God, Refuge of His People
1 For the director.[b] A song of the sons of Korah. According to alamoth.
2 [c]God is our refuge and our strength,
a well-proved help in times of trouble.[d]
3 Therefore, we will not be afraid, though the earth be shaken
and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
4 though its waters rage and seethe
and the mountains tremble at the upheaval.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.[e] Selah
5 There is a river[f] whose streams bring joy to the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
6 God is in her midst; she will not be overcome;
God will help her at break of dawn.[g]
7 The nations are in tumult and kingdoms fall;
when he raises his voice,[h] the earth melts away.
8 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
9 Come and behold the works of the Lord,
the astonishing deeds he has wrought on the earth.
10 He puts an end to wars all over the earth;
he breaks the bow and snaps the spear,
and he burns the shields with flames.[i]
11 “Be still and acknowledge that I am God,
exalted among the nations,
exalted on the earth.”[j]
12 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
- Psalm 46:1 This psalm exalts the power of the God of Israel, Master of nature and Ruler of both armies and peace. Upon a horizon of wars and cataclysms rises the city of Zion, peaceful and unshakable. God is in her, a refuge protecting her from all agitations, a river bringing her a richness of life. The psalm lets us relive the explosion of joy prompted by the defeat of the Assyrian armies in 701 B.C. (see 2 Ki 18:13—19:37; 2 Chr 32).
This great moment of the past allows the Prophets to designate in advance the drama at the end of time. Amidst the turmoil of nations, God intervenes to save his people, and the world is turned upside down before obtaining definitive peace. It is an image of the movement of history with its cataclysms and the hope of universal salvation.
In praying this psalm, we should recall that the new and eternal Jerusalem, our mother, is the Church (see Gal 4:26) to whom Christ guaranteed his perpetual protection that renders her indefectible.
- Psalm 46:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Sons of Korah: see note on Ps 42:1. Alamoth: probably a musical term.
- Psalm 46:2 The divine presence in the temple guarantees the security of the holy city even though creation itself may seem to be falling apart (see Ps 104:6-9; Gen 1:9f).
- Psalm 46:2 Help in times of trouble: when people are in trouble, they feel the need of God’s special protection (see Pss 22:20; 27:9; 40:14; 44:27; 63:8). They experience his presence especially when they go through a time of distress (see Ps 23:4). He is then very close to them (see Deut 4:7).
- Psalm 46:4 The Lord of hosts is with us; / the God of Jacob is our fortress: this comforting refrain occurs three times in the psalm—here and in vv. 8, 12 (although the Hebrew lacks it in v. 4). The first part (The Lord . . . is with us) is similar in structure and meaning to the name of the royal child in Isaiah: “Immanuel”—“God is with us” (Isa 7:14; 8:8, 10). The Lord of hosts: see note on Ps 24:10.
- Psalm 46:5 River: symbol of God’s blessings; the symbolic waters (see Ps 36:9) that spring forth (see Ezek 47:1, 12; Joel 4:18; Zec 14:8) make the holy land fruitful, purify it (see Zec 13:1), and turn it into a new Eden (see Gen 2:10).
- Psalm 46:6 At break of dawn: the most favored time for attacks to be set in motion against cities but also for God’s blessings (see Pss 17:15; 49:15; 101:8; Song 2:17; Isa 17:14). The psalm here most likely alludes to the retreat of Sennacherib’s armies in 701 B.C. (see 2 Ki 19:35).
- Psalm 46:7 His voice: God’s thunder (see Ps 104:7; Jer 25:30; Am 1:2). The earth melts away: under the heat of God’s lightnings. But Israel has no need to fear any of these calamities.
- Psalm 46:10 This verse speaks of universal peace and anticipates the Messianic victory.
- Psalm 46:11 Exalted . . . on the earth: because of his wondrous deeds for his people, especially the Life, Passion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.