GOD–OUR REFUGE, STRENGTH, AND HELP
by Wayne S. Walker
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble" (Ps. 46:1). The 46th Psalm is sometimes called "Luther’s Psalm" because this was the passage of scripture the noted reformer had in mind when he wrote his famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." It is thought by some that Luther was in Wartburg Castle at the time he wrote the hymn. When his enemies were planning to put him to death, his friends rushed him to this stronghold and hid him securely. Apparently he likened God’s protection to that of the great fortress.
The psalm is "for the sons of Korah" and was probably written after Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah. It is also "A Song upon Alamoth." As the Psalms were originally written to be sung, this is possibly a musical direction. Some believe it is derived from almah ("virgin") and means after the manner of virgins, that is, with the female voice, answering to our treble or soprano as opposed to our bass or baritone of the male. Others think it refers to some kind of musical instrument. In any event, this verse praises God as our refuge, strength, and help.
The word "refuge" means "a shelter, a place of trust and hope." Barnes wrote, "The first word, refuge, from a verb meaning to flee,and then to flee to…or to take shelter in–denotes a place to which one would flee in time of danger–as a lofty wall; a high tower; a fort; a fortress." It indicates safety and protection (Ps. 91.2). In battle one would find security in a castle. In the same way, Barnes said, "God is for us as a place to which we may flee for safety….The idea here is, that the people of God, in time of danger, may find him to be what such a place of refuge would be." Today, Christ is to be our refuge and our shelter (Heb. 6:18-20).
The term "strength" means "might, power," akin to stronghold. It indicates a source of strength to those who are weak and defenseless, and implies security, tranquility, and relief. The people of Israel found their strength in Jehovah (Exo. 15:1-2). Barnes noted, "That we may rely on his strength as if it were our own; or that we may feel as safe in his strength as though we had that strength ourselves. We may make it the basis of our confidence as really as though the strength resided in our own arm." Of course, the Christian’s source of strength is Christ. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). There is no problem too big, temptation too great, trial too severe, or affliction too sore that Christ will not strengthen us to endure.
The phrase, "A very present help," is literally "a help he has been found exceedingly." Help is also translated "helper" and means aid, assistance, a sign of assurance and confidence. God is our help (Ps. 121:1-2). He is a present help, one that is proven, found to be true, and certain; therefore, we can be sure He is close or nearby. He is a very present help–exceedingly, emphatically, superlatively present. And He is a help in time of trouble. In every difficulty, anxiety, or sorrow, God is there to help. Furthermore, under the new covenant, we have God’s help through Christ by prayer (Heb. 4:15-16).
God is our refuge–place of safety, shelter, protection–in Christ. He is our strength–source of might and power representing security and tranquility–in Christ. He is our help–means of aid an assistance in whom we trust, hope, and have confidence–in Christ. Are you in Christ to enjoy this refuge, strength, and help? According to Romans 6:3-4, one is baptized into Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Eph. 1:3). If you are not a Christian, make God your "mighty fortress" today by obeying the gospel. (—taken from Guardian of Truth; Dec. 15, 1983; Vol. XXVII, No. 24; p. 1)