Psalm 46

For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 46.  This Psalm is about God being a refuge even in the midst of natural cataclysm or an attempt by nations to attack the city of God.

Some have argued that this Psalm reflects a historical event, such as the Syro-Ephraimite alliance in Isaiah 7, or the unsuccessful attempt by the Assyrian king Sennacherib to conquer Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C.E.  Others maintain that the Psalm is eschatological, meaning that it is about God’s future deliverance of Jerusalem from her enemies, shortly before a time of restoration, when (as v 9 says) God makes wars to cease.  Sigmund Mowinckel goes with neither option.  He notes that the events that Psalm 46 describes (i.e., many nations attacking Jerusalem) did not occur in history, and, while he thinks that biblical eschatology drew from themes that appear in the Psalms (i.e., God protecting Jerusalem from enemy attack, God as warrior), he does not view Psalm 46 as eschatological.  Rather, he holds that Psalm 46 is saying that Jerusalem would be safe even if nations were to attack her, not that nations actually did so.  Those who relate Psalm 46 to a specific historical event, however, can argue that Mowinckel is wrong to deny that a variety of nations sought to attack Jerusalem simultaneously, for Assyria had foreign mercenaries.  Whether or not that argument is valid depends on if a foreign mercenary counts as a nation (or his own nation), in some sense.  Then there is a symbolic, or spiritual, interpretation.  Erhard Gerstenberger appears to go this route.  And Matthew Henry says that the waters of v 4, which make glad the city of God, refer to the soothing words and ordinances of God, which help a person in times of catastrophe.

The medieval Midrash on the Psalms and Rashi present an interesting interpretation of Psalm 46.  Because Psalm 46 is by the sons of Korah, the Midrash and Rashi offer the view that it comments on God’s preservation of the sons of Korah when the earth was swallowing up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and other rebels (Numbers 16:32; cp. Numbers 26:11).  Essentially, the Midrash and Rashi hold that God made the sons of Korah stand in mid-air so that they wouldn’t be swallowed up!  According to Rashi, God will do something like this for all of Israel when the earth is worn out like a garment (a la Isaiah 51:6).

I listened to some Calvary Chapel sermons, and they referred to something that Pastor Chuck Smith said when it was predicted that California (his state) would soon be swept into the ocean.  He replied to concerned people that he would go surfing.  He wasn’t worried!  That reminded me of what I heard a person with Asperger’s say at an Asperger’s support group meeting: that we should ride the wave.  There will be highs and lows in our lives, and we should simply ride them out, and the lows can be times for us to become stronger.  For me, this was a valuable insight when it came to my social experiences, for I had good days, and I had bad days.  But should I passively ride waves for everything?  What if there’s something that I need to do to make the situation better?  What if I’m in the midst of an emergency?  I’d say that, even in those cases, I would benefit from a sense of inner peace and composure, as well as the serenity prayer, which asks God to help us to know the difference between when we can do something, and when we are not in control.

A Christian lady once said that we should get to the point where, even if we are dangling over Niagra Falls, we should trust in God to take care of us.  I can’t say that I’m there yet, but I hope to arrive there.  A question that I have is how I can be assured of God’s care for me.  Do I receive that care by being “saved”?  But what if I have a hard time believing in certain doctrines?

I read an article by Roy Aldrich, which appeared in the July-September 1962 Bibliotheca Sacra (which is published by Dallas Theological Seminary).  The article was entitled “The Christian and the atomic age”.  The title and the date of this article intrigued me because I wondered how people found peace in a time of such vulnerability, when a bomb could decimate much of humanity.  Aldrich essentially argued that Christ (not the United Nations) will one day bring world peace, and that Christians can be assured that—even if the bomb goes off—they will be with Christ in heaven.  Except for the “heaven” part, Aldrich’s argument was similar to how Armstrongism (my religious background) handled the atomic age: look to the Second Coming of Christ to fix everything, while despairing in any ability on the part of human leaders or institutions to bring about peace.  I will admit that any peace that will occur in our lifetime will probably be a fragile peace.  At the same time, are we not called to be peacemakers?  And, if we on an individual level recognize some obligation to live with our neighbors in peace, why shouldn’t we support doing that on an international level?


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
This entry was posted in Bible, Psalms, Religion, Weekly Quiet Time. Bookmark the permalink.

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