God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains crumble into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 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.
We do not know this psalmist’s specific crisis, but he imagines the worst possible catastrophe he can think of, and realizes that God’s people need not fear even there. If that is so, then they certainly need not fear in the lesser crisis enveloping them! The psalmist imagines the earth itself crumbling, such that even the mountains–the most solid, stable and secure places, give way and collapse into the seas of chaos. He essentially envisions the earth reverting to its primeval state depicted in Genesis 1:1-2: “in the beginning…the earth was without form, and void, and covered with dark, deep waters.” It is hard to imagine a more threatening and terrifying crisis on our planet than that.
But then the psalmist abruptly portrays a dramatically different, even opposite picture. The surging, “roaring and foaming” torrents give way to the gladdening river of life. In place of the disintegrating mountains, we see the immovable city of God–the holy dwelling place of God and His people! Gone is the terrifying darkness, and in its place, morning light. By God’s “help” the catastrophe of the earth “giving way” is that which gives way; the city of God stands! The earth of chaos and menacing destruction “melts”; the secure, joyous fortress of God with His people remains.
We who live on this side of the New Testament’s completion may be tempted to view these contrasting pictures as subsequent, one following the other, and regard the portrait of the city of God as future–after this earthly life. But the psalmist presents them as simultaneous realities for God’s people. Even in the midst of the terrible catastrophes and crises of this fallen, crumbling world, we are right now inhabitants of the secure habitation, the safe fortress, the impregnable city of God! Even while we watch torrents of destruction and unrest crumbling mountains of order and stability around us, we right now are sustained, nourished and gladdened by the serene waters of the river of life. Even in the midst of the enveloping darkness of fearful and uncertain circumstances, we are right now dwelling in God’s marvelous light.
Right now, whenever right now is, and whatever it contains, we need not fear, because our covenant God is sovereign, is with us, is our fortress. Right now! Both the unleashing and the ending of the “desolations” on this earth are by His authority, are “the works of the LORD.” He determines their scope, their intensity, their duration, their effects. And when He says, they are done!
So we can “be still,” be at peace, “knowing that He is God,” sovereign God, our God, God “exalted over all,” who “will be exalted” by all, God ever with us, our impregnable fortress.
Who will you encourage today with the good news of where God’s people really are today?