the same event, Isaiah 29-31 / Isaiah 33 / Isaiah 37’.

Heading

‘For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this is a song, a psalm for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

No one really knows what the word ‘alamoth’ means, some believe it’s a musical instrument, 1 Chronicles 15:20.

The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath, who by the time of David, served in the musical aspect of the temple worship, 1 Chronicles 9:19 / 1 Chronicles 26:1 / 1 Chronicles 26:19 / 2 Chronicles 20:19. It was David who originally organised the temple singers, 1 Chronicles 15:17 / 1 Chronicles 16:41-42 / 1 Chronicles 25:4-5.

Korah is probably most famous for his role in the rebellion against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus, Numbers 16 / Jude 11. God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained, Numbers 26:9-11. It’s possible they were so grateful for this mercy that they became prominent in Israel for praising God.

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.’ Psalm 46:1-3

The psalmist is obviously going through some kind of trial and so, they begin by describing God as their refuge, strength and ever-present help. They are in trouble but God was the answer, God is their place of safety, God is their strength, Psalm 18:2 / Proverbs 18:10, and God is always their help, no matter where they were.

Because God is described in such wonderful ways, the psalmist isn’t afraid, Psalm 56:3 / Psalm 102:26, they know that God has control over all things, Hebrews 1:3. Even if there are natural disasters, or the world comes to an end, Zephaniah 1:2-3 / 2 Peter 3:10-13, God is still in control of all things.

You may notice at the end of verse three, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate the awesomeness of God and His power to control all things.

‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ Psalm 46:4-7

The psalmist now turns their attention to the future, where they see a river whose streams make glad the city of God. After describing the chaos from the elements in the first three verses, they now speak about the calmness and security which flows from God’s city.

In other words, no matter what is happening in the physical world around them, Jerusalem would be calm, as calm as a gently flowing stream, Psalm 1:3 / Psalm 36:8 / Isaiah 32:2 / Isaiah 33:21 / Isaiah 41:18. The river here speaks of God’s abundant grace and His constant presence, Revelation 22:1.

Some believe the psalmist is describing the river of life which is flowing out of the throne of God in the new Jerusalem, where the tree of life grows on either side of the river and its leaves are for healing the nations, Isaiah 8:6-8 / Ezekiel 47:12 / Revelation 3:12 / Revelation 22:1-2.

Jerusalem was where God dwelt, within the holy place is the tabernacle, Psalm 48:1. However, if this psalm is relating to the time of Hezekiah, then it would be the temple, the psalmist is referring to, Psalm 84:2 / Psalm 132:5 / Hebrews 9:2-3.

God is within the city, and so, He will protect the city, and will certainly ensure that the city won’t fall.

Notice the words, ‘God will help her at the break of day’, some see this as a reference to the events when Isaiah speaks of Sennacherib’s army as being dead bodies, when the people got up early in the morning, Isaiah 37:36.

The psalmist tells us that ‘the nations are in uproar’, this would certainly fit in with the events of the Assyrians conquering many nations, Isaiah 37:18-20, and going on to make war against Jerusalem, Isaiah 36:18-20.

It was during this time that God listed His voice, Habakkuk 3:6, and the earth melts, that is, everything became calm as the danger passed. Here again, the psalmist speaks of God’s control over all things, Psalm 33:9 / Psalm 107:25 / Psalm 107:29 / Matthew 8:26.

The psalmist tells us that ‘the LORD Almighty’, that is, the LORD of Hosts, is also in total control of His armies, Isaiah 1:9 / Psalm 24:10. It’s God who is with them, it’s God who will defend and protect His people, Isaiah 7:14 / Isaiah 8:8.

It’s the God of Jacob, Psalm 24:6, who is their fortress, that is, He is their ‘high place’, as some translations render this verse, Psalm 9:9 / Psalm 18:2.

You may notice at the end of verse seven, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate God’s power to protect His people in difficult times.

‘Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ Psalm 46:8-11

After describing God as their fortress, the psalmist now considers the glory of God. They invite the people to come and see what God has done, in reference to the desolations He brought upon the earth.

Many commentators suggest this is speaking about the invasion of the land of Israel by Sennacherib, when an angel of the Lord, killed one hundred and seventy-five thousand in one night, Isaiah 37:36, which resulted in Jerusalem being delivered from danger.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Nothing ‘could’ furnish a clearer proof of the power of God to save, and of the propriety of putting confidence in him in times of national danger, than a survey of the camp of the Assyrians, where a hundred and eighty-five thousand men had been smitten down in one night by the angel of God, 2 Kings 19:35 / 2 Chronicles 32:21 / Isaiah 37:36.’

When the Lord defeated the Assyrian army, there was certainly peace throughout the earth, Isaiah 14:6-7. When Christ established His kingdom, it would be a kingdom of peace, Isaiah 2:2-4 / Hosea 2:18 / Micah 4:1-3.

Notice God ‘breaks the bow, shatters the spear and burns the shield’, this means that God makes them absolutely useless for anything and they can’t be repaired for future use.

You will notice that some translations use the word, ‘chariots’, this would be speaking about the war chariots which were used in battle, Psalm 20:7 / Isaiah 2:7, even so, God burned them with fire.

After considering God’s greatness to overthrow His enemies, He asks the psalmist to ‘be still and know that I am God’, Exodus 14:23. To ‘be still’, implies to be relaxed in our minds, without stress, knowing what God had done will certainly give all the evidence they need to know that He is God, Isaiah 37:36.

If the psalmist is speaking about the time when Jerusalem was being attacked by the Assyrians under Sennacherib, then we can understand the full impact of being still before God.

God will be exalted not only among the nations but throughout the earth. Although many nations worshipped foreign gods, when they see what God did with the Assyrians, these nations and all peoples of the earth will understand that God is indeed the One and only true God, Exodus 9:16 / Daniel 3:28-29 / Daniel 4:1-3 / Daniel 4:37 / Romans 9:17.

The psalmist ends their plasm by repeating the words of verse 7. When God overthrew the invasion of Sennacherib, then everyone would know that God was with His people.

You may notice at the end of verse eleven, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate how God overthrew the Assyrian army.

Conclusion

In the midst of disaster and staring defeat in the face, God reminded the psalmist to ‘be still and know that I am God’. As Christians, when we’re going through really difficult times in our life, it’s often difficult to be still and know that He is God. It’s during those times of difficulties that we should relax and not get stressed out.

When we’re going through hard times and we’re tired and weary, we must trust God to fight our battles for us, Exodus 14:14.

When we’re going through hard times and we’re tired and weary, we must remember to allow God to take the lead and lead us to a better place, Psalm 23:2.

When we’re going through hard times and we’re tired and weary, we must remember to look for the presence of God, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Go To Psalm 47

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