« The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:6–7
Election Day in the United States is here. The news is spinning, minds are racing, affections are misfiring. While some of our neighbors are rejoicing, others are raging. All of us are probably exhausted from the adrenal-pumped arguments we see to the right and the left.
Where can we go in this political turmoil for a moment of refuge?
Right now, we can experience a renewing deep in our souls. Upheaval is not a time to wring our hands or throw them in the air. Upheaval can be a time of renewal. The key is to zoom out and catch a glimpse of a greater discombobulation than American politics.
In Psalm 46, the Sons of Korah invite us to sing along with a kind of unrest, chaos, and trouble that make our country’s current moment resemble a stubbed big toe. Look at the situation the Sons of Korah are painting—the whole earth is on the fritz. “. . . 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” (v. 2–3).
Upheaval is not a time to wring our hands or throw them in the air. Upheaval can be a time of renewal.
Pretend the earth’s magnetic poles go haywire and the moon stops pulling the waves back into the ocean. Imagine Mount Kilimanjaro somehow sliding into the Indian Ocean. Picture the Grand Canyon collapsing in on itself, becoming a flat, dusty plain. Beauty and awe are now ashes and suds. Can it get any worse than the earth shutting down? Psalm 46 is apocalyptic; it’s just what we need.
And yet, what tune are the Sons of Korah teaching us in Psalm 46? “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way . . .” (v. 1–2). Even if the earth loses its bearings, we will not fear. Our current cultural climate, while significant, is small potatoes compared to the meltdown of our planet in Psalm 46.
In light of this week, let’s get more apocalyptic. If we allow ourselves to zoom out, lift up our eyes and assess reality, the people of God will see we have a reason to resist the rage of the nation, but to rejoice with heaven.
It makes sense that « the nations rage and the kingdoms totter » (v. 6) since they have no bearing outside of themselves. When the dominos of life don’t click and fall the way we want, it’s disorienting. We all have neighbors raging—are we? The triune God is our real-time « present help » (v. 1) to keep us from joining the rage machine.
The people of God have a reason to resist the rage of the nation, but to rejoice with heaven.
This is when the famous line of this Psalm kicks into gear: « Be still and know that I am God » (46:10). We need this word. We especially need it today. Some take this verse as encouragement to get a cup of Ethiopian coffee and sit in the shade of a mossy oak tree. I’m all for it. However, nestled into the language of this Psalm is something more intense. It’s a refusal to participate in the calamity, insanity, and bustle around us.
The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) translates Psalm 46:10 this way: « Desist! Realize that I am God! I dominate the nations; I dominate the earth. » Eugene Peterson put it this way: « Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything. »
Psalm 46 is about more than simple stillness; it’s a stillness from messiness. It’s resigning from the rage machine. It’s stepping out of the madness, the media, the overcharged rhetoric, and taking a long and loving look at our God and rightly seeing reality. I’m not asking you to eject from culture. I’m inviting you to inject spiritual reality.
The Sons of Korah remind us of four truths to help us experience deep spiritual renewal amid any turbulence.
1. God is our refuge (v. 1). American politics cannot bring a sigh of relief and security to our souls. Only God renews us.
2. God is our strength (v. 1). Any other source of strength is a mistake. Partisan politics is a placebo, a sugar pill, for our sanity. God is how our hearts and souls thrive in these times.
3. Our future is indestructible (v. 5). God has fortified your future in his everlasting kingdom. Nothing can threaten the place Jesus has gone to prepare for you.
4. The Lord of hosts is with us (v. 7). No president or policy can match or evict the joy, sweetness, and comfort the commander of the cosmos, the risen Christ, gives his people.
Don’t let temporal tides override the truth embedded in your heart. Refuse to ride the rage bus. Desist. Get out of the traffic. Get still and remember God. Renewal is there with him. As the old hymn teaches, « When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay. »