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FIRST-PERSON: Pause and think of that!

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — The world is such an uncertain place. We are awash in political, economic, even religious uncertainty. Currents of circumstances crisscross one another in endless complications. It seems the one certainty in every area of life is uncertainty.

It was that way in April 1521, when Martin Luther’s ramshackle cart wobbled its way to Worms, Germany. He had been summoned to appear before the emperor and Catholic prelates to give an account of this new “heresy” he was teaching called “justification by faith alone.” The learned Johann Eck laid out all of Luther’s writings and then asked Luther if he was prepared to recant.

Luther retired to his room that night. His Bible fell open to Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change …. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Luther returned the next morning to stand before his Catholic detractors. In response to their call to recant, Luther responded, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

The Reformation was off and running.

Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm. During the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation, Luther would turn to his trusted friend Philip Melanchthon and exclaim: “Let’s sing the 46th Psalm, and let the devil do his worst!” It inspired his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

No psalm in all the psalter expresses the tremendous truth more than Psalm 46 that God’s presence and power are with us in all circumstances. We need to remember that God offers us two kinds of help: a stronghold into which we can flee and a source of strength by which we can face the uncertain future.

Psalm 46 is divided into three stanzas, each ending with the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah.” Most likely, it originally was a musical notation indicating a pause in the music for contemplation on what was just sung. You might translate it, “Pause and think of that!” When the mountains quake, the Lord is my refuge and strength … Selah! When nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall, the Lord Almighty is with us … Selah! Be still and know that I am God … the Lord Almighty is with us … Selah!

Each year brings 365 days of uncertainty. Every day brings 24 hours of the same. But every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power in our lives is available to us. What does the future hold? It really doesn’t matter, does it, as long as Psalm 46 is true! His Kingdom is forever! So every day, reflect on Psalm 46 or any passage of Holy Writ and Selah — pause and think of that!

    About the Author

  • David Allen

    David Allen is dean of the school of preaching and distinguished professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This column first appeared at the seminary’s Theological Matters website, www.theologicalmatters.com.

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