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.
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 fail; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
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.
A few years ago (ok probably about 6 now) some friends and I went to the river to fish. That doesn’t sound strange, and since I live in Montana now it is a regular event. But in Arkansas our adventures to go fishing in streams of cool water for trout were fewer and farther between.
On this particular adventure we chose to fish the calmer flows of the North Fork river. Calmer waters or not, river fishing involves wading through waters that can sometimes become unexpectedly deep with rocks that are slipperier than Arkansas roads after a half inch of snow.
In a situation just like this, my friend Topher realized (as I have many times myself) that rather than try to tackle the slippery rocks head on sometimes the best advice, (as shouted from Mike nearby on the shore) is to just stop moving!
My Way or God’s Way
The rocks of the North Fork river or the green of the Gallatin here in Montana don’t have an agenda. They’re just there, waiting for unsuspecting feet to try to find footing on their round vegetated surfaces. As any experienced fisherman may know, it’s futile to move too fast or to keep going when the best course of action is to stop, assess and in many cases, go back or find another way.
The Psalmist here in Psalm 46 reminds us that to push forward, to seek to do it our own way without submitting to God, only ends in fear and destruction. In order to understand Psalm 46 it helps to go back and read Numbers 16. Psalm 46 was written by the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah were descendants of Levi, a priestly nation given the special task of carrying holy items as the Israelites moved through the wilderness.
In Numbers 16 a dispute breaks out. The ancestors of the Sons of Korah from Psalm 46 make a tragic mistake. They begin to believe that they are due honor and glory that they aren’t given from God. They complain to Moses and tell him that they don’t like being subordinate to anyone. They threaten a coup and so God decides to remind them who is in charge.
I won’t give the story away but just to say this, the earth does gives way, the waters roar and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. It’s quite possible that the author of Psalm 46 is reminded of this rebellion and the mistake that his ancestors made. In an attempt to lead God’s people in worship he reminds them and us to, “just stop moving!” “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
It’s hard to submit, and I find myself desperately wanting to complain and tell God what the Kohathites told Moses in Numbers 16 that “you, God, have gone too far! Life is too difficult and I want to do it my way now!” But slippery rocks are a dangerous way to cross a river. I confess of my arrogance in thinking that I know the best way and that I want to be God.
The command to “be still” doesn’t simply mean to stop moving. To be still, in the way that the Psalmist means it, is to stop going the way that we think is best. Stop doing it our way. We’re not in charge and until we submit to God’s plan and will we won’t know what it means to find God as a refuge and strength.
Verse 4 reminds us that, “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy places where the Most High dwells.” Jesus, when ministering to the woman at the well in John 4 reveals 2 things about the Kingdom of God. 1. The Kingdom of God has perfect standards for admission. 2. Anyone of drinks from the water of life is included. We can keep moving, believing that we are in charge and that our way is best or we can, be still, and know that He is God.
“Come and see what the Lord has done! The Lord almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress!”
Soli Deo Gloria