The name of Martin Luther is always associated with this psalm: his famous hymn – “A mighty fortress is our God”. He and some other godly individuals would often sing this hymn in times of dark discouragement. Martin Luther himself faced many threats to his life and much opposition from various ones in the Reformation but as God enabled him and others to continue to trust in Him, the movement brought forth a return to Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, in Christ alone.
Most commentators also associate this psalm with the context of the overthrow of Sennacherib’s army in 701 B.C. In that situation, Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army and Hezekiah was asked to surrender. In that critical moment, Hezekiah appealed to the prophet Isaiah to pray and to look to God for deliverance. And God’s answer: “Do not be afraid…for I will defend the city to save it”. Suddenly and dramatically, God intervened, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp” – this was borne witness by the secular historian Herondotus. Sennacherib was forced to withdraw (See 2 Kings 18 and 19).
The psalm is in three parts:
1. Verses 1-3 affirm that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling,
Even the worst disasters of nature – earthquake, storm, climate calamities,flood, and even famine, plagues, war – which strike terror into the hearts of people- all these will not make God’s people afraid!
2, Verses 4-7 probably refer to the special experience of deliverance in a critical situation. Under God’s protection and authority, His people would experience protection and help. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacobs is our fortress”. God has only to speak and the earth melts before Him. Before the voice of the Lord, the Assyrian army was scattered. God spoke and the heavens and earth were created. He spoke and there was light…there were plants, there were animals…and God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1). Take note of the power of God and the might of His Word.
3. Verses 8-11 give a final assurance to God’s people. The divine deliverance of Jerusalem in the time of king Hezekiah is a pledge and foretaste of the day when God will finally overthrow all war-mongers and establish His kingdom of peace; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire (v 9. )
The equivalent today are the weapons of war: tanks, aeroplanes, even nuclear weapons – all these would be destroyed by God with just a Word from Him.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on HIs head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. ..From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron….” (Revelation 19:11-15). This is the Lord Jesus who will return to destroy all the armies gathered under antiChrist and the evil one with a Word from His mouth.
His Word of assurance to His people and to us in these troubled times: “Be still, and know that I am God”. It was HIs voice which overthrows the Assyrians; it is His voice which pacifies His people. He is God for ever and is already here and now exalted in the earth (v10).
We also live in an epoch of crisis. The viral pandemic is still raging. We hear of wars and rumours of wars. People’s hearts fail them for fear. Can we say: “We will not fear”? Indeed we can; but only if we believe the affirmations of this psalm: I am God and The Lord Almighty is with us – yes, indeed, He is with us!