Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 21 2019 - Psalm 46 – God our refuge

We are beginning to realise that we cannot take the stability of our planet for granted. Our actions over the past century have contributed to climate change which is leading to more erratic weather conditions: summers are getting hotter, winters becoming colder; hurricanes are becoming stronger and more devastating; rains are failing in some parts of our world and droughts bring death to plants and cattle; floods devastate other parts of our world bringing landslides and mudslides. Climate scientists warn that we may be reaching a tipping point beyond which there is nothing we can do to prevent increasing chaos. On top of all of this is the frequent news of earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis. It seems as if the very fabric of our world, of our home, is falling apart.

The psalmist did not have these things in mind when he wrote this psalm – though certainly he would have been familiar with earthquakes and their devastation. His concern was the threat from hostile nations that surrounded the people of God. There had been times in Israel's history when the very existence of the nation seemed to be endangered by threats of war from stronger nations around them or, indeed, by warfare between the different tribes that made up the nation.

In an uncertain world, the psalmist delights in the fact that there is a place of safety and stability for those who trust in the living God. God is a refuge – a fortress or place of safety – for his people. As David writes in Psalm 18:1-2:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge… my stronghold.

Even if the worst imaginable disaster might actually happen, God remains our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1). This means that those who trust in him need not fear, no matter what the news, no matter what the threat. "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (v.7).

I have sometimes seen the text, "Be still, and know that I am God" (v.10) on church walls or on greetings cards sent from one Christian to another. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think we need to look at its context in this psalm. In face of the hostile threats God's people face from the surrounding nations, God addresses them with the command, "Be still, and know that I am God." He commands the nations to stop their warfare, to put down their arms and to recognise the God of Israel for who he is. "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth" (v.9).

It's not easy to get the balance right between the demand to take action and the need to trust God. We need to do all that we can to mend the hurts of our world. We in the West need to repent of our thoughtless and unsustainable lifestyles that have led to the present crisis for our planet. We need to respect God's world and to heal its hurts before they are beyond human healing. We need also to be peacemakers who seek to reconcile the warring factions of this world.

Nevertheless, we who know the living God can trust in him in every circumstance as our place of safety and of joy; the Spirit of God and of our risen Saviour "is a river whose streams make glad the city of God" – the people of God. Trust in our heavenly Father frees us from fear in the personal crises of our lives as well as the national and global which seem to threaten our world.

Think of the things which make you fearful right now and then read through this psalm again slowly seeking God's help and presence to still your fears.

Father God, we thank you that in the Lord Jesus you have made us heirs of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Help us to care for your world and be a blessing to its peoples rather than being those who threaten your world. Help us also to point others to our Saviour that they also might find their secure refuge and unfailing hope in him.

Peter Misselbrook