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.
My nine month old daughter is afraid of dogs. I'm not sure exactly why. She's never been bitten. I think maybe the loud barking scares her. As her dad I have the distinct privilege of serving as her protector; so anytime a dog is around I make sure to hold her tight and high above where the dog can reach her. I even whisper in her ear sometimes to make sure she knows I am there with her. "Daddy's here, Hallie. You're okay. I'm not going to let that dog get you." She is learning more and more to lean into me in these times and to trust me to keep her safe.
There is something about a father's presence. We feel less scared when Daddy is around. This is a helpful parallel for God's presence in our lives. Psalm 46 urges God's people to take comfort in His nearness even as their enemies rage outside the city walls warring against them. These enemies are described as shaking the whole earth in verses two and three and as being in an uproar in verse six above. But the psalmist assures us that their bark is worse than their bite for God dwells among His people. God is within the city walls of Jerusalem; it cannot fall unless God Himself were to fall! And in verse six we find that God defeats Israel's enemies with a word.
The believer can take comfort in this for God lives among us as well. His very Spirit lives inside us. No matter the problem you face, no matter how big and powerful your enemy, no matter how scared you are or how out of your depth you might be- God is with His people. He is a stream providing for your every need within the sanctuary of His protection. You cannot be beaten, because He stands with you. As Romans 8:31 says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" No one! He fights for you. God is your fortress.
Interestingly the word for fortress means a high place, a refuge that is at a secure height. It is not at all unlike being held in your daddy's arms high above and out of reach of a dog. Eventually there will come a time when I lower Hallie and let her closer to her fears... closer to a dog. I will of course make sure to choose a nice dog and ensure that she is safe the whole time. Hopefully by the time I do this Hallie will have learned to trust me enough to know that what seems terrifying to her in that instant is for her own good.
God doesn't always hold us high above our problems. Sometimes he allows them to get much closer to us than we would like. But He never abandons us. He is always "an ever-present help in trouble" (verse 1). We must learn that His presence is enough. We must learn to lean into Him and trust Him to keep us safe even in times of trouble.
For further reading...
- Zechariah 2:5- God promises to be a wall of fire around the city of Jerusalem and to protect it.
- Isaiah 54:17- No weapon formed against us shall prevail.
- Psalm 2- Why do the nations rage?
- II Chronicles 20- An excellent example of God fighting for His people.
* Certain insights in this post I owe to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David on Psalm 46.