God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11
Have you ever been in an earthquake? One moment the ground is solid underfoot and the next moment it is Jell-O. You start to take a step and the ground buckles up greeting you. An earthquake leaves even the hardiest and bravest souls shaken! Terrified! Life feels so out of control!
For many people, recent events in our nation leave them feeling they’re going through an earthquake. One is almost afraid to turn on the TV or read the newspaper and see what more has happened.
This is a reason why I am drawn to today’s scripture in which the psalmist draws on the imagery of an earthquake to describe what he feels happening to his nation. Mountains are shaking in the heart of the sea and waters roaring and foaming, setting off a veritable tsunami. For the Hebrew psalmists the two most certain and reliable things were the majestic mountains and terra firma ground underfoot. Now even those are giving way. It feels that everything nailed down is flying loose.
But the psalmist takes heart from knowing three things. First, “God is our refuge”. He is the true source of certainty and security in life. Second, God is our “strength,” the only One who can give us the power for dealing with difficult times. And third, the psalmist has come to know that God is “a very present help in time of trouble.” The psalmist is sure that God is there for us; we can always turn to Him for help. I can imagine the psalmist repeating this to himself in difficult times just as I like to repeat to myself: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear….”
Then the psalmist adds the Hebrew word “Selah”, a musical notation calling on people to stop and consider what they have just read or sung. Selah is like the railroad crossing sign commanding: “Stop! Look! Listen!” Selah means: do not rush ahead without seriously considering that God is for us, and bigger than any of our problems.
The psalmist has said his piece and now the Lord speaks through the psalmist: “Be still, and know that I am God!” Yes, be still! Being still is the last thing I want to do when trouble strikes. But God commands people in trouble: “Be still…”. Step out of the rush, stop the hurrying about, and be still before God. Being still was also God’s command to the Israelites as they faced the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s armies closing in behind them: “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Exodus 14:14).
After the psalmist takes time to be still before God, he then tells us what he has learned. He can say with assurance: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” And yes, the psalmist again adds the pertinent word: “Selah”. The psalmist wants us to seriously reflect on what it means that the Lord of hosts is with us and the God of Jacob is our refuge and strength in any trouble.
This is a time of trouble for our nation, and perhaps a time of trouble for you personally. God commands us: Be still and know that I am God, your refuge, strength and present help.
Selah! Stop, look, listen!
A Fellow Traveler,