Psalm 46, known as “Luther’s Psalm,” is the second-most favorite psalm in the Bible, surpassed only by The Shepherd’s Psalm: Psalm 23. Psalm 46 will be our text for this Fourth of July weekend as our congregation gives thanks and prays for our nation. At the heart of Psalm 46, the words “Be still, and know that I am God” have comforted people of every race and nation over thousands of years. And they still do today.
Psalm 46 speaks of God as our “refuge,” “fortress” and “strength” in fearful and troubled times. It speaks of natural disasters like earthquakes, eruptions and tsunamis. And it also speaks of human disasters like tottering kingdoms and nations at war. It described very accurately the Old Testament times in which it was written, the 16th century conflicts of Luther’s time, and for many of us it describes very accurately our own view of our nation and world today. With Canada reaching temperatures of 122 degrees this week; with hurricanes, droughts and sudden building collapses; with wars abroad and strife at home, no wonder so many of us can relate to the words of this psalm!
Yet at its heart lie these gentle and powerful words: “Be still.” Be still and know.” Be still and know that I am God.” God is far stronger than any natural or human-made calamity. When we make God our refuge, the “mighty fortress” of our souls, we find strength to stand erect amid adversity, unafraid of trouble, our confidence resting in God. Because God is our fortress, we shall not be moved.
The author of Hebrews states, “For here we have no continuing city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). That is the same city described in Psalm 46 and in Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible. It is the Holy City where God is with us always; where there is no more sorrow and suffering; where every tear is wiped dry. It inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write,
“O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears.”
As we approach our nation’s birthday and reflect on all the challenges that lie before us, may this vision of the Holy City found in Psalm 46 inspire our best efforts to love, serve and rebuild our own. Knowing that “God is the ruler yet,” may our own souls be quieted, our minds stop their racing, and our hearts be lifted up. Because God is our refuge, all is well. And all will be well. “I am exalted among the nations. I am exalted in the earth.”