We read it in devotional books. We sing it in church. We meditate on it in our quiet times. God’s command in Psalm 46:10–“Be still, and know that I am God.”
Unfortunately, the verse has nothing to do with what we usually think it does–being quiet before God, not being frantic and busy, or maybe getting ourselves ready to hear a sermon. No, it’s not about any of these things. This is a verse which has been violently ripped out of context time and time again. What does it really mean?
The answer is not hard to find. The prior verse clearly explains it. Here you go:
He [the LORD] 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.”
“Be still” means “Stop fighting wars.” It’s a verse about international politics, not personal piety. God stops warfare. He is above all nations. When he smashes armies, no one has a chance. So get with the program and realize God is in charge of history before it’s too late. As Derek Kidner so succinctly puts it, this is a vision of “tranquility on the far side of judgment.”
Yes, the Bible does encourage regular times of quiet and prayer (Mark 1:35), meditating on Scripture (Psalm 1:2) and enjoying the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). Just not in Psalm 46.
legitimate use of Psalm 46:10 is possible, however. In Mark 4:35-41 we read of Jesus being asleep in a boat while the disciples fear for their lives in a storm. After being wakened by the disciples, Jesus says to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” Immediately the wind stops and the waves cease.
The stunned disciples ask, “Who is this?” Yet Jesus has just implied an answer.
In echoing Psalm 46:10, Jesus expects the disciples (and Mark expects his readers) to complete the quotation, “and know that I am God.” Jesus equates his act of stopping a raging storm with God’s work of stopping raging armies. Now that is worth meditating on.
What’s your nomination for “The Most Misused Verse in the Bible”?