Be Still, And Know That I Am God

Rev. Chip Hammond

Into the strife of life, Yahweh ("the Lord") speaks through the prophetic Sage, and says "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). I've been thinking about that passage. It strikes me as odd.

The inspired introduction reads: "For the Choir Director; of the sons of Korah; as an alamoth [a type of music]; a song." The piece was written for the Temple's Director of Music. It is clearly addressed to Israel as the covenant people chosen by the Lord. This is what makes verse 10 so strange.

If it was written for the peoples around Israel, the point would be clear: "Ba'al is not God -- I am God!" If it was to be sent to Egypt, I could easily understand it: "Ra is not God; Osiris is not God; Horis is not God; Atan is not God -- I am God!"

Why would the inspired Sage need to tell the members of the covenant community to be still, and to know that Yahweh is God? The answer, I think, lies back in the Garden.

When the Tempter came to the woman in her pristine holiness, his temptation was insidious -- "You will be as God" (Gen. 3:4). Man has been trying to realize that lying fantasy in one way or another ever since. So ingrained into our natures is the deception that it harrows even the redeemed.

We suffer needlessly because we too easily tend to fail to let God be God. Life brings strife. It throws us curves. And the weakness of our faith does not want to let God be God -- "too dangerous." No, there are areas where we all are entranced by the siren's song that we can be as God.

For some people, the desire to be God is manifest in the desire to possess the divine attribute of sovereignty. Some people don't want God to be in control of all things -- they want to be! They want to control other people -- their thoughts, their attitudes, their behaviors.

But God is different than we are, not merely quantitatively, but qualitatively. That is to say, he's not just a bigger version of us. He cannot be compared, in the final analysis, to any of his creatures, even man (Is. 40:18, 25; 46:5). That God is sovereign does not violate the free will of man. In the excellent statement of the Westminster divines, "God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as... violence [is not] offered to the will of the creatures; nor the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (WCF 3.1). One man gains utter sovereignty over another only by manipulation or coercion. The man over whom human sovereignty is gained loses his freedom. Some Christians have a hard time letting God be God in his sovereignty -- they want to be sovereign. In that area, they want to be as God.

For other people, the desire to be God is manifested in the desire to possess the divine attribute of omniscience -- we sometimes call them "know-it-alls." They have a deep desire to know everything, or at least appear that they do. These are the people who, contra James 1:19, are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. They don't like to be instructed or taught.

"But surely not I, Lord? I know that you cannot share your glory with another (Is. 48:11). Though others forsake you, I never will." Hmmmmm. Those words sounded strangely familiar. So I looked deeper into my own heart, reflected in the Mirror (James 1:23). I was startled as I remembered something that happened not long ago. Why, just the other day I felt -- agitated? Mildly annoyed? Angry? Yes, angry.

I felt angry because I had three things I wanted to do -- no, I had to do, and they all had to be done at the same time. The solution was simple, of course. I needed only the ability to be in three places at once, at it would be a snap! I needed only the divine and incommunicable attribute of omnipresence, and all would be fine. But I couldn't be three places at once! My creatureliness meant I could only be one place at a time. It's as though God was saying, "Pick one, and let the others go. Trust me."

I was angry. Didn't God know how important these things were? How important I am? "People are counting on you-- they need you -- you have to be three places at once -- you have a right to be angry" I thought I heard a serpentine voice whisper.

The next time life gets really hard, and you hear a voice whisper, "But you must be able to control other people, or life will be terrible!" "No one must know something that you don't, or they'll have an advantage over you!" "You must be able to be in more than one place at a time, and have a right to be angry that you can't be!" STOP! Sit down and close your eye. Breathe deeply. And listen to another voice: "Be still and know that I am God...."