“Be still and know that I am God,” says Psalm 46:10.
When the sons of Korah, the equivalent of Jewish priestly rock stars, wrote this Psalm inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would have imagined their situation differently…
In my mind’s eye these songwriters are reclining at a table in 70 degree weather in golden grass under a majestic oak tree, and someone is feeding them cold refreshing grapes one by one. The quietness of the golden sunset behind them causes them to take abnormally long pauses in their conversation, wisely reflecting on the serene beauty around them, God’s rich material blessings and perfect relationships with those around the table.
Reading the whole of the chapter and simply observing the context for this verse invades the daydream of perfection and brings revelation to my idealistic heart. Here are the first three verses of the chapter:
Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)
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. Selah
The first few verses of this passage are trying to bring reassurance to a stirred up set of circumstances even if there are earthquakes and tsunamis. The word “Selah” at the end of these few verses is an invitation to pause and reflect on the truth here. The context here is a troubled world beyond our control that could lead to fear, but His presence is in the midst of even natural disasters.
The next verses paint the picture further:
Psalm 46:4-7 (NIV)
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. Selah
Here we see evidence of the political landscape of the day. This was written during the reign of King Jehoshaphat, who started out really well. He was destroying all of the false Gods (called baals) and places of worship and sending teachers throughout the land to teach God’s word to the people. He was succeeding in getting tribute from other nations to keep peace and everything was going well. Then he tried to make an Alliance with Ahab, the wicked king from the Northern Kingdom. He was the husband of a wicked lady you may have heard of, named Jezebel. When Jehoshaphat aligned himself with leaders who hated God and wanted to see the baals worshipped instead, things went sideways politically and from a military standpoint. Nations were indeed in an uproar and there was no peace. This is similar to the day we are living in – with tensions around the world seemingly escalating. In the midst of this geopolitical stress and pressure we are reminded that our God is so powerful that His voice alone is enough the melt the earth. God’s presence is promised as our safe place, our fortress. Then the psalm invites us to stop and consider these truths.
So we have seen that natural disasters and geopolitical unrest are no match for the peace and strength God has for us. Then the passage concludes this way:
Psalm 46:8-11 (NIV)
8 Come and see the works of the LORD, 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 with fire.
10 "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. Selah
God is a warrior (Ex. 15:3) and He can bring destruction when necessary. Although Jehoshaphat is a flawed leader (like me), he sees the deliverance of the Lord when he sends out the choir instead of the soldiers into battle, and the Lord himself causes the enemy to start fighting one another (2 Chronicles 20). While God is able to defeat his enemies, He is also the one who brings peace. Jesus, the Messiah is prophesied to be the prince of peace.
It is in this context, a really messed up world, that God tells us to quiet our hearts and know that He is God--a God who eventually will be exalted among the nations of the earth. Even though the nations of the this earth aren’t bowing before Jesus yet (Isaiah 45:23 & Phil. 2:10), we must be reminded of the great power and peace that God has promised to us in the gift of His presence.
Today, pause and reflect (Selah).
In the midst of the storms, the conflict, and the stress, invite the presence of the living God to be seen and felt in your life. Then begin to rest in the good gifts He gives in a place of peace, strength and security.