Though the Earth Gives Way

I grew up in an area of Oklahoma where earthquakes and landslides were practically nonexistent, and sinkholes were rare. But recently I have heard of enormous sinkholes in Oklahoma that are so large that cars and even houses have fallen into them. It’s scary to think that in a matter of seconds the earth below you could give way and cause extreme damage to property and possibly take your life.

When Life is Hard
The Psalmist uses this phrase “though the earth gives way,” and also builds upon this calamity by saying “though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:2-3). The mountains are one of the most stable parts of creation. It would be a devastating day if the mountains began to crumble. Events would be horrible if indeed the strong mountains trembled as they saw devastating waters rise above them.

The Psalmist is using these phrases hypothetically and metaphorically to describe life. He personifies the mountains and gives them emotions. Essentially the Psalmist is creating a hypothetical scenario that describes the worst kind of disaster and devastation. And he is using that to relate to life in general. Sometimes life gets hard. To use another phrase, “the rug is pulled out from underneath us.” We lose our footing and inevitably we begin to fear and panic.

Jesus promised us that we would have trouble in this life (Jn 16:33). Job said that man was “born for trouble” (Job 5:7). Some erroneously believe that because we are God’s people, He will spare us from trouble (James 1:2). But this is certainly not the case. Trouble comes in small ways and even in enormous ways. There are countless examples in Scripture of God’s people who experienced all kinds of trouble (Daniel, Hezekiah, Paul). So, we all will experience trouble in so many different ways. It may come to us relationally, financially, physically, politically, religiously, and so much more. There are so many ways trouble can come into our lives.

God is Our Refuge, Strength and Help
But how will we as God’s people respond to this trouble? Do we have any resources that will help us in our trouble? Unlike the world, we are God’s people. And the Psalmist reminds us who God is for us. He tells us, “God is our refuge, and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). In the midst of our trouble, God is three things for us.

Refuge: God is a refuge, a safe, unmovable, unshakable place. The Hebrew word for refuge is “masada” (מצדה metsada, fortress). King Herod the Great had two palaces built for himself between 37 and 31 BC. His famous “masada” was built 1500 feet above the plane on top of a mesa. The only way to the fortress was by way of a narrow road, known as the “snake path.” This palace was truly a fortress and safe place. Our God is a safe place for His people. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous run into it and are safe.”

Strength: God is also a strength for His weak children. When life falls apart, and we find ourselves weak, frail and unable to continue the battle, God provides His strength for us. God always gives grace to His people who are weak (2 Cor 12:9-10).

Very Present Help: God is also a very present help. God doesn’t hide from us when we need Him. He is very present in all our situations. For sure God has been faithful in the past, and promises to be faithful in the future. But we need Him in the present! And God promises to help us when we most need Him. We don’t have to go searching for Him. God is always working “all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). It’s hard to do life alone with no one to help us. But we must be confident that “our God” is with us and helps us!

We Will Not Fear
Fear and even panic are the natural responses to the troubles in our life. Because our God promises never to leave nor forsakes us (Deut 31:8, Heb 13:5), the Psalmist says, “therefore we will not fear” (Ps 46:2). Though everything falls around us, and trouble overwhelms us, we are confident that God is for us and with us helping us in our trouble. Unlike the world, we must not be irrational and stop thinking! We must allow the truths of God’s Word to impact how we live. Knowing that God is helping us should cause us to have a calm and peace.

I’m sure that the three Hebrew boys who were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar were frightened at first. But then the truth of what they knew to be true came out of their mouths in their response to the King. Their response revealed their calmness and peace. They told the King, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But if not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). The truth of God being their refuge caused them to respond to their trouble with peace and confidence.

While the world panics at every horrible thing that happens, God’s people must not fear. We must allow the truths of God’s promises to impact how we live. And when people ask us why we are not worrying or fearful, we can remind them that our God is our refuge, strength and ever-present help in our times of trouble.