Be Still and Know

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:10In our fast-paced and frenzied society, it is hard to be still for any length of time, isn’t it? GotQuestions.org gives us the meaning behind the psalm as follows:

This verse [Psalm 46:10] comes from a longer section of Scripture that proclaims the power and security of God. While the threat the psalmist faced is not mentioned specifically, it seems to relate to the pagan nations and a call for God to end the raging war. Here is the whole psalm:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Notice that the majority of the psalm is written in the third person as the psalmist speaks about God. However, God’s voice comes through in verse 10, and the Lord speaks in the first person: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still. This is a call for those involved in the war to stop fighting, to be still. The word “still” is a translation of the Hebrew word “rapa,” meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that the warriors can acknowledge their trust in God. Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” While quietness is certainly helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still. For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help (cf. Exodus 14:13); for God’s enemies, being “still” would mean ceasing to fight a battle they cannot win.

Know that I am God. Know in this instance means “to properly ascertain by seeing” and “acknowledge, be aware.” How does acknowledging God impact our stillness? We know that He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all-powerful), holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is.

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. It was tempting for the nation of Israel to align with foreign powers, and God reminds them that ultimately He is exalted! God wins, and He will bring peace. During Isaiah’s time, Judah looked for help from the Egyptians, even though God warned against it. Judah did not need Egyptian might; they needed reliance on the Lord: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way, the mountains fall (verse 2), or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall (verse 6). When life gets overwhelming and busyness takes precedence, remember Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Run to Him, lay down your weapons and fall into His arms. Acknowledge that He is God and that He is exalted in the earth. Be still and know that He is God. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 13, 2018, titled, What is the Meaning of the Verse ‘Be Still and Know That I Am God’?” by Liz Kanoy, Senior Editor at Salem Web Network, she opens her article with the following two paragraphs:

“Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10, is a popular verse for comforting ourselves and others—many people tend to think this verse means to rest or relax in who God is. This verse does encourage believers to reflect on who God is, but there is more to this psalm than one verse—and verse 10 is actually more of a wake-up call to be in awe than a gentle call to rest. Taking time out of our day to meditate on Scripture and be silent with listening ears toward God is mentioned in other sections of Scripture (Psalm 119:15, Joshua 1:8, Luke 5:16, and others). But this command—“Be still…”—is written in the context of a time of trouble and war; therefore, we should consider the verse with that context in mind.

Instead of interpreting “be still” as a gentle suggestion, the meaning in this psalm lends itself more to: “cease striving” or “stop” and more specifically in this context “stop fighting,” which is directed toward the enemies of the people of God. The people of God should interpret the command for themselves to read more like: ‘snap out of it,’ ‘wake up,’ ‘stop fearing’—acknowledge who your God is—be in awe! However, it is good to note that there’s nothing wrong with the words in the translation “be still;” those words are not incorrect, it is simply helpful to note the context of the phrase. Verse 10 has something to say to both the enemies of God and the people of God, but it is the people of God the psalm is written to. Verse 1 starts, “God is our refuge and strength” (emphasis added). The Psalms are for God’s people. (Quote source here.)

In a June 29, 2017, article titled, How Do We Rest in God? 3 Lessons from Psalm 46,” by Dr. David L. Allen, Dean, School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he writes:

Where do you run for refuge when life gets overwhelming? What truths to do you turn to? I have always loved Psalm 46. How often I have read, quoted, or shared with someone in a counseling situation. As I have been reading the CSB over the past months, I have enjoyed seeing this familiar psalm in a new light—it’s been reminding me of how this psalm can redirect our efforts and help us rest in God. Here’s what I mean:

1. Stop Your Fighting

Psalm 46:10 is rendered in the CSB as “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

“Stop your fighting” is somewhat unique among translations of this verse. Many Bible translations render the imperative as “Be still.” This is then applied along the lines of “we need to come aside from the hustle and bustle of daily life and get alone with God.” Certainly that is true, but there’s more going on this verse.

Since verse 10 falls in the third and final strophe of the Psalm, verses 8-12, the context of those verses is important for understanding verse 10. Notice how verses 8, 9, and 11 reference some aspect of war and fighting. The traditional translation of “be still” appears too tame for this context. “Stop your fighting” fits the context better.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that I may not only be fighting the Lord’s battles, but I may be fighting against the Lord Himself! There comes a time to lay down your arms and know that He is God—He will do as He wills with me and with the other guy.

Psalm 46 begins with the words: “The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” This means that you and I can stop fighting in our own strength and rest in Him.

2. Take Refuge in God

[Martin] Luther’s ramshackle cart wobbled its way to Worms, Germany, in April of 1521. He had been summoned to appear before the Emperor and Catholic prelates to give an account of this new “heresy” he was teaching called “justification by faith alone.” The learned Johann Eck laid out all of Luther’s writings and then asked Luther if he was prepared to recant.

Luther retired to his room that night to think over his answer. His Bible fell open to Psalm 46. Luther returned the next morning to stand before his detractors. In response to their call to recant, Luther responded:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

The Reformation was off and running.  

Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm. During the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation, Luther would turn to his trusted friend Philip Melanchthon and exclaim: “Let’s sing the 46th Psalm, and let the devil do his worst!” It inspired his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  

No Psalm in all the Psalter expresses the tremendous truth that God’s presence and power are with us in all circumstances more than Psalm 46. We need to know God offers us two kinds of help: a stronghold into which we can flee and a source of strength by which we can face the uncertain future.  

3. Pause and Think About That

Psalm 46 is divided into three stanzas, each ending with the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah.” “Selah” was most likely originally a musical notation indicating a pause in the music for contemplation on what was just sung. You might translate it “Pause and think of that!”  

When the mountains quake, the Lord is my refuge and strength… Selah! When nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall, the Lord almighty is with us… Selah! “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations… the Lord of Armies is with us… Selah!”

Every new year brings us 365 days of uncertainty. Every new day brings us 24 hours of uncertainty. But every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power in our lives is available to us. What does the future hold? It really doesn’t matter, does it, as long as Psalm 46 is true! His Kingdom is forever! So, every day, let’s reflect on Psalm 46:10 or on another passage of Holy Writ and “Selah!”—pause and think of that!(Quote source here.)

With that in mind, why not take some time today to…

Be still . . .

And know . . .

That He is God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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