May 29, 2015

Tom Lowe




Title: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (also called “A Song upon Alamoth.”)

(To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah)


Theme: God is our refuge, a song of the Millennium



Psalm 46 (KJV)


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.






The next three psalms (Psalm 46, 47, and 48) form a little cluster of prophetic pictures of the kingdom that is coming on this earth.  Psalm 45 presented the coming of the King to establish His kingdom here upon this earth, the millennial kingdom.  The following three psalms set before us this kingdom.  Psalm 46 extols the adequacy of God in facing threats from nature and the nations.


The historical occasion that prompted the writing of this psalm cannot be determined for certain.  But, according to some Bible scholars, it is highly probable that it was composed when Jerusalem[1] was besieged by Sennacherib’s hosts (Isaiah 37).  If this is true, the psalm was probably penned by Hezekiah, perhaps by Isaiah, perhaps by an unknown poet laureate of Judah.  But there is little doubt it was written to immortalize the triumph of the angel of the living God over the mighty army of the foe.  It fits every era in which the Church is in danger from her foes and it foretells the final destruction of Antichrist.


One other interpretation has been suggested for this psalm.  This view links the psalm with the annual temple ritual in which the Davidic king was shown in all his human helplessness to be at the mercy of the powers of the earth, until the Lord intervened to save him and destroy his foes.  Such a dramatic ritual would serve to keep fresh the nature of kinship in Israel.  Since all three interpretations are hypothetical, the psalm offers an excellent opportunity in which to try out their respective merits.


This psalm is “To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A song upon Alamoth.” The word almah is used in Isaiah 7:14 which says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bare a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Evidently the word Alamoth[2] means “with virgins” and in this instance speaks of maidens’’ voices.  This psalm is one of deliverance and will refer us to another great song of deliverance and victory that was sung when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea.  We are told that they sang the song of Moses, but who led the singing?  I don’t think Moses was any better at song leading than I am, and I am no good at all; so Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Moses and Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand and led the singing.  The women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.  As Moses and the children of Israel sang, “. . .  Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:21).  So the song leader and the soloist on that occasion was Miriam, the sister of Moses.  It was the celebration of a great victory. 


Now when the future remnant of Israel is delivered from their enemies by the coming of Christ, they will celebrate a great victory.  It is important to see this psalm in its proper setting.  It belongs after Psalm 45 and with Psalms 47 and 48.  To consider these psalms apart from each other is like the little boy who was asked to give a definition of a lie.  In his explanation the little fellow put together two Scripture verses that were totally unrelated.  He said, “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, but a very present help in time of trouble.” He misinterpreted the Scripture.  We smile at the little boy, but we do the same thing by taking this psalm out of context.


Psalm 46 is a wonderful soprano solo.  It is not the blues but a hallelujah chorus in which we see the sufficiency of God, and security of God, and the supremacy of God.






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


“God is our refuge and strength.” He is also “abundantly available for help in tight places” (NASB).  This is a very wonderful pronouncement.  Someone   may challenge it and ask, “But how do you know it is true?” Well, it is true because the Bible says so.  But it is more than theory with me.  I have tried it and found it to be true.  We are told, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him” (Psalm 34:8).  Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17, AKJV).  In times of trouble you can count on God.  Christians fail to trust God in times of trouble because they know nothing about His sufficiency.  They have not learned that He if sufficient.  We need a God who does not fail us.  We never know how near God can be until we are in trouble.  God is sufficient in any circumstance.


The word for “refuge” literally means “a place to which to go quietly for protection.” The mighty God of creation is our “refuge,” the One to whom we can go quietly for protection when disaster is on the way. That is how personal it is; our “refuge” is powerful as well as personal.


God had always been Israel’s strength ever since Moses had led them out of the clutches of Pharaoh in Egypt.  Consequently He could now be trusted to continue to be like that, even if the mountains below the ocean (v. 2), wonderful symbols of permanency, were to shake with an unheard of earthquake, causing a consequent unheard of flood.  For God is Immanuel, meaning “God is with us.” Thus, if God is not moved, then, since our refuge is in Him we shall not be moved either.


