Twisted Scripture - Psalm 46:10 "Be Still"
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
There is an old country song which goes: “I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” (Side note: Take the time to enjoy the video included. The mullet game is on point for the band!) Despite hitting the airwaves thirty years ago, the sentiment rings ever more true today. Life is full of what often feels like a million obligations. Five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear people, especially parents of teenagers, lament about how life was so busy and wouldn’t it be great to just stop? And then COVID hit and we all got a chance to see what life would be like without as many places to go and things to do.
For many, Psalm 46:10 is all about making sure life stays in balance. Too often, we only hear the first line and tell ourselves that the verse is simply a reminder to take some time for ourselves, to give ourselves permission to just sit quietly for a moment or two in midst of the chaos of our busy lives. If you just look at the first line, it is a verse reminding you to stop and pray, to stop and spend some time with God. And, to be fair, that isn’t a bad thing to be reminded to do.
We actually all need that reminder. There is no escaping from certain realities of life such as laundry, cooking, and dishes. Even Catholic monks and nuns living in cloistered communities have regular reminders, usually church bells, to remind them to stop, quiet themselves, and go to God in prayer throughout the day. Being still and quiet is something which comes easily to only rare few in our world. For most of us, it takes discipline and practice.
But we do Psalm 46:10 a great disservice when we limit to it to reminding us to take a moment and breathe in the midst of our busy lives. Let’s back up for a moment and take a look at the entire Psalm:
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
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. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Did you notice all the upheaval and chaos in verses 1-9? Mountains falling into the sea, nations in an uproar, kingdoms falling, the earth MELTING?! Even with all of our science available to us in modern times to help us understand volcanos and lava, to see it actually melting everything in its path is incredible and awe-inspiring. The power of nature is something we still are wise to respect. And the reality of war is something we still live with when we look at the world today. And yet, in the midst of all this insanity, God speaks.
The NIV is one of the most commonly quoted versions of verse 10 with the famous words, “Be still and know that I am God.” But this is one of those times where it can be really helpful to consider how other translations put this verse into English. To “Be still” in this Psalm is the same as when Jesus speaks to the wind and waves in Mark 4. There is an authority to this proclamation. It isn’t a mere suggestion, it is a command. The NASB translates this verse to read “Cease striving.”
Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend a week in Italy with a good friend of mine. While there, we spent a day in Pisa where we toured the baptistery on the cathedral grounds, the Battistero di San Giovanni. As you got ready to enter, there were multiple, pretty much impossible to miss signs asking for silence in the building. Once in the upper level, my friend and I quietly talked about the view while looking out over the cathedral grounds when one of the women working at the building entered, stood in the exact center of the main level, and uttered one word, “SILENCIO!”
Complete and total silence was the instant response in the building. People from all over the world, no matter what language you spoke or if understood a single word of Italian, got the message loud and clear. Then, and only then, did the most awe-inspiring part of the building come to life as she started to sing. A single person with just one sound at a steady tempo quickly filled the space with what sounded like a full choir singing in perfect, full, rich harmonies that all of us, no matter where we were in the building, could hear perfectly. No microphone or sound system needed. Perfect acoustics. And when she was done, no one wanted to talk. It was an experience which was so amazing it left us momentarily speechless.
This sort of experience is a just a glimpse at the type of stillness the Psalmist is speaking of in Psalm 46. Stop worrying, stressing, freaking out. Stop trying to control everything and everyone. Stop it. Just stop it. Right now. No arguments. No just give me a few more seconds to finish this up. Just stop. Completely. Just know fully that God is unimaginably more powerful than ANYTHING this world can throw at you. Stand in awe of his power. “Who is he that even the wind and waves obey him?” (see Mark 4:41)
We need these moments where we stop and truly appreciate the greatness of God. Where we stand in wonder and awe of his power. Where we try to fully comprehend that God could wipe the entire planet we live on out of existence with barely a thought and yet, loves us each so deeply that he wants to get to know us as individuals and sent his son to pay the price for our sin. These realities should not be mundane, boring, ho-hum facts. Instead, they should cause us to stop in our tracks and stand in awe.
Why? Because when those realities are awe-inspiring then, no matter what is happening in the world, we life our lives in way which reflects those realities. While we grieve with those who die in wars fought and offer assistance to those who see their homes destroyed by an act of nature, we don’t panic. We remember that God is God. We need those moments where we stop trying to make everything happen through our own efforts so that we can declare as the psalmist does in verse 11: “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
- What events happening in the world today cause you the most stress, fear, anxiety, and/or worry?
- Can you think of a time when you have been overwhelmed by God? By his power or the beauty of his creation? Or even by his great love for you?
- What most commonly distracts you from standing in awe of God?
Helpful Resources Used:
- "Psalm 46 - Confident in God's Protection and Power." shared by EnduringWord.com
- "The Meaning of Psalm 46:10 To You As a Child of God" shared by LordsGuidance.com
- "Be Still and Know That I am God: The Meaning of Psalm 46:10" by Silas Balraj and shared by CompassionUK.org
- "What does Be Still and Know That I am God Really Mean?" by Liz Auld and shared by Crosswalk.com