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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 46

 

 

Verses 1-11

EXPOSITION

THIS is a psalm of consolation. Israel, in great peril (Psalms 46:1-3, Psalms 46:6, Psalms 46:8, Psalms 46:9), consoles herself with the thought of God's might, his protecting care, and his ability to shatter all the combinations that her enemies may form against her. There is nothing to determine absolutely what particular peril is spoken of; but, on the whole, the allusions seem to point to the invasion by Sennacherib, rather than to any other event in Hebrew history. Critics of such diverse schools as Hengstenberg and Professor Cheyne unite in this conclusion.

The metrical construction is very simple and regular, if, with several eminent critics, we restore, after Psalms 46:3, the refrain of Psalms 46:7 and Psalms 46:11, which seems to have accidentally fallen out. We then have three stanzas of four verses each, each stanza terminating with the same refrain.

"Upon Alamoth" in the title is best explained as a musical direction—to be sung upon high notes, with voices shrill and clear, like those of "virgins."

Psalms 46:1

God is our Refuge and Strength (comp. Psalms 18:2; Psalms 94:22, etc.). A very present Help in trouble; literally, a very accessible Helpone easy to be found.

Psalms 46:2

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed; or, though the earth changea somewhat vague expression, probably to be understood of political changes and revolutions (see Psalms 46:6). And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; rather, and though the mountains be hurled into the heart of the seas. A metaphor for still more strange and violent disturbances and commotions. The revolutions and disturbances intended are probably those caused by the Assyrian career of conquest briefly described in Isaiah 10:5-14; Isaiah 37:18-27, and fully set forth in the annals of the Assyrian kings.

Psalms 46:3

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; or, roar and foam (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne). Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof (comp. Psalms 93:3, Psalms 93:4; Jeremiah 46:8, Jeremiah 46:9; Jeremiah 47:2).

Psalms 46:4

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. In contrast with the scene of tumult and disturbance in the world at large, which the writer has presented to us in Psalms 46:2, Psalms 46:3, he now shows us, resting in perfect peace and tranquillity, "the city of God," threatened, indeed, by the nations, but undismayed by them, and calmly trusting in the protection of the God who is "in the midst of her." To this city he assigns a "river, the streams whereof make her glad;" imagery in which we may recognize the perennial fountain of God's grace—that "pure river of water of life," which, welling forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb, continually refreshes and gladdens the Church of Christ (Revelation 22:1), whether her dwell-tug-place be the earthly or the heavenly Jerusalem. The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High (comp. Psalms 43:3). The direct application is, of course, to the earthly Jerusalem, which the armies of Sennacherib were threatening.

Psalms 46:5

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. While the world is being turned upside down (Psalms 46:2, Psalms 46:3, Psalms 46:6), the Church is unmoved—since "God is in the midst of her." God shall help her, and that right early; literally, at the turning of the morning, or, in other words, "at the break of day" (comp. Psalms 30:6; Psalms 49:14; Isaiah 17:14). The deliverance of Israel from Sennacherib came, it is to be remembered, when it was discovered "early in the morning" that in the camp of the Assyrians were 185,000 "dead corpses" (2 Kings 19:35).

Psalms 46:6

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted (comp. Psalms 46:2 and Psalms 46:3). The past tenses arc probably the "preterite of prophetic certainty." The writer foresees and announces the destruction of Israel's enemies.

Psalms 46:7

The Lord of hosts is with us. This is the ground of assurance. Our God, Jehovah, is "the Lord of hosts"—one who has countless angels at his command (2 Kings 6:16, 2 Kings 6:17; Psalms 68:17; Matthew 26:53). And he is "with us"—on our side, ready to help. The God of Jacob is our Refuge; i.e. our covenant God, the God who entered into covenant with our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Psalms 46:8

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. The deliverance of Israel from its peril is effected by "desolations" or "devastations," which God accomplishes among the nations. The announcement is very vague and general, so that it would apply to almost any occasion when the people of God were delivered from a pressing peril.

