Be still and know

Be Still and know – a sermon on Psalm 46 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

Martin Luther is perhaps best known today for his “rediscovery” of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which of course was a cornerstone of the Reformation. But what is perhaps less well-known is that he loved the psalms and found great comfort in them. He is said to even have re­ferred to the psalms as “the Bible in miniature.” And one of his favourite psalms was psalm 46. This is a psalm that is a source of comfort, inspiration and comfort for many Christians and it was so for Luther too. The time of the Reformation was a time of peril and it is said that at times Luther was quite discouraged and depressed. His co-worker and friend Philipp Melanchton recalled that at such times Luther would say “Come, Philipp, let’s sing the 46th Psalm.” Then they would sing Luther’s own version, the song we sang earlier – A mighty fortress is our God. Luther himself said:[1]

We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends his church and his word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh and sin.

When we read through this psalm, we see the truth of Luther’s words. God is indeed with us, He miraculously defends and preserves us against all comers – and not even the gates of hell can pre­vail over His church. This is God’s promise to His people. It is a promise of His presence, His protec­tion and His care for His people. This psalm tells us where our strength, our refuge, our help, our comfort and our assurance is. The first 3 verses tell us about the shelter and sanctuary we have in the Lord. Verses 4-7 speak of the eternal stream of sureness and stability in God. And the final 4 verses remind us of the rest – the stillness – we find in Him.

  • The sanctuary in God (v1-3)
  • The presence of God (v4-7)
  • The rest in God (v8-11)

[1] Martin Luther, quoted in JH Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 1:2:344.