According to Greek Mythology, here is how the universe came into being:
In the beginning, there was only Chaos (a female deity), the gaping emptiness. Then, either all by themselves or out of the formless void, sprang forth three primordial (before the Olympian gods, like Zeus) gods: Gaea (GUY-uh, Earth), Tartarus (Tar-TEAR-us, the Underworld), and Eros (Love). Once Love (Eros) was there, Gaea and Chaos – two female deities – procreated, shaping everything known and unknown in the universe.
Chaos gave birth to Erebus (air-e-bus, Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Erebus slept with his sister Nyx, and out of this incestuous union Aether (ee-THER), the bright upper air, and Hemera (eem-AIR-aa), the Day, emerged. Afterward, feared by everyone but her brother, Night (Nyx) fashioned a family of haunting forces all by herself. Among others, her children included the hateful Moros (MOR-aws, Fate), Ker (Doom, a black god), Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), Oneiroi (AWN-ee-ree, Dreams), Geras (JER-us, Old Age), Oizus (oi-ZEES, Pain), Nemesis (Revenge), Eris (Strife), Apate (ah-PA-te, Deceit), Philotes (PHIL-o-tees, Sexual Pleasure), Momos (MAW-mo, Blame), and the Hesperides (hes-PAIR-e-dees, the Daughters of the Evening).
Meanwhile, Gaea gave birth to Uranus, the Starry Sky. Uranus became Gaea’s husband, surrounding her from all sides. Together, they produced three sets of children: the three one-eyed Cyclopes, the three Hundred-Handed Hecatoncheires (heck-a-TONK-er-ees), and the twelve Titans.
However, Uranus was a cruel husband and an even crueler father. He hated his children and didn’t want to allow them to see the light of day. So, he imprisoned them into the hidden places of the earth, Gaea’s womb. This angered Gaea, and she plotted with her sons against Uranus. She made a harp, a great adamant sickle, and tried to incite her children to attack Uranus. All were too afraid, except the youngest Titan, Cronus.
Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush for Uranus. As he was preparing to lay with Gaea, Cronus castrated him with the sickle, throwing his severed genitals into the ocean. From the blood that was spilled on the earth due to his castration, emerged the Giants, the Meliae (MAY-lay, the Ash Tree Nymphs), and the Erinyes (a-RIN-es, the Furies). From the sea foam that was produced when his genitals fell into the ocean, arose Aphrodite, the goddess of Beauty. (From https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/The_Myths/The_Creation/the_creation.html.)
The names of a number of different gods (twenty-five to be exact). The gods always fighting. Violence everywhere. Everything always chaotic. Out of this fighting and chaos, the world came into existence. Not out of peace harmony and joy, but out of confusion, disorder, and mayhem.
You could believe that story, or you could believe these words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said…(Genesis 1:1-3a). The One True God simply spoke into the chaos, and all the beauty of creation came into being. The psalmist summarized, “For when God spoke, the world began” (Psalm 33:9).
Here is the point: In this world you can either believe in chaos, or you can believe in the Creator. You can believe in confusion, or you can believe that God is always in control. You can trust mayhem, or you can trust Almighty God. You can live your life in chaos, or you can place your faith in God’s sovereignty. Chaos or Control. Fate or Sovereignty. Chance or Purpose. Death or Life. The choice is yours. And here is a second point: Chaos, and confusion, is the language of Satan. Joy, and peace, is the language of God.
This choice, between chaos and God, is beautifully painted in Psalm 46. The overall message of this psalm is simple, yet profound: In all circumstances, no matter how chaotic and confusing, the unchanging God is our refuge and strength.
While many of the psalms were written by David, Psalm 46 was not. The preface, and instructions, for this psalm reads, “For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.”
Who were the “Sons of Korah?” They were the immediate descendants of Korah, and probably the writer of this group of psalms that starts in Psalm 42 and continues through Psalm 49. In addition, Psalms 84, 85, 87, and 88 are contributed to the “Sons of Korah.”
So, the question becomes, who was “Korah?” In Numbers 16:1-35, we learn that Korah led a rebellion against Moses. As a result, God caused the earth to “open its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything the owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community…and fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:32-33, 35). Even after that disaster, people still continued Korah’s rebellion and so God caused a plague to come that killed 14,700 people (Numbers 16:49). No doubt, this was a time of chaos and confusion that many Hebrews did not quite understand. It was hard to confess that God was in control in the middle of such great chaos.
How many of you know that God is a God of second chances? No matter what you have done, He is always there ready to extend grace; ready to bring order and control out of chaos and confusion. In Number 26:8-11, there is a summary account of the rebellion and destruction of Korah. The end of this summary reads, “The line of Korah, however, did not die out” (Numbers 26:11). The Apostle Paul put it this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Incredibly, 470 years later, Israel’s greatest judge and prophet, Samuel, came on the scene. Believe it or not, Samuel was a descendant of the wicked Korah; good out of bad. During Samuel’s time, and into the time of David, some of the best songwriters and temple musicians were descendants of Korah. Psalm 46 was one of their songs, and it was birthed out of tribulation. Right now things may seem chaotic. But rest assured, God is in control.
The Hebrew word, “alamoth,” also in the preface, is instructional. It can either mean, “innocent,” or “young women,” or “young people.” This song, about chaos and control, was to be sung by either a children’s choir, or an all-girls choir! Innocence in the middle of confusion. Beautiful.