Psalms 46:9

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth (comp. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 65:25). Each great deliverance effected by God is followed naturally by a term of peace (comp. 3:11, 3:30; 5:31; 8:28; "and the land had rest twenty, forty, eighty years"), each such term being typical of the final peace, when God shall have put down all enemies under Messiah's feet. He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; i.e. he destroys all offensive weapons, so that none may "hurt or destroy in all his holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:9). He burneth the chariot in the fire. War-chariots were largely employed by the Assyrians, and formed the main strength of the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:23).

Psalms 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God (comp. Exodus 14:13, Exodus 14:14; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Isaiah 30:15). As a general rule, God requires man to cooperate with him. "We are fellow-workers with God." "Aide-toi, le ecel t'aidera." But there are occasions when man must stand aloof, and all must be left to the almighty Disposer of all things. The invasion of Sennacherib was such an occasion. Human effort could not but be futile; and unless God gave deliver-ante in some strange and extraordinary way, there was no hope of escape: Judaea must cease to exist as an independent country. I will be exalted among the heathen. When a deliverance was plainly miraculous, the God of Israel got him special honour among the neighbouring heathen nations, who could not gainsay the fact that there had been a supernatural interposition (comp. Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:17, Exodus 14:18). I will be exalted in the earth. Exaltation among the neighbouring heathen had an effect upon a still wider circle.

Psalms 46:11

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (see the comment on Psalms 46:7).

HOMILETICS

Psalms 46:1, Psalms 46:2

The unchangeableness of God.

"God as our Refuge," etc. Mountains are the grandest of God's earthly works; natural images of majesty, strength, durableness. Rearing their peaks above the clouds, they gather the airy treasures of snow and rain; and pour from never-failing fountains the streams that water the valleys and feed the plains. Natural fortresses, where liberty has often found an impregnable asylum. Yet they are perishable. Waters wear their rocky sides. Earthquakes and landslips topple their crags into the valleys. Volcanic fires sometimes, as in our own day, tear them from their ancient foundations, and hurl their ruins into the sea. Such an overthrow of what seems strongest and most stable in outward nature, is in the text the image of the possible failure of all earthly support, defence, comfort, hope. But he who built the mountains and gave ocean its bounds, fails not, changes not. "God is our Refuge and Strength: therefore will we not fear." These are the two contrasted thoughts of our text.

I. THE INSECURITY OF EVERY EARTHLY REFUGE; the instability of all human strength. This may be realized:

1. In public calamity; national disasters. Depression of trade may carry discomfort, even ruin, into hundreds of thousands of homes. Our commercial system is so complicated and nicely balanced that one gigantic failure may give a shock to the whole fabric. The tremendous possibilities of war have to be reckoned; clear though the sky may be, the war-clouds may at any time gather and burst; perhaps with destructive fury surpassing all example. Even if our own shores still escape, war expenditure may drain our resources, and the destruction of our commerce entail scarcity—even famine. Some new form of pestilence may defy healing skill. The pride of the nations may be broken, their wealth wasted, their science proved unavailing.

2. In personal and family trouble. It has happened sometimes—travellers well know the spots—that when sky and sea were calm, and no earthquake shook the land, a whole hillside has slid down without warning, carrying down and wrecking peaceful homesteads, even overwhelming whole villages. Even so, when public prosperity is untroubled; the private foundations of your health, fortune, happiness, hope, may fail, and with brief or no warning, and all your earthly welfare be laid in ruins (Psalms 30:6, Psalms 30:7).

3. In prevailing unsettlement of thought and belief. When old forms go out of fashion; traditional beliefs are discredited; trusted leaders fail; men seem to hold nothing firm or settled. Worst of all, when this agitated atmosphere infects our inward life; doubt surges in, and threatens to overwhelm faith and conviction; the ground seems to quake under our feet, and darkness to beset and bewilder our soul.

II. THE NEVER-FAILING REFUGE. God's children, in these and all other calamities, find a "very present Help" in him.

1. His power to save is all-sufficient. All hearts and events are in his hand (2 Chronicles 14:11; 2 Chronicles 16:9).

2. His wisdom is infinite. All that can happen is known—has always been known to him. He can never be at a loss to answer prayer.

