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Psalm 46

January 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Here are a few thoughts on Psalm 46 that I wrote over ten years ago. I found it this morning in an old html file from a website I had in the 90s. As I reread, I think it is still relevant for today.

This psalm reveals the holiness of God moving in and through His people in the midst of chaos. I believe this speaks to what is coming upon the earth.

First Stanza

Verse 1 – 3. “God is both refuge an strength for us, a help always ready in trouble; so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil, though the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, and it waters roar and seethe, and the mountains totters as it heaves.”

(Vs. 1) The Lord is Holy. His holiness is perfect order. Therefore, his holiness is our only true refuge in the midst of the chaos.

(Vs.2-3) Sin brings disorder. Sin always works to chaos. It removes the core, and everything begins to fall apart. Here is a picture of chaos tearing the earth apart. There is no internal unity, thus the foundations are crumbling and the world is returning to the dark waters before creation.

This passage can be understood globally and individually. Anywhere sin has a stronghold, chaos will follow. Sin will always bring internal disorder. It moves people out from the purposes of God. And outside of God’s purposes all cohesive energy dissipates, thus everything moves into disorder and chaos. Many people live in a state of chaos. Their internal world is falling apart. Soon more will follow. Entire nations reel to and fro in the midst of this lack of cohesive energy.

The crumbling brings confusion, darkness, fear, and destruction.

Refrain. Yahweh Saboath is with us, our citadel, the God of Jacob.

(Note: The New Jerusalem Bible inserts the refrain found in verses 7 and 11 after verse 3, thus dividing the Psalm into three stanzas.)

The refrain occurs three times. Each time it reminds us that God of Peace remains present to those who humble themselves and cry aloud for mercy. It is imperative we learn to enter and dwell (by faith) in God’s holy presence. This is the only place of rest and peace. Those who fail to abide will grow weak and faint before having entered into what God has planned for them.

Rabbis have debated the meaning of Yahweh for centuries. Sometimes it is rendered, “IAM IAM,” or “I will be as I will be.” In his book Moses, Martin Buber explains that many ancient cultures believed that names had power. They believed if you spoke the true name of a person or a god you could control them. Thus their religion sometimes incorporated a form of divination. They thought they could control their gods through the name.

Moses asks God for his name. But God doesn’t give him a name, instead he says, “YAHWEH.” Buber interprets this phrase, “I Am and Remain Present.” Thus God communicates to Moses, “You cannot summon me like the Egyptians summon their gods. I Am and Remain Present. In the midst of your 400 long years of suffering, “I Am and Remain Present.” You cannot summon me, but I Am and have always been present. Even when you rebelled. Even when you killed the Egyptian. I did not turn my back. I Am and Always Remain Present- calling you to turn towards me, to face me, and yield to me. Thus life is listening and turning to the voice of God.

Using Buber’s interpretation, consider the refrain. In the midst of chaos, God says to His people, “I Am and Remain Present.” The Holy One of Israel, the source of creation and all order, remains in the midst of His people. He calls us to turn and listen. To find refuge in His holiness. Like Jacob, we cry aloud for mercy, and His holy presence surrounds us, engulfs us. The holiness drives out chaos from within. Holiness brings fire, not to destroy, but to root chaos. Holiness restores creation to perfect order.

Second Stanza

Verses 4 – 6. There is a river whose streams bring joy to God’s city, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the city, it cannot fall; at break of day, God comes to its rescue. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are tumbling, when he raise his voice the earth crumbles away.

Jesus said that streams of living water flow out from his people. Each of those who cry out for mercy, are immersed in holiness. This holiness springs out through them. When the believers come together, these streams form a river of holiness which brings joy to the church and prepares the way for the coming of the Lord. As the Lord descends in the midst of the church, this river of life flows out from her. She is unconquerable. Moving in His purpose, the people of God, as one body, one river, stands strong.

The church has been weak and frail. While many churches have externally stood against the world, the internal forces of the world of selfishness worked chaos within the church. In the midst of the battle, she was weak. But as the holiness arises in and through God’s people, the church is rescued.

The true order is Christ in the center of the church in the center of creation. When the church is restored, then the Word of the Lord goes out from the church which brings an end to systems and structures and governments which operate in chaos keeping the curse upon the earth. The Word of the Lord flowing out from the church, breaks this power, kingdoms of darkness fall giving way to the light, to restoration.

At this point there is another refrain. Reminding us that God is and remains present. He is and remains our refuge. We can never move beyond the simple truth of practicing the presence of God.

Third Stanza

Verses 8 – 10. Come consider the wonders of Yahweh, the astounding deeds he has done on the earth; he puts an end to wars over the whole wide world, he breaks the bow, he snaps the spear, shield he burns in the fire. “Be still and acknowledge that I am God supreme over nations, supreme over the world.”

All the effects of the chaos come to a halt through the power of holiness. Works of destruction are brought to an end. And all mankind will see the glory of the Lord. This seems to point to the ultimate restoration of all things into Christ. Holiness does not simply change our inward character, it also transform everything outward. It brings true justice into the world. This is possibly the beginning of a second Eden.

The psalm ends with the refrain. Regardless of what has been or is coming, God is and remains present. We must not look for him in the past (i.e. – focusing too heavily on what he did in the past, including the Early Church). We also must avoid looking for him in the future (simply waiting for the great revival or renewal or restoration to come). As servants of the Lord, we learn to watch for His coming and meet Him in the now.

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