Meditations for Troubled Times
“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 9:9 - Part 2)
In our previous meditation, without specifying so, we answered two questions about this verse: (1) How do we understand the character/work of the LORD? He’s a stronghold; and (2) For whom is he a stronghold? He is a stronghold, a fortress, an unceasing, impenetrable, high fortification for those who have been crushed. And, obviously, the crushed find Yahweh to be a place of safety as they seek Him.
Next, though, our verse focus on the “when” question. When is the LORD a stronghold? He is a stronghold in times of trouble. Two things are worthy of note about that statement. First, it’s the word translated trouble. This particular word is a rare form, but it’s related to a more frequent word, which means “distress.” Literally the word pictures being squeezed.
Think of being put in a vise clamp, so that you are now motionless. Consider a moment when you are paralyzed emotionally or physically restrained. This is the idea behind this word. And what comfort is there for you when the vise of trouble holds you in its grip? Your comfort is that you are not cut off. You have a stronghold, the nearness of the LORD with his omnipotent power, even when distress falls.
Then, secondly, notice Yahweh is a stronghold not merely in a time of trouble, but in times (plural) of trouble. You don’t have to be facing the specific trouble of David to know the comfort of which David writes. In every situation where you find yourself on a narrow path, where there appears to be no help, nowhere to turn, no place to hide, in just these moments, Yahweh is the walled defense of his people. Thus, David could say of the LORD elsewhere, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress (or stronghold); I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)
What does such a truth mean for the people of God? If you are in trouble, of any kind at any time—overwhelmed with burdens and grief, pursued by physical or spiritual enemies, threatened, insulted, accused, frightened in days where a virus flies through the air—you have a refuge where the enemy can’t reach. You have a hiding place, and with the LORD our God, our souls are secure.
This, of course, doesn’t mean no trouble will ever come to you. Otherwise, the “when question” doesn’t even make sense. Yahweh is a stronghold precisely in times of trouble. The point then is, as pressures press on you, you are “garrisoned by omnipotent love.” What a thought this is! All around you the unconquerable, unceasing, covenant love of God encompasses your soul. May such a truth lift your head!