There is a fascinating story going around after a terrible tornado ripped through Hattiesburg Mississippi. There was major damage to the chapel at William Carey University which had all its buildings damaged. While starting to clean up the wreckage, folks were stunned to discover an open Bible, sitting unharmed on the pulpit, surrounded by devastation from the storm. It was opened to Psalm 46, Luther’s inspiration for “A Mighty Fortress”. “God is our refuge and strength”.
Like so many things in the Bible there is a lot there in that Psalm that we may never have thought about, but we should. Here is the instruction given at the beginning of the Psalm, (remember they were always meant to be sung.)
To the Chief Musician. For (or by) the Sons of Korah. Upon Alamoth. A song.
This means that the chief musician will either have this song sung by the sons of Korah in soprano voices (alamoth), or that this song, written for the sons of Korah, will be sung in a high register.
Who are the sons of Korah? They were a group of excellent musicians whose job was to produce the music and the pageantry that would be a part of worship in the temple especially in times of great thanksgiving. They led the praise of God with harp and psaltery and song.
Who was Korah? He was a wicked man who plotted against Moses, and God opened the ground under him and the earth swallowed him up. You can read about that in Numbers 16 and also 26. The sons of Korah were distant relatives of a man swallowed up by the earth.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
If the psalm was written by the sons of Korah they were remembering their shadowy ancestor who perished in an earthquake for his pride and rebellion. If it was written by David he is reminding the singers of their past. The psalm reminds all of us that as we sing our songs of praise they should come from humility as we remember the fallen state from which He raised us and the redemption we have through His mercy. Our sin makes us secure in earthly things and then, when that security is threatened and that which held and supported us swallows us, we cry to God and He answers. The psalm goes on that we should “be still and know” that God is God.
Prayers for the folks in Hattiesburg and across the nation suffering from floods and tornados.