“A very present help in trouble.” The word for “trouble” literally means “in tight places.” Who has never been in a tight place?  We all have at one time or another—don’t you agree?



2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;


“Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed” (changed or changed hands)—the removal of the earth would be the most extreme circumstances I can think of.  Has the earth ever been taken out from under you?  Have you ever been suspended in space?  Most people think they are the only ones who have ever had trouble.  Everyone has trouble, but God’s people find God sufficient in time of trouble.  Psalm 46 was Marten Luther’s favorite psalm; it became known as “Luther’s Psalm.” When he wrote that great Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” he probably had this psalm in mind.  God is our “refuge,” and our “strength,” and a “very present help” when we are “in trouble.”  Men down through the ages have found this to be true. 


“God is our strength” and our “help,” a God all sufficient to us; “Therefore will not we fear.” Those that have a holy, reverential “fear” of God do not need to be afraid of the power of hell or “earth.”  “If God be for us, who can be against us”; who can do us any harm?  It is our duty and our privilege, to be fearless; it is an evidence of a clear conscience, of an honest heart, and of a lively faith in God and His providence and promise: “we will not fear, though the earth be removed, though all our creature-confidence fail us and sink us; though that which should support us threatens to swallow us up.” As long as we keep close to God, and have him for us, we will not fear, for we have no cause to fear.


The word for “earth” here can also be translated “land,” and that word for “removed” can be translated “change” or “change hands.” So the verse could be rendered: “Therefore will not we fear though the land change hands.” In other words, our refuge in God is so secure that we have nothing to “fear” though invasions come.  And that is what had come to Judah.  Although the enemy invader threatened the city, the city was just as safe and secure, as before.  If “the earth be removed,” those who have laid up their treasures on earth, and set their hearts upon it, have good reason to fear; but not those who have laid up for themselves treasures in heaven, and who expect to be made happy when the earth and all the works associated with it shall be burnt up.  Some Bible commentators think of this psalm as an apocalyptic or eschatological psalm, representing “the destruction of the earth at the end of the present world-order.


“Mountains” stand for the most stable things on which we have ever wanted to place our confidence.  Therefore, when “mountains” move (or) shake (or) Totter (or) slip (Isaiah 24:19, 20; 54:10; Haggai 2:6), people take notice, and become fearful.  These are poetic allusions to earthquakes.  Since “the earth” and “mountains” are regarded by men as symbols of stability, when they “dance” great terror normally ensues.  But when the most stable becomes unstable there should be “no fear” because of the unmatched stability of God. 


“The mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” may either represent the apocalyptic destruction and renovation of the earth (2 Peter 3:10-13) or may be a hypothetical statement of the most terrible disasters that could be imagined.  In either case, people who find in God their “refuge and strength . . . will not . . .  fear.”


3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.


In a few bold strokes of his pen the psalmist provides us a picture of a land in upheaval.  Earthquakes rip it apart, the very mountains seem to stagger into the sea, and the sea responds by sending up massive tides and angry waves.  It is a vivid, symbolic way of telling us not to fear even insurrections and invasions.  Neither natural nor national disaster can touch the refuge—the strength we have in God.  “There, what do you think of that!”


The nations of the world are churning with political, economic and social confusion and trouble of unprecedented intensity is enveloping the world.  The psalmist compares that with the roaring of the restless sea, which may strike with panic, the heart which has not got into the protection (safety) of its refuge—God.


“Selah”appears in many of the Psalms; but, the meaning of this word is very unclear. It is supposed to have marked certain pauses, or rests, when the Psalms were sung, or occasionally to have indicated certain special points of emphasis.



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.


