Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
GOD THE REFUGE OF HIS PEOPLE
The title here is that which is assigned in the American Standard Version superscription, where it is also stated that the Psalm is for the Chief Musician, a Psalm of the Sons of Korah, a Song set to Alamoth, that latter word probably referring to the particular tune to be used for this psalm.
For once, we find scholars of widely divergent views in full agreement as to the occasion when this psalm was probably composed. The radical critic Addis, the conservative Leupold, and the current Dummelow all agree that the occasion was shortly after the destruction of Sennacherib's army before the walls of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Here is what these scholars wrote:
"Psalms 46-48 form a group of three which we may assign with little doubt to the reign of Hezekiah, when Sennacherib's army was suddenly destroyed (2 Kings 19:35). They all three strike the same note of gratitude, confidence and praise, which is found in Isaiah's references to the same event (Isaiah 29-31; Isaiah 33; Isaiah 37).
GOD'S ASCENDANCY OVER THE ENEMIES OF HIS PEOPLE
"There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:
God will help her, and that right early.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved:
He uttered his voice, the earth melted.
Jehovah of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
"There is a river, etc." (Psalms 46:4). The text seems to identify this river as the tabernacles of the Most High, God's dwelling place; but the actual meaning might be, "The river of God's presence and favor," The tabernacles of the Most High typically represent, "God's favor, like a river, is distributed to all the Church." "It was the river of God's life-giving presence." "This river is the perennial fountain of God's grace."
Yes indeed, these views are acceptable; but there seems also to be a prophecy of that Eternal City of God that cometh down out of heaven, the New Jerusalem, described in the last chapters of Revelation. The River of Life flows out of the throne of God in that City; and the Tree of Life grows on either side of it, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.
There is also something else that fits very beautifully into these wonderful verses. From Isaiah 8, we have this:
"Forasmuch as this people have refused the waters of Shiloah that go softly ... now therefore, behold the Lord bringeth upon them the waters of the (Euphrates) River, strong and mighty, even the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it shall come up over all its channels, and go over all its banks; and it shall sweep onward into Judah ... and overflow (Isaiah 8:6-8)."
The waters of Shiloah here are the same as those of the Pool of Siloam in the New Testament. "The spring of Gihon, whose waters Hezekiah brought into Jerusalem by a tunnel (2 Chronicles 32:30) are here used as a symbol of God's refreshing presence." These waters emptied into Siloam from underneath; hence the statement that "they went softly." Isaiah certainly used this humble little river as a symbol of God's government and protection, as contrasted with the terrible waters of the Euphrates at flood stage; and it is likely that the psalmist does the same thing here. This little stream is certainly a river that made glad the city of God, whether or not it was the river that did so.
Delitzsch combined in one paragraph the multiple spiritual intimations of these verses:
"When the city of God is threatened and encompassed by foes, still she shall not hunger and thirst, nor fear and despair; for the river of grace and of God's ordinances and promises flows with its rippling waves through the holy place, where the dwelling-place, or tabernacle, of the Most High is pitched."
"God will help her, and that quite early" (Psalms 46:5). The marginal reference or the last phrase here is, "At the dawn of morning"; and significantly, Isaiah stated that, "When men arose early in the morning, these (the whole army of Sennacherib) were all dead bodies" (Isaiah 37:36). This is a very strong link in the chain of evidence that binds these words to that great deliverance in 701 B.C.
"The nations raged, etc." (Psalms 46:6). "This means that in the past the thing that has regularly happened is that the "heathen have raged," etc.; but God had only to utter his voice, and as a result, men and nations have collapsed before Him. God controls all the raging of the nations and their tumults."
"Jehovah of hosts is with us" (Psalms 46:7). "If God be for us, who can be against us," is the New Testament echo of this confidence. The great security is in God. Just as the coneys, a little animal often mentioned in the Old Testament, are very weak, but occupy impregnable dwelling places in the rocks; just so men also are weak, vulnerable, insecure apart from God; but "in Him," they are secure, safe, invincible, and unconquerable.
"The God of Jacob is our refuge" (Psalms 46:7). According to Kidner, this refrain probably should also have been inserted at the end of Psalms 46:3, thus marking the three divisions of the psalm as a refrain. He also noted that, "The word `refuge' in this refrain, here and in Psalms 46:11, is distinct from the word so rendered in Psalms 46:1. Here it implies inaccessible height; hence the New English Bible rendition, `Our high stronghold'"
"Come, behold the works of Jehovah,
What desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
He burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Jehovah of hosts is with me,
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
"Come, behold the works of Jehovah" (Psalms 46:8). This, in context, was an invitation to the citizens of Jerusalem to behold the devastation of the army of Sennacherib, which the angel of God slaughtered in one night to the extent of 185,000 men. Cleaning up a mess like that required bonfires that lasted a long time, the war chariots, spears, arrows, shields and other military equipment providing fuel for the disposition of the dead.
Lord Byron's great poem catches the terrible magnificence of this Divine interposition upon behalf of God's people. There is an economy in God's wonders; he never intervenes unless it is absolutely necessary for the achievement of his eternal purpose. In this case, Jerusalem was surely doomed to destruction without Divine aid; therefore God came to the rescue.
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
Saturday, March 8th, 2014
the Last Week after Epiphany
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