Be Still and Know That I Am God: Psalm 46 (Come, Follow Me: Psalms 1-46) – powered by Happy Scribe
Be still and know that I am God. This profound phrase comes from Psalm 46, and it’s inspiring all on its own. But I think it requires even greater meaning when we look at the build up of the entire psalm, culminating in this declaration. This psalm is a musical tribute to God’s power over the elements of chaos and the fortitude of God’s holy city. This almost structured into three major stanzas or musical verses. This first section establishes God’s might and strength over the natural elements in the waters of chaos. The second stanza contrasts the turbulent imagery of the first stanza with a calm and nurturing river, which lies at the center of God’s immovable fortress of the city. And the third stanza highlights God’s power oliver Israel’s military enemies. The end of stanzas two and three both conclude with a refrain that summarizes the psalms thesis yahweh of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our high stronghold. Each section builds upon the previous one and increases our appreciation for God’s steadfastness in the face of uncertainties and all of this culminates in the final verse, where God takes over the narration and commands us to be still and rest assured that he’s in control.
So let’s take a look at each of these musical verses and see what we can learn. Each stanza of this song emphasizes God’s strength in some way. The first stanza begins right off the bat, declaring God as our refuge and strength. The refuge or stronghold of God will repeat several times throughout the psalm to highlight how impenetrable and fortified God’s power is. Verse one explains that God is a help in times of trouble. This kind of divine supreme help in times of peril is the same word used to describe Eve in the Garden of Eden as a help meet for Adam. So what has got a refuge from well, verses two to three described fearful imagery of mountain shaking and falling into the seas in the ancient air. East oceans were sometimes seen as embodying the forces of chaos, but the psalmist doesn’t fear because of the confidence that God’s power is greater. In the second stanza of the psalm, the scene shifts dramatically and contrasts everything from the first verse. Instead of crashing waves and mountain landslides, the psalmist presents the pristine city of God, accompanied by a peaceful oliver. The shaking and crumbling mountains of the first stanza are contrasted with the city of God, which shall not be moved.
The surging and rising waves of the chaos waters are here contrasted with the elevated tabernacle of the most High God. The stanza concludes by reiterating some of the tumults from the first stanza, but concludes that God is the one that causes the shaking, not the waters of chaos. The tranquil imagery of the city of God now transitions to the Lord, taking on a more forceful role in vanquishing Israel’s enemies. He does this not by instigating violence, but by neutralizing the human weapons. He breaks the bow, cuts off the spear, burns the war wagons, and causes the wars to cease. And it’s with all of this background that the narrative voice shifts from the psalmist to God himself. Speaking directly to the audience, God declares, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The psalm expresses how even though the waters are chaotic, God is steadfast.
Even though the waters of chaos are rising and surging, god is exalted above all.
God’s holy city cannot be moved or shaken, and you also can be unmoved.
God causes wars to cease, you can also cease conflict.
Each time the chorus is repeated, it reminds us that this mighty God, who reigns over the earth, water, cities and armies, is on our side. He is a stronger stronghold than the mountains, waters, or military enemies. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ embodied this psalm when he commanded stillness over the waters of chaos. In Mark chapter four, the disciples in the Sea of Galilee were being tossed by a storm that threatened their ship and their lives. In their anxiety, the disciples woke up Jesus, who seemed unperturbed by the threats of the stormy sea. Jesus responded by rebuking the sea and declaring peace.
Jesus knew that his power was greater than that of the waters and that God could not be moved. He commanded the storm to be still, and he commands us today to do the same. If we look to God in every metaphorical storm, we can trust in his steadfastness and in his power. He will not be moved, and neither will we. You.