"Throw down your weapons!"
Richard L. Floyd
"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10
Around 700 B.C. the Israelite king Hezekiah fortified his cities with strong towers to stand up to the Assyrian army he knew was coming. This was neither the first nor the last national security state that relied on their "security" from walls and weapons.
The Assyrians did come, and quickly conquered the coastal cities. Then Jerusalem was put under a withering siege.
At the worst hour they were completely surrounded by the enemy and they were terrified. It was dawning on them that their strong towers had failed to provide the security they had been promised by their leaders.
But when morning came the Assyrian army was gone, vanished, leaving only the dead at the camp. How they died remains a mystery. Somehow, by the grace of God, Jerusalem had been saved just as Isaiah had prophesied. "God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns." (Psalm 46:5)
Many believe this is the context in which Psalm 46 was written, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." It is this psalm on which Martin Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God," is based.
The psalm asks us, "Do we put our trust in the strong towers of our own making, or in God?" This is the God, who in the words of the Psalm, "makes wars to cease . . . breaks the bow, and shatters the spear."
Commentator J. C. McCann, Jr. suggests that "Be still, and know that I am God!" is not a good translation, because it sounds to us like an invitation to meditation or relaxation. He suggests that 'Stop!' or 'Throw down your weapons!' would be better.
To a country awash in guns, and a world stockpiled with weaponry, this psalm offers a challenge to us to think and pray about where our real security lies. Will our walls and weapons keep us safe?
God, our strong tower, in all our troubles, and amidst all our fears, remind us that you alone are God, our refuge and our strength. Amen.