Summary: We might call this the Hymn of Defense and Deliverance of God’s River City.
Biblical Text: Psalm 46:4-7
“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”
Defense and deliverance are the stuff that men shout about. Victories cause our souls to well up with songs of celebration. Psalm 46 is such a song.
There are two remarkable events in the history of Israel that may have evoked this melody. One is the wonderful deliverance of the armies of Jehoshaphat from the attacking forces of the neighboring nations, which is recorded in the book of Chronicles. But the other is the more likely inspiration – the supernatural deliverance of Israel in the time of Hezekiah, when “the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold” and Sennacherib and all his army were swept into swift destruction by the blast of the breath of God’s nostrils. The reason THIS event is the most likely inspiration for our text song is found in the similarities between this and a portion of the book of Isaiah, who lived during the period of that deliverance.
The verses of our text are the central theme of the entire song. We might call this the Hymn of Defense and Deliverance of God’s River City. While the poetry of the song does not contain the logical accuracy found in a treaty, the lofty emotion of the song obeys laws of its own. If we surrender to its flow, we will be able to see with the Psalmist’s eyes for just a moment, and discover the source of his consolation and strength.
Consider the river by which this city is planted. It is a symbol of great joy and truth. Its significance is derived from the geographical peculiarity of Jerusalem. Of all the great cities, Jerusalem alone had no broad river. One little perennial stream or rill of living water was all it had. But Siloam, as it was called, was mightier and more blessed for God’s city dwellers than the Euphrates, Nile and Tigress combined. Standing by that stream, you can envision the Psalmist looking over the plain eastward, and remembering the mighty forces that came against them, symbolized by the breadth and depth and swiftness of the great river upon which Ninevah sat like a queen. Then he considers the little tiny thread of living water that flows past the base of the rock upon which the temple is perched. It seems small an inconspicuous – nothing compared to the dash of the waves and rise of the floods of those might secular empires. But still, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.” The Psalmist knows that these waters shall never fail.
There is a constant symbolism that pervades all scripture regarding THE RIVER. From Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, you can hear the dashing of the waters of this river.
Genesis 2:10 says: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.”
In Psalm 36:8b it is recorded: “thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.”
Ezekiel 47:1 and 9 records: “Behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward,” “…and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”
John 7:38 proclaims: “He that believeth on me, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
On the Isle of Patmos, John reveals in Revelations 22:1, “And He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
And Isaiah gives another very striking image to consider when he says, “The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars.” Isaiah paints a picture of a stream lying around Jerusalem like a protective and un-navigable moat.
What do we conclude from this scripture comparison? God Himself is the river from which flows the communication of His own grace for our souls! God’s gift to us is LIVING WATER – God Himself! – An everlasting Source of all refreshment, strength, and blessedness. Psalm 46 begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” In all poetry, the sea has always been the symbol of endless unrest. Its barren, wandering waves of foam dash against our shores with unbridled power, in anarchy and rebellion. But the Psalmist then brings into stark contrast the tempest of troubled waters, with the gentle, quiet flow of the river, “the streams whereof make glad the city of God”! Picture the translucent little ripples trickling along beds of golden pebbles, and the meadows that drink from its pure waters. The Psalmist is saying that God’s grace, love and power come NOT with noise, not with commotion, not with conspicuous and destructive energy, but silently, through secret underground communication that flows into men’s souls. The quietness and confidence we display in the midst of calamity corresponds to the quietness and serenity with which God glides into our hearts. It’s not with a tumultuous sea that God communicates with us – it is with a still, small voice. The mightiest force in the universe is the force that has no speech or language, yet it moves all things, and operates all physical change without so much as disturbing what dances in its path. Thunder and lightning are child’s play compared with the energy that goes into making the silent dewfall and the sunshine. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, sayeth the Lord.”