It is not every man that can sing this Psalm; he must belong to the believing company, he must have God to be his God, and he must, like Israel, have learned the art of prevailing prayer, or else he cannot sing the song of peace amid commotion and calamity. No man can truly sing this psalm but those who are redeemed.
It was because Martin Luther’s heart was chaste towards God that he delighted to sing this psalm. “Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm, and let the devil do his worst.”
I shall say a little, first, upon the confidence of the saints: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Then I will speak upon the courage which grows out of it: “Therefore will not we fear.”
True believers rest upon the Rock of ages. Their confidence is altogether beyond themselves. In this song there is nothing about their own virtue, valour, or wisdom. Though the earth be removed he is undismayed; and this does not arise from his own personal self-sufficiency, but from God, who is his refuge and strength. He is fearless, not because of his original stoutness of heart and natural firmness of will, but because he has a God to shelter and uphold him. If he does not fear calamity, it is because he fears God, and God alone. Our psalm begins with God, and with God it ends:— “The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
We never know what strength is till our own weakness drives us to trust Omnipotence; never understand how safe our refuge is till all other refuges fail us. When the earth is removed, and the waters of the sea roar and are troubled being driven both from land and sea, we hide ourselves in God. For confidence and peace we must say unto the Lord, “All my fresh springs are in Thee.” Peace comes to me, not only by what God is, but by what God is to me. Let us join with the prophet Jeremiah in his comfortable soliloquy: “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” As with Thomas we behold the print of the nails, let us say unto our blessed Redeemer— “My Lord and my God.” The deep peace which is our right and privilege, will not be ours unless, with assured faith, we take the Lord to be ours in all the fullness of His love.
This confidence will be greatly sustained by a clear knowledge of God. “Acquaint thyself with God.” If we were greater students of God, how much happier we should be! When men of God make God their study, then they discover in Him those things which make Him a refuge for their hours of danger, a strength for days of labour, and a help for emergencies of every kind. The more we know the Lord, the more shall we perceive that He is full of blessings to us. “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” Half our fears are the result of ignorance. Truth as yet unknown would greatly encourage us if we did but perceive it. If we knew more of God we should be bold as lions. To know Him is life eternal. Solid peace, which no calamity can destroy, must come from God.
This Psalm is best sung by men and women who know what they are singing, because they have felt the preserving and delivering grace of God. The presence of God does so stay the soul and quiet the heart, that fear, which hath torment, is driven away. God does not take away from us those natural fears which lead us to seek the preservation of life; but he masters them by a serene security of heart produced by His presence. It is a most delightful thing, when the heart is placid, because we believe in God and in His Christ. This peace is the peace of God which passeth all understanding; no pretence of peace, but a divine reality which the world can neither create nor destroy.
The courage of the Christian is not the hardness of the Stoic. The Stoic boasts that he does not feel; the Christian does feel, feels as keenly as anybody, and much more than most; and yet, for all that, the conscious love of God lifts him above fear. Because God is present as the refuge of His people, it is unreasonable for them to fear.
No calamity will change God’s love to us. We believe in a God who has arranged all things according to the counsel of His will. Do you believe that anything is left to chance? With God there are no contingencies. Nothing can happen but what God ordains; and, therefore, why should we fear?
Now, this fearlessness is exceedingly profitable. If a man is able to contain himself, and possess his soul in patience through the presence of God, he will not do that which is foolish. Men when they are frightened are in hot haste, and hurry themselves into folly. In fact, terror is a kind of madness. Many absurd actions have been performed under the influence of panic. In times of danger the man who is calm is the most ready to use the proper means of escape. Presence of mind is invaluable, and the best way to secure presence of mind is to believe in the presence of God. Lose your head and you lose the battle. Lose your heart, and you have lost all.
One thing more I desire to say about this fearlessness, namely, that it brings great glory to God. If you are enabled to rise above fear in times of alarm, then will those who see you say, “This is a man of God.”
If you become fearless through the presence of God, that courage will be tried. It will be tried in ways novel and unusual. “Though the earth be removed.” This is a terrible novelty. Those who have been in earthquakes tell me that the feeling is most singular. It does not seem like a common shake, but as if everything had given way at once. You do not know what to do: the very foundations of everything have slipped from under you. Suppose that the Lord is about to try us in new and unheard of ways; yet, having the Lord to be our refuge, strength, and present help, we will not fear. New trials will bring new grace, and prove the value of old promises.
“Well,” saith one, “what is the practical run of all this?” Why, just this. There may come to you and to me trouble great and unexpected, and it will then be well to rise out of the reach of fear. War may soon burst upon us. Something worse than war is threatening. Anarchy seeks to make havoc in the streets. There are plenty of signs and tokens that a breakup of social order is desired by not a few. To break down, divide, destroy, disintegrate, is the policy of many. The earthquake of society is more to be dreaded than the quaking of the globe. The unloosing of the bond of society is a thing to be dreaded more than an incursion of wild beasts; but the Lord reigneth, and therefore right will prevail.
Let us stand at the window and look out at the storm, and see the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds without a trace of fear. He that helps His people is stronger than their adversaries. He can deliver from the jaws of the lion, and He will deliver without fail.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Earthquake, but not Heartquake” (Psalm 46:1-3) by CH Spurgeon dated 27 February 1887. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/earthquake-but-not-heartquake/#flipbook/