The psalm begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Sometimes the chaos we find ourselves in is personal; it is our “trouble.” Either because of bad decisions or outside attacks, or for no known reason at all, sometimes the chaos and confusion we find ourselves in is personal. During those times, “God is our refuge and strength.”
The Hebrew word, “refuge” does not mean a place you run to and hide or take a weekend off. A “refuge” is where you stop running and stop hiding and decide to stand and fight. A “refuge” is your line in the sand. It is your holy discontent. It is where you say, “I am tired of being tired. I’ve had all I can stand and I can’t stand no more.”
When everything around you seems to be falling apart, and you are being attacked from all side; when you would rather run and hide because of all the chaos around us, God says, “STOP! Turn around! Take your stand! Fight! I will be your ‘strength!’ When you are in trouble, I’ve got your back. I’m not going anywhere. I will not let you down.”
“Therefore,” the Sons of Korah continue, “we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:2-3). Sometimes chaos is out of your control. Insurance companies call these times, “acts of God.” I don’t know why we blame Him. Psalm 46:2 mentions earthquakes, volcano eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding. The ancient people would see these devastations as signs of the god’s anger and the gods warring with one another. But, here, the psalmists are saying that even if the world around you is literally falling apart and the sky is falling and natural disasters are taking everything from you; even then, God is sovereign and still in control. He loves you. He is still your “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Among the ancient Canaanite civilization, one of the gods the people worshiped was named, El. He was believed to be the father of gods and men. El was the god of creation. He was considered to be all-powerful and all-knowing. El, it was believed, lived on Mount Saphon. Mount Saphon was called the city of God. El was also viewed as a god of great compassion.
The Sons of Korah are referring to El, proclaiming he was a false god. The One True Creator God actually lives in the “city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4). This One God is compassionate. Even when chaos is all around, God’s holy city will not fall; God will help her at the break of day” (Psalm 46:5).
In all circumstances, no matter how chaotic and confusing, the unchanging God is our refuge and strength. “All circumstances” include personal chaos and natural disasters. But it also includes political turmoil. Oh, how much we need to hear the following words from the psalmists, “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall…” (Psalm 46:6a).
Folks, we need to understand, the government is not going to keep you safe. No government has the ability to do that. In fact, governments, like Satan Himself, only speak the language of chaos and confusion. The Republican Party is not your friend, the Democratic Party is not your salvation, and the United States is not utopia! As followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in the kingdom of God, not this world, or even this country. In the middle of our own political chaos and confusion, and in a world where it seems all nations are in an uproar, we have a King of kings and a Lord of lords who is neither an eagle, a donkey or an elephant, but the Lamb of God. He, and He alone, is our “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Having already referenced the false god, El, the Sons of Korah reference another false god of the Canaanites, Baal. Among other things, Baal was the god of chaos. Unlike El, who was compassionate, Baal was a vengeful god. When Baal spoke all kinds of bad things happened. His word, his judgment, caused natural disasters like earthquakes and volcano eruptions. But the Sons of Korah say, “NO! Baal is powerless.” The Most High God is sovereign, “he lifts his voice, the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6b-7). Yet even though He is a God to be feared, there is no reason to be afraid. “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7). In all circumstances, no matter how chaotic and confusing, the unchanging God is our refuge and strength.
There is nothing more chaotic than war. Yet even then, God is sovereign! The psalmists continue, “Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth (notice God does not start wars but ends them); he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire” (Psalm 46:8-9).
God hates war! And so should His followers. War is never a part of His plan, and to view the God of the Old Testament as a God of war is to not understand the character of God and to misinterpret and misapply the meaning and purpose of the Old Testament. I don’t understand all of this, but I do know the more I study Scripture, and the closer I strive to be near Jesus, the more of a pacifist I long to be.
War is a result of sin. War is a result of chaos and confusion, the language of Satan and governments. Yet, even in the proclamation and desolation of war, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
In all circumstances, no matter how chaotic and confusing, the unchanging God is our refuge and strength. Let that truth sink deep into your soul. In the midst of personal chaos, natural disasters, political turmoil, and war, God is sovereign. He is still on the throne. He can still be trusted.
The Sons of Korah end this psalm of chaos with an incredible word of promise. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a). The first rule of scuba diving is do not panic. No matter what happens, don’t panic. The second rule is if while swimming you get tangled in fishing line or seaweed or kelp, or if the bottom gets stirred up and you can no longer see, first, don’t panic, and second, stop swimming and be still. The more you fight to get out of the tangle, the more entangled you become. The more you try to swim your way out of the mirk, the more “mirky” it becomes. But if you stop, the seaweed will untangle itself and the muck and mire will settle back down so you can see. Likewise, when you find yourself in the middle of chaos and confusion, don’t fight your way out, don’t thrash around, don’t try to handle it yourself, “Be still,” and God will make a way, revealing Himself to you.
Regardless of the chaos and confusion, God says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10b-11).
What are you going through today? Is there chaos and confusion all around you? Is it personal? Is it beyond your control? Has the news and the political unrest in our society gotten you anxious and worried and mad? Are you trusting the wrong thing? Are you afraid things will get worse before it gets better?
Stop it! Don’t waste another ounce of emotional energy on the chaos. Trust in the unchanging love and compassion of Almighty God. He is still in control. He is still your “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
“Selah.” A word used twice in Psalm 46; after verse 7 and verse 11. It is used to mark the end of a stanza, but it is also a blessing that means “forever.” It’s like saying, “Amen,” which means “so be it.”
“The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” – “Selah” – AMEN! So be it! (Psalm 46:7 & 11).