Many names are used to refer to God in the Bible. Each one is more than a mere title for His deity, but reveals a specific aspect about His holy being and perfect character. God is so infinite that no one name can communicate the whole of His divinity.
The two main names used for God in the Old Testament are “LORD” and “God.” Both are vitally important, and both are found in this one verse: “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold” (verse 11). These two names for God reveal different aspects about who He is and what He is like. This verse is a word-for-word repetition of verse 7, which was used earlier in this psalm, making this a resounding chorus. This repeating refrain re-enforces the emphatic God-centered focus of this worship song.
This verse begins by declaring the first divine name, “The LORD.” This is the word “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” which is the most frequently used name for God, found a total of 5,321 times in the Old Testament. “LORD” comes from the Hebrew verb hawa, which means “to be” and describes the self-existence of God. This is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, when He declared, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
This divine name teaches the profound truth of the aseity of God. This theological truth means that He is self-sufficient and self-sustaining. That is to say, God is perfectly complete within Himself. He is not lacking anything. He has no unmet needs. He is not dependent upon anyone for anything. At the same time, all creation is completely dependent upon Him for everything.
The psalmist next adds that “the LORD” is “the LORD of hosts.” This means He is the commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven. He commands the angels around His throne, who await His next command. As “the LORD of hosts,” God is above all others in the chain of command of the entire universe. No one is His equal. He is under no authority.
As “the LORD of hosts,” He is the Protector of His ancient people amid all the dangers that threatened them. As they were attacked by invading foreign powers, these militant forces were stronger than the people of God. But in the face of such a match-up, God Almighty was far greater than their enemies. The battle belonged to the LORD, who won the victory for His people.
“Is With Us”
Even more astonishing, the psalmist announced that the LORD “is with us.” This word “is” revealed that God was immediately present with them. Jehovah was in their very midst. He was not a distant deity, but an on-site Sovereign. He was within their walls, directly engaged in the battle. The LORD was fighting for them on the frontlines. He was not a mere passive spectator, but an active Warrior, in the trenches with them.
Even so, God is present with every believer today. Jesus is “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23), meaning “God with us.” In the incarnation, God became a man in order to step into our skin and be with us. Jesus promises, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In fact, He indwells us—“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). God could not be anymore with us than He is presently––Christ dwelling in us by His Spirit.
The second line of this verse supplies another divine name: “God.” It is the divine name Elohim, which means ‘strong,’ indicating He is of great power. It is used 2,310 times in the Old Testament as a name for God. Elohim is in the plural—in what is called a majestic plural—revealing that He possesses boundless, infinite power. No opposition can resist him. He alone is God, and He is to be greatly feared, revered, and worshiped.
Elohim—the Strong One, God the Almighty—is how God is first revealed in the opening verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). All-powerful Elohim merely spoke into existence the entire universe, and He effortlessly upholds it moment by moment. Surely, this almighty God is capable of giving protection to His people in the face of their life-threatening dangers.
“Jacob” represents all the tribes of the ancient people of God. Elohim was able to protect all His chosen people, not merely some of them. All the tribes of Israel belonged to Him and were the fixed object of His constant concern and continual care. Those who come against His people touch “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
The same is true today. God keeps all His chosen believers secure in the palm of His hand. None of His sheep will perish (John 10:27-28). None will slip out of His hand (verse 29). He will raise all His people on the last day to be with Him in glory. All who believe in His Son have received “eternal life” (John 3:16). No believer will be left behind.
“Is Our Stronghold”
There is no adversary that can succeed against the people of God, who “is our stronghold.” The word “stronghold” (misgad) means “a high place, refuge, secure height.” It pictured a fortress situated high atop a mountain that was unassailable by enemy forces. God was this “stronghold” for His people whenever they came under the attack of their enemies.
In like manner, God remains a fortress of protection for believers today. We are surrounded by threatening powers of another kind. We are assailed by the enemies of worry, anxiety, fear, despair, and discouragement. These adversaries wage war against our lives. But with God as our stronghold, we may run by faith into the castle of His protective grace and find refuge.
When we abide in the Lord, He is an invincible stronghold in the day of our distress. He is a high place away from our worries and doubts. He is a fortress against our depressions and discouragements. The Lord is that powerful and strong to us, His people.
Psalm 46 concludes with the word selah, which appears at the end of this verse. Though it was not a part of what the psalmist originally wrote, it was added later by the compilers of the Psalter. Each psalm was collected and arranged by a team of editors, much like the book of Proverbs. The word selah was added three times in this psalm, at the end of verses 3, 7, and 11.
The Hebrew word selah means ‘to lift up.’ What it intends to convey is not exactly known. It could mean ‘to lift up the music,’ an indication for the congregational singing and instrumental playing to build to a loud crescendo. This is very possible, as these psalms were sung by the gathered assembly of worshippers. Or it could mean ‘to lift up the mind,’ an indication to pause and meditate on the profundity of what was said.
Either way, selah indicates that the message of this psalm—and especially this verse—should be clear. We should lift up our minds and meditate on the truth that God is our stronghold. Jehovah is with us—right where we presently live.