God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (NIV)
This psalm has a heading that introduces it: “For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.” In English, we don’t count it as part of the psalm, and don’t read it in worship when this psalm is used. In Hebrew they do. It is considered verse 1 of the psalm. Either way, no one really knows what ‘alamoth’ means. It is probably some sort of musical term, since this intro describes this psalm as a song. Psalm 46 is a favorite because of the lyrics, and I bet it had a catchy tune as well. Our favorite hymns and songs are a mix of lyrics that move us and tune that is memorable.
The themes of security and peace resonate in a world where no one is secure and there is rarely peace. This is a favorite of those who are in the hospital, in prison, in battle (either literal or metaphorical.) It is comforting to be reminded that God is ‘ever-present’ in troubling times. While we would be wise to cling to God all the time, we reach for God in a much more consistent way when we are feeling vulnerable because of a health crisis, relationship distress, political upheaval, or any other kind of problem. While I know from personal experience, there actually are atheists in foxholes (well, at least there are on Navy ships that are under threat of attack and in the thick of combat), but even atheists reach out for connection when they are feeling vulnerable.
It is good to have the classic words of Psalm 46 to turn to and give us comfort, but it is also good to be able to paraphrase them and put them in our own words. It is a particular form of meditation and reflection; a spiritual discipline of sorts. Here, I share with you mine:
You are our hideaway, O God, when life is too much.
Your presence gives us strength to bear the load of troubled times.
We need not fear, though the bottom falls out of our lives,
Though everything we thought we could stand on disappears and everything we thought would hold us up fails us…
For you are our safety net. You will catch us.
Your presence refreshes us.
You wash us clean through and through.
You have invited us to dwell with you.
Though the world may be in chaos and the strength of the nation is nothing but dust and ashes, you are our protection.
You are our safe place.
You are the end of striving.
You are the hope of the whole earth.
The weapons of war crumble in your presence and are never needed again when we trust in your will and your ways.
Settle down, then my spirit, settle down.
God who is and was and always will be is with us.
God is our safety net and our strength.
We will rejoice singing God’s praises.
So there you have it. This is my paraphrase of Psalm 46 and prayer for today. Maybe someday you will share yours with me.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.