What does it mean to “Be still and know that I am God”? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We’re looking at the question of the silence of God. I’d like to look at this point at a passage that is often used to speak to people who are experiencing that silence. That is the one that tells them to be still and know that He is God. It is found in Psalm 46:10.
Yet before we get to that verse, I’d like to do something unusual. Let’s look at the verses before and the one after. (Yeah. I know. Checking the context. What a thought.)
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
This is not listed as a Psalm of David. The language believe it or not is not the language of natural disasters. It’s the language of war. Often times in the Bible, political events were described using language of cosmic phenomena. Now you might think that doesn’t really make much sense. If you do, then please explain to me why it is we can talk about storms in politics, events that are earth-shattering, and other such terminology. We do use similar terminology today, though unfortunately we are not as poetic as the ancients were. Peter Kreeft has said that prose is fallen poetry and poetry is fallen music. Music is for him the original language. If we remember the Psalms were sung, there could be some valuable truth there. The language should be rich and pull us in with a word picture.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The Psalmist here points to Jerusalem, seen as the holy city of God. Jerusalem is the place that is supposed to be where Heaven and Earth meet, and this especially in the temple. Jerusalem is the city of God and as long as it has that status, it will not fall. All the armies of the world can come against Her, but if they are in a covenant with God, God will protect them. They can have walls of course like any other ancient city would have, but their true fortress is God Himself. They do not rely solely on weapons of warfare, but they resolve on their covenant with YHWH.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
The Psalmist reminds the audience that God has indeed acted in the past. He has destroyed the enemies of Israel. If He can bring a cessation to the wars in the rest of the world, why can He not protect His holy city? It is a reminder to the people that they need to be faithful to YHWH. YHWH has acted in the past and He can and will act again if we maintain our trust in Him and rely on what He said. Now we get to the key verse.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Okay. So what is going on here?
This verse has nothing to do with meditation and thinking to yourself “God is God.” That does not mean that that’s wrong to do. It just means that this verse is not about that.
This verse is not about God not speaking to you when you are in the midst of a trial. That is dealt with in other passages, but this verse has nothing whatsoever to say about it.
This verse is not about your own personal assurance for any trial that you are facing, though you could have personal assurance still and it could start by realizing who God is.
This is a verse telling the people to cease from their labor and activity in the situation and rely wholeheartedly on God. It is reminding them, as the rest of it shows, that God is in covenant with Jerusalem and because of that, He will protect His city so that His name will be exalted.
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The final verse concludes it. This is why you are to be still. God is your fortress and God is with you. Now could you find some personal application today? Sure. But we must before we apply the passage to ourselves today find out what it meant to the people back then. If it did not mean that then, we should be cautious about misapplying it today. One great danger is that we often individualize passages that were meant for a community.
On a personal level, is it good to know about the nature of God? Absolutely. Do you need to remember that nature in a time of crisis? Sure. Could personal meditation on the nature of God be helpful? Definitely. Note you can have some great truths and the wrong passage to illustrate those truths.
This one is not about what many people think it is. Just because you like the message you get does not mean that you are hearing the message properly.