“There is a river[3], the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.” Some expositors consider this river symbolic.  Matthew Henry, in his “Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible,” states, “The “river” alludes to the graces and consolations of the Holy Spirit, which flow through every part of the church, and through God’s sacred ordinances, gladdening the heart of every believer.  It is promised that the church shall never be moved.  If God is in our hearts, by His dwelling richly in us, we shall be established, we shall be helped; let us trust and not be afraid.” Personally, I believe the river is a reality that speaks of the supply and the refreshment that God gives even today, and that river is the WORD OF GOD.  In Psalm 1 we were told that the blessed man was planted by the rivers of water, which is the Word of God.  Also the Scriptures mention a river that flows out from the house of God (Ezekiel 47).  And in the Book of the Revelation John saw “. . .  A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God . . .” (Revelation 22:1).  God’s word and ordinances are Rivers and streams with which God makes his saints glad on cloudy and dark days.


“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad” (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:1-2[4]).  In opposition to the raging of the sea is the smooth flow of the peaceful river.  Alone among great cities, Jerusalem lacked a river; but God Himself was all to her that a river was to ordinary cities (Isaiah 33:21[5])—and more, for He is the fountain of life and refreshment, the “river” of mercy and goodness.  The “river” throughout Scripture, from Eden to the New Jerusalem, is a symbol of the presence of God.


There were no rivers to bring water into Jerusalem (Zion, the city of God).  But just outside the eastern wall, high up, there was a natural spring which they called Gihon, which means “gusher.” But if the city suffered a siege, the water from the spring remained beyond the reach of the city’s inhabitants.  So that is why Hezekiah built (or perhaps renovated) his tunnel in order to feed the waters of Gihon into the Pool of Siloam.  Gihon was a marvel, a gift from God.  Its waters, which came gushing out, must have come from below the earth.  It would seem that the King of the waters both above and below the earth must be the real ruler of the “river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.” This “living” water, as running water is called in Hebrew, can come only from the living God, the giver of life.  So even the wrath of the nations cannot move the city that possesses this living water.  Jeremiah, who lived a century later than Isaiah, makes good use of this “living” stream in a telling parable (Jeremiah 2:13[6]), comparing God to its fountains of living waters.


“The holy place of the tabernacles of the most High,” i.e., ‘of the tabernacle,’ the plural form in place of the singular, as in Psalm 13:3; the place where God’s holy tabernacle resides.  “Most High” denotes the supremacy of God (Psalm 17:2[7]).




Verses 5-7: These verses stress the presence of God with His own, and the immediate effective control of God over the whole earth.



5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.


There was Someone “in the midst.”  We know, of course, who it is who takes up His place “in the midst” of His believing people.  We see Him in the midst of the temple scholars as a boy of 12; in the midst in the upper room after His resurrection; in the midst of the lampstands, walking among the churches in Revelation; in the midst of the throne; in the midst of the cherubim; in the midst of the four and twenty elders in the glory.  He is always “in the midst.” He says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them.” He is in the midst when God’s people gather together today; he was in the midst of Jerusalem when the ruthless Assyrians threaten the city from without.


“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” God has assured His church of His special presence with her and concern for her; His honor is deposited in her, He has set up his tabernacle in her and has undertaken the protection of it, and therefore “she shall not be moved,” that is, not destroyed, not removed, as the earth may be (v. 2).  The church shall survive the world, and be in bliss when the world is in ruins.  It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  This may also be applied by particular believers to themselves; if God be in our hearts, in the midst of us, by his word dwelling richly in us, we shall be recognized, we shall be helped; let us therefore trust and not be afraid; all is well, and will end well. God’s presence “in the midst” is our assurance of safety.


 “And that right early” is literally “at the appearing of the morning.” Distress, in the case of God’s people, is limited to a night’s stay.  But probably there is an allusion to Isaiah 37:36[8].  God is never too early, and He is never a moment too late. The morning of God’s eternal day will see the final vindication of His people.



6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.


