Fear is one of the most common of all human emotions. We fear outward threats like war and disaster. We have inner fears like the prospect of failure.
One of the tragic marks of life in a world which has rejected God is that we live with fear. The first words Adam said to God after he sinned were: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). Fear now entered our world.
Psalm 46 brings comfort to a city gripped by fear. The first of the three stanzas (vv. 1-3) begins with a statement of faith that is the heading for all that follows: “God is our refuge and strength” (v. 1).
Our troubles change but God remains the same. The imagery is terrifying: the crisis is like the quaking of the mountains, which are shaking so powerfully that they are tossed into the sea (vv. 2-3). But our comfort is that we are safe and secure in the Lord (v. 1).
In verses 4-7, the mood changes. Imagine Psalm 46 as a symphony. The first stanza is loud with crashing drums and blaring trumpets. Then, in the second stanza there is an abrupt change. Suddenly all is quiet, like the gentle plucking of harps. Instead of a raging river there is a peaceful, flowing river (v. 4).
There is actually no river running through Jerusalem; it is poetry—a picture of peace and water which brings life. The Lord is watching over His people and protecting them. While around them the nations rage against them, God’s city is at peace, for the Lord is in its midst (v. 5).
The triumphant final stanza (vv. 8-10) sings of the future when our great God will make wars cease. Psalm 46:10 is a frequently misunderstood verse. When God calls out: “Be still, and know that I am God”, He is not speaking in a gentle voice. He is not saying: “In your busyness find rest in me.” No, God is loudly commanding all the nations caught up in wars and aggression: “Stop your fighting! I am God!”
The day will come when God will say to all the warring nations: “Enough! I will destroy the weapons of your warfare.” Then He will remove forever all those things that cause us fear. Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!
Extracted from Journey Through Psalms Vol. 1 by Mike Raiter.