“Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) Yet most of the time my life reflects, “Be busy and know that I am tired!” Can I get an “AMEN!” Psalm 46:10, one of the most quoted and beloved verses of the Bible, but do we really understand its meaning? Hang with me as we explore this further and gain understanding. The Psalmist writing under the inspiration of God, writes 10 of the 11 verses of the psalm from the 3rd person perspective, talking to us about ‘He’ (God). The Psalmist encourages that even in natural disasters and national uproar, “Come and see the works of the LORD… He makes… He breaks…” (v8,9) Then in verse 10, the writing changes. It is now from the 1st person – I. It is as if God caused him to pause, whispering in his ear, tell them…“Rapah yada Elohim” (Hebrew) “Be still and know that I am God.” Powerful.
When studying the scriptures, looking at the original language/grammar gives us some great insight. In which I am no expert or scholar, but only observe. For example in Galatians 5:22,23 (N.T. – Greek) the listing of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. At first glance, we think these are verbs, action words, something we do. True. Kinda. They actually are ‘nouns’ – all of them. They are something we possess. I can walk in peace, knowing that through the Spirit, it is a quality I possess. I can operate in self-control because it too is something I possess, it is part of the ‘fruit package.’ The important part – I have to CHOOSE to use it! It is the indwelling of Holy Spirit, as we surrender to Him – He matures and works these qualities through & out our life. Just like in football, I can run for a touchdown, but it only counts if I have possession of the ball. (SCORE!) Running down the field (in my own strength) with no ball, well… the play is VERY unsuccessful!
So it is with the Hebrew, understanding the language, truly helps. Originally there were no punctuation marks. Yet when reading in a modern geeky-transliteration Jewish Bible, (mouth full) our verse reads: “Be still! Know! God.” Here comes the totally cool part – this phrase holds two imperative verbs, meaning they are both commands. Be still! Know! God commands us to know Him. That means it is entirely possible, desirable and (wait for it) yes… expected. But not only this, but the 1st verb (be still) POINTS to the 2nd – KNOW! We are still IN ORDER to know God. WAIT… (I’m throwing in the bonus gift) ALSO, the phrase is known to form a ‘hiphil verb tense’ (in short) it is used to cause something. The subject causes the action of the verb. Meaning, as God says this to the reader, (you & I) ‘we’ are the cause of the verb…know. It is up to us to be still so that we can know Him.
‘Be still’ (rapah) means more than just quieting our mouth. It literally means; ‘to let go.’ It holds the word picture as to have something in your hand, slacken your grip, let it go… let it drop. As the New American Standard translates: “Cease striving.” When we come to God in our quiet time, we can quiet our mouth, but what do we still have in our hands, what are we ‘fidgeting’ with, (metaphorically speaking). Our lives are busy, full…full of STUFF. Granted most of it is completely legit. BUT, God wants us to want Him as much as He wants us. ALL of us. Empty handed. When the psalmists write of praising God with raised hands, the word is ‘yad’, the empty hand, the palmed hand. The hand symbolizes strength and power, when we raise our hands to God, we are in a surrendered posture, we are emptying our hands of our own strength and accepting HIS! (head bowed)
‘Know that I am God’ (know – yada) this isn’t just an intellect knowledge of God, it is a HEART knowing. It is based on relationship, experience. In the Complete Jewish Bible, it reads: “Desist, and learn that I am God.” STOP! It isn’t a slowing down, or I’ll get to it when it is convenient (OUCH!) It is a priority! God is first! God loves full stop. God wants relationship.
God is not necessarily asking us to be quiet (although that DOES help, “Shut thee up!” There is a time to be quiet.) Location is not a huge factor (however, a quiet place contributes) Nor is our physical posture the ‘make it or break it’ element (Yet, face down, does have “I can’t see the distractions” with my face on the carpet benefits.)
All this to say, God wants us to let go of our grasp of distractions, we can sit quietly before Him, but if we are still fidgeting with our ‘stuff’ or full of anxiety of what is going on around us, we aren’t giving Him our full attention, we aren’t experiencing Him, learning Him, knowing Him. As Brother Lawrence so eloquently wrote in his book; “There is needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.” [Practicing the Presence of God]
There is a natural progression when passion grows, starting at duty, then to desire and most assuredly delight.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” – God, Psalm 46:10
I honor You God, with my time, my desire, my delight and with my empty hands.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Recently I was standing near the entry to one of our children’s Sunday School classes, while manning the Marrieds table for an upcoming conference. I over heard a parent/teacher conversation, most of it was like the “Wah, wah wah wah…” of a Charlie Brown episode, when one phrase by the teacher caused me to pause, “It helps them to be still…” I stopped and immediately I wanted to sign up for THAT class! “I want to be still!” I wanted to say as I run towards the teacher and embrace them passionately. To be still.
