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Be Still and Know: Exploring the Depths of Psalm 46

In this article, we will examine a commentary on Psalm 46. We will go through each verse and see what God’s word has to say through this powerful Psalm! So, grab your Bible and let’s dig in…

There’s a common misconception that David wrote all the Psalms. Though he wrote a massive number of them (73, to be exact), many Psalms written by others are just as valuable for us today.

Psalm 46 is one of them. In fact, it is one of the oldest Psalms, written at the time of the exodus of Israel from Egypt.

It’s a pretty loaded Psalm with plenty of symbolism and poetic phrases. So, what does Psalm 46 tell us about God and our lives as believers? Let’s examine it verse by verse.

Key Takeaways From
PSalm 46

• God is our refuge, strength, and very present help in trouble (v. 1)

• We need not fear though the earth and mountains be in turmoil, for God is unshakable (vv. 2-3)

• Where God dwells, He brings happiness like a river (v. 4)

• God is in control over the nations and can end wars (vv. 6-9)

• We are to “be still” and know that God is God who will be exalted (v. 10)

• The Lord of Hosts is with us as our fortress (v. 11)

Commentary On Psalm 46

Psalm 46 Commentary and Bible Study

Like many others, Psalm 46 starts by listing its credits. Verse 1 tells us a few things:

  • It is written for the choirmaster, meaning this song was intended for a group of singers.

  • It is intended to be sung “according to Alamoth.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “Alamoth” (H5961) means “girls.”

    It was probably intended to be sung by sopranos or high voices.

  • Depending on your translation, Psalm 46 was written by or written for the Sons of Korah.

    These were a group of three Levites named Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph, tasked with leading worship services and guarding the Tabernacle while the Israelites were moving through the desert to the promised land.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge…

After the introduction, verse 1 goes on to tell us the following:

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

Mighty fortress and refuge

God fulfills three roles according to this portion. He is a refuge, He is strength, and He is a very present help.

The word “refuge” is “machaseh” in Hebrew (H4268), which literally means “shelter.” God is the One we can go to for protection.

מַחֲסֶה machăçeh, makh-as-eh’; or מַחְסֶה machçeh; from H2620; a shelter (literally or figuratively):—hope, (place of) refuge, shelter, trust.

The word “strength” is the Hebrew word “oz” (H5797). It refers to might, force, and physical power. So, God not only provides shelter; He also gives us the strength to fight. 

עֹז ʻôz, oze; or (fully) עוֹז ʻôwz; from H5810; strength in various applications (force, security, majesty, praise):—boldness, loud, might, power, strength, strong.

There’s an old cartoon trope of a little boy who’s afraid of bullies until his father shows up. Hiding behind his father’s back, the boy doesn’t hesitate to show strength by throwing his fists at the bullies.

That’s because his father gives him shelter and strength. That’s how we can be when we seek shelter with God.

These two aspects of God giving us shelter and strength make God a very present help when we face trouble. If we seek shelter with Him, He will help us by protecting us and giving us strength.

Psalm 46:2-3 – Therefore we will not fear…

“Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.” - Psalm 46:2-3

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.

This scripture tells us not to base our faith on what we see in the world around us, no matter how utterly hopeless it seems. Even if the earth rips open or mountains drop into the sea, it does not change the fact that God is our shelter and strength. 

It’s so easy for us to look at the world or our circumstances and ask, “Where is God in all of this?” But God’s power and presence are not determined by our circumstances.

He stands outside it, and with His grace, so can we. There’s no reason for us to be thrown around by the world around us if we seek shelter with Him.

Psalm 46:4 – There is a river whose streams make glad…

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.”

streams make glad the city of God

After mentioning the tumultuous sea in verse 3, this verse contrasts it with the symbol of God as a strong, calm river that brings happiness to the people who live in His city.

Though many interpret this to refer to Jerusalem, we must remember that the Psalm was written before Israel entered the promised land, so Jerusalem wasn’t the city of God yet.

This refers to the people of God, not a physical place. Where God can flow and make His habitation, whether it’s in a congregation or our private lives, He will bring happiness.

Psalm 46:5 – God is within her, she will not fall…

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”

God holding up the Holy City

Again, we can see the reference to the indwelling of God. Where He is allowed to be “in the midst,” He will ensure that His people will not be moved.

That’s quite a tall order when the earth is opening, and the seas are in turmoil with mountains dropping into them.

And yet God is still promising that they will not be moved. That’s because He is unshakeable.

Then the Psalm says that God will help “when morning dawns.”

That’s one of the frustrating parts of our faith; we know that God will help us, but it doesn’t always happen when we expect it to. We just have to trust that God will help, not because we can see the evidence, but because God is always faithful to His Word.

Psalm 46:6-7 – Nations are in uproar…

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.”

This verse speaks of God’s power over the kingdoms of the world. Even though nations rage, God simply speaks, and the world follows His instruction.

That’s the power of the God Who is our refuge. Why should we fear the things happening around us? God sees it all and is still in control.

Psalm 46:8-9 – Come and see what the Lord has done…

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.”

broken weapons as depicted in Pslam 46

We are invited to watch as God works. Interestingly, it’s almost as if the Psalmist tells us to stop watching the world around us and focus on what God is doing, which is good advice.

These verses tell us that God can bring an end to war. He can destroy weapons and bring peace through His miracle-working power.

We also know that Jesus said we would have war as we move closer to the end times (Matthew 24:6-13), so even though God can bring peace, we also know that war is one part of the things that must happen.

But we are told not to watch the war and be overcome with fear and panic (as Jesus also said in Matthew 24). We should keep our eyes on what God is doing and trust Him.

Psalm 46:10 – Be still, and know that I am God…

Here we have a direct quote spoken by God. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The words “be still” are in stark contrast with “the nations rage” in verse 6. Whenever we look at social media, we see people falling into panic and complaining about the state of the world.

They rage and cry out. But we, as believers, are told to “be still.” But how can we be calm when all these things are happening around us?

Because we know that God is God. He is the almighty, all-powerful, and overarching authority over the universe, and in the end, He will be exalted among all the nations and over all the earth. He already sees the finishing line and knows what will happen.

Psalm 46:11 – The Lord of hosts is with us…

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.”

After the reminder of who God is, we are reminded that He is with us to be our fortress and protection. The One Who speaks and the world melts, who commands, and all wars end is on our side when we seek shelter with Him. We need nothing more than to be still and know He is God.

It’s so easy to lose hope when we scroll through social media or the news and see all the negative and ungodly things happening worldwide.

Sometimes it really feels like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, but the next day, we see something even more ridiculous or devastating.

But Psalm 46 reminds us that God is still in control. He has the power to end it all right now, and we know He will eventually do that.

But He doesn’t tell us to wait for that. Instead, God reminds us that He can, but that we are to focus on the things He is already doing.

We should find shelter with Him and live in His protection. He already knows the end, so we can rest in the knowledge that He is able.

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