At the time of writing, my wife and I are in Argentina. It is the 2nd April and today is a public holiday here. I checked out why and discovered it concerns the war between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas in Spanish) in 1982. It lasted 74 days with 649 Argentinian and 255 British casualties. It is known as “The Day of the Veterans and Fallen of the Malvinas Argentinas”.
In the history of the world, war has been, sadly, all too common. And in the psalmist’s day it was very common. So, he speaks of war in Psalm 46, but in the context of God’s sovereignty and His “ever present help in trouble.” (verse 1) which therefore enables God’s people to say, “Therefore we will not fear.” (verse 2)
Now I must confess, unlike half the population of the world, I have never experienced living in a war zone, or even in the midst of a natural disaster. But the psalmist’s words seem to express just how horrific it must be for those caught in the middle of one of these situations. He uses very scary images, such as, when:
the earth give[s] way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
[when] waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. (verses 2-3)
He also writes about:
Nations [which] are in uproar, [and when] kingdoms fall. (verse 6)
Not the sort of thing any of us would wish to experience, but sadly what many people on the earth today understand too well.
But when we read this Psalm, we realize that the author is not totally gloomy about all this because he knows that God is sovereign in his earth, even when it comes to wars and natural disasters.
Listen to his words:
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shieldswith fire. (verses 8-9)
There are often no easy answers when disasters strike and we may not always understand God’s sovereign purposes in our world, but we do know, as Paul says, that God is the One “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
And so, the psalmist then stops talking about God and quotes Him instead. And the words of God are worth taking note of.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” (verse 10)
The Passion Translation puts it this way:
Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.
These words remind me of a story in the Gospels. In fact, it is found in Mark 4:35-41. On this occasion Jesus and his disciples were crossing a lake when “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Now “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Then to the surprise of the disciples: Jesus “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I love this story. Especially when things are not going well in my world. In the midst of war, chaos, disasters, whatever, our God is still sovereign and he says “Quiet! Be still!” and he reminds us that we can, “Surrender [our] anxiety! Be silent and stop [our] striving and [we] will see that [He is] God.”
Then there is that beautiful promise:
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
Prior to coming to Argentina, we had just been to Brazil. The aim of these visits being to encourage workers from our organisation who are serving here. These are two countries where God is building His church, where His name is being exalted, despite much opposition at times. Two countries where we can say, Come and see what the Lord has done!
And so, the psalmist completes this amazing and encouraging Psalm with that great refrain:
Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
What more could we ask for?
Father, the world is full of strife at times, but in You we trust. Open our eyes and help us to see the many ways you are working out everything in conformity with the purpose of your will. (Ephesians 1:11) What a privilege to humbly serve in partnership with you as you are exalted amongst the nations. Amen.