Psalm 46: Come, Behold!

I blogged recently about how Psalm 46 is perhaps my favourite Psalm – and shared about the reassurances of verses 1-3, and the wonderful vision of verses 4-7. In this short post I want to share my reflections on verses 8-11. In some ways, these verses are a bit of a surprise, with quite violent imagery in seemingly sharp contrast with the reassurance and vision of the preceding verses:

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Consider the image at the top of this post. Apart from the text I’ve crudely added, it is a picture of beauty, but also a picture of violence. The mountains represent cataclysmic forces and immense amounts of time. The trees literally feed on the dead of both their own and other kinds. Mankind has scarred the landscape – and the clouds looming could be the beginning of a storm. What if violence is in the eye of the beholder? What if violence is relative? I don’t think that is the case – and the violence recorded in Psalm 46 is fascinating.

We are invited to behold the works of the Lord. And these works are a profound vision of a future where wars have ceased. Where weapons are destroyed and used to maim no more. Elsewhere in the Bible, in Isaiah 2:4, God is described thus: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore“. Perhaps Psalm 46 is pointing to that day, which in itself points to the full coming and reality of the Kingdom of God. A time when weapons are not just stilled but repurposed. When war as a way of life is not learnt any more.

Surely, this is a work worthy of beholding!

And in this beholding, in this startling image of impending peace, we are invited into a relationship, where God is with us, with space for both silence and celebration

Be still, and know that I am God.

Among the clamour of weapons shattering, of swords being beaten into ploughs, of nations exalting God, we are invited into stillness, and into knowledge.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Even when we cannot see the mighty works of God, the earth-shattering, epoch-defining peace that his Kingdom will bring, we are reminded of this one constant. That God, the most powerful being in this and any understanding of anything, is with us. God, the same God of Jacob, who comes to us in Jesus, is our fortress in the storm, and this fortress is not just a place of refuge but a place of celebration and wonder. Imagine the clamour of all the nations exalting God. Imagine all the earth celebrating what God has done. And then imagine that there was a place where this was the permanent state of things:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

I don’t know about you, but Psalm 46 stirs my heart.

There is a river.

Because God is our refuge and strength.

So, come, behold!

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