Most people know Psalm 46:10 . . . at least the first part. It says, “Be still and know that I am God.” But that’s not the whole story, and it’s a bit of a personal crusade for me that people finish the verse. In the second half, there’s a purpose to the command of the first half: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Let’s just dwell (i.e. take up residence, make ourselves at home) in this one verse for a few minutes . . .
(Ah, the Scriptures are so full of truth. Thank You, Father.)
I saw this quote on a t-shirt once. It made me laugh out loud—how true! But God’s command for stillness is not like ours. We tell our kids to be quiet or sit still out of respect for some situation (at best) or for our convenience (at worst). One translation (NASB) of this verse begins, “Cease striving,” which seems to fit the overall context of the Bible better because I can’t think of anywhere that the Bible commands us not to move. Another (HCSB) says, “Stop your fighting,” which definitely fits the immediate context of the chapter better. (It was a battle.) These days, we think of ‘still’ like inactive: sitting with a book or even taking a nap; a better picture is those strangely-dressed guards at Buckingham Palace. While absolutely unmoving, they are completely alert. (They might be faking the alertness part. It’s not like you can ask them, but go with me here.) It’s a watchful stillness . . . a calmness with purpose. Basketball players on the bench are similar; they continue to pay attention, to be actively involved in the game, even when they aren’t one of the five on the court. For the rest of us, our Lord is saying to stop working yourself into a tizzy. Stop worrying and pacing the floor. Stop checking the phone every five minutes just to make sure it’s still working.
Know that I am God
Stand back and watch God work instead of trying to do it yourself. It’s not a matter of allowing Him to work, like when you hold the door for someone to enter a room or ‘let’ your 5-year-old wash the dishes. It’s admitting that you can’t do it, or at least admitting that He does it WAY better than you. More basketball (and it’s not even basketball season): it’s LeBron James taking your place in a crucial basketball game while you go sit on the bench. Whose contribution is better for the team: yours or LeBron’s? Yeah, me too. In the rest of life, everybody is better off if God handles things. (This basketball analogy breaks down at a certain point, so don’t take it too far.)
I will be exalted
Stillness is not primarily about my peace. That’s secondary. And it’s certainly not about me having an easier life. Ha! LeBron doesn’t take my place in the game so that I can ‘take a load off.’ He plays so he can score, so the crowd will go wild in his praise, so his team can win. We have to stop making all of life be about us. Only God has the right to be self-centered. (Sorry, LeBron.) Stillness creates space in my brain for me to actually see clearly—see that He is able, sufficient, worthy of my praise. Fundamentally, there is more glory to be gained for Him by my stillness than my busy-ness. (I wrote more about busy-ness here.)
Among the nations
The command is to be still, not silent (unlike the palace guards). Take it outside of yourself. Stillness admits that He does the real work and creates an opportunity to worship Him not just in my conscience (that space I created in the previous paragraph) but in my conversations. The best basketball players are vocal on the bench and praise their teams outside the arena, too. Multiply the glory by telling someone—anyone!—what He did when you quit trying so hard to do it yourself. Then this verse, like so many others in Psalms, connects with the Great Commission. Yeah; just think about it.
I will be exalted in the earth
Those last two parts are so important that He says them again. Two-thirds of the verse are about Him. Only one-third is about what I’m supposed to do. Hmm . . .
It seems backward (uncommon sense), this idea that we stop doing so something can get done, but it works. First, we let go of this idea that we have to do everything ourselves. Then, we just let Him do what He does. As a result, we will see two things. (1) We get what we want: a solution or resolution . . . and peace along the way. (2) He gets what He wants: GLORY!
Because of what He wants, He will take care of what I need.
In a context similar to that of Psalm 47 (a battle), Isaiah also quotes the Sovereign Lord, saying, In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength (Is 30:15). See? Our way out (salvation) and our ability to endure (strength) come from stillness.
Instead of the pervasive parental “Sit down and shut up!” that “Be still” conjures in our heads, here’s the beautiful picture we get from this verse. He grabs my fluttering hands, holding them firmly between His strong, warm palms. He looks me in the eye, waiting until my breathing settles and I can return His gaze calmly. My shoulders relax and my heartbeat slows. I see the depths of calmness in His face. Then, He gently but confidently speaks, “Stop getting yourself all worked up and remember Who you’re talking to here. I want universal props; I want everyone in the world to know how awesome I am, so I am going to take care of it.”