The book of Psalms—a collection of 150 poems intended to be sung—is packed with encouraging statements in times of trouble. Individual verses in the Psalms, however, are frequently subject to misinterpretation when taken out of context. This is particularly true of Psalm 46:5.
The statement “God is within her, she will not fall” is often used to encourage and uplift women facing challenging situations. When this verse shows up on social media, it is often taken as a direct message to women in adversity: “You will not fall, despite the hardship you endure, because God is in you, giving you power.” It is essential, however, to unpack the true meaning of Psalm 46:5.
The her in Psalm 46:5 is commonly assumed to refer to women in general, offering them a comforting message of resilience during troubling times. But we need to review the surrounding verses. In verse 4, the psalmist acknowledges that “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (ESV). The her refers to the city of God. So, while it is appropriate to draw inspiration and encouragement from verse 5, we must not interpret that verse as a direct reference to women. Rather, we must see it as Israel’s collective praise for God’s deliverance, as depicted in Psalm 46:1–3 (cf. Psalm 48:1–3).
The heart of Psalm 46:5 is that the all-present God guarantees Jerusalem’s unshakable stability. God is always by her side, ensuring that she remains secure, even in tumultuous times. Because of God’s protection, the people of God have nothing and no one to fear: “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, ESV).
There are important parallels between Psalm 46 and the book of Kings. When the Assyrians besieged the city of God, the pagan field commander unleashed a series of taunts and threats upon the people of God. In doing so, he sought to prove that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was just as powerless as other gods in the lands conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:28–35).
During the siege, King Hezekiah sought the Lord. After receiving a menacing letter from the Assyrian king Sennacherib, Hezekiah took the letter to the house of the Lord and fervently prayed for deliverance (2 Kings 19:14–19). As dawn broke, the Assyrian army found that they had lost 185,000 soldiers. During the night, an angel of the Lord had descended upon the Assyrians, putting a swift and decisive end to their terror (2 Kings 19:35). Jerusalem was saved.
God had predicted the defeat of the Assyrians through the prophet Isaiah: “This is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. . . . I will defend this city and save it’” (2 Kings 19:32, 34). In other words, God is within her, she will not fall.
The Assyrian invasion of Israel provides the historical backdrop for Psalm 46:5. Amid perilous circumstances, the psalmist’s words take on new significance. The vindicated faith of Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem is a testament to the almighty power of God. God is an impenetrable fortress, a divine shield against evil forces:
I love you, O Lord, my strength. 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. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1–3)Psalm 46:5 is a powerful reminder that God’s power and protection are not confined to a specific gender or individual. He is with His children. Psalm 46:5 refers to the city of Jerusalem, and today we can trust that God has the same protective love for the church of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus. When we are besieged by various trials and tribulations, we can remain hopeful, knowing that God will never leave or forsake us (Romans 8:31; Hebrews 13:5).