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Psalm 46

The God of Jacob reigns

In the spiritual realm, if not the physical, we’re surrounded by hostile forces determined to diminish and destroy us. So we can take comfort in Jacob’s God, who is always unfailingly on his people’s side.

A descendants of Korah psalm.

God is our refuge and fortress
always there for us when we’re in trouble.
So we won’t fear
even when the earth quakes
and its mountains crash into the sea.
Though its waters rage and roar
and their surging
shakes the mountains to their core.

Brimful of joy
a river streams through God’s city
holy residence of the Most High.
It won’t fall with God living here.
He’ll come to its aid at break of dawn.
Superpowers rant
and superpowers rot.
When he thunders
the earth melts.
Yahveh, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
is for us—Jacob’s God, our fortress!

Come, behold what Yahveh has done
what devastation he’s wreaked on earth:
breaking bows, snapping spears in two
burning chariots to ashes
he’s banned war
everywhere on earth.
10 “Be still!
Acknowledge that I am God!
Supreme over the superpowers
supreme over all the earth!”
11 Yahveh, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
is for us—Jacob’s God, our fortress!

However hostile or chaotic the world may be, God is for us. So we need not fear, even when the ground beneath our feet gives way and earth’s looming mountains fall into the sea. Because he is our peace and is committed to establishing universal peace.

God is also our joy. The river here reminds us of Eden, whose multiple streams reflected the garden’s rich abundance. Likewise, God’s presence with us produces overflowing confidence. Since he’s made his home among us, we can count on him to defend us at first light. Whatever threats we face, they melt away in terror when he speaks. As Jacob’s God, Yahveh wrestles all who, like Jacob, need to be set free from their own self-centeredness. He then commands heaven’s armies to protect them from their foes.

Inviting us to check out Yahveh’s military exploits, the psalmist begins as we might expect, but then turns everything around, declaring that it’s war itself he’s destroyed. There’s only one fitting response to so great and so good a God. To stop resisting him, be still and let him rule in our lives. Since ultimately, we will all submit to Jacob’s God, the only question is whether or not we’ll submit freely right now.

When all around my soul gives way, you then are all my hope and stay! Lord, I know I can trust you since you’ve made your home among us and your reign is one of universal peace. So help me to stop resisting and grant you your absolute right to rule my life in love. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these life-giving words:

“Be still! Acknowledge that I am God! …Supreme over all the earth!”

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.