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Psalms Series Two

The Earthquake Psalm

Psalm  46

Lesson audio

The reader should note that this lesson is deliberately shorter than usual, and its content was selected for the same reason: we have the privilege of hosting a presentation by Courtney Pierce of the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. As she has asked for at least half an hour, the lesson is short. As she will be speaking about the recent (January, 2010) earthquake it seemed appropriate to prepare a lesson on earthquakes.

Refuge and Strength

Psalms 46:1-3 NIV

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (3) though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.


In what do you trust?

It should be noted that this question is best answered before the earthquake hits – and the answer is best known after the earthquake hits. Many of us just don’t think about this; even in earthquake-prone Southern California. There are some common answers:

  • For many, we trust in ourselves. We have our earthquake readiness kit, and we are proud of our self-reliance. It’s an American tradition, right? Don’t worry, God, we’ll handle it.
  • For the postmodernists among us, we trust in the government. Man is supreme, not God. The state tells us what is right and wrong; the state therefore is supremely powerful – and will rescue us. (Which is not to say the state shouldn’t try; just that we shouldn’t make it our point of trust.)
  • For the Christian, trust is always in God. It’s just that it’s not often practiced that way.

See how the Psalmist repeats this in echoes of thought. First there is refuge – a place to go for comfort and safety. It’s our first thought. Then we will need strength – and finally we’ll admit we need help.

Fear Not

The logical conclusion (“therefore”) of this is to “fear not”. Fear is hierarchical. We fear things because of what they might do. Therefore, the greater the power, the greater the fear. With God, the fear is thus the greatest of all – or should be. With him, all other fears fade into the background.

So, then, listen to him. He told you that earthquakes and other disasters would occur. You should therefore take appropriate precautions. We teach children in school to drop under their desks in an earthquake. We don’t wait until the earthquake hits to do this.

Likewise, the Christian should train himself to always depend upon God – even when it doesn’t appear necessary. That way, when the time comes that it is obviously necessary, you’ll be in good practice.

Fear the one most powerful. Science rests upon nature; faith rests upon the God who created nature.

Eyes of the Spirit

Psalms 46:4-5 NIV There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells. (5) God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

It’s pretty simple, really. The universe didn’t change because of the earthquake. The universe rests on the unchanging nature of God Almighty – and you should rest upon it too. Just remember who you’re dealing with here!

Things to Come

Matters now take a prophetic turn:

Psalms 46:6-9 NIV Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (7) The LORD Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah (8) Come and see the works of the LORD,

the desolations he has brought on the earth. (9) He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,

he burns the shields [2] with fire.

I hope you see the point. At the end of all things God destroys this earth, these heavens; the earth melts. He destroys all power and authority which is not his own. Even under this trial, the instruction is the same: God is our fortress. We are not being assaulted, we are watching his power. It brings up two questions:

  • What should we do on the day of his return?
  • Knowing that, what should we be doing in preparation for it now?

(Answers may be found in places like Matthew 24-25.)

Be Still

Psalms 46:10-11 NIV "Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth." (11) The LORD Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.


Be still

The phrase is used in several places in the Bible, but here are two significant ones:

  • Moses, at the crossing of the Red Sea,[1] tells the Israelites to be still and see God’s deliverance.
  • Christ, in calming the sea, uses this phrase as a command.[2]

See the picture as being one of a Father calming his children in a storm. All is well; it just doesn’t look it at the moment.

Know that I am God

The modern church is greatly concerned with social justice; with making sure the government is charitable; with building community and other things which might be described as “the church of the world.” In our zeal to do this, I fear we forget to seek God while he may be found.

To know God, the self-existent one, is to set your universe in order. To know God, the unmoved mover, is to understand the source of all physical reality. To know God, the uncaused cause, is to understand the beginning and sustenance of all things. To know God, the necessary being, is to understand that it is by grace that you even exist. To know God, the perfect being, is to know that perfection exists, and that the perfect One is leading you. To know God, the intelligent designer, is to understand that the universe is not purposeless but a reflection of his glory – even in earthquakes.


The matter is simple:

  • The Lord is with us; what else could we fear?
  • God is our fortress – a mighty fortress is our God; the outcome of all things is clear too.

Selah – a musical notation which may mean, “think about that!” Meditate upon the greatness of God and his sure protection of his people. Even at the very end of reality as we know it, fear God – dread naught.

[1] Exodus 14:14

[2] Mark 4:39

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