09 February 2022

“God is within her; she shall not fall.”

Psalm 46.5.

I hadn’t heard of this out-of-context verse before, ’cause it appears to mainly be misquoted by fans of the New International Version. I grew up among King James Version fans (and some of ’em were KJV-Only, which is a whole other problem) and while we might misinterpret the verse too, we’re not gonna misinterpret it quite like this.

One of TXAB’s loyal readers informed me of the problem. Seems a woman in her bible study group has adopted the belief that once we become Christian, once the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, we gain an infallible ability to understand and interpret scripture.

Okay. Seeing as there are thousands of denominations of Christian, some of whom really don’t get along (even though we should) because we have such very different understandings of scripture, it’s pretty obvious the Spirit grants us no such power. There’s an old Pharisees joke that when you put two Pharisees together, you wind up with three different opinions. No, that’s not a typo: Three. And the very same thing can be said about Christians. But if there was such a thing as Spirit-empowered infallibility, we’d all be in absolute sync with Jesus, right? It’d be so monolithic, it’d scare people. Although if it’s Jesus’s thinking, there’s actually nothing to fear. He’s Jesus, remember? We wouldn’t be evil jerks. We’d be good!—like Jesus.

But nope, we’re usually wrong. We gotta make an effort to correct our ways of thinking, and get in sync with Jesus—and some of us are gonna make loads of errors along the way, because popular Christian culture has a lot of horsepucky mixed in with the chocolate pudding. We’re gonna think, “But everybody thinks Jesus means this,” and it turns out “everybody” really means “all the Christians I know,” which is a long long way from everybody.

Given all this evidence, it’s hard to fathom anybody can make the claim of Spirit-empowered infallibility. Unless of course you think you’re the only one with this gift: You’re the only human on earth (or one of the very, very few) granted the power to always know how the Spirit thinks, what the bible means, and what to do. You’re like the best prophet ever. You’re the Christian version of Muhammad, or Joseph Smith.

Well, more accurately you’re a giant narcissist. What we should see in Christians is humility, not claims of infallibility.

The woman who claims infallibility, points to this scripture to back up her claim:

Psalm 46.5 NIV
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

And of course it’s not talking about her. As is made obvious by the verse right before it.

Psalm 46.4-5 NIV
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

“Her” refers to “the city of God, the holy place,” by which the sons of Korah mean Jerusalem and its temple. Yes, the pronoun in the original Hebrew is the suffix הּ/-ah, “her,” but that’s because ancient Hebrew’s nouns have masculine and feminine genders, and עִיר/iyr, “city” is a feminine noun. Still kinda is in English, because a lot of people refer to their cities, states, and nations as “her.” Jerusalem is the “her” the psalmists mean.

Not the individual Christian.

“But Jerusalem fell…”

As we all know from history (assuming we’ve studied history), Jerusalem fell many times. We don’t know about the times it’d been attacked and conquered before the 11th century BC, when King David ben Jesse conquered it from the Jebusites and made it his capital. We do the Babylonians later destroyed it when they conquered Israel, and the Romans later destroyed it when they conquered Judea. The crusaders didn’t destroy it, but they did take it from the Umayyads, and Salah ad-Din took it from the crusaders a century later.

So… does this mean the psalmists were wrong when they said the city will not fail? ’Cause it did fall. Which is apparently why people claim verse 5 isn’t really about Jerusalem; it’s about any eager Christian who claims the verse for themselves, and declares this “promise of God” henceforth applies to them—’cause they’re pretty sure they can do that.

Back to context. By which I now mean historical context. The sons of Korah wrote this psalm at a time when it looked like Jerusalem would fall to one of southern Israel’s various enemies, like the Assyrians or Moabites. At that time, it didn’t. Which is why the Hebrews kept this psalm, and kept singing it: It contained a prophecy which had come to pass. It was a reminder God had spared Jerusalem.

Did he spare Jerusalem later? Nope. Because God hadn’t decided to spare Jerusalem once and for all. He never made any such claim. He only inspired his psalmists to say it was gonna be rescued then. Reading “once and for all” into this passage, is a bad interpretation. Reading “and this applies to another instance in the future,” like Darbyists do whenever a verse like this suits their End Times timeline, is also a bad interpretation. Scriptures regularly have an historical context. Don’t go inventing new ones!

Psalm 46.4-5 KJV
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The KJV makes it more obvious God is defending his city, not promising infallibility to some freshly-minted bible interpreter. Like I said, this out-of-context interpretation isn’t gonna be found a whole lot among KJV fans. You can only extract the false meaning out of just the right translation.

Because so many English bibles follow the KJV’s lead, and use the pronoun “her” for Jerusalem instead of the more appropriate “it” (besides, “her” is much more poetic) I can see how people might abuse this verse, and claim it means God is standing up for an individual rather than his city. No doubt more than one Christian has claimed “God is in the midst of me; I shall not be moved; God shall help me!” And y’know, sometimes God does help such people. And sometimes he doesn’t. After all, this verse is not a promise God makes to bail us out whenever we’re in a jam—especially when the jams are of our own making! God has to specifically tell us he’s gonna rescue us from our particular circumstances. If he hasn’t, we have no basis for believing he will, and we’re only setting ourselves up for great disappointment. Don’t do that to yourself.