A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing; For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Martin Luther’s battle-hymn Ein’ feste Burg took its sstarting point from Psalm 46, catching its indomitable spirit but striking out in new directions. The defiant tone suggests that it was compsoed at a time of crisis, which makes the confession of faith doubly impressive. Although the crisis is left unidentified by Luther, Psalm 46 speaks to the various crises we face and how God is our refuge, strength, and a present help in a time of trouble.
The title of this psalm is found in the words For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. Although this does not appear as the first verse in the English translations, it is in the Hebrew text. The sons of Korah are listed as music leaders in 2 Chronicles 20:19. They are also seen in Number 26:58. They wrote Psalm 42, 44-49, 84-85, and 87-88. This song has been incorporated in the Songs of Zion because of the centrality of Jerusalem in its message. Moreover, Alamoth would indicate that this is written for higher voices, sopranos perhaps or young female verses.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our sid, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
God is in the tumult! Psalm 46:1-3
In the midst of chaos, God is there! Notice how Psalm 46:1 begins: God. All things begin with God and all things end with God. His name in the Hebrew is Elohim which means Almighty. He is the supernatural being who originated and rules over the universe. This name is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” The sons of Korah know that it is God who is in the midst of the chaos and it is He who is in control. Consider this: It would be much worse if God was not in the midst of the tumult!
What we do learn about God in this verse is that He is our refuge. He is our security. He is the One to whom we run when trouble comes into our lives. God is also our strength. He is the One who can handle the pains of life through us. The word strength in the Hebrew can also be translated as fortress. A fortress is walled, and it brings security to those within the walls. It keeps the enemies from coming into the city. It keeps the enemies penetration from happening and causing troubles. We also see that God is a very present help in trouble. He is an abundant help in trouble. He is a present help in trouble. He is in the midst of our trouble providing for us in a few ways: 1) He provides a way of escape; 2) He provides a way of strength; and, 3) He provides a conclusion to the trouble that befalls us.
This is why Psalm 46:2, 3 tells us that we do not have to be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about the situations in which we find ourselves. We do not have to be afraid if the earth should change, if the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, if the waters roar and foam, if the mountains quake at its swelling pride. God is in control of all of Creation. There is nothing that has ever been out of God’s sovereign control. He controls all of His Creation with His spoken word (cf. Hebrews 1:1-4). And the psalmist then says Selah. Selah means to take a pause, to reflect, to be refeshed with what was just spoken or sung. It’s refreshing to know that God is our refuge, our strength, our present help in times of trouble. And notice that He is present with us at this very moment.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; the Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
God is in His city! 46:4-7
The city of God is where the Most High dwells. There is peace that inhabits the city of God, namely because the presence of the Most High. God will not allow her walls to fall down. When He speaks, the people of the earth lose courage to stand against Him. Even though other nations would fall, Jerusalem will be safe. Even though other nations will roar against Him, Jerusalem will be safe. For what reason? God is our fortress! He controls the unseen armies of heaven. He is a Person to whom His people can flee for refuge when enemies attack. The Bible teaches us in Habakkuk 2:20 that God is still on His throne which indicates that He is ever ruling, ever in charge, ever in control. And for this reason, the enemies of God’s people quake.
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth; let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
God is in the earth! Psalm 46:8-11
The psalmist then turns his attention to the works of God. He takes us to review the in our minds’ eyes the Lord’s deliverances of His people (Psalm 46:8). He has caused Israel’s enemies to become a wasteland. The armies of the enemies have been destroyed. It is God who causes wars to cease and He is the One who breaks their bows and their weapons. In other words, He fights for His people while at the same time providing protection for them.
The psalm ends with the Lord’s presence being with His people. He is with us. He is present. He is our refuge right now. He is our strength right now. He is a present help in times of trouble right now. It is now that the Lord dwells in us through His Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Praise be to God who is our refuge, our strength, and our present help in times of trouble.