1 God is our refuge and our strength, our ever-present aid, and therefore, though the earth be moved, we will not be afraid though hills into the seas be cast, though foaming waters roar, though all the mighty billows shake the mountains on the shore.
2 A river flows whose streams make glad the city of our God, the holy place wherein the LORD Most High has his abode. Since God is in the midst of her, unmoved her walls shall stand; for God will hasten to her aid when trouble is at hand.
3 The nations rage, the kingdoms move, but when his voice is heard, earth melts with trembling fear before the thunder of his word. The LORD of hosts is on our side, our safety to secure; the God of Jacob is for us a refuge strong and sure.
4 O come and see what wondrous works the hand of God has done; come, see what desolation great he brings beneath the sun. In every corner of the earth he causes wars to cease; the weapons of the strong destroyed, he makes abiding peace.
5 “Be still and know that I am God, the LORD whom all must claim; and every nation of the earth shall magnify my name.” The LORD of hosts is on our side, our safety to secure; the God of Jacob is for us a refuge strong and sure.
It’s always valuable to look at Bible readings in different versions or formats. Looking at this hymn version of Psalm 46, I am struck by two opposites in the imagery: motion and stillness. The earth moves, the hills are cast into the sea, the waters roar, the mountains are shaken. The nations rage and the kingdoms roar. Everything is in turmoil.
In contrast, God is. God is our refuge and our strength. God is in the midst of the holy city, here envisaged in a similar way to Revelation 22. The Lord of hosts is on our side. The God of Jacob is for us a refuge strong and sure. And God calls for us to ‘be still and know that I am God’.
During the last year or so, some have been in turmoil – working from home, home-schooling children, juggling many responsibilities. Some have been working in healthcare – long, tiring, emotional hours. Many have continued to work in situations that leave them feeling at risk. Others have been forced to be still – perhaps shielding or just staying at home. For everyone, life has changed – and keeps changing.
But whether busier than ever, or quieter than you have known; God is. God is on our side, God is our refuge strong and sure.
As we (hopefully) start to come out of the restrictions forced upon us over the last year or so, some will be less stretched and have time to be still. Others may struggle to go back out into the world and perhaps fear freedom. Many will be mourning loved ones or a lost way of life. As we emerge, God continues to call us to be still, or as The Message puts it: ‘Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.’ And God is our refuge and strength.
Father God, help us to step out of the traffic and find the stillness of you. Be our refuge from the storms of life, and refresh us ready to step back out, taking that stillness with us and sharing with all whom we meet. Amen
The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Advisor, Bristol Area. Member of Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell.