Reflections on Psalm 46
God, our refuge and strengthMarch 25, 2020 - J. Scott Duvall
It’s the middle of March 2020, and the coronavirus is beginning to hit the U.S. in a big way. We’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that our hope doesn’t depend on this world, especially when trials ambush us. But we need to be reminded and comforted. We need to hear from the Lord. In such times we often turn to the book of Psalms. Our pastor preached on Psalm 46 when this crisis was beginning and encouraged us to memorize it. I learn best by reading and writing. I hope my reflections will encourage you and those you love. Grace and peace.
Psalm 46:1-2a (Reflection 1)
“1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. 2 Therefore we will not be afraid, …” (CSB)
God is our refuge, our safe place, our retreat, the place we go when we are afraid. And there is a lot of fear going around. God is also our strength or “power.” This is the same word that Jesus uses in in Acts 1:8 when he promises to give us “power” with the coming of the Holy Spirit who now lives within us. But a place of refuge and a source of strength wouldn’t do any good if unavailable. It’s easy to think of things that might help but they are often a world away. You need safety and strength that are close by. Thankfully, God is also our ever-present Helper, the one who cares enough to share his unlimited resources with us. He is always near, nearer to us than we are to ourselves it seems.
When life goes along as usual, we don’t think much about how vulnerable we are. We take so much for granted, even the chance to be together. Then a crisis hits and everything changes. The “trouble” that the Psalmist speaks of is the word for “tribulation” or “trial” or “distress.” We are quite literally going through a tribulation right now. The Old Testament has two versions – Hebrew OT and a Greek OT. Most of the first Christians would have read from the Greek OT. It quite literally says this – “God is our refuge and strength, a Helper in trials/tribulations, the ones which find us exceedingly.” In other words, these trials are extreme and terrible and it’s almost like they are chasing us. In the rest of verse two, the Psalmist explains how terrible they are. That’s what we are facing now – a chaotic, natural catastrophe of a great magnitude. In exactly this kind of situation, we find our even greater Helper, our God, who is our refuge and strength. He is ever-present.
Prayer: God, please make your comforting presence and your sustaining power real to us now. Show us you are near and strong for us in a hundred different ways, small ways and big ways. Thank you that you promise your presence and power when trials find us, not just our neighbors, but us. You will never leave us or forsake us. You are with us and for us. Thank you! Amen.
By Dr. J. Scott Duvall, J.C. and Mae Fuller Professor of Biblical Studies. Read more from Dr. Duvall's Psalm 46 series.