Psalm 46: There is a River

posted in: Psalms, Worship | 0

I recently shared how Psalm 46 is perhaps becoming my favourite Psalm – and blogged the other day about the wonderful reassurance I found in verses 1-3. Today, I wanted to share some of the joy I’ve found in focusing on verses 4-7 of this Psalm:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

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

Psalm 46 opens with a robust reminder of God’s faithfulness and strength – and one of the images in the opening verses are of storm waters, threatening and terrifying. And so, as if to remind us that God is above all this, the Psalmist then goes on, “there is a river…“. This section of the Psalm is seemingly about the city of God, where God the Most High dwells, but I think this river image is powerful. This river – made up of different streams – makes the place where God dwells glad. What kind of a river is that? I’m someone who loves water – lakes, ponds, rivers, the sea – they bring a form of gladness to me on a deep level, something I cannot easily describe. I can only imagine that this river magnifies that infinitely, and also communicates that gladness to those who have been afraid of water. For those of us who are in storms, or feel as though life is rushing on and over us like a river that has burst its banks, perhaps this reminds us that there is something else. There is a river…

The city of God described here is the most exciting city imaginable. God lives there! It is a holy place, a description that might seem redundant given the presence of God, but in my mind serves only to emphasise just how wonderful this city is. Psalm 46 was written in a time when cities rose and fell – the Bible describes a number of such sieges – and so the promise of a city that will not fall is profound. The contrast between this city, the city of God, and all other nations and kingdoms is stark. This one will not fall. It is not in uproar, and God dwells in it. Yet perhaps the most startling lesson of Psalm 46 is to be found in the final verse of today’s section.

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

Though we know that there is a river, and a city which will not fall, often-times our lived reality moves us to forget this hope. Yet it remains true. And herein lies one of the beautiful mysteries of the kingdom: God is dwelling in his city, perhaps preparing a place for us, watered by streams of gladness – and God is also with us. Even in the raging storms of this present age, in this now-and-not-yet painful reality with glimpses of glory, The Lord Almight is with us. This is a deep truth, that can remind us of the present reality being just one aspect and even a foretaste of the coming and come rule and reign of God. Though we are not yet fully in that city, that impregnable, holy place, the God of Jacob is our fortress. Though we may feel alone, dwelling in a land and culture that seems alien and even antagonistic to God, The Lord Almighty is with us. I’m trying to cultivate a habit, when I feel overwhelmed by life, of whispering to myself this mysterious phrase, that points me onward and upward from the mire:

There is a river…

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