I wasn’t ever a huge fan of the Psalms growing up. It’s not like I hated them or thought them worthless or anything like that, because they’re just as inspired as the rest of Scripture, but I just didn’t understand them. Partly because it’s poetry and poetry just isn’t as straightforward as other forms of literature. But mostly because it seemed like every popular verse from Psalms seemed like it was pulled from la la land and put on some coffee cup to make people feel better.
One of the more commonly misused verses as I grew up was the first sentence in Psalm 46:10
It never failed that this verse came up whenever a speaker wanted to encourage us to have devotion or “quiet time.” That or telling us that the only way to see God was to stop moving long enough to catch a glimpse of him. Now, I get that there’s a measure of truth to that last part, but that’s not the point of this verse.
JR Vassar did a phenomenal job preaching Christ through Psalm 46 this weekend at the Linger Conference. He really opened my eyes to the point of this passage being that God is our safe haven in times of trouble and it is because of Him that we have peace in seemingly disastrous circumstances.
The Psalmist begins by pointing out that God is our refuge and help in time of trouble, even in the most terrifying of circumstances.
Psalm 46:1-3 ESV
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
The Psalmist then contrast the roaring ocean of verse 2 with a river that makes the inhabitants of the city of God glad. It brings life and security to the city of God when all the nations around are losing their minds and feeling helpless and fearful.
Psalm 46:4-7 ESV
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The Psalmist then points our attention to the utter sovereignty of God and that it is God alone who makes wars cease and ends unnecessary violence and the greatest weapons of the day cannot harm Him.
Psalm 46:8-11 ESV
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
So now we get to verse 10. It’s obviously a command from God to be still, but not in the way it’s generally treated.
This is God telling the hearers of Psalms to be still in the same way that Jesus told the waters to be still when he was on the boat with the disciples.
JR Vassar brilliantly pointed out that, in a sense, Jesus had to lay this song down so that those who confess Christ could keep it forever. In John 12:27 Jesus says that his soul is troubled. The word used here is indicative of being distressed, afflicted, or in danger. This is Jesus saying that he feels like the oceans are raging and mountains are moving inside of him. Jesus took up this sense of the world caving in on Him as He walked the path toward the cross so that we could rest in Him forever.
And because of this great sacrifice when the nations rage and the world is frantic those who are in Christ can be at peace, like the sea’s calm waters after Jesus commanded “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39 ESV)