“The heathen rage, the kingdoms were moved” is looking back on the convulsions of the Great Tribulation period.  At the darkest hour, when the enemy came in like a flood, “he uttered his voice, the earth melted.” “The heathen raged,” against God, and against His people.  “He uttered his voice”; either He thundered, or He spoke to them in His wrath, as it says in Psalm 2:5[9]. And what happens next should terrify those who have opposed Christ and His Word.  “The earth melted,” that is, all powers dissolved by His mere word (Psalm 75:3; Hosea 2:22); the inhabitants of the earth who were united against Zion were demoralized and incinerated.  Because of the presence of God, the forces of nature and the nations are no longer a threat to the people of God who dwell with Him.



7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.


Now the faithful remnant who were delivered sing His praises, “The Lord of hosts (that is, “The Lord of the angelic armies”) is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” If Jehovah is willing to be knownas “Jacob’s” God, then we too may claim Him, though I am just a worm (Isaiah 41:14).


And who is this mysterious resident?  The psalmist tells us: “The Lord of hosts is with us.” The Hebrew reader would instantly recognize Him.  The word for “with us” is immanu, from which comes the great messianic title Immanuel—“God with us!” This foe was defeated before he ever left Assyria!




Verses 8-11:A call to consider the works of the Lord.



8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.


By the time we get to verse 8 the tumult and catastrophes have ended.  Man’s day is over.  Now the King is seated upon His throne in Jerusalem.  We are invited to go out and examine the field of His victory.  Everywhere we look we see the wreckage of His defeated foes.  Everywhere lies the evidence of the awful judgments which have descended on the world during the Tribulation and at His glorious appearing.


“Behold . . . what desolations he hath made in the earth.” Yes it’s true, but out of these desolations he has brought forth his loving purpose for the salvation of mankind.



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.


Here we read how the living God does what a real King should do.  This is what the king on the throne in Jerusalem should do also.  Not make war, but make “wars to cease.”  Yet, to do so, in the end God must surely cause great convulsions—for evil is a serious power to be reckoned with.  Consequently “He breaks the bow and shatters the spear and burns the chariots in the fire.”


“He maketh wars to cease”—War in the Church and the world is doomed, and shall become an extinct art because of the Gospel of the love of God. The Messiah has come to the earth in judgment.  He is the One who makes “wars to cease, breaks the bow, cuts the spear, and burns the chariot in the fire.”  This picture sets before us the last days on “earth,” when the One who is “. . .  The stone cut out of the mountain without hands . . .” (whom Nebuchadnezzar saw in his vision in Daniel 2:45) will deal an annihilating blow upon this “earth.”  We are told that after the battle of Armageddon is over, the wreckage of warfare and the dead will be strewn everywhere.  The “works” of God ought to tell man that there is a God.  The prediction of peace on earth is here a blessed reality.  The King has come and has put down all unrighteousness on the “earth.”



10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.


Now the mood of the psalm has become quiet, and we are invited to come and behold; to stop, that is, “be still,” relax, think, learn, learn the meaning of the great events which God is performing as you look at the water gushing out of the tunnel into the Pool of Siloam and make the final discovery, that is, “know that I am God. We must cultivate the habit of stillness in our lives, if we want to detect and know God. 


“I will be exalted among the heathen [nations], I will be exalted in the earth”—this is God’s purpose for the “earth.” The heathen may rage against Him, but it is all in vain; He that sits in heaven, laughs at them; and, in spite of all their impotent malice against His name and honor, He will be exalted among the heathen and not merely among his own people, he will be exalted in the earth and not merely in the church.  Men will set up themselves, will have their own way and do their own will; but let them know that God will be exalted, He will have His way, do His own will, glorify His own name, and whenever they act proudly He will be above them and make them know that He is always high above them, that they are creature and He is Creator.


