by Dr. David L. Allen
Where do you run for refuge when life gets overwhelming? What truths to do you turn to? I have always loved Psalm 46. How often I have read, quoted, or shared with someone in a counseling situation. As I have been reading the CSB over the past months, I have enjoyed seeing this familiar psalm in a new light—it’s been reminding me of how this psalm can redirect our efforts and help us rest in God. Here’s what I mean:
1. Stop Your Fighting
Psalm 46:10 is rendered in the CSB as “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”
“Stop your fighting” is somewhat unique among translations of this verse. Many Bible translations render the imperative as “Be still.” This is then applied along the lines of “we need to come aside from the hustle and bustle of daily life and get alone with God.” Certainly that is true, but there’s more going on this verse.
Since verse 10 falls in the third and final strophe of the Psalm, verses 8-12, the context of those verses is important for understanding verse 10. Notice how verses 8, 9, and 11 reference some aspect of war and fighting. The traditional translation of “be still” appears too tame for this context. “Stop your fighting” fits the context better.
Sometimes I need to be reminded that I may not only be fighting the Lord’s battles, but I may be fighting against the Lord Himself! There comes a time to lay down your arms and know that He is God—He will do as He wills with me and with the other guy.
Psalm 46 begins with the words: “The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” This means that you and I can stop fighting in our own strength and rest in Him.
2. Take Refuge in God
Luther’s ramshackle cart wobbled its way to Worms, Germany, in April of 1521. He had been summoned to appear before the Emperor and Catholic prelates to give an account of this new “heresy” he was teaching called “justification by faith alone.” The learned Johann Eck laid out all of Luther’s writings and then asked Luther if he was prepared to recant.
Luther retired to his room that night to think over his answer. His Bible fell open to Psalm 46. Luther returned the next morning to stand before his detractors. In response to their call to recant, Luther responded:
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
The Reformation was off and running.
Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm. During the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation, Luther would turn to his trusted friend Philip Melanchthon and exclaim: “Let’s sing the 46th Psalm, and let the devil do his worst!” It inspired his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
No Psalm in all the Psalter expresses the tremendous truth that God’s presence and power are with us in all circumstances more than Psalm 46. We need to know God offers us two kinds of help: a stronghold into which we can flee and a source of strength by which we can face the uncertain future.
3. Pause and Think About That
Psalm 46 is divided into three stanzas, each ending with the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah.” “Selah” was most likely originally a musical notation indicating a pause in the music for contemplation on what was just sung. You might translate it “Pause and think of that!”
When the mountains quake, the Lord is my refuge and strength…Selah! When nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall, the Lord almighty is with us…Selah! “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations…the Lord of Armies is with us…Selah!”
Every new year brings us 365 days of uncertainty. Every new day brings us 24 hours of uncertainty. But every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power in our lives is available to us. What does the future hold? It really doesn’t matter, does it, as long as Psalm 46 is true! His Kingdom is forever! So, every day, let’s reflect on Psalm 46:10 or on another passage of Holy Writ and “Selah!”—pause and think of that!