There Is A Refuge

Title: There Is A Refuge

Bible Book: Psalms 46 : 1-11

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Refuge; Peace in Jesus; Security; Consolation



It’s on my heart this morning to look at Psalm 46. That greatest of commentators, Matthew Henry said…

This psalm encourages us to hope and trust in God, and His power, and providence, and gracious presence with His church in the worst of times, and directs us to give Him the glory of what He has done for us and what He will do. Probably it was penned upon occasion of David’s victories over the neighboring nations (2 Samuel 8), and the rest which God gave him from all his enemies round about. We are here taught, to take comfort in God when things look very black and threatening (verses 1-5); to mention, to His praise, the great things He had wrought for His church against its enemies (verses 6-9); to assure ourselves that God who has glorified His own name will glorify it yet again, and to comfort ourselves with that (verses 10, 11). … It is said of Luther that, when he heard any discouraging news, he would say, “Come let us sing the forty-sixth psalm.”

The Pulpit Commentary says…

This is a psalm of consolation. Israel, in great peril (verses 1-3, 6, 8, 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. … “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.”

There was once a notation in Christianity Today that said…

A “tribute” to William Shakespeare was included in the King James Version of the Bible, claims retired Anglican bishop Mark A. Hodson. The tribute appears as a “cryptogram” embedded in Psalm 46, says the bishop in a London Times article. The forty-sixth word from the beginning of the Psalm is “shake” (vs. 3) and the forty-sixth word from the end of it (not counting “Selah”) is “spear” (vs. 9), he explains. The guess is (that) some of the translators placed the cryptic tribute in Psalm 46 to honor Shakespeare on his forty-sixth birthday in 1610, when the Bible was being prepared for publication. (From Paul Lee Tan’s “Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations” – #708)

I hate to argue with an Anglican bishop, but this Psalm has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but it has everything to do with Almighty God. And it was written to honor Him and Him alone.

Edward L. R. Elson wrote that…

Long ago in the fourteenth century when Sergius the hermit was leading his countrymen (in Russia), and Tartar (Turkish Muslim) hordes were overrunning his land, this Psalm was a source of strength and courage. Over and over, the godly hermit recited Psalm 46 and then led his revived men in a charge that drove the invaders back and brought ultimate victory. Throughout the ages men have been stirred by the realization that the Eternal God is available to them and that nothing, literally nothing, can overwhelm or destroy a man when he lives in this faith. (From Paul Lee Tan’s “Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations” – #8309)

You’ll notice in Psalm 46:10 that the Bible says, “(Psalms 46:10) Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Of this phrase,“Be still, and know that I am God,” J. Vernon McGee said…

With the knowledge of this blessed truth we can be calm in time of trouble. There are storms blowing outside today. We are living in a mean old world; a wicked world. Tremendous changes are taking place. There are even convulsions in nature today. (But) He tells us to be calm in the time of storm.

This morning as we study Psalm 46, I want us to discover some things that we can recognize and know. We can know that – we start with the knowledge that There Is A Refuge.

Psalm 46:1–3

It may be helpful if we work our way backwards in this section, beginning at verses 2 and 3, followed by verse 2, and then highlighting verse 1.

I. The Psalmist Refers To Our Circumstances

Psalms 46:2-3, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; {3} Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”

A. The Psalmist Indicates That Our Stability May Be Taken From Us

Psalms 46:2, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;…”

removed – Hebrew 4171. muwr, moor; a prim. root; to alter; by impl. to barter, to dispose of:-- X at all, (ex-) change, remove.

The idea here is that that everything in the world would be drastically changed. Adam Clarke theorized that…

Probably the earthquake referred to, here means political commotions, such as those mentioned under the title; and by mountains, kings or secular states may be intended.

Barnes said…

And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea] This may either be understood literally, as implying that they would “not” be afraid though the mountains, the most fixed and fir things of earth, should be uprooted and sunk in the ocean – implying that nothing earthly was stable; or, the mountains here may be referred to as emblems of that which seemed to be most settled and established on earth – the kingdoms of the world.

How this speaks of the sudden and radical changes that can take place in individual lives and in families and in governments and nations!

