An Interruption to Intercede for Israel
For good reason, Psalm 46 has been a cherished song across the ages of the church. This Psalm of holy confidence has even been deemed “Luther’s Song,” as it was the inspiration behind the reformer’s timeless hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” It was said of Martin Luther that in his many times of trouble and danger he would cheerfully exclaim, “Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm.” He would go on to explain:
“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.”
Almost two millennia later, the great pastor and key leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., would often employ Psalm 46 as a warning to unjust leaders that God would “rise up and break the backbone” of their oppressive power.
Yet for our current generation of Christ-followers, we can also draw upon the timeless truths of this Psalm and apply them in prayer over the turmoil, uncertainty, and tragedy that is occurring in the Middle East.
A Three-fold Interlude
A careful reading of Psalm 46 renders a clear three-fold division curiously marked out by the familiar word selah. While occurring more than 70 times in the Psalms, the term selah is one of many mysterious musical terms that often punctuate many of the divine songs. While one cannot be dogmatic on its interpretation, a great deal of scholarly agreement has surmised that selah conveys a sort of musical pause or interlude in the song meant to provoke reflection and meditation. Selah can function as an interruption in the flow of the melody to refocus our attention on the core truths of the song.
So as we consider these three interludes in Psalm 46, I believe that they provide us with three interruptions to awaken us toward intercession for the trouble and turmoil we see happening in Israel, the Middle East, and throughout the world.
An Interruption to Praise and Surrender (verses 1-3)
This first emphasis focuses our attention on who God is and what He is doing. The comforting truth that God is our refuge and strength speaks both to the external protection He provides and the way He empowers us in our weakness. God without and God within. He is the one who is “ever-present” or a “well-proved” help in times of trouble. Our God is a present help that gives a future hope.
God without and God within. He is the one who is “ever-present” or a “well-proved” help in times of trouble. Our God is a present help that gives a future hope.
We would do well to remember that while the presence of evil is real, it is also limited. But God’s presence is never limited. He is omnipresent. So while evil may be close by, our God is closer. While trouble may be great, our God is greater. While wickedness may be strong, our God is stronger. Even now, while the devastating effects of war are unfolding in the Middle East, we can be assured that our God is there, ever-present as a heavenly refuge and divine strength. Our earthly perspectives can be interrupted with eternal ones as we join God’s people in praising God for being a well-proven help in this time of trouble.
God’s presence permeates this Psalm, and the first response it invites is to surrender fear. The confidence-infused “therefore” in verse 2 charts a fearless path forward, even though utter chaos surrounds. We can pray along with our brothers and sisters in Israel and beyond for the presence of the Almighty to release them from the grip of fear and provide security at the soul level.
An Interruption to Trust in God’s Sustenance and Security (verses 4-7)
The turbulent description of the world’s roaring sea is now contrasted with God’s calm flowing stream. The river symbolizes the spiritual sustenance and security that God’s presence provides. God is front and center among His people and demonstrates His sovereign authority over the tumult of the nations.
The first of a twofold refrain serves as an exclamation point for this second stanza in verse 7. In Psalm 46, “Lord of hosts” speaks of God’s transcendence while “God of Jacob” points to His immanence. We can pray for heavenly sustenance and security to interrupt and permeate our earthly reality. This is especially true as we pray for God’s presence and safety to become tangible in Israel and Palestine.
In Psalm 46, “Lord of hosts” speaks of God’s transcendence while “God of Jacob” points to His immanence. We can pray for heavenly sustenance and security to interrupt and permeate our earthly reality.
An Interruption to Behold, Be Still, and Believe (verses 8-10)
The word “behold” is meant to arrest our attention and give witness not only to the visible works of God but also to what God is doing in the spiritual realm. While our real enemy is a spiritual one, God also dismantles and disarms the enemy’s schemes that are physically present in our world. This reality fuels our prayer for God to bring justice and establish true peace.
While our real enemy is a spiritual one, God also dismantles and disarms the enemy’s schemes that are physically present in our world. This reality fuels our prayer for God to bring justice and establish true peace.
In what is perhaps the most popular verse in the Psalm, the tone shifts in verse 10 from the inspired chorus writing about the Lord to God speaking directly with a sovereign imperative. The command “Be still and know that I am God” is often viewed by biblical scholars as having dual directions.
To God’s people, it is a command to stop striving and trust that the Lord of hosts will powerfully act on their behalf. It’s a command of comfort, rest, and an invitation to intimacy with the Almighty. For there is a certain quality of knowing God that can only come through stillness.
But to the enemies of God, it’s a stern warning meant to awaken them from their illusion of control and halt their lust for power.
In other words, the command to “be still” interrupts our tendency towards prayerless action and reminds us that we can rest and trust in God’s sovereignty.
This command is followed by the prophetic pronouncement that sums up history’s trajectory. God utters a double “I will” statement declaring that He will be exalted among all the nations of the earth. This certainly includes Israel, Palestine, Gaza, and all of the Middle East.
Do we really believe this?
If so, we can boldly pray this future reality into our present moment and ask the Lord of hosts to interrupt the nations with a fresh recognition that He is God!
This divine song of confidence closes with the second repetition of this hope-inducing refrain:
“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
So may we move forward today with open eyes to stay current on the facts of the unfolding crisis in the Middle East. But may we also move into the week with frequent interruptions and open Bibles and hearts set on interceding for the nation of Israel, trusting that God is and will continue to be a very present help in this time of trouble. And may our prayers also lead us in the coming weeks towards Spirit-led tangible action to generously give, serve, and persevere in worship-based intercession.
Copyright © 2023 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved.
 As quoted in: The Treasury of David. Spurgeon, Charles. Vol. 1. Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, MA. p. 344.
 Tremper Longman III, Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary, ed. David G. Firth, vol. 15–16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2014), 205.