PSALM 46 Title: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (also called “A Song upon Alamoth.”)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

May 29, 2015
Tom Lowe

PSALM 46

Title: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (also called “A Song upon Alamoth.”)
(To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah)

Theme: God is our refuge, a song of the Millennium


Psalm 46 (KJV)

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 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.
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.



Introduction

The next three psalms (Psalm 46, 47, and 48) form a little cluster of prophetic pictures of the kingdom that is coming on this earth. Psalm 45 presented the coming of the King to establish His kingdom here upon this earth, the millennial kingdom. The following three psalms set before us this kingdom. Psalm 46 extols the adequacy of God in facing threats from nature and the nations.

The historical occasion that prompted the writing of this psalm cannot be determined for certain. But, according to some Bible scholars, it is highly probable that it was composed when Jerusalem1 was besieged by Sennacherib’s hosts (Isaiah 37). If this is true, the psalm was probably penned by Hezekiah, perhaps by Isaiah, perhaps by an unknown poet laureate of Judah. But there is little doubt it was written to immortalize the triumph of the angel of the living God over the mighty army of the foe. It fits every era in which the Church is in danger from her foes and it foretells the final destruction of Antichrist.

One other interpretation has been suggested for this psalm. This view links the psalm with the annual temple ritual in which the Davidic king was shown in all his human helplessness to be at the mercy of the powers of the earth, until the Lord intervened to save him and destroy his foes. Such a dramatic ritual would serve to keep fresh the nature of kinship in Israel. Since all three interpretations are hypothetical, the psalm offers an excellent opportunity in which to try out their respective merits.

This psalm is “To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A song upon Alamoth.” The word almah is used in Isaiah 7:14 which says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bare a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Evidently the word Alamoth2 means “with virgins” and in this instance speaks of maidens’’ voices. This psalm is one of deliverance and will refer us to another great song of deliverance and victory that was sung when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. We are told that they sang the song of Moses, but who led the singing? I don’t think Moses was any better at song leading than I am, and I am no good at all; so Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Moses and Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand and led the singing. The women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. As Moses and the children of Israel sang, “. . . Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:21). So the song leader and the soloist on that occasion was Miriam, the sister of Moses. It was the celebration of a great victory.

Now when the future remnant of Israel is delivered from their enemies by the coming of Christ, they will celebrate a great victory. It is important to see this psalm in its proper setting. It belongs after Psalm 45 and with Psalms 47 and 48. To consider these psalms apart from each other is like the little boy who was asked to give a definition of a lie. In his explanation the little fellow put together two Scripture verses that were totally unrelated. He said, “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, but a very present help in time of trouble.” He misinterpreted the Scripture. We smile at the little boy, but we do the same thing by taking this psalm out of context.

Psalm 46 is a wonderful soprano solo. It is not the blues but a hallelujah chorus in which we see the sufficiency of God, and security of God, and the supremacy of God.

Commentary

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

“God is our refuge and strength.” He is also “abundantly available for help in tight places” (NASB). This is a very wonderful pronouncement. Someone may challenge it and ask, “But how do you know it is true?” Well, it is true because the Bible says so. But it is more than theory with me. I have tried it and found it to be true. We are told, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him” (Psalm 34:8). Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17, AKJV). In times of trouble you can count on God. Christians fail to trust God in times of trouble because they know nothing about His sufficiency. They have not learned that He if sufficient. We need a God who does not fail us. We never know how near God can be until we are in trouble. God is sufficient in any circumstance.

The word for “refuge” literally means “a place to which to go quietly for protection.” The mighty God of creation is our “refuge,” the One to whom we can go quietly for protection when disaster is on the way. That is how personal it is; our “refuge” is powerful as well as personal.

God had always been Israel’s strength ever since Moses had led them out of the clutches of Pharaoh in Egypt. Consequently He could now be trusted to continue to be like that, even if the mountains below the ocean (v. 2), wonderful symbols of permanency, were to shake with an unheard of earthquake, causing a consequent unheard of flood. For God is Immanuel, meaning “God is with us.” Thus, if God is not moved, then, since our refuge is in Him we shall not be moved either.

“A very present help in trouble.” The word for “trouble” literally means “in tight places.” Who has never been in a tight place? We all have at one time or another—don’t you agree?


2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

“Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed” (changed or changed hands)—the removal of the earth would be the most extreme circumstances I can think of. Has the earth ever been taken out from under you? Have you ever been suspended in space? Most people think they are the only ones who have ever had trouble. Everyone has trouble, but God’s people find God sufficient in time of trouble. Psalm 46 was Marten Luther’s favorite psalm; it became known as “Luther’s Psalm.” When he wrote that great Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” he probably had this psalm in mind. God is our “refuge,” and our “strength,” and a “very present help” when we are “in trouble.” Men down through the ages have found this to be true.

“God is our strength” and our “help,” a God all sufficient to us; “Therefore will not we fear.” Those that have a holy, reverential “fear” of God do not need to be afraid of the power of hell or “earth.” “If God be for us, who can be against us”; who can do us any harm? It is our duty and our privilege, to be fearless; it is an evidence of a clear conscience, of an honest heart, and of a lively faith in God and His providence and promise: “we will not fear, though the earth be removed,” though all our creature-confidence fail us and sink us; though that which should support us threatens to swallow us up.” As long as we keep close to God, and have him for us, we will not fear, for we have no cause to fear.

The word for “earth” here can also be translated “land,” and that word for “removed” can be translated “change” or “change hands.” So the verse could be rendered: “Therefore will not we fear though the land change hands.” In other words, our refuge in God is so secure that we have nothing to “fear” though invasions come. And that is what had come to Judah. Although the enemy invader threatened the city, the city was just as safe and secure, as before. If “the earth be removed,” those who have laid up their treasures on earth, and set their hearts upon it, have good reason to fear; but not those who have laid up for themselves treasures in heaven, and who expect to be made happy when the earth and all the works associated with it shall be burnt up. Some Bible commentators think of this psalm as an apocalyptic or eschatological psalm, representing “the destruction of the earth at the end of the present world-order.

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