Our reading today begins with Psalm 46. It is a song about God’s protection and salvation through the “storms” of life. He is, as with David, the Psalmist’s refuge (46:1). He is a strong, present help in trouble. The “present” is the passive form of the verb “to find.” The Psalmist is saying that God can always be found in times of trouble. Then the Psalmist declares that nothing can change that God is a refuge that can always be found, even cataclysmic events (vv. 2-3). In verses 4-5, the Psalmist paints a picture of God’s presence and protection. The “city of God” is Jerusalem and the “holy habitation” is the Temple, where God dwells. That mountain will not be shaken when the rest of the mountains are moved (see v. 2). God is protection for Judah against the nations (vv. 6-7). He is YHWH of hosts, denoting His command of the heavenly armies.
The Psalmist then invites the readers to behold the works of YHWH (v. 8). But instead of speaking of what God has done for His people, the Psalmist talks about the judgments God has rendered against the nations. They are no match for YHWH of hosts. He ends their wars, destroys their weapons, and burns their chariots (v. 9). The question is: to whom is God speaking in verse 10? If it is those upon whom He has brought desolation and destruction (see vv. 8-9), then God is telling them to realize Who He is based on what He has done and to recognize Him as King of all the earth. If God is speaking to His people, He is saying that we need not do anything because He will judge justly and fight the battle for us. Either way, the Psalmist ends by saying that YHWH of hosts is with His people, and will protect His people (v. 11).
This appears to be how this Psalm is interpreted most often. And while the Psalmist’s intent may include reassurance for God’s people of his time that God is with them – maybe during the divided kingdom, or during the Assyrian or Babylonian sieges, or even after returning to the land – this Psalm is really about the final salvation of God’s people and the final judgment of God’s enemies.
In verse 1, we are told that God is our refuge and that He can be found in times of trouble. But what trouble is this? In the Old Testament, the word used for “trouble” here is translated a number of ways (trouble, distress, anguish, suffering, tribulation). It usually refers to danger from an enemy. The Psalmist is picturing God’s people as protected by God from their, and His, enemies. And since He is our protection, we do not need to fear anything, including the cataclysmic events described in verse 2-3. But these are events that symbolize the final judgment. In verse 2, those who take refuge in God need not fear when the earth gives way (is destroyed – see Isa 13:13, 2 Peter 3:7). But that “gives way” may not be the best translation. The word means “change,” “exchange,” or “substitute.” This is also talking about the final changing of earth, a reference to the New Heavens and New Earth (see 2 Peter 3:13).
The mountains being moved into the heart of the sea is a reference to the end when every valley will be lifted up and every mountain laid low (see Isa 40:1-5 which refers to Christ’s salvation and judgment). It is also a figure that Christ used to describe the spread and ultimate victory of the Kingdom of God (see Matt 21:21, Rev 8:8). The waters roaring and foaming (v. 3) are reference to the Flood. It is a picture of worldwide judgment on the wicked by God.
In verse 4, the city of God is the New Jerusalem (and Zion!) and the holy habitation of the Most High is the Temple – all references to the church. And the designation “Most High” (Hebrew: elyon) refers to God’s reign over the whole earth. It means He is King above all kings, Lord above all Lords, and God above all gods. In Deuteronomy 32:8, it is God Most High that separated the nations and placed them under the oppression of their gods. Here, this is the God that is in the midst of His people, the church (v. 5). The river imagery is also important. As opposed to the raging waters of judgment (see v. 3), a river with gentle streams is pictured. This is a reference to the final salvation of God’s people with God in her presence (see Isa 33:20-22, Ezek 47:1-12, Rev 22:1-5).
In verses 6-7, YHWH of hosts is God with His angel army executing judgment (see Matt 13:41, 16:27, Rev 14:10, 19:11-16). The Lord utters His voice and melts the earth (another reference to final judgment – see Amos 9:5 about YHWH of hosts). God fights His people’s battles, including the final battle where with a word He destroys the wicked (see 2 Thess 1:8, Rev 19:19-21). This is why God’s people are called to behold His works of judgment (v. 8). He will destroy war and its instruments (v. 9 – see Isa 2:4).