3. His promises meet every emergency (Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 13:6).

4. His faithfulness is the immovable foundation on which we may build absolute trust (Hebrews 6:18, Hebrews 6:19). All the experience of the past, all the hope of the future, sheds its light on the dark present, because he changes not. If there be any truth, God must be true. And if anything be certain, it is that Jesus Christ, "the true and faithful" Witness, speaks God's truth to us (John 14:6, John 14:10, John 14:27; John 19:37; Hebrews 13:8).

Psalms 46:1, Psalms 46:7, Psalms 46:11

Our Refuge.

The whole spirit of this noble psalm is condensed in this one phrase—"God is our Refuge." The Hebrew, as the margin of our Bibles shows, has a different word in Psalms 46:7,Psalms 46:11 from Psalms 46:1, signifying "a high place" (Revised Version, "or a high tower")—a retreat beyond reach of foes. The word in Psalms 46:1 means "somewhere [or, 'some one'] to trust in." These two thoughtstrust and safety—are well expressed in our word "Refuge." Take the whole psalm as embodying and enforcing this sentiment.

I. IN TROUBLE WE NEED A REFUGE. In bodily sickness and weakness, healing ministry, careful watching, an arm to lean on. In perplexity, a wise counsellor. In want, danger, or misfortune, timely succour. In sorrow, sympathy and comfort. Under sense of sin, a voice of forgiveness. To lean helplessly on others when we ought to put our own shoulder to the wheel, is unmanly and shameful. But the pride of independence is an illusion when it makes us forget how constantly and how much we depend on one another. None is self-sufficient.

II. GOD IS THE ALL-SUFFICIENT, NEVER-FAILING REFUGE OF HIS CHILDREN. The Hebrew for "very present" means literally "greatly found;" not far to seek, but nigh at hand; not difficult to find, but offering himself; found by experience to be all that he promises, all that we need. Human ministry can do much in the lesser troubles of life; it is God's appointed way of help. But when "the mountains" are removed—in the great crises and overwhelming sorrows, dangers, burdens of life, nothing will serve short of this—"underneath are the everlasting arms." Above all, in spiritual troubles. "Who can forgive sin but God alone?" Who but Jesus can shepherd us through the dark valley?

III. WHEN TROUBLE DRIVES US TO OUR REFUGE, IT FULFILS ITS MISSION. The curse becomes a blessing, and sorrow bears fruit in joy. In fair weather the ships pass gaily by the harbour of refuge; in the storm they make for it. It is easy to stand at the helm with a fair breeze and smooth sea. Easy to stand sentry in time of peace. Easy to trust God with a well-spread table and home bright with blooming faces. In the tempest; in war, when the bullet sings through the dark night, and the blast is freezing to the bone; or by the bed of sick, perhaps dying child,—not so easy! But then it is that God's help is "found" by those who trust him (Genesis 22:14; John 6:18-20).

REMARK:

1. This is the testimony of experience. God is found to be such a Help and Refuge. All the conclusions of science do not rest on a broader basis of induction, a surer witness of experience, than the faith of God's Church.

2. Trouble is not necessarily a means of grace or blessing; has no natural power to drive or lead men to God. We must hear God's voice in it; feel his hand; be led by his Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Sad, indeed, if our troubles be wasted,—all misery and no blessing!

Psalms 46:4

The river of God.

"There is a river," etc. How is it that when we read or chant this psalm, it never seems to us that it was written in an ancient foreign tongue, nigh three thousand years ago? It is as much a living voice, comes as home to our hearts, as though written in our mother tongue and our own generation. So it is with other psalms, however local in imagery, Jewish in application. Bible poetry is unlike any other, in its capacity of translation into all languages. Usually, the finer poetry is, the more it suffers in translation; the less can it make a home for itself anywhere but in its native land. Why is the case so different with the poetry of the Bible? The reason lies deeper than any poetic beauty, than human patriotism, than human sympathy. It is spiritual force. These songs of Zion utter the experience of souls quickened and breathed through—inspired by God's own Spirit. Therefore their interest is universal, their charm undying, their force inexhaustible. The living stream at which those ancient believers drank flows fuller, deeper, broader, with the lapse of ages; and still makes glad the city of God. This beautiful image, in its broadest application, is to be taken of the unfailing care, gracious presence, overflowing loving-kindness, of our God, with whom is "the fountain of life." More especially we may apply it to

These are the two main streams—one outward, one inward—by which we drink of the Divine fulness.

