Friday, May 05, 2006

Be Still

I sat on a wooden dock jutting out into a large cove on Lake Marion at sunset one evening. The frogs were singing, fish were jumping, and birds were feeding. It was a glorious site to behold an awe-inspiring moment for all five senses to take in. A buddy with me just looked up and said, “Surely this must mean what God was talking about when he said, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’” I quickly agreed and we took an extra moment to take it all in before leaving the small jon boat that we tied next to the dock for an early morning adventure.

Reflecting on that evening, I am reminded of the many times that I have sat quietly beholding the beauty of God’s glorious creation. Many times I have sat alone watching the sun break through the darkness of a winter morning shimmering in frosty grass and dissolving away the morning fog in awe-struck wonder. No less exciting was watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with my two best friends. On these and many other occasions, I too have though, “Wow, be still and know that God is God.” Nature speaks of His wonder in the quiet moments of life that we can never understand until we have experienced it.

However, upon a closer reading of Psalm 46, I believe that I have interpreted that verse a little too loosely. There is absolutely value in being reminded by God’s Word to enjoy his creation and give him praise for it. But, that was not the intended purpose of the Psalmist. Psalm 46 does not speak of a tranquil lake or a beautiful sunset. Psalm 46 speaks of violence, turmoil, confusion, and panic.

“Be still and know that I am God,” was not a suggestion for someone spending a lazy day on the lake or an observance of a visitor to the ocean for the first time. “Be Still,” was the command of God to his people during times of great terror. The Psalmist speaks of natural disasters and war and even of the earth “melting away.” Without a doubt, during times like this, the last thought for a logical person is to be still. During times of great peril, work is needed and busyness is a must. But God says, “Be still and watch me work.”

I believe that the command to “Be still” is relevant for Americans today. The American culture is one that stresses ownership and material gain. We fear that the Jones’s may have a bigger house or a better car. We are concerned that we may not get the boat we have always wanted or that our kids might, heaven forbid, have to buy clothes from a sale rack. And so, we work to fix it by working longer hours for more pay. We sacrifice family time in the name of our families. We neglect time with God and in his church because “I’ve got to keep my job.”

I read recently that the average drive for many workers commuting into cities is 90 to 120 minutes each way every day. In an attempt to find “the good life” Americans have begun to sacrifice their lives on the alter of success. The command to “Be still and know that I am God” must be heeded by Christians today. Though it runs contrary to cultural conventional wisdom, God commands that we take the time to step back and watch him work.

Psalm 46 is not about God’s glory in his creation. Psalm 46 is a song about God’s sovereign control over creation and his protective hand upon his people. Verses 1 and 2 claim that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.” God is in control of all things, and God is protecting his people. It is for this reason that God commands, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Though the earth falls down around us, God reminds us who is in control. In times of struggle, God is a present help. We need not fear this world, and in the end the amount of success we enjoy here will be of little consequence. As we stand before God at judgment, I doubt he will ask how many cars we owned or how many square footage our house was. However, he may ask how much time we spent showing God to our children and loving our wives as Christ loved the church. God is in total control and his word in Psalm 46:10 commands that we stop and recognize God’s hand at work in creation protecting his people and bringing glory to his name.

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