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God’s Word for You

Psalm 46:4-11

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 28, 2015

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
      the holy place where the Most High dwells.

The word for “river” here is nahar, a river fed by springs or some other source that flows all year round. Since there is no river like this in or near Jerusalem, we realize that this city of God is not the physical city of Jerusalem, but the spiritual Jerusalem. It is the Church. This is the holy place where the Most High dwells. Paul said, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
      God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
      he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

In verse 2, the mountains might “fall” (Hebrew mot) into the heart of the sea. But God cannot mot “fall,” even if kingdoms mot “fall.” The word mot can mean totter, shake, skip, or fall—but even if all of these things can happen to God’s creation, even the mighty mountains, none of them can happen to God. Christ might fall down in the streets of Jerusalem under the weight of a cross and our sins, and he might allow himself to be overcome by death, but he has risen from the dead, and he will never fall. He lives forever, and “he lifts his voice, and the earth melts.”

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
      the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This refrain is repeated again at the end of the Psalm. The word translated “Almighty” by the NIV is often translated “(of) Armies” in other translations. It’s the Hebrew term sabaoth “armies, host.” It’s a testimony to God’s omnipotence, his ability to do anything and everything, from the creation of the universe to the repair of a bruised shin. This is the God in whom we take refuge. This is why the term Der Herr Zebaoth appears in the second verse of Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God,  “(of) Sabaoth Lord” in early English translations of that hymn.

8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
      the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
      to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
        I will be exalted among the nations,
        I will be exalted in the earth.”

When God says, “Be still!” he is talking to the nations making war, and to anyone threatening his people. The Lord protected Noah and his family from destruction, he protected his people who were taken into exile in Babylon, and on and on. The Lord even protected Cain, guilty of sin, from being put to death out of revenge by giving him the mark that protected him (Genesis 4:15). When Luther’s life was threatened by the Catholic inquisition in 1518-1519, the Lord permitted the death of Maximillian, the Holy Roman Emperor, which distracted the inquisition and allowed Luther’s life to continue. Then when he was summoned before the Diet (council) of Worms in 1521, his life was once again spared when his own prince kidnapped him (to keep him from being murdered) and housed him safely in the obscure castle called the Wartburg to keep him safe. God is exalted above all. Human weapons become useless before God.

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
         the God of Jacob is our fortress. (NIV)

Let’s conclude with Luther’s hymn based on this Psalm. It was first published in 1529, when Luther was 45 or 46 years old. This is the translation from the Pennsylvania Church Book of 1868, used in the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal.

1. A mighty Fortress is our God,
      A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from every need
  That hath us now o’ertaken.
The old evil foe
  Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might
  Are his dread arms in fight;
  On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done,
      Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One,
  Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
  Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord,
  And there’s none other God;
  He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill,
      All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
  They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
  Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
  He’s judged; the deed is done;
  One little word can fell him.

4. The Word they still shall let remain
      Nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain
  With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life,
   Goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone,
  They yet have nothing won;
  The Kingdom ours remaineth.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.