B. The Psalmist Indicates That The Situation May Be Tumultuous For Us

Psalms 46:3, “Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”

Listen to the meanings of some of the words employed in this verse…

roar – Hebrew 1993. hamah, haw-maw’; a prim. root [comp. H1949]; to make a loud sound (like Engl. “hum”); by implication it means to be in great commotion or tumult, to rage, war, moan, clamor:--clamorous, concourse, cry aloud, be disquieted, loud, mourn, be moved, make a noise, rage, roar, sound, be troubled, make in tumult, tumultuous, be in an uproar.

troubled – Hebrew 2560. chamar, khaw-mar'; a prim. root; prop. to boil up; hence to ferment (with scum); to glow (with redness); as denom. (from H2564) to smear with pitch:--daub, foul, be red, trouble.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says of this word “troubled” (OT:2560 – hamar) that…

The verbal form of this root is illustrated in Psalm 46:4 in which “waters … be troubled.” … The masculine noun (form of this word) may have arisen from the trait of asphalt seething, or swelling up from the ground or coming to the top of the Dead Sea and/or its reddish-brown color.

The visual image is that of a body of water that is all reddish from the mud being stirred up and foamy from the scum.

Barnes said that the phrase “the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,” means…

The rolling ocean breaking against the sides of the mountains on its shore, and seeming to shake them to their foundation.

shake – Hebrew 7493. ra'ash, raw-ash; a prim. root; to undulate (as the earth, the sky, etc.; also a field of grain), particularly through fear; spec. to spring (as a locust):--make afraid, (re-) move, quake, (make to) shake, tremble.

Illustration: There was once a piece in Time magazine that read…

“She’s afraid to go to sleep, and she wakes up every time the bed moves. Her eyes get huge, and she quivers and shakes. Sometimes she walks in her sleep.” This 8-year-old victim of a new ailment that has hit both adults and children in Southern California — earth-quake jitters. The psychological damage is widespread and has affected many. Afflicted adults show extreme exhaustion, an unusual need for emotional support, and inability to sleep. The common denominator in many of             these symptoms is excessive anxiety triggered by the realistic fear of a quake’s havoc. Causes of  anxiety: the unexpectedness of the quake, and the fact that there is no place to hide. (From Paul Lee  Tan’s “Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations” – #2844)

The psalmist says that even though things may be taken from us and tumultuous for us, we will not fear. In other words, these transforming changes and troubling circumstances need not give us the jitters. As one writer put it, there is “Earthquake but not heartquake.” (From The Biblical Illustrator)

II. The Psalmist Refers To Our Courage

Psalms 46:2, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;…”

A. Let’s Think About The Concept Of This Fear

fear – Hebrew 3372. yare', yaw-ray'; a prim. root; to fear; mor. to revere; caus. to frighten:--affright, be (make) afraid, dread (-ful), (put in) fear (-ful, -fully, -ing). (be had in) reverence (-end), X see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).

The word may refer to a sense of reverence and awe especially in the worship of God, but that is not the meaning in this context. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that this word “fear” (OT:4172 – tiyraa’), especially the way that is used here in this verse, would indicate “the emotion of fear,” or “the intellectual anticipation of evil without emphasis upon the emotional reaction.” So, it may suggest an emotional terror or an intellectual dread.

B. Let’s Think About The Conquering Of This Fear

Albert Barnes said…

Our confidence in God shall be unshaken and abiding. Having Him for our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), we can have nothing to fear. Compare Psalm 56:3.

(Psalms 56:3) What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

In “The Treasury Of David,” Charles Spurgeon spoke of “the reasons, advantages, and glory of holy courage.” He said that the “causes for fear” are “great and many.” But he also referred to “the great and one cause for not fearing. Fearlessness under such circumstances should be well grounded. God Himself is our refuge, and we confiding in Him are fearless.”

If, as some believe, the historical background of this psalm is the attack of King Sennacherib of Assyria against King Hezekiah of Judah, then it is interesting to read how Hezekiah responded to this threat in 2 Chronicles 32:1-8.

John Calvin noted that…

It is an easy matter to manifest the appearance of great confidence, so long as we are not placed in imminent danger. But if, in the midst of a general crash of the whole world, our minds continue undisturbed and free of trouble, this is an evident proof that we attribute to the power of God the honor which belongs to Him. When, however, the sacred poet says, We will not fear, he is not to be understood as meaning that the minds of the godly are exempt from all solicitude or fear, as if they were destitute of feeling, for there is a great difference between insensibility and the confidence of faith. He only shows that whatever may happen they are never overwhelmed with terror, but rather gather strength and courage sufficient to allay all fear.

III. The Psalmist Refers To Our Companion

The “therefore” of verse 2 is directly related to the facts set forth in verse 1.

We will not fear because, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

John Calvin said…

There would be no impropriety in limiting the language to some particular deliverance which had already been experienced, just as others also have rendered it in the past tense. But as the prophet adds the term tribulations in the plural number, I prefer explaining it of a continued act; that God comes seasonably to our aid, and is never wanting in the time of need, as often as any afflictions press upon his people.

