‘Be still and know that I am God
or Be still that you may know that I am God.’
Psalm 46 Verse 10
In the foregoing verses the psalmist declares God’s mighty works as Creator and Sovereign of the universe. Even in the desolation of war He decides the issue for all concerned. In a war more weighty, waged against Christ and His Church by their enemies, He calls us to consider His sovereignty, not only in times of trouble but at all times.
In this Psalm the Church encourages herself in the Lord. ‘God is our refuge.’ In the destruction of war she discerned God’s judgement but also that wars ceased at His command.’ Wars into peace He turns.’ In this verse God Himself speaks – ‘Be still.’
The command implies a previous state of darkness and unrest which threatened to overwhelm the soul. But, as when Christ stilled the storm, the word of God, ‘Be still,’ comes over the waves. ‘The Lord’s voice on the waters is.’
Let us consider what is implied by this stillness, ‘Be still.’ When trials abound our nature gives way to complaints. And it were well if we stopped at that, but in our hearts we entertain hard thought of God. Not only is this true of the world – who, when corrected, think that they do not deserve such dealings – but it is true of the believer.
The dark clouds of affliction darken his vision of God and he gives way to doubts of His love to him, to complaints, to rebellion even. And every complaint is rebellion against God as much as when Adam rebelled and fell. In our text we are called upon to subdue all thoughts of rebellion.
It is not easy to be still in such circumstances. While we retain our health and our friends, while providence favours us with prosperity, it is easy to think and speak well of God. But when trials and sorrows multiply and when the streams from which we drew comfort and joy are made bitter or dried up, when disease and death deprive us of loved ones and His waves and billows go over us then to be still, because He has done it, is not easy.
But difficulty as it is we are called to ‘be still.’ ‘Be still;’ trample the pride that is at the root of your rebellion against His ruling. As if He said, ‘Remember what you are and what you have been; remember your ignorance of what is best for you. I never promised you what would please you but what was for your welfare. I promised to withhold no good from you whether bitter or sweet, but I never promised to withhold trouble and sorrow.’
And what God commands, to ‘be still’ that we may know that He is God, the history of the Church testifies that it can be done. ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ How dreadful were the trials of Job which deprived him of health, wealth, family and friends – and what was worse – of God’s own presence. Yet he was ‘still.’
‘The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21). How sore the tidings brought to Eli, that God would destroy his house, that no sacrifice would blot out their transgressions forever. He was ‘still’ and he knew that He was God. ‘It is the Lord, let Him do as seemeth Him good’ (1 Samuel 3:18). And we have the supreme example of our Lord. When He was led as a lamb to the slaughter He opened not His mouth. It was His father’s will and that sufficed.
But to be still implies more than restraint. It bids us submit in humility of heart. In other words, ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.’ It means that we should part with what we cannot keep any longer willingly and heartily. We must realise and appreciate the goodness and mercy of God for us.
That being so, it must be best for us however dark and bitter at the time. It means that we should look back on all the comforts and blessings in which we rejoiced and, when deprived of them say, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’ It means that we look ahead in a changed world to what lies before us and however dark and lonely the path to say with David, as he ascended Olivet barefoot and pursued by his enemies, ‘If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again.’
If not let Him do what seemeth Him good. Happy is he who thus vindicates the dealings of the Almighty; who through much prayer and wrestling with God is enabled to expel the fearful thoughts that the adversary pours in upon his soul; who when heart and flesh are failing gets the victory over his perplexities saying, ‘Though I walk in the midst of trouble,’ and who holds on to God saying ‘Though he slay me’ and make my life a desert, ‘yet will I trust him.’
Amidst the darkness and emptiness let us seek to do God’s will in our daily calling as did Habakkuk, ‘although the fig tree shall not blossom…yet I will rejoice in the Lord’ (Habakkuk 3:17); and as David, ‘although my house be not so with God yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant.’ (2 Samuel 23:5).
Now such heavy strokes teach us that with all the truth and means of grace at our disposal it is by sore experience we learn the will of God. To learn it is to love it and to be resigned to it. As we go on we are reminded of how little we know of God’s will.
It is the darkest hour, when wave upon wave breaks over us and we are given a glimpse of God’s will, we see that all that is being done is His will. What depths there are in the will of God! ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God’ (Romans 11:33).
And we discover how mysterious the will of God is. He commands us to do His will when everything about us seems set to prevent our doing it, and that also is His will. This is when faith comes into exercise. When we seek to carry out God’s will our direction seems to go against the promise of God. So Abraham ‘against hope believed in hope’ (Romans 4:18), and Jacob, when tried, declared, ‘all these things are against me,’ and all things turned out to be in his favour.
These experiences convince us of our weakness and of our nothingness in the sight of God. They take our eyes off the creature and cast us on God alone for comfort and support. They lead us to realise that His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts. They teach us to commit ourselves and all we have to Him who alone knows what is best for our eternal welfare, and who can make all things work together for our good.
Happy is the man who, by sorrows however multiplies, is thus weaned away from the world and is drawn to God to say, ‘All my hope is in thee.’ ‘Whom have I in the heavens but thee and there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee’ (Psalm 73:25).
And you, who know not the will of God, pray that He may reveal to you His will in Christ, done by Him for sinners.