The call to “be still” is for everyone. It is a call to recognize God’s power and our lack thereof. The word translated “be still” here is used 46 times in the Old Testament, and is translated 31 different ways(!), here being the only time “be still” is used. It speaks of powerlessness (elsewhere translated: feeble, fail, weak, slack, faint, helpless, stop, wane). For His people, it means we by faith wait for Him to fight our battles and judge justly (along with v. 11). For His enemies, it speaks of the time that they will realize that He indeed has all the power and is a just judge. Everyone will know in that day Who God is (see Isa 11:9, Hab 2:14, Phil 2:10-11). Those who are not “still” now, will be “stilled” when He returns.
Psalm 82 is related theologically to Psalm 46. It speaks of God’s judgment (God Most High) over all other gods. The scene is the divine council (the heavenly beings God allows to help rule – see Micaiah’s prophesy in 2 Chronicles 18:18-22). God is sitting in judgment of these gods (82:1 – the same word, elohim, is used of God and these other heavenly beings). These are the gods that God put over the nations (Deut 32:8) who also enticed Israel to worship them (see Deut 29:24-26). So God, the just Judge, asks them – those He originally included in His plan and rule of the earth – why they judge unjustly (v. 2). He tells them they are to rule justly (vv. 3-4). This is what He demanded of the earthly rulers of His people, too (see Jer 22:1-3).
In verse 5, God is talking about those the gods rule over (the unsaved). They have no knowledge or understanding (referring to their knowledge of God – see Isa 5:13, especially when it comes to worshiping false gods – see Isa 44:19, 45:20). They are in darkness (see Isa 9:2). That the foundations of the earth are shaken because of it shows how the physical reality we experience is really an outworking of the spiritual reality that lies behind it. What these heavenly beings (gods) have done has essentially destroyed the earth!
God reminds them of the privilege they had when God included them in His plan for governing the universe. He made them gods, sons of Elyon, the God of all gods (v. 6).1 And because of their disobedience, they will be judged the same as wicked man (v. 7 – see Rev 20:10-15). So the Psalmist calls for God to judge and inherit the nations (v. 8 – this is like our “come Lord Jesus” – see Rev 22:20). In other words, God gave the nations to these other gods, and chose a people for Himself (Israel). But God will ultimately claim all nations for Himself, taking back what He gave to those gods and judging them. This will all be done through Christ. Come Lord Jesus!
Psalm 115 is another Psalm about God being glorified in all the earth. The Psalmist prays “not to us…but to Your name give glory” (115:1). The Psalmist knows that God chose people not for their sake, but for His. But right now, the nations do not honor God’s name (v. 2). Why? They worship idols (v. 4). God is sovereign and all powerful (v. 3), but the gods of the nations are powerless (vv. 5-7 – see Isa 44:9-20). They are worthless, and those who worship them become like them (v. 8).
The Psalmist then calls Israel to trust YHWH instead of other gods (v. 9). The nations become worthless through their gods, but God will be glorified through His people! God’s people (v. 9), the priests (v. 10), and all who fear God (v. 11) are called to trust Him. We as God’s people are all of these. And God will bless us as His people, His priests, and as those who fear Him (vv. 12-13).
Verse 14-15 is a prayer for God’s people to be blessed and to increase us and our offspring. This is a prayer that God would use us – His people – to fulfill the mandate He created man to fulfill (Gen 1:28). Then, we are told that God has given the earth to the children of man (v. 16). In other words, Adam failed to carry out God’s original plan, so his mandate has been given to His spiritual people. The gods failed to carry out God’s original plan (see Psalm 82), so their domain (earth) has been given to His spiritual people (who bring God’s Word to the end of the earth – see Acts 1:8). The dead (spiritually speaking) do not praise God and will go “down into silence” (v. 17). But we – God’s spiritual people – will bless God for eternity (v. 18).
Praise the Lord!
1 This offers us insight into Jesus’s argument against the religious leaders in John 10:35. They wanted to kill Him for making Himself another “God.” Jesus’s point is that if they accepted that Elohim made other beings elohim, why would they be surprised that the Messiah is God?