A. God Is Our Almighty Haven - God Is Our Refuge And Strength

Matthew Henry wrote…

God is our refuge and strength; we have found Him so, He has engaged to be so, and He ever will be so. Are we pursued? God is our refuge to whom we may flee, and in whom we may be safe and think ourselves so; secure upon good grounds (Proverbs 18:10). Are we oppressed by troubles? Have we work to do and enemies to grapple with? God is our strength, to bear us up under our burdens, to fit us for all our services and sufferings; He will by his grace put strength into us, and on Him we may stay ourselves. Are we in distress? He is a help, to do all that for us which we need, a present help, a help found (so the word is), one whom we have found to be so.

Cf. (Proverbs 18:10) The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. One writer said that in the statement, “God our refuge”…

There is an allusion to the cities of refuge. (But) God is to the Christian a refuge, which greatly excels those cities of Israel which were appointed for refuge to the man-slayer. It is in Jesus who is very near to the guilty; believing brings him into it at once; it is not temporary, but eternal; those refuges were only for the innocent, but this for the sinful; those were only for protection, not for liberty.

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the cities of refuge were “certain of the Levitical cities that were set apart to serve as places of asylum for the accidental manslayer; mentioned principally in Numbers 35:9-34; and Joshua 20. According to Joshua 20:7, (there were) six cities designated for this purpose in Joshua’s lifetime.”

refuge – Hebrew 4268. machaceh, makh-as-eh'; or machceh, makh-seh'; from H2620; a shelter (lit. or fig.):--hope, (place of) refuge, shelter, trust.

Albert Barnes said…

God is for us as a place to which we may flee for safety; a source of strength to us in danger. The first word, “refuge,” is from a verb meaning to “flee,” and then “to flee to” - ?chaacaah ?- or to take shelter in – denotes a place to which one would flee in time of danger – as a lofty wall; a high tower; a fort; a fortress. The idea here is that the people of God, in time of danger, may find Him to be what such a place of refuge would be. The word “strength” implies that God is the source of strength to those who are weak and defenseless; or that we may rely on His strength “as if” it were our own.

“Strength” means…

strength – Hebrew 5797. 'oz, oze; or (fully) 'owz, oze; from H5810; strength in various applications (force, security, majesty, praise):--boldness, loud, might, power, strength, strong.

B. God Is Our Available Helper

The Pulpit Commentary says “A very present Help in trouble,” means “literally, a very accessible Help - one easy to be found.”

present – Hebrew 4672. matsa', maw-tsaw'; a prim. root; prop. to come forth to, i.e. appear or exist; trans. to find or acquire; fig. to occur, meet or be present:-- + be able, befall, being, catch, X certainly (cause to) come (on, to, to hand), deliver, be enough (cause to) find (-ing, occasion, out), get (hold upon), X have (here), be here, hit, be left, light (up-) on, meet (with), X occasion serve, (be) present, ready, speed, suffice, take hold on.

In the context, this word has the idea that God as a helper has been found; He has arrived; He has been an able and powerful helper.

very – Hebrew 3966. me'od, meh-ode'; from the same as H181; prop. vehemence, i.e. (with or without prep.) vehemently; by impl. wholly, speedily, etc. (often with other words as an intensive or superlative; espec. when repeated):--diligently, especially, exceeding (-ly), far, fast, good, great (-ly), X louder and louder, might (-ily, -y), (so) much, quickly, (so) sore, utterly, very (+ much, sore), well.

Albert Barnes said…

The word “very,” or “exceedingly,” is added to qualify the whole proposition, as if this were “emphatically true.” It was true in the most eminent sense that God had always been found to be such a helper

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament said…

The congregation begins with a general declaration of that which God is to them. This declaration is the result of their experience. Luther … renders it, (God is … a very present help) “in the great distresses which have come upon us.”

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, the word “trouble” (OT:6869 – tsarah)… Means “straits” or “distress” in a psychological or spiritual sense, trouble – Hebrew 6869. tsarah, tsaw-raw'; fem. of H6862; tightness (i.e. fig. trouble); trans. a female rival:--adversary, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation, trouble.

Several of the commentators and resources that I looked at in studying this chapter indicated that this Psalm did indeed have a special place in Martin Luther’s heart. In fact, J. Vernon McGee said…

Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm. When he wrote that great Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” he probably had this in mind.

Listen to the Luther’s words in this great hymn…

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

Thank God, we do have a refuge … and it is God Himself!

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