On Psalm 46—Part 1
(Ps 46:1) To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Heb 13:5) ... for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
(Ps 46:2)MKJV Therefore we will not fear when the earth changes, and when mountains are slipping into the heart of the seas.
When the believer is mindful of the fact that the One who controls all things is his refuge and strength, he can be very courageous, in spite of fearful circumstances. Now, Ps 46:2 does not have to be taken figuratively. The Scripture does mention fearful signs preceding the return of the Lord and makes it very clear that the earth will be changed. For example, Is 2:2 mentions that the temple mountain will be exalted.
(Is 2:2) And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
About changes in the earth, we also read in Rev 6:14 that "every mountain and island were moved out of their places". Moreover, Rev 16:20, speaking of a later time, states that "every island fled away, and the mountains were not found". The day of the Lord will affect "all the high mountains, and ... all the hills that are lifted up" (Is 2:14). In view of Lk 21:11, we can conclude that there will be earthquakes like never before. Three major earthquakes are mentioned in Eze 38:19, Rev 6:12, and Rev 16:18. We can also find indirect references to end-times earthquakes when reading about the time when the Lord will reign as king on earth. In Ps 96:10 we read that "the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved", that is, there will be no more earthquakes after the Lord comes. The same is also stated in Ps 93:1. Another sign of the end will be the terrifying sight of the seas (Lk 21:25).
(Lk 21:25) And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
(Lk 21:26) Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
The Lord did not say that the believers experiencing these things should be afraid. On the contrary, he said "when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth near" (Lk 21:28). So we read
(Ps 46:3)MKJV Let its waters roar and foam; let the mountains shake with the swelling of it. Selah.
A closer translation of Ps 46:3 would be "Let his waters roar and foam; let the mountains shake at the time of his triumph. Selah." Here, "his" refers to the Lord. A frightening surging of the seas will not terrify believers, once they recall that God is their refuge and that the seas are his. In spite of fearful events, believers can say "we will not fear" (Ps 46:2) because "God is our refuge and strength" (Ps 46:1). (As for the proposed translation of Ps 46:3, it could be explained as follows. The form בגאותו can be derived from the infinitive construct of the verb גאה "to be lifted up" of Ex 15:1. Moreover, the antecedent of the masculine singular pronominal suffix of מימיו "his waters" and בגאותו "in his triumph" is אלהים "the Lord".)
(Ps 46:4) There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
The Hebrew word translated "tabernacles" means also "dwelling places". Unlike to the earth, which will be changed, the city of God shall not be moved.
(Ps 46:5)ESV God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
The times preceding the return of the Lord could be likened to the night, due to spiritual darkness. However, eventually there will be "morning", for "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab 2:14). After the Lord will return, Hab 2:14 will be fulfilled. Moreover, the period of time when "morning dawns" corresponds to the transition time. The Lord will help his people during that transition time. His people belong to the city of God and thus represent the city of God (Heb 12:22-24). The Lord is in them and will be present with them visibly.
Ps 46:4 mentions that there is "a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God". Passages related to this statement include Ps 36:8, Rev 22:1-2, Eze 47:1-12, and Ps 110:7. Now, Ps 36:8, Ps 110:7, and Eze 47:1-12 do not use the word נהר "river" found in Ps 46:4, but the word נחל which means not only "river" but also "torrent, valley, ... ". However, this does not mean that these passages are not related to Ps 46:4; it may be that different words were used in order to describe better the nature of the river. In Ps 36:8 we read that "You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures"NKJVTM , which agrees with the fact that "the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God". The city of God can be associated with Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ and with the new Jerusalem after the millennial reign of Christ. In both contexts we find a description of a river. Rev 22:1-2 describes the river of the water of life in the new Jerusalem. Eze 47:1-12 describes waters flowing from the temple in Jerusalem.
(Rev 22:1) And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
(Rev 22:2) In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
In the vision of Ezekiel, the "waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward" (Eze 47:1). We could relate the eastward direction of the waters with the fact that the glory of the Lord will enter the temple by the way of the gate facing east (Eze 43:4).
(Eze 47:8) Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
(Eze 47:9) And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
(Eze 47:12)ESV And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
Moreover, Ps 110:7 mentions that "He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head". Note that the same Hebrew word נחל is translated "brook" in Ps 110:7 and "river" in Ps 36:8 and Eze 47:1-12. The fact that the river flows in the way may indicate a figurative description. This observation would also fit Rev 22:1-2, which seems to imply that the river flows in the midst of the street. Since these waters are associated with life, we could take them as an illustration of the Holy Spirit, for "it is the spirit that quickeneth" (Jn 6:63).
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