I. THE WRITTEN WORD. The full, deep, sweet stream of truth in the promises, precepts, prayers, revelations, histories, and examples of Old and New Testament Scriptures. Amazing effort is put forth in our day to prove that this stream is neither clear nor pure; that it flows from no certain fountain; in fact, to dry it up altogether. Modern science has taught us, what no one dreamed of at the middle of last century, that water is made up of two kinds of air, and can be decomposed by electricity. What then? Does this make any difference in the need and power of water to quench our thirst, make our fields fruitful, keep our skin and raiment and all we have clean? All this is the same now as in David's days. In like manner, the immense learning and criticism bestowed on Scripture, partly instructive, throwing a flood of light on its structure, its language and literary character; partly destructive, endeavouring to destroy its authority, page by page, and decompose it into fragments—has not in the least altered its living power or our need of its teaching. It still gives us truth, never taught or dreamed of by other religious teachers; promises of God, which are nowhere, if not in the Bible; laws which embrace and explain the whole of human duty; examples for daily guidance; a history, in which God is seen dealing with men and manifesting himself to them along one unbroken line, from the birth of our race to the end of our present world; above all, in our Lord Jesus, a personal manifestation of God, a full deliverance from all the ruin and misery of forsaking, forgetting, disobeying God, and warrant for coming to him in absolute trust and perfect love; and a glorious certainty of a life which death cannot touch—eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. All this, and more, is in the Bible. Unbelief may rob the unbeliever of his portion, but cannot impoverish the Bible. "The Word of God liveth and abideth." What joy, comfort, strength, light, purity, is it at this moment diffusing through myriads untold of Christian hearts and lives! It makes glad the city of God. A single promise may be the stay of a sinking heart; a single text the hinge of a new life.

II. THE INWARD GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Whence this wonderful power of the Scriptures to quicken, nourish, guide, bless, the higher life of man, as no other writings can? From God's Spirit in the men who wrote them. Only life feeds life. The devout reader need not perplex himself with any questions about the inspiration of the Bible, as long as he hears in it God's voice, reads in it God's thoughts, feels in it God's love, beholds in it "the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus." But for all this, inspirationq.d, the living breath and life-giving presence of God's Spirit—is as needful for the readers as it was for the writers. Of the same sort? Certainly not. But as real (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; 1 John 3:1-24 :27; John 6:44, John 6:45). If there be one truth to which the Scriptures bear clear witness, it is the need of Divine teaching (compare with 2 Timothy 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16; Acts 16:14; John 4:14; John 7:37-39).

III. THIS DIVINE FULNESS IS THE SOURCE OF THE CHURCH'S PEACE AND JOY. It "maketh glad the city of God"—the communion of saints; the true Israel. Ancient Jerusalem was so well supplied with water as never to fear drought. When besieged by the Crusaders, it was the besiegers who suffered thirst, not those within the walls. But one perennial spring is known to exist at Jerusalem. But beneath the temple were vast reservoirs, by some supposed supplied from a spring, but by explorers said to be fed by the rain—" the rivers of God" (Psalms 65:9). So, in the common treasure of God's Word, the common possession of God's Spirit (Romans 8:9), the Church of Christ has a never-failing fountain and unfathomable reservoir of joy, strength, peace, for evermore. (N.B.—This third head might supply a sermon by itself.)

Psalms 46:9

War.

"He maketh wars to cease." If we were asked to give in one short word the most prevailing character, the most striking feature, of human history—the history of all nations, civilized or savage, ancient or modern—we must reply, "War." If we were asked—What has been the severest scourge under which human life and happiness have suffered? we must again say, "War." If we were asked to furnish in one word the proof that human nature is sinful, q.d. that its passions are not bridled by justice or ruled by love, we must again answer, "War." Is this to be the case always? Will the time come when nations "shall learn war no more"?

