There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God - Psalm 46:4
Psalm 46 is one of my favourite Psalms, and I suppose it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that it is one of your favourites too. “Be still, and know that I am God” is a well-known verse among evangelicals today, especially since Hillsong released ‘Still‘.
The Psalmist in this song, gives us a picture of a world in complete disarray and chaos, and in the middle of it all, is a city unmoved and unscathed. As nature escalates to violence, and kingdoms rise in rebellion, oceans devouring mountains, and men tottering in dismay, God keeps his city. He bestows on his children fearlessness by being their very present help in times of trouble. There is a reason why the terrors of this world do not terrorise the city of God, and that is the fact that God is the greater terror. His never departing presence, and absolute power and authority over all things, makes him the One who must be feared above all else. The Christian is secure because his greatest fear (God), is his greatest ally. The fear of God wipes all other fears away.
This song of the Bible is a great encouragement in a Covid and post-Covid world, and it will be a great encouragement in a Pro-Choice and post-Pro-Choice world, or in a BLM and post-BLM world, or in a social justice and post-social justice world. You get the picture. The kingdom of God will grow like a tree that sprouts from a mustard seed. God’s intention for his city is permanent, and he will make wars to cease to the ends of the earth, break the bows and shatter the spears. The fundamental posture of the Christian ought to be stillness in the knowledge that God is God!
Now, there is a verse that runs through the middle of this Psalm, that depicts the life of those within the walls of this city. It talks about a river whose streams make glad the city of God. The raging waters of the world outside crashes into a quietus at the borders of Zion, and it flows among the houses of God’s elect as gentle streams of gladness.
Gladness! What a wonderful feeling that is. To drink daily of the river of gladness, that flows in the city of the holy habitation of the Most High.
As surely as this Psalm anchors our trust in God, our hearts must be anchored appropriately. One could easily take this Psalm to mean that Christians do not have to suffer at all. This is not true. Jesus suffered, and he promised that those who follow him would suffer as well (1 Peter 2:21, 3:4, 4:1, 5:10, Romans 5:3-4, 8:18, Philippians 1:29, 3:10, Matthew 10:38-39, John 15:18-25). Our peace and security is not in avoiding the storms of this world but while travelling through them. The peace of God that surpasses understanding, surpasses understanding precisely because of this reason. In every sense, we should be just as aghast as the unbeliever next to us, but for some deep and wonderful reason, we are unmoved.
The application of Psalm 46 is primarily in the quietness of the spirit, and the security of the heart. Does that then totally neglect the physical aspects of God’s rescue? No, it does not. Time and again, God is faithful to save us from the perils of this world. But sometimes, he grabs a hold of us and glides right through a storm for our good and his glory. We see the great and mighty storm, and how incapable and small we are, and we turn to trust the one who holds us, for he is greater and mightier than the storm.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. - 1 John 4:4
Regardless of the patterns of life that we are ordained to experience, before the foundation of the world, by the Trinity, we can trust him continually, and drink not from the river of dismay, but from the river of gladness.
P.S. I was inspired to think about Psalm 46 when I saw this artwork my wife drew, based on a postcard she saw.