Sometimes God must force us to “be still.”  Many a person God has had to put flat on his back before he could be made to listen.  “Be still, and know that I am God.” We must “take time to be holy,” to get to know our Lord as a person with whom we delight to spend time.


“Be still, and know that I am God.” These twin commands to not panic and to recognize His sovereignty are probably directed to both His nation for comfort and all other nations for warning.  With the knowledge of this blessed truth we can be calm in time of trouble.  There are storms blowing outside today.  We are living in a mean old world, a wicked world.  Tremendous changes are taking place.  There are even convulsions in nature today.  He tells us to be calm in the time of storm.  Christ, you remember, was in a storm with His disciples, and He went to sleep.  When they roused Him from His sleep, He had more trouble calming the disciples than He had calming the storm.  Many of us are like those men.  We don’t know what it is to wait patiently before Him.


There can be no doubt that the one speaking is the Lord Jesus Christ—“I am God”—the only true and almighty God; and your gods are but dumb and impotent idols.  “I will be exalted,” that is, I will make Myself glorious by My great and wonderful works.


The moral of the psalm is apparent: because the Lord is God, let all men cease their efforts to usurp His sovereignty.



11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.


This sovereign “Lord . . . is with us,” sides with us, acts with us, and has promised He will never leave us.  “Hosts” may be against us, but we do not need to fear them if “The Lord of hosts (the hosts of heaven) is with us.” Just take a moment to let that sink in, “The Lord of hosts is with us!” The mighty Jehovah of all the jam-packed ranks of the angels is our strength.  One angel in one night could smite all Sennacherib’s host!  All the angels of God are mustard around His throne, they rush to do His bidding, they are sent to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation.  But the good news is better than that.  It does NOT say that these hosts are “with us.”  It says that “the Lord of hosts is with us!”  What more could we ask than that?


“The God of Jacob is our refuge!” The God who met Jacob when he had nothing and deserved nothing; who met Jacob in his backslidings and failures; who took that deceitful shepherd into His embrace and changed him into Israel. “The God of Jacob our refuge!” If Sennacherib had known that he would have kept his armies home.  “The God of Jacob” has been with us, and will be with us—has been, is, and will be “our refuge.”  The God of our ancestors is still the God we have today, still our “refuge,” our fortress!  “There, what do you think of that!”


No matter what may happen or how dark the hour may be, the believer can still say with confidence and fearlessness, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob it is our refuge.” If the One who directs the armies of heaven is on our side, who can be successfully against us?  The God of the unworthy worm Jacob is a fortress in which we can all take refuge from the storms of this uncertain life.


Be still, the morning comes,

The night will end;

Trust thou in Christ thy Light,

Thy faithful Friend.

And know that He is God,

Whose perfect will

Works all things for thy good:

Look up—be still.

Florence Wills


Note that the refrain in verses 7 and 11 is threefold: “the Lord of hosts” is His title of divine power, “the God of Jacob”is His title of a covenant relationship, and God “is with us” is his name Immanuel—“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).


This is a psalm that will be a great blessing in the future, but it also is a comfort and a blessing for all of God’s people today.





Referenced Scripture and Special Notes


[1] Jerusalem (the city of God) was God’s chosen earthly residence (Psalm 48:1, 2; Isaiah 60:14).

[2] Alamoth: The early Greek translation (LXX) interprets this technical term as “hidden things.”

[3] The “river” he speaks of, or at least alludes to, is perhaps the river Kidron (2 Samuel 15:23; John 18:1) and the two streams or rivulets flowing from it, Gihon and Shiloah (2 Chronicles 32:30; Isaiah 8:6), which are still or gentle waters.

[4] (Revelation 22:1-2, NIV) “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

[5] (Isaiah 33:21, AKJV) “But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.”

[6] (Jeremiah 2:13, NIV) “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

[7] (Psalm 17:2, NIV) “Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.”

[8] (Isaiah 37:36, NIV) “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!”

[9] (Psalm 2:5, KJV) “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”