“Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) Yet if put alongside the reality of my life, 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 context or meaning? Scholars propose it was written during the tense warfare between Judah and the Ammonites and Moabites. Jehoshaphat and crew were terrified of the reported impending war. In short, Jehoshaphat called the people to pray and fast, God’s response was “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15) The next morning, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing and praise – LONG story short, in their worship, God intervened and Judah victorious, ‘for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.’ (v27)
Psalm 46. The Psalmist writing under the inspiration of God, writes 10 of the 11 verses of the psalm from the 3rd person perspective, talking about God. The wet ink 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 the writer 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 and grammar gives us some great insight and some amazing principles to pull forward and apply for our own pending circumstances. Although originally there were no punctuation marks, but when added to the original usage and read in context – reading from a modern Jewish Bible, our verse reads: “Be still! Know! God.” This phrase holds two imperative verbs, meaning they are both commands, thus, 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. In the Complete Jewish Bible, it reads: “Desist and learn that I am God.” And the NASB, ‘Cease striving.’ STOP! It isn’t a slowing down, or I’ll get to it when it is convenient. STOP. It is a priority! God is first! God loves full stop – it is here that He had Judah’s frantic ‘WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!’ attention. It is in the STOP He has our attention.
God is not asking us to be quiet (although that DOES help) 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). But He does tell us, it’s not about our circumstance – it is all about HIM. “The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 20:29)
Be still and know that I am God. “Be still – Know – God.”
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)