“God is our strength and refuge, an ever present help in trouble …” Psalm 46:1

For many of us, the past year has been a particularly unsettling one. Of course we have had our fair share of joys and blessings and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge this fact or to forget to give grateful thanks to God. We do thank God for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life, and especially for His immeasurable love shown in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. And yet the events in our beautiful yet troubled country and the events on the world stage leave us unsettled. Power cuts, failure of basic services, civil and political unrest, crime, unemployment, financial uncertainty, terror perpetrated in the name of religion – the list goes on and wherever we turn it seems to us that the world is in turmoil with no apparent hope of a solution! In the graphic language of Psalm 46, we live in a world in which the very foundations are being overthrown – the earth giving way, the mountains falling into the sea, the waters roaring and foaming (Psalm 46:2-3). In such a world, a world full of trouble and turmoil, how are we as the people of God to stand firm, to sustain our faith, to live with hope?

Psalm 46 answers these very real questions in a deeply challenging and encouraging way. It begins with an acknowledgement that in this world there will be “times of trouble” (vs1), that in this world it will sometimes seem as if the very foundations are about to give way. It sees creation in turmoil (vs2-3), the nations in uproar, kingdoms rising and falling (vs6). Like the rest of the Bible, Psalm 46 does not have a make-believe view of the world.

But alongside of this realistic view of the world, the Psalm also has a true view of God. And it is this which makes all the difference for the psalmist. Though there are times of trouble, though the foundations seem to be giving way, though the nations are in uproar, there are some key things that remain wonderfully true.

First, the psalmist reminds God’s people that their God is indeed the LORD Almighty (see vs7,11), the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of the world, the One who rules over all things now and who will rule over them forever. Second, the psalmist reminds us that this same God, the LORD Almighty is with His people at all times, including times of trouble. Twice the psalmist says “the LORD Almighty is with us” (vs7,11) and in verse 1 he declares that the LORD is “an ever-present help”. There is thus no time or circumstance when the LORD is not with His people to help them and strengthen them. It is when we put these two truths together that we arrive at the central declaration of the Psalm, namely that the LORD God Almighty is a refuge, a strength and a fortress for His people. In all times of trouble we can turn to this LORD and He will never let us down.

Third, having affirmed God’s power, presence and grace in times of trouble, the psalmist then lifts his eyes beyond the troubled world to the city of God (vs4). And what a city it is – a city where God Himself dwells, a holy place, a place of safety, joy and of life (vs4-5). Although the city is not yet a reality in the psalmist’s experience, it is the very substance of his hope. The city is real – real because God is real – and it will appear, for the God whose city it is works His judgements and desolations upon the earth (vs8) and He will be “exalted among the nations and in the earth” (vs10). And when He is, wars will cease, the weapons of war will be destroyed and the earth will become the dwelling of God, a place where His people will finally be at peace and will serve Him with joy. Though trouble is all around, there is hope for the future, sure and certain hope in the God who is present as a gracious help now and who will be present forever as a glorious King. It is with this in mind that the psalmist can call upon God’s people, even in the midst of trouble to “be still and know that He is indeed God” (vs10).

As we hear the words of Psalm 46 in the wake of what has been an unsettling year and with no clear indication that the year ahead may be any better, we do well to take what the psalmist says to heart. And we remember the words of Peter who reminds us that in and through Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel, the words of the Old Testament Scriptures, such as those of Psalm 46, are made even more sure and that we will indeed do well to pay attention to them as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in our hearts (2 Peter 1:19).


Written by Mervyn Eloff