Be Still and Know

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 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 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. (Psalm 46:6-11)


Near the end of Psalm 46, we read the famous statement, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Few verses have been quoted (or turned into memes) more than this during our present crisis. And that makes sense, considering the context in which the sons of Korah wrote this psalm. Crisis had rocked their community as surely as it has rocked ours. Nations were in uproar, kingdoms falling (verse 6), and there was desolation upon the earth (verse 8).


But that raises an interesting question for me. How exactly do we move from upheaval and desolation to stillness in the intimate knowledge of God? Simply repeating the phrase, beautiful though it is, won’t suffice. It will take more than a meme (and some white knuckles) to still my heart.


The answer comes in the psalm’s refrain, repeated in verses 7 and 11: “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Nations and kingdoms fall. Circumstances change on a dime. Our lives are in constant flux. There is no sure and certain foundation, then, but one—God himself. Tim Keller captures this truth well in The Songs of Jesus (97): “No matter how bleak the prospects seem or how overwhelming the opposition, the city of God—the heavenly community and reality—cannot be harmed but can only triumph. Why? Because that reality and community are in God himself (verse 7).”


If by faith we hide ourselves in God—our refuge and fortress, an “ever-present help in trouble” (verse 1)—then no matter what storms rage outside, inside we can be still. We can rest and delight in the splendid, transcendent beauty of his presence.

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