Hebrew Highlights 117 – Stronghold
Shalom! This is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
PSA 48:1-3, “(A Song; a Psalm of the sons of Korah.) Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King. God, in her palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold.”
There is an unexpected beautiful truth here, which we could miss if we didn’t slow down and think about what is actually said, and then compare our revelation with other scripture passages.
The first statement is simple enough. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.” We already get a picture of Jerusalem in our minds. Those of you who have been here know that Jerusalem is in the midst of mountains. It must not have been easily accessed in the days of horses and camels. Even today, it is not a rare sight to spot a Volvo overheated on the side of the road going up to the capital.
Jerusalem truly is, as expressed in the next verse, “beautiful in elevation.” So, the psalmist is writing from within a heavily fortified palace, within a walled city, on a high mountain, surrounded by other mountains. It sounds to me like he is pretty safe. Then we read verse 3, which contains the amazing statement, “God, in her palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold.”
Imagine that. Surrounded by both stone on all sides for miles, God is the REAL stronghold. In Hebrew, the word stronghold is “misgav”, which is built on the root “sagav”, which means to be (inaccessibly) high.
Having the light turned on by this verse, I can better understand PSA 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people From this time forth and forever.”
This concept of God being our stronghold is repeated 15 times in the Old Testament. Since it seems to be an important image for us to grasp, let’s look at a few of the other passages where it appears.
2SA 22:2-3, “And he said, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, Thou dost save me from violence.” In the phrase “The Lord is my rock,” the word ”Rock” is “sela”, which actually means bedrock. So, in a sense, in this painting of words, our Heavenly Father is both the castle, and the mountain it is built on. He is a place to run away to where violence cannot reach us.
A further characteristic of our stronghold is revealed in PSA 9:9-10, “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble, And those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.” It makes sense that our big stone mountain of a God will not up and run away from us. And that when we seek this high and awesome fortress, He will be easy to find.
Let’s read PSA 46:7-11, “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 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. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.” At both the beginning and the end of this paragraph we are reminded about our “stronghold”. Here God is not just as a place of refuge, but a personage of victory. We are also admonished to cease striving. After all, what can our puny limbs and limited knowledge possibly contribute to a battle being waged and undoubtedly won by an infinite and all-powerful Creator?
The next passage I would like to peruse may sound a little harsh to our politically correct 21st century ears. Many of us would not pray as strongly as David did. PSA 59:5-10, “And Thou, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations; Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity. Selah. They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; Swords are in their lips, For, they say, "Who hears?" But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations. Because of his strength I will watch for Thee, For God is my stronghold. My God in His lovingkindness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes.”
Now, you might say, “hey, what happened to God’s grace?” Aren’t we supposed to love our enemies? Well, I think there comes a time even for our merciful Father to say to our enemies, “Enough is enough!”
Actually, it might help to notice how David began this psalm. PSA 59:1 “(For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when Saul) (sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.) Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.” This is one of those times where we are given the setting of a psalm’s composition, probably purposefully to help us understand. By the way, when it says “Set me securely on HIGH”, it is that root word, “sagav” which I mentioned that “stronghold” is built from.
It appears to me that David was not out after blood as it seems in the words we read. Remember that he twice had a chance to kill Saul, and refrained from touching God’s anointed. I believe David, being frustrated by constantly having to run from a fickle enemy, sought God as his stronghold, and cried out for God to take control of the situation.
The remarkable truth about our stronghold is that we are neither imprisoned nor besieged there. Our fortress moves gracefully with us. We wear Him like a light suit of armor. He protects us like a circle of mighty cliffs.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem