Ceasing and Defeating (Psalm 46:9)


From cover to cover, the Bible portrays God as the Almighty, the One who possesses all power over the world. When the Lord exerts His infinite strength, no human resistance can withstand Him. When He unleashes His limitless might, the forces of hell bow before Him. When He faces opposing forces, He reduces them to nothing. 

In Psalm 46, the psalmist paints a picture of this awesome power that belongs to God. He writes, “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). Here, God is seen as the all-victorious Warrior, who comes to the defense of His people. 

The background of this psalm—a worship song of trust—is a time when the city of Jerusalem was under attack by a foreign invader. Amid this life-threatening situation, the people of God called upon Him, and He dramatically intervened. In the hour of their despair, God gave them the deliverance they desperately needed. The victory belonged to the Lord, who rescued them from certain destruction. 

“He Makes Wars to Cease”

In this verse, the psalmist announces that God “makes wars to cease” (verse 9). These “wars” refer to the aggressions of military forces that surrounded the holy city. As the people huddled defenseless behind fragile walls, God caused the threatened attack to “cease.”  On that day, He descended from heaven, as though He was riding on the clouds, and destroyed their enemies.

This word “cease”—the Hebrew word shabat—is translated elsewhere as “Sabbath.” This word means ‘to rest, to cease from labor.” Here, God causes threatening wars to come to an end. These oppressive enemies were utterly halted in their tracks. God soundly defeated their bloodthirsty foes and gave His people an otherwise impossible victory. 

This attack upon the people of God was, in reality, an attack on God Himself. In this desperate hour, the Lord stood with them and fought for them. He was not distantly removed, disinterested, or a pacifist. He did not refuse to fight. Instead, God stood by their side and actively engaged in this conflict. 

“To the Ends of the Earth”

The psalmist notes, God exercised His power “to the ends of the earth.” He recognized that His divine might is exercised far beyond the city of Jerusalem and outside the promised land. His omnipotence was unleashed upon the entire face of the earth in the worldwide flood. His irresistible force was made known in the land of Egypt, when He inflicted plagues and hardened Pharaoh’s heart. His invincible power was displayed in Babylon, when He released His people from captivity.

God is not a mere regional deity, restricted to operating in the Holy Land. He is not limited to one locale. He cannot be confined to one arena. There is no place that lies outside the jurisdiction of the Almighty. There is no place from which the power of God can be barred. There is no place where God is out of place. 

“He Breaks the Bow”

The psalmist further adds, “He breaks the bow.” The “bow” was an instrument of war used by Jerusalem’s enemies. This ancient equipment was intended to shoot flaming arrows over the vulnerable walls to set the city on fire. But before the damage could be inflicted, God rendered these weapons inoperative, snapping them in two. These foes were left empty-handed, stripped of power. 

According to the secret counsel of His will, God continues to remove many threatening dangers that come against us today. In the inscrutability of His providence, we are often spared by His invisible hand. Unknown to us, the invisible hand of God is outstretched to protect us in ways of which we are often not aware.

“He Burns the Chariots with Fire”

Moreover, God “burns the chariots with fire.” He torched their horse-drawn chariots of war. He scorched their proud riders. He seared their marching legions.  He reduced them to charred rubble and smoldering ashes. When His ancient people looked to Him, God fought for them—and gave them a decisive victory. 

David knew this, “Some boast in chariots and some boast in horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 20:7). As the Israelites’s confidence was in God, they knew His secure protection. David declared, “The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength” (Psalm 33:16-17). No matter how large their army or how strong their weapons, God was their only hope for triumph. 

Another psalmist, David, had learned this truth early in his life. As a young teenager, he went into battle against the towering giant Goliath with only a slingshot. When facing this intimidating foe, he said, “The Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47). With only an inferior weapon in his hands but possessing faith in Almighty God, he defeated Goliath. 

David passed this truth down to his son Solomon, who wrote the same, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Solomon was not arguing that a nation should not have a military defense. He maintained the overarching truth that victory lies ultimately in the hands of the Lord to give or to withhold. 

A survey of Scripture reveals that divine intervention should never be considered automatic, nor taken for granted. The Bible does not guarantee God’s protection in every conflict in which we find ourselves. Within His sovereign purposes, there are times when God withheld victory from His ancient people. When they forsook Him and trusted in themselves, God allowed them to suffer ignominious defeats. 

This leads to the following questions: Are you standing with the Lord? Are you on the Lord’s side? Are you trusting Him with an obedient faith? And more importantly, is the Lord on your side? These are questions on which you should reflect.

No matter how difficult the situation is in which you find yourself, turn to the Lord. Put your trust in Him. Then you will know—the battle belongs to the Lord.