In Psalm 46, God gives us specific counsel so that we may know how to respond to unwelcome change. See if you can spot any of the encouragement the Holy Spirit placed in this psalm for you. Grab a pencil or highlighter and mark any truths about God that you notice in the Scripture below.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
This psalm was written by the sons of Korah, the man who was swallowed by an earthquake along with his co-conspirators (see Numbers 16). Its powerful imagery communicates divine truth. The message of this psalm is this: Life is filled with change that threatens our security, but we find stability in the Lord.
Be Still, and Know that God Is God
God says to us in verse ten, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Unwelcome change unsettles us, and God knows how much we need laser-focused faith. We need to know him more deeply. We need to know; that is, believe with all our heart, that he is God. But how do we be still, and know that he is God?
In verse eight, the sons of Korah instruct us: “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” In other words, we stabilize our faith by remembering His mighty deeds. We know that God is God by actively reminding ourselves of what his works reveal about his nature and character.
We must remember the great works which God has done—not only on the earth, but in our own life. Being still involves reflecting on the many ways God has providentially cared for us, satisfied our needs, and demonstrated His power, love, and grace.
Psalm 46 offers a rock-solid foundation for building our faith, so that we may learn to respond to change in ways which are good for our soul and helpful to others. The primary lesson of this psalm is not to learn how to guess when and where change may come. Instead, it calls us to know the unchanging God who is the source of help and hope during the storms of life. I love the rich imagery of Hebrew poetry. For example, look at the tumultuous picture the writer paints here:
- Verse 2: the earth gives way (A better translation of the Hebrew word here is: changes, as it is in the NASB.)
- Verse 2: the mountains be moved
- Verse 3: its waters roar and foam
- Verse 3: the mountains tremble
- Verse 6: nations rage, kingdoms totter
What’s the point of these word pictures? Everything changes…except God. Unlike our circumstances, God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). God is immutable and immovable. He is immutable; that is, His nature and character never change. “For I the Lord do not change,” he says through the prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:6). Not only is God immutable; that is, unchanging. But he is also immovable; change doesn’t affect God. Change doesn’t pressure him to become someone he is not. Therefore, he is the only sure anchor in the storms of life.
Now, look at how the psalmist labors to shift our focus from our circumstances to God. The Spirit of God highlights six God-centered truths to stabilize your heart when you experience unwelcome change.
Truth One: God Is Your Shelter (v. 1). God is your “refuge,” a place of shelter for you. The Hebrew word refers to a strong structure that provides safety, a hiding place. It might be shelter from one’s enemies, as it is used here in a military sense. But poetically it applies to any danger we may face. The point is this: God is always looking after you.
- Tell yourself the truth: God is my shelter; therefore, I will hide in him.
Truth Two: God Is Your Strength (v. 1).
God puts his power into action on your behalf. Knowing this, you can “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chronicles 16:11). His strength works for you in your weakness. According to the apostle Paul, the strength of God is somehow perfected when we are weak and dependent on him (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we feel as if the rug has been pulled out from beneath us, we begin to recognize just how weak we truly are. In these times, the strength of God is made complete in our lives. When unwelcome change exposes your weaknesses, lean on, and into, God for strength. There is safety and strength in God.
- Tell yourself the truth: God is my strength in my weakness. I can rely on him to get me through any change.
Truth Three: God Is Your Help (v. 1).
The Hebrew word for help refers to support for one who is vulnerable. Steven Lawson writes in his commentary on the Psalms, “[This word] is widely used in the Psalms to denote the assurance of God’s all-sufficient help for the righteous [for believers]…as well as a plea for God’s help. In other passages, it is used in requests by the psalmists for swift action by God when in extreme need.” When unwelcome change exposes your weakness, call upon God for help. Sometimes all we can come up with is a simple Help! Lord. But God hears and responds to even a simple cry.
- Tell yourself the truth: God is my helper. I can cry out to him with my every need.
Truth Four: God Is Always Present (v. 5).
Psalm 46 also reminds us that God is our “very present help” in the discouraging circumstances of life. When unwelcome change comes your way, you may ask yourself, Where is God? Yet he is not far away, and he doesn’t respond from a distance. Rather, He draws near. His omnipresence is personal and active. He moves in close to act on your behalf. He is near to those who run to Him, who turn to him as their refuge, help, and strength. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved” (v. 5). Two more times the songwriter assures our hearts that the Lord is with us: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (vv. 7, 11). When unwelcome change causes you to feel alone, bask in the comforting presence of God.
- Tell yourself the truth: God is ever-present; he is with me right now. No matter how threatened change makes me feel, I am never alone.
Truth Five: God Is in Control (v. 7).
The title “the Lord of hosts” may also be translated “the Lord almighty.” It “conveys the idea of the sovereignty of God over all powers in the universe…This word occurs 486 times in the Old Testament as a special name for God which speaks of his sovereign rule over the entire created sphere.”[i] By nature, we tend to trust our own ability to control our future and even our immediate circumstances. Biblical faith, however, requires a positive loss of control, the relinquishing of our supposed authority, the willing surrender of our control to God who possesses ultimate control. God is sovereign. We are not. Not only is he sovereign, but he is also wise and good. When unwelcome change causes you to sense that things are out of control, submit your anxious heart to God’s sovereign rule.
- Tell yourself the truth: God’s master plan is sometimes perplexing and painful, but everything he does is for my good.
Truth Six: God Is Your Protector (vv. 7, 11).
The word repeated in verses seven and eleven is fortress. It comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “to be inaccessibly high.” Again, Lawson writes, “A fortress was a lofty place built on high elevations such as cliffs (Isa. 33:16) and sometimes was surrounded with fortified walls (Isa. 25:12). When used in the figurative sense, as in verses 7 and 11, it means that God was to the psalmist a stronghold of protection, his sure defense from the assaults of his enemies.”[ii]
Looking up is also a word picture found in Psalm 121.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
When unwelcome change makes you feel unsafe, look up with the eyes of childlike faith to God for protection.
- Tell yourself the truth: God is seated in the high places. He sees and knows every real and potential danger that may come to me. Therefore, he will defend me.
Change is hard. But you can trust God who is both unchanging and unchangeable. He will never leave you or forsake you in a time of trouble. His good and perfect will is being carried out even while you experience unexpected and unwelcome change. God’s unchanging nature is upheld by James, one of the half-brothers of Jesus.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.(James 1:17, emphasis added)
You can trust the One who never changes.
[i] Steve Lawson, Psalms 1-75 (Nashville, TV: Holman Old Testament Publishing), p. 248.
[ii]Lawson, p. 248.