Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Refuge, Our Strength, Our Deliverer

[To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Al'amoth]

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.

—Psalm 46 KJV Bible

Psalms 46, 47 and 48 appear to be three parts of one story. Many think they are an account of the time when King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC, during the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37). Because of the possible time period, and because the writing style of the psalmist is similar to that found in the Book of Isaiah, many think the psalmist could be the prophet Isaiah.

The psalm superscription states it is for the "sons of Korah." The three sons of Korah—Assir, Elkanan and Abiasaph—were loyal to God (Exodus 6:24; Numbers 26:11). The descendants of these were also described as the "sons of Korah." Some later became singers in the Temple choir (2 Chronicles 20:19). Twelve of the psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) are specifically dedicated to the "sons of Korah," possibly because of their musicality, or possibly as a reference to those who remain faithful to God even in the most difficult times.

The superscription also says it is set to " Al’amoth," the plural form of the Hebrew "al’amah." The root word describes a young woman who has not yet married. Three suggestions have been offered for its meaning in the psalm. First, it may have referred to a type of 10- or 12-stringed lute instrument having a pitch similar to that of a young girl's voice. Second, it may have referred to an instrument called an "al’amoth" that was made in "Al’ameth" (a Levitical city in Benjamin). Third, it may have referred to the pitch range of the voices that were to accompany the psalm. Of those translators who think this, a variety of translations are given, including "soprano voices," "high voices" and "small harps." Some translators ignore the reference while others honestly translate the reference as "mystery."

The Hebrew "selah" is used after verses 3, 7 and 11 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

This psalm is the people's song of trust and thanksgiving. First, it focuses on the God of Israel, their refuge. Second, it focuses on the city of God, their security. Third, it focuses on the deliverance of God, their peace.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist declares that the God of Israel is their refuge. Whatever may happen, the people will not fear.

In verses 4 through 7, the psalmist tells of their security in the city of God. In verse 4, the psalmist describes “a river” flowing through the city. The river symbolizes physical and spiritual blessing, particularly in relation to the millennial “city of God,” the New Jerusalem. In his vision of a new, holy land, the prophet Ezekiel mentions a river which flowed out of the Temple in the New Jerusalem and gave life to the land (Ezekiel 47:1-12). The prophet Zechariah also records a vision of living water that will flow to the east and to the west, out of the New Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8). In verse 7 and verse 11, the psalmist's term for God, sometimes translated as “the Lord of hosts,” is the Hebrew "YHWH Tsaba" (Yahweh Tsaba). The phrase can mean "Jehovah who assembles," "Jehovah who serves," or "Jehovah who wages war." This is the One who commands the angelic armies of heaven and the armies of Israel. The term emphasizes the sovereignty and omnipotence of God.

In verses 8 through 11, the psalmist tells of the deliverance of God. In verses 8 and 9, the psalmist is prophetically describing the works of God through His Messiah, Jesus Christ, during His millennial reign following His return. The prophets Isaiah and Micah give more details of the new government (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9; Micah 4:1-8). In verse 10, the psalmist tells the people to cease from their warlike activities and acknowledge that God is supreme.

O God, You are my refuge. You are my strength. Whatever trouble may come, You are ready to deliver me and give me peace.


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