I. GOD ALONE CAN MAKE WARS TO CEASE. Science cannot do it. It can teach men how more skilfully to destroy each other, but not to love one another. Commerce cannot do it. Some of the cruelest and wickedest wars have been waged for the sake of trade and revenue. Education cannot do it. The most highly educated nations of the world are the most military. Progress and civilization cannot; for they do not make men unselfish. The source of war is not in outward circumstances, but in human nature; in the lust of gain, of power, of glory, of vengeance (James 4:1). No power can subdue these but his who could say to the winds and waves, "Peace, be still!"

II. GOD CAN DO IT. By miracle, if he sees fit; sink every war-ship, paralyze every soldier's arm or eye. But that is not God's way of ruling the world. He will not make wars to cease unless the roots out of which they grow be plucked up. While sin reigns, strife will reign. Only let justice and benevolence become universally recognized and obeyed, and war must die out. For, allowing that war may be just and even (in the long run) benevolent on one side, there never was and never can be a war that was just on both sides. How, then, can God make war to cease? By making all men loving and righteous, wise and unselfish. This does not imply any imaginary impossible perfection. There are tens of thousands who make no pretence to perfection, yet are so governed by justice and inspired by kindness, that if all were like them, war would be impossible. The love of God, the Spirit of God, and the truth of God, can do this, and are doing it daily. What God does in these cases he can do in others. Things impossible with men are possible with God.

III. GOD HAS PROMISED TO DO THIS. (Isaiah 2:4; James 3:18.) No nobler title belongs to our Saviour than "Prince of Peace" (see Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:1). If we are tempted to ask, "If God can make wars to cease, and has promised, why does war continue to scourge mankind?" the answer must be, "Because men will not have God's remedy." As long as they are not at peace with God, so long they cannot, shall not, be at peace among themselves. Do not think that God looks down on human suffering with indifference. The whole Bible is in contradiction to such a thought; but, above all, the fact that his beloved Son has taken our suffering flesh on him. God is the "Author of peace, and Lover of concord." But he will have no remedy which does not go to the root. Righteousness must go first; peace follows (Isaiah 32:17; James 3:18). Meanwhile let us rejoice in the promise and prospect (Psalms 72:7). Every triumph of the gospel, every heart yielded, every life consecrated to Christ, is a step towards the blessed reign of universal peace (Matthew 5:9).

HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE

Psalms 46:1-11

The saint's stronghold.

This psalm is one of those "for the sons of Korah," on which see our remarks on Psalms 42:1-11. It is "a song upon Alamoth," which, according to Furst, £ is the proper name of a musical choir. As the word "Alamoth" means "virgins," it is supposed that the song was for soprano voices. We have, however, to deal with the contents of the song itself. It has long been a favourite with the people of God. "This is my psalm," said Luther. To this we owe his "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," and many other songs of the sanctuary. It would seem to have been suggested by some one of the many deliverances which the Hebrews had from the onsets of their foes; but to which of those it specially refers, is and must be left an open question. There are phrases in it which remind us of the redemption from Egypt (cf. Psalms 42:5 with Exodus 14:27, Hebrew). There are others which recall the deliverance for which Jehoshaphat prayed (cf. Psalms 42:10, Psalms 42:11 with 2 Chronicles 20:17, 2 Chronicles 20:22, 2 Chronicles 20:23). Other words vividly set forth the boasting of Sennacherib and the destruction of his army (cf. Psalms 42:3, Psalms 42:6 with 2 Kings 18:29-35; 2 Kings 19:6, 2 Kings 19:7, 2 Kings 19:15-19, 2 Kings 19:28, 2 Kings 19:35). At each of these crises the four points of this psalm would be

And how many times this song has been sung by individuals, by families, by Churches, by nations, £ the closest students of history best can tell. And in setting forth this song for homiletic use, we might show that it records the repeated experience of the Church; that it becomes the grateful song of the family; that it fits the lips of the believer in recounting providential mercy; that it is the constant song of the saints in rehearsing redemption's story. To deal with all these lines of thought would far exceed our space. We will confine ourselves to the last-named use of the words before us, showing that this forty-sixth psalm means far more on the lips of the Christian than it did on the lips of Old Testament believers. It is not the song itself that is our chief joy, but that revelation of God which has made such a song possible for believers—first under the Old Testament, and specially, in Christ, under the New Testament.

