“He says: Be still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10)
One phrase, one verse, and it sums it all up. “Be still and know that I am God.” What does that mean? Who is God, and what is he trying to tell us?
When taken, just as it is, one could easily rate that verse in the same vein, as, say Tom Brady from the New England Patriots saying “I am the best quarterback in the NFL”. It could be taken as a boast, or as a brag to the uninitiated. In fact, the uninitiated, the faithless would laugh that phrase off, just as Michael Vick, or Brett Favre would laugh off a remark like that from Tom Brady….
But, we aren’t talking football, or bragging rights. We are talking about what, in my opinion, is the single most powerful verse in the Bible.
He says: Be still and know that I am God.
Look at that phrase, how it is able to stand alone. Now, read it again, concentrating on each part of the verse. This is more than a metaphysical brag, far more than supernatural snark, it is a declarative from God Himself as to who he is, and in one phrase, he not only advising us of who he is, He is commanding us to realize Who we are dealing with. To get deeper in to the verse, let us look at what comes before. Here is Psalm 46:
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.[c]
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[d] 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.
The entire psalm is about God’s greatness and his power. His mercy and his grace. The psalm was written as a song, by David as praise to God. Note in verse 1 “God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble”, this verse carries one of the themes of the Bible that is present from the Old Testament to the New Testament: God is our help, God is there for us, God is merciful, and powerful. This theme is never left throughout both texts, from Genesis, to Revelation. Note in verse 3, how it begins “Therefore we will not fear….” Why won’t we fear? Refer back to verse one and two: “God is our refuge and strength”. Regardless of what is going on in our lives, even though the figurative mountains in our lives fall into the heart of the sea, we should always remember He is there for us.
But what does all of this have to do with verse 10?
It is the lead up to verse 10, we are told, throughout this Psalm that, no matter what, God is with us, he is on our side. But, perhaps, we have trouble believing this. Verse 8 begins this by saying “Come see what the Lord has done.” this was written during David’s reign as King. “Come see what the Lord has done” can mean two things… see what he has done “now” and what he has done for the Israelites since their trek from Egypt. It is an all encompassing phrase, telling us to look upon the vastness of God’s works. Verse 9, outlines more of God’s power. “He shatters spears” and “burns shields with fire” meaning that no army is powerful enough to stand up to His power, but also, that he will make us make peace by taking away the weapons we use to wage our wars, whatever they are, spiritual, physical, or emotional.
Verse 10 begins by saying “be still”. God is not commanding quiet. My 5th grad teacher used that phrase quite often to quiet a noisy classroom, when confronted with noisy children a sharp “Be still” would quiet all but the most intransigent. “Be still” in this verse, however, means more than merely “be quiet”. God is telling us to still our fears, our apprehensions, and uncertainties. He is gently telling us to not only quiet our voices, but to quiet our hearts and minds as well. In two words He is telling us that there is no need for worry, fear, apprehension, or anxiousness. The next two words are “and know”. God isn’t just pointing to himself, like some trash talking athlete, trying to make himself stand out in a crowd. He is again, advising us, and commanding us to “know”. To know what? To know Him, His power, His grace, and His salvation. He is telling us to know Him as we should. “Know” also means “to understand”, and understanding is only gained when we apply what we know. How does God want us to apply that knowledge? Through trusting him. Go back to verse 1- “God is our strength and our refuge” is how it begins, and that is what He wants us to understand, and the writers of this Psalm want us to understand. The Israelites had first hand knowledge and experience with God being “strength” and “refuge” and they want us to know it as well. Finally, the first part of the verse ends with “That I am God”. He is making a final, declarative statement that there is no quibbling with. He is God, and the only God. He is telling us, in no uncertain terms that He is, indeed, the end all, and be all.
Taken as a whole, the phrase is God’s command to us to trust him, and rely on him in every situation. It is His reassurance to us, that no matter what, He is there, on our side, ready to be our strength, refuge, help, and shelter. In our hectic, tumultuous lives, this simple phrase reminds that we indeed need to “be still” because God wants us to know Him, and trust Him. When we do that, He will lead us through our lives, and will be our Protector and Refuge.