This article originally appeared in The Proclaimer newsletter for Tom Edwards Evangelistic Society, Inc.
By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator
“Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” (Ps 46:11)
The verse above is taken from a Psalm that begins by speaking of an earth that is being shaken, waters roaring, mountains quaking nations raging, kingdoms tottering. It is a picture of chaos and confusion and would certainly find an application for our world in the present moment. Yet, the Psalm is a song of confidence in the absolute sovereignty of a God who provides security in the midst of chaos and peace in the times of confusion.
The command to “be still” is an imperative, a translation of a Hebrew word meaning to be weak, to let go, to cause yourself to release your grip.
As the Israelites stood at the edge of the Red Sea with the waters before them and the enemy pressing in behind them, Moses said: “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today. The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still” (Ex 14:13a, 14). Again, when Joshua was leading the people into the promised land, it was necessary to cross the Jordan River—which was raging at ultimate flood stage. The priestly bearers of the Ark waded into the river and the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance. As all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests bearing the ark stood motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan. The were completely “still” until the whole nation had passage (Jo 2:14-17).
The concept of “being still” does not necessarily imply that one is to be immobile. But it does mean that in times of trial and trouble, in times when burdens are overwhelming, when circumstances are beyond control, then step back—take your hands off—and relax! It’s time to wait upon God. Someone once said “He who waits on God loses no time.”
Note that the command to “be still” is linked to the command “and know.” Indeed there is no experiential “knowing” until one becomes “still.” Knowing is not just an intellectual assent to God, but rather a practical spiritual and emotional confidence in He who is your God! He is the ruler of all the kingdoms of this earth and beyond. He is the almighty Creator and ruler of the universe. He is the Lord of our minutest care and our most complex quandaries. We surrender to He who is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of trouble. We acknowledge Him as the ultimate source of all healing. We relinquish our trust in self and abandon our own clever designs so that we might come to know the all-sufficiency of a glorious God.
This does not mean that we shirk our responsibility or that we cease to take the initiative to live out the duties of life. The Lord expects us to utilize the gifts and talents He has given us to full measure. However, personal initiative will never be an adequate substitute for reliance upon God.
The life of a Christian involves what might sound like a contradiction: “active rest.” We find the “still place” in Him and our labors flow out of that rest. We also must be cautious not to fall into the trap of “presumption”:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (Jas 4:13-17)
Yes, life will have its battles. King David had to slay many giants after his youthful encounter with Goliath. David lost some of his battles, especially when yielding to temptations of the flesh that entangled him in a downward spiral of deadly sins. Yet, in the end he was found to be a man after the heart of God—”the apple of God’s eye.” How did he do it? The answer to that question certainly lies in the sincere repentance that enabled him to pen the following immortal words while resting in confident expectation:
“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Ps 23)