I. THE SAINTS NOW HAVE A CLEARER VIEW OF GOD. (Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2.) Of old, God spake through prophets; now he speaks in his Son. And when we hear our Lord say, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father," we know at once to whom to turn for the interpretation of that greatest of all words, "God." To the Hebrews, their covenant God was revealed in words (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7); but to us he is revealed in the living Word, in the Person of the incarnate Son of God. "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."

II. THE SAINTS NOW CAN RECORD A GREATER DELIVERANCE than Israel of old could boast—an infinitely greater one. Not only was there all the difference between rescues that were local, temporary, national, and one that is for the race for all time, but also the difference between a deliverance from Egypt, Ammon, Moab, and Assyria, and one that is from Satan and from sin; from the curse of a broken Law, and from the wrath to come. The song of Miriam is infinitely outdone by the new song, even the song of Moses and the Lamb.

III. THE SAINTS CAN NOW REJOICE IN A BETTER COVENANT. At the back, so to speak, of the psalm before us there was a recognized covenant between God and the people (Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6; Psalms 46:7, Psalms 46:11). In the later days of David "the everlasting covenant" was the aged monarch's hope and rest. But now, in Christ, we have the "better covenant," "the everlasting covenant," sealed and ratified with blood (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 13:20; Matthew 26:28). This covenant assures to the penitent, forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified. It includes all that Christ is and has, as made over to those who rely on him, for ever and for ever. It is not dependent on the accidents of time or sense. No duration can weaken it; no ill designs can mar it; not all the force of earth or hell can touch these who look to "the sure mercies of David."

IV. THE SAINTS NOW MAKE UP A MORE PRIVILEGED CITY. (Psalms 42:4.) While nations were proudly and angrily raging like the wild waves of the tossing sea, there was a calm, peaceful river, whose branches peacefully flowed through the city of God. Thus beautifully does the psalmist indicate the calm which took possession of believers then, while the nations roared around them. And in "the new Jerusalem," the present "city of God," which Divine love founded, and which Divine power is building up, there still flows the deep, still, calm river of Divine peace and joy and love. Or, if it be preferred, let Dr. Watts tell—

''That sacred stream, thine Holy Word,

That all our raging fear controls;

Sweet peace thy promises afford,

And give new strength to fainting souls."

Through the new city of God, the Holy Catholic Church, made up of all believers, this peaceful stream ever runs, refreshing and fertilizing wherever it flows. No frost congeals it; no heat can dry it up; it will eternally make glad the city of God. Hence—

V. THE SAINTS NOW PEAL FORTH A MORE JUBILANT SONG, We can sing this psalm, especially its first verse, with wider intelligence, larger meaning, deeper peace, and more expansive joy, than were possible to the Hebrews of old. As revelation has advanced, the believer's joy in God has grown likewise. Faith becomes larger as faith's Object becomes clearer. And no Hebrew could sing of the deliverance of his fathers so joyously as we can sing of the redemption of a world—a redemption in which we can rejoice, not only in our days of sadness, but in our days of gladness too. And as the psalmist could think of God as the Lord of hosts, and yet the God of Jacob; as the Leader of the armies of heaven, and yet the Helper of the lonely, wayworn traveller; so the believer, in thinking of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, can say, "He died for all," and also, "He loved me, and gave himself for me."

VI. THE SONG IS GRANDEST WHERE TROUBLE HAS BEEN THE GREATEST. "He has been found a Help in trouble exceedingly "—the adverb expressive of intensity may refer to the greatness of the trouble. But however this may be, certain it is that it is in the troubles of life that the believer finds out all that God is to him. And the man who can sing this psalm most jubilantly is the one who has been weighted with care most heavily. This is the glory of our great redeeming God. He is a Friend for life's dark days, as well as for the bright ones. Note:

1. The troubles of life often bring out to us our need of God. It is easy to be serene when trouble is far from us, and to spin fine philosophic webs; but let trouble come upon us,—that will make all the difference. The late beloved Princess Alice was almost led to the dark negations of Straussianism; but when she lost her child, her trouble led her to feel her need of a Refuge, and then she sought and found the Lord. Ellen Watson, the accomplished mathematician, revelled in exact science, and "wanted nothing more," till the death of a friend broke in on her exact science, rent her heart, opened her eyes, and was the means of leading her to Jesus. The experience of a young civil engineer, whom the writer visited in his last illness, was precisely the same.

