To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth
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.
God saves His church in the maelstrom of earth-shaking trials and tribulations.
We feel peace in the midst of turbulent times. As we ride the eighty-foot waves in a tiny row boat, we feel a great peace come over our hearts because we know that God is in the boat with us. We are absolutely assured of God’s presence, His favor, and His sovereign control over all things.
Verses 1–3. Everybody turns to something when they face difficulty and trial. They run to a refuge of some sort or another. Some resort to food and drink, while others will turn to friends and family for comfort. But for the Christian, his refuge is ultimately found in God. When faced with the most severe trials of our lives, we turn in faith to our God, who is a “very present help in trouble.”
Though towering mountains topple into the ocean or nuclear warheads take out half of our country’s population, we will not fear. The text mentions earthquakes. After many years of living in cities or in the countryside, people will trust that the ground on which they built their houses will remain solid and firm. But this is not always the case. Earthquakes can shake the ground under them and smash their houses in mere seconds. If we cannot rely on the “solid” ground, on what can we rely? For those of us who believe the words of this psalm, our conception of God keeps us strong. We truly believe that God made the ground and controls the earthquakes, and that He will always deliver His people in the day of trouble.
God’s people see the chaos and upheaval around them, and their response is Selah. This is a meditative break. As the world is coming apart, the Christian takes a short break, closes his eyes, and enjoys a peaceful reflection on his God.
Verses 4–7. Now the Psalmist brings up the city of God, which was Zion in the Old Testament and the church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. So when we read this passage, we apply these words to our own church today. Amidst the turmoil going on around us, the fires of martyrdom, and natural disasters and wars, God is busy taking care of us, His church.
A gentle, flowing river supplies the needs of Christ’s church. Many cities and towns are built on rivers that supply a constant flow of water for people and crops. Rivers are the life blood of these towns. In like manner, God’s grace sustains His church. In Ephesians 1, we find that Jesus is the head of all principalities and powers to the church. If Jesus gave His life for the church, of course He will continue to take care of it through the ages. In the chaos of the wars that rage between the cities of men, there is a calm, serene island that is protected and cared for by God Himself. He kindly ministers to His people by a river of joy and peace. It is the Holy Spirit that nurtures the life of the Church.
Verse 5 speaks of God’s special presence with His church. He is in the middle of her. Where two or three of Christ’s elders or apostles are gathered, says our Lord, He is there in the midst. We are completely assured that He will take care of His church. When we are in trouble, He will quickly come to our aid. Even as a child feels safe at night because his father is in the next room, we feel safe because God is home with us. For certainly God knows how to take care of us. This is better than having the whole military of the United States in our basement.
Meanwhile, pagan nations and empires fight their wars, striving for power over each other. It seems like the church is caught in the middle of the conflict. So in the chaos of the clashing of arms, God clears his throat and the whole earth melts. God’s perspective of these wars between the empires of this world is not unlike the way we view conflicts between colonies of ants in the back yard. Apply a spray or two from a bottle of poison and the whole war is over! In this way, we can see God’s hand still protecting His own people through the millenniums. One example of this is obvious in the wars or the nations that raged during the turbulent years of the Protestant Reformation. At the same time that the corrupt “holy Roman Empire” was fighting the Muslim advances into Europe, the Lord was growing a mighty reformation in the church and protecting it from persecution in Germany, Switzerland, and France.
Verses 8–11. We look at the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome, and the collapse of the modern Soviet Union in amazement.
What happened to these incredibly powerful empires? These were empires that opposed God’s people and He destroyed them. Any earthly power that refuses to bow the knee to the King of kings will eventually find itself desolate like a desert. Worldly empires grow strong by coercive power and by war. But in the end, God destroys their war machines, further demonstrating the futility of such efforts.
Verse 10 delivers an exhortation to all of us, as the Lord tells His people, “Be still and know that I am God.” We are warned not to panick or even be distracted by all of these earthquakes and wars about us. When we fear earthly powers and attribute the devastation of calamities and disasters to nature or fate, we are dishonoring God. Let us cease from dwelling upon the earthquakes and the wars in the Middle East. It is God who is in control of all these things: it is God who is behind it all. At the same time that He brings devastation in the earth, He brings peace to it through His church. Therefore, our attention should be on God. Take a moment of hushed silence, and stand in awe of what He has done and what He is doing in the earth.
God’s sovereign purposes work such that He will get the glory from the heathen tribes of the earth. Wicked tribes that once killed and cannibalized each other are now exalting the name of God.
Finally, the psalm ends with the cry of faith, “The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge!” As we come to believe this statement, we will enjoy peace and courage in the day of monumental trial.
1. The church is precious to Christ and it ought to be precious to us. When we become part of a local body of believers (“where two or three are gathered together”), Jesus is there in the midst of us. It is true that Jesus loves us individually, but He also loves His church. As we bear one another’s burdens, or when we carry each other’s troubles to God as a corporate body, He will rush to our aid. To abandon the church is to abandon the city of refuge, the glad city of God—where God dwells. Many times our prayers are not answered until they are shared with the church. That may be because God works in a special way through His church.
2. While worldly empires expand by military force and then burn up into gigantic heaps of ashes, Jesus grows His kingdom by building peaceful, godly homes and churches that make up a godly society. He brings peace by changing hearts and causing us to be loving, patient, and kind. When we engage in faithful and loving biblical conflict resolution, we are doing what the ungodly cannot do. The church should be a place of joy and peace.
1. This psalm describes in word pictures the disturbances about us and within us. Yet following these descriptions of wild chaos, there is an abrupt pause in the recitation signaled by the word Selah. This is a quiet lull. Do you see how this moment of peaceful silence is a quiet testimony to the Christian’s trust in God?
2. This psalm is emboldening. How often our trials and struggles can intimidate us! Worship in the form of psalms like this one should strengthen our faith and fill us with courage for the battle. Did we feel that we were filled with courage today as we read this psalm?
1. What does Selah mean?
2. How does this psalm teach the sovereignty of God?
3. What is the city of God?
4. In what situations might we be inclined to go to this psalm?
5. What does God do to the war machines of the empires of the earth? Name a few empires that have faded away.
6. Give two examples of Faith psalms.
1. In what sort of situations in life might this psalm be very encouraging to the people of God? What sorts of things could happen to this country that might provide a great context for this psalm?
2. Does peace characterize our church? Is there a stark contrast between our peaceful families and churches and the incessant conflicts and wars among the heathen? The Book of Psalms