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Working and Warring: Psalm 46:8


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God never sits idly in heaven, a mere passive spectator of world events. He is not distantly removed, never off duty, never abdicating His throne. He does not abandon the world to run its own course. Instead, God remains on the throne, ever alert, ever active, continually intervening into human history. 

This is the truth the psalmist affirms in Psalm 46, when he writes: “Come, behold the works of the LORD, who has wrought desolations in the earth” (verse 8). By this open invitation, he calls the people of God to contemplate the mighty works He has performed on their behalf. 

The historical background of this psalm was a perilous time in the past when Jerusalem was surrounded by an invading foreign army. The situation looked hopeless for the people of God. Defeat looked to be inevitable. Death appeared inescapable. The grave was looming. It seemed there was no way of escaping this bleak outcome. 

But in the midst of their ordeal, the people called upon the Lord and declared their trust in Him. In response, God, as it were, stepped out of heaven into the midst of their threatening crisis. When He appeared, He devastated their enemies. He gave them the victory they otherwise would have never known. 

The psalmist now calls upon the people of God to behold what He has done for them. They must not lose sight of His mighty acts that delivered them from devastation. They must keep these awesome deeds at the forefront of their minds. 

The same is true for believers today. We must look back and behold the powerful works that God has performed on our behalf—prayers He has answered, needs He has supplied, situations He has controlled, doors He has opened, circumstances He has overruled. Let us remember what God has done for us in the past to bring us into the present. 

As we consider this verse, it is a summons to the people of God to look back and re-examine what the LORD has performed for them. 

“Come, Behold” 

First, the psalmist calls upon the people of God, “Come, behold the works of the LORD (verse 8).” This verb “come” is actually the Hebrew word for “walk.” What the psalmist is saying is, “Walk over here and see this. Take a very close and careful look. Otherwise, you are going to miss this.” 

The word “behold” means to observe something that is very important, something upon which you need to fix your gaze. God’s people must narrow their focus upon what He has done for them. They must not let this intervention escape their minds. 

This is what we must do today. In the midst of our hectic schedules, we need to pause and consider what God has done in our lives. We need to carefully review and recall what the invisible hand of God has performed on our behalf.

“The Works of the Lord”

Specifically, these ancient believers were invited to carefully observe “the works of the LORD.” The psalmist identifies these “works” in the plural, emphasizing the many deeds that God did on their behalf. In this context, these “works” are His mighty saving acts that rescued them from the imminent danger of foreign oppressors. The reference is to what the LORD did to dramatically intervene and deliver them from devastating destruction and certain death. 

Psalm 66:5 issues this same invitation: “Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.” These saints of old were called to investigate these divinely wrought works, which were great in number and great in power. They must never lose sight of what God did for them.

As believers, we must do the same. We are too often preoccupied with what is taking place immediately in front of us. This causes us to lose sight of what God has done in the past to bring us to this point. We need to look back and consider the prayers God has already answered to bring us to the present. We need to reflect upon how God has orchestrated our previous circumstances to preserve us for where we now are. 

This verse calls us to contemplate the works that God has performed to bring us through tough times in the past. We must consider what He has done to advance us into this present hour. This will cause our hearts to worship God. And this truth will strengthen our confidence in the midst of difficult times, knowing He will continue to work into the future.  

“Who Has Wrought Desolations”

The second half of this verse states about God, “who has wrought desolations.” In this context, the “works” that God performed in the past are clarified in the next verse, “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire” (verse 9). This states how God went to war for them and fought their battles. He was their Protector and Defender. The battle belonged to the Lord!

The word “desolations” literally means ‘waste.’ We would say in our vernacular that God laid something to waste. It means to completely devastate an object, reducing it to nothing. These “desolations” were when God went to war on behalf of His people and utterly destroyed their foreign invaders. These “desolations” were the fields covered with the dead bodies of their enemies. 

The message was clear. Those who come against the people of God, come against God Himself. God identifies with His people. When His people are threatened, God steps in to protect them. No one can stand against God when He, the Lord of hosts, goes to war. 

However, this verse is not a guarantee that we will always be delivered out of every difficulty. Stephen and James, for example, were the first two martyrs in the book of Acts, and they were not delivered from death. Jesus Himself was delivered over to death according to God’s sovereign plan. But we will be rescued ultimately, when He brings us safely into His presence in heaven.  

“In The Earth”

This verse concludes with the psalmist declaring that these divine works have been performed “in the earth.” In other words, whatever God planned and purposed in heaven has been executed upon “the earth.” The sovereign will of God cannot be thwarted by mere men. What has been predetermined in heaven will not remain in heaven. Instead, it will come to pass upon “the earth.” 

The apostle Paul confirms this truth when he writes that God “is working all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). This is to say, all that God has foreordained will be fulfilled in our lives. He is causing every detail to work together for our good (Romans 8:28). God has been constantly at work in your life and continues to be. 

How will you respond to what the psalmist calls you to do? Will you behold the mighty acts that God has performed in your past? Will you take note of what He has already done for you? In response, may you offer prayer and praise to this great Savior.