By Scott Armstrong
“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 shield with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’” (Psalm 46:8-10).
(Read Psalm 46)
Like many of the other psalms, Psalm 46 was written as a song and around 3,000 years ago was sung by an enormous choir. It is pretty hard to determine how this original song sounded, but many of today’s musicians have written their own interpretations of the incredible lyrics recorded here. A lot of them have focused on the images of nature and war in these verses. While singing these lyrics as the guitars and drums play on at a feverish pitch, I can almost feel the earth giving way and mountains quaking and falling into the sea (vv.2-3).
But in the midst of the chaos of this psalm, one verse seems to be misplaced. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (v.10). How did that get in there? How can we be still when there are wars around us and the earth is giving way under our feet?
You may remember an older chorus that comes from this verse, “Be Still and Know That I am God.” I have sung that song hundreds of times, but I will always remember singing it in one particular worship service. I remember the song because of who was singing it and when she was singing it. Stephanie, a girl in our youth group, had just found out a month earlier her parents were getting a divorce. She had also experienced some serious health problems in the past year, not to mention the homework and tests she had to make up at school after missing several classes because of her time at the hospital.
I looked over while many of us in the congregation sang the chorus out of ritual. There she was in the second row, standing with her arms raised. And in spite of all she was going through—or maybe because of all that—she was singing with tears streaming down her face, “Be still and know that I am God…”
Psalm 46:10 has never quite been the same for me since. What mountains are quaking in your life today? What kingdoms have been falling around you? I hope that in the midst of the chaos and turmoil around you, you can proclaim like Stephanie and like millions of Christians down through the ages, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
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