2. Those who can give us no comfort or rest in the troubles of life are of little use in such a world as this. In a letter of an aged Unitarian minister to a friend of the writer, the expression is used, "I am just battling with the inevitable." "Battling with the inevitable!" So it must be, if men turn away from our God as the Redeemer from sin, the Saviour of the lost.

3. It is the glory of Christ as our Refuge that he can hide us securely in the fiercest troubles of life.

"Should storms of sevenfold thunder roll,

And shake the globe from pole to pole

No flaming bolt shall daunt my face

For Jesus is my Hiding-place."

—C.

HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH

Psalms 46:1-11

Hope for the troubled.

Faith in God assures—

I. HELP IN TROUBLE. It may be some storm of outward or of inward trial comes, or both may be combined. Enemies may rage without, and sin may rouse tumults and fears within. But "God is our Refuge;" he is always near, always sufficient. The manslayer might fail to reach the place of safety; but God is at our right hand, and it needs but a cry from our hearts to secure his help. The Israelite might perish, though he had his hand on the horn of the altar (1 Kings 2:25); but if we "flee for refuge to lay held upon the hope set before us," we are safe (Hebrews 6:18). It is this faith in God that gives true fearlessness. Trusting in God and doing good, who can harm us (1 Peter 3:13)?

II. COMFORT IN TROUBLE. (Psalms 46:4, Psalms 46:5.) There is an advance here to what is more inward and spiritual—to the Divine consolations of the good. The "river," with its several "streams," typifies those consolations as they are to be found in the Word and ordinances of the gospel and the love of God in Christ Jesus. They are free, affluent, abiding. Other waters may fail (Isaiah 19:5), but they "go on for ever." Like the waters from the rock that followed Israel through all their wanderings, so they are ever beside us and open to us, so that whosoever will may drink and be refreshed. "God is in the midst of her." This is the secret of the whole.

III. DELIVERANCE FROM TROUBLE. Trials are needful; they have their purpose, and when it is accomplished they cease. As with the wars that desolate the earth, they arc under the control of God. It is for us to be patient and trust. God's time is the best time. It may be dark now, but the dawn of a brighter day is near (Psalms 46:5). There may be conflict and strife now, and as good soldiers of Jesus Christ we must endure hardness; but victory is sure. We are not only to learn patience from what we 6, behold" of the works of the Lord, but from what we "know" in the secrets of our own experience (Psalms 46:8-10); besides, we have the sure word of prophecy and of promise. "The Lord of hosts is with us;" and if so, greater is he that is for us than all they that can be against us. "The God of Jacob is our Refuge; "and if so, we may be confident that God will keep us in all places whither we go, and will not only sanctify unto us all our trials, but bring us in the end into the land of everlasting peace.—W.F.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 46:1-11

A Divine Refuge and Strength.

The ground-thought is, "God is our Refuge and Strength," and it returns with only a slight change of form at the end of the second and third strophes. The strophes are: Psalms 46:1-3; Psalms 46:4-7; Psalms 46:8-11.

I. GOD'S RELATION TO US.

1. A relation of strength. (Psalms 46:6, Psalms 46:7, Psalms 46:9.)

2. Of intimate nearness. (Psalms 46:5, Psalms 46:7.) "In the midst of her." "With us." Immanuel. How near God is to us in Christ!

3. Of parental tenderness. "The God of Jacob is our Refuge." Christ calls us "little children," denoting how God feels toward us.

II. WHAT WE SHOULD BE IN CONSEQUENCE OF SUCH A RELATION.

1. Fearless amid the greatest changes. (Psalms 46:2, Psalms 46:3.) But evil men have much to fear from God.

2. Glad or joyful. (Psalms 46:4.) God will help "right early," or "in the morning."

3. Obedient to the omnipotent God. "Be still" is equivalent to "know what I am, and cease from wars against my people." "He breaketh the bow of the strongest, and cutteth the spear in sunder; be burneth the chariot in the fire."—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 46:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-46.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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