My all time favorite verse from the bible is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Over the course of the last few weeks, this verse has consumed my heart, thoughts and study time. What is it to be still and most importantly I want to KNOW God like that.
I begin the dig, looking at the ‘context’ of the verse/chapter. Psalm 46 titles with ‘For the director of Music. Of the Sons of Korah. A Song.’ WHAT? King David didn’t poetically pen these words with flair and majesty! Well perhaps. Some scholars are indifferent to whether or not the Korahs actually composed the Psalm, or were given the responsiblity to arrange the lyrics to music and preside over the worship. A total of eleven Psalms address them Ps. 42, 44-49, and Ps. 84, 85, 87, 88. But who are these Sons of Korah? They were a division of the Levites who took their turn in serving at the temple, King David put them in charge of the song service in the house of the Lord after the ark had been returned to Jerusalem (see their story in 1 Chronicles chapters 6 & 9, Numbers chapters 16 & 26, it really is quite intriguing, remember the rebellious people who God opened up the ground and took them, yup these be them)
Interesting note, of the 150 Psalms (composed over the course of 1,000 years) there were multiple writers, of which yes our beloved David is attributed to some 70+. Moses wrote Psalm 90, Aspah wrote a couple, Solomon, Heman, Ethan and the Sons of Korah are also attributed, fifty or so are unknown. With the exception of David himself, Solomon and Moses, all these authors were priests or Levites who were responsible for the music during David’s reign. Jewish tradition believes that Ezra was the one who collected all the psalms together into one book.
Now, ‘when’ was it written. It is always good to try to place the timing of the writing for historical background. Most scholars believe it was when King Hezekiah of Judah was surrounded by the army of Sennacherib, (say THAT 5 times ‘san-haw-reeb’) King of Assyria. Proud Sennacherib did not face the reality that Hezekiah’s God is the living God. And He will NOT be mocked. Hezekiah prayed, God spoke, and in one night the angel of the Lord defeated Sennacherib by killing 185,000 of his soldiers (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36-37) The verbiage of the Psalm speaks to confidence in the ‘Lord Almighty,’ He being their refuge and strength and to trust in His deliverance. Verse 6: “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall, He lifts His voice, the earth melts.” (You KNEW you would get Bible study!)
Psalm 46:10a, “Be STILL…” ‘Rapa’ in the Hebrew. What a fascinating word, so full of imagery. Meaning to cast down, to let fall, to slacken especially the hands. It is used to describe how God responded to Moses in Exodus 4, He had given Moses his marching orders to head to Egypt, freeing His people. Moses packs up, his wife and sons in tow. HOWEVER, Moses didn’t fully obey the Lord, he failed to circumcise the boys, “At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him.” Moses’ wife stepped in, took care of the circumcisions, verse 26, “So He (God) let him go.” God ‘rapa’ Moses, He slackened His grip on him, letting him go. Paints a vibrant picture doesn’t it.
Wait, we’re not done, looking further. We see that Hebrew ‘rapa’, is more. It can be rendered, ‘stop putting forth energy’, but this energy is not just a mere attempt, it is excessive energy to the point of exhaustion, it literally offers, giving up and ‘become weak.’ The New American Standard translates Ps 46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God.” (see also Ps. 37:8) Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
What is in my hand? What am I holding tight? Spending my energy on, that I give no room for God to be God. Anger, hurt, unmet expectations? Fear, resentment, bitterness. These all use up my energy. I will let it drop from my grasp, let it GO! And yes, let God.
When we stop striving to hold on to something that God never intended for us to grasp, we release it to HIM. Letting it fall, in doing so the obstacle is removed, we see Him, experience Him. Know Him. Knowing God in this capacity (‘yada’) is progressive: TO know, TO learn, TO discern, TO experience in a relational way. God is all about relationship. Often we hear the phrase, “On a need to know basis…” Knowing, the GOOD knowing is found in experience. The knowing that will carry us to the next step or level, the knowing that is offered to others as inspiration. These days, if we ‘see’ it on YouTube, or quoted on Facebook, we have determined we ‘know’ it. But do we?
Charles Spurgeon says, “To be still is to be in quiet submission of soul.” It isn’t necessarily the quieting of our tongue, (although I’m sure THAT helps at times) it is of the soul and the energy used in doing so. We can be ‘quiet’ on the outside, but wound tight on the inside. Judah Smith said, “You know God to the level that you love God.” (Ouch!) Do I love Him enough to release my stuff, with the motive to know Him more! Peter exhorts, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Relationship.
May I challenge us to know Him more, handing over the stuff, spending ourselves in the way He wants and not to the point of exhaustion. Oh we may not have a big bad King harassing us, but we do have enough personal chaos to hand over to help grow our confidence, finding HIM as our refuge and strength.
Closing with Paul’s prayer over us,
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Amen) – Eph. 3:16-19
Be still and know that I am God.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)