June 27 – Psalm 46


“There is no more proper response to really seeing God as he is—transcendent beyond all imagination—than to be still and adore.” – Tim and Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus

Psalm 46 is, in part, about Zion, the “city of God” mentioned in verse 4. Once the Temple of Solomon was finished in Jerusalem (c. 960 BC) it cemented the role of Israel’s capital city as a center both of political rule and of worship. This wasn’t just where a human king reigned—this was where God himself reigned. And Jerusalem was a majestic metropolis; sprawling across the twin heights of Mount Zion and Mount Moriah, Jerusalem was situated in a beautiful, strategically defensible locale, surrounded by an imposing fortified wall that guarded the sacred city.

But Psalm 46 is primarily about God, the one who actually protects Zion. Considering this psalm was sung in the Temple in Jerusalem, you might have expected the authors to say “Zion is our fortress,” since it literally was a fortress city. But rather than putting their hope in a city or nation-state, the psalmist sings the better reality: God himself is an unshakeable refuge. He is the one who defends his people and routes their enemies. Though the earth melt away, though Jerusalem itself crumble and fall, the unchangeable God of the Universe will forever be a refuge.

One of the many interesting things about Psalm 46 is the progression of imagery. It starts with earthquakes and upheaval in the first stanza (v.1-3), then highlights the solid city of God in the midst of this upheaval (v.4-7), and finally tells us to “be still” (v.8-11). This final command to “be still” occurs right after the war language of verses 8-9, which describe the sort of situation in which you would never actually want to be still. Imagine you’re a Jerusalemite and there’s a war going on right outside the city gate—you would be jumping up to go help in some way, or pacing around your house praying for deliverance. In the middle of conflict, people are rarely still.

But “be still” is only half the command. The Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Knowing God and his character, including his perfect control over all things and his perfect goodness, is the means by which we can truly have peace in the midst of upheaval. But note that you have to be at peace with God to have peace in God. Deliverance from sin has to supersede deliverance from earthly troubles, so everything that is true in Psalm 46 is true because of Jesus’ work on our behalf to make peace for you. We’ll turn to Romans 5:1-5 in our discussion to help us see that. But note that Psalm 46 gives no prerequisite for finding refuge in the Father—we don’t have to accomplish anything to earn that peace. We can say, “therefore we will not fear,” not because of our sufficiency but because of Jesus’. And praise God that we can! In our lack, Jesus is our abundance. In our weakness, Jesus is our strength. In our distress, Jesus is our fortress.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Psalm 46 for us?

• What stood out to you in this psalm?

• What do you think it means for God to be a “refuge and strength”?

• Could someone read Romans 5:1-5? Based on that passage, how does being at peace with God lead to peace in this world?

• Turn back to Psalm 46. What difficulties or troubles in your life does this psalm bring to mind?

• Thinking of verse 10, what do you think it means for you personally to “be still and know” in the middle of those difficulties?

• Looking ahead towards your week/weekend, what’s one way you would like “be still and know that [He is] God”?