Be’s of the Bible, Part 3

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We’ve looked at two of the seven “Be’s” of Scripture so far: Be holy and Be perfect. As we’ve noted, whenever we read an admonition in the Bible that begins with “Be,” it’s an imperative admonition; it’s not a suggestion. When God wants His people to “Be” something or to do something, it’s not an option, even though He has given us the ability to choose whether or not to be obedient to that particular admonition.

Our third “Be” is a little different from the first two. In those, God wants us to become something we may not be: Be holy (because God is holy) and be perfect. In each case, Christians are being admonished to become something different from what they are. And in each case, both holiness and maturity are possible to achieve because they are God’s will for His people. The third “Be” isn’t so much a change in our behavior or way of living, but rather a complete, radical change in our attitude, and it’s taken from Psalm 46 –

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 TNIV)

That’s one of the most comforting verses in the whole Bible. And yet, our third “Be” is emphatic. Why would anybody have to be told to “be still?” Let’s take a look at this wonderful verse in the overall context of Psalm 46

General observations

Psalm 46 begins what some scholars refer to as “the trilogy of praise.” The theme of Psalms 46, 47, and 48 is the greatness of God. When you read these psalms, you realize that God is all you need and has all you need, now and into the future. Psalm 46 has a familiar title, To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, with the addition, According to alamoth. That addition is used only here in the psalms and while nobody is quite sure what it means, some think it means, “for soprano voices.” So this is a psalm for women to sing.

A great many people have found much comfort and encouragement in Psalm 46. In fact, Martin Luther loved it so much, he wrote a hymn inspired by it: A Mighty Fortress is Our God, and is known in some circles as “Luther’s Psalm.”

The protection of God is more than enough

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1 – 3 TNIV)

What a wonderful way to start a song! Some people, even Christians, may challenge the simple theology being taught in these verses – that God is the all sufficient source of protection for His people. The reason people may doubt its truthfulness is because they’ve never tried it. Another psalm gives this piece of advice –

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 TNIV)

If you don’t “taste and see” you’ll never discover that “the Lord is good.” Too many Christians have never trusted God long enough to let Him help them during times of trouble. A lot of well-meaning believers take matters into their own hands; trying to find their own solutions to their difficulties rather than turning to God and counting on His deliverance. It’s sad but true that many Christians don’t know the first thing about God’s sufficiency because they’ve never really trusted God long enough to see them through.

The truth is, however, that God is sufficient. God never fails His people. God has whatever it is you may need in any circumstance you may find yourself. The psalmist uses the most severe catastrophes you can imagine: an earthquake, landslide, ocean storm, and a flood. These are all figures, of course, but think about what the psalmist is implying here. All of these are natural disasters beyond anybody’s control. In spite of what the modern climate mullah’s may think, man cannot change his environment to stop these disasters from happening. You can’t stop them. You can’t outrun them. You can’t hide from them. Your only hope when these kinds of things happen is God. When the disasters of life assail you, you can find peace and safety in God. He is your only refuge.

Jesus showed us something of what the psalmist is writing about when He and His disciples were on a boat in the middle of the lake when squall suddenly came up, threatening to capsize their boat. Jesus, who had been curled up taking a nap, wasn’t worried a bit –

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39 TNIV)

If the God who brought order out of chaos and who is continuing to exercise complete sovereignty over the natural world says He is YOUR refuge when your world is crashing down around you, why doubt?

The presence of God

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:4 – 7 TNIV)

From the upheavals and violence of verses three and four, this section here is a complete contrast! From natural disasters to the tranquility of the streams that water the city of God. This is sheer poetry, and among Bible scholars there are many different interpretations, including an eschatological one. In truth, there is no river flowing past Jerusalem. It gets its water from two springs, Gihon and En-Rogel. What the hymn writer wants to show his readers is the idyllic scene that exists between God and His people. There may not be refreshing streams of water flowing near the children of God, but God is there nonetheless meeting their every need. Two Old Testament prophets (Isaiah and Ezekiel) write about a day in the future when there really will be a river near Jerusalem. But for now there isn’t; it’s a spiritual one that flows from the very heart of God to refresh the souls of His people, wherever they are, in whatever circumstances they find themselves. God’s presence in His people is consistent and abiding. He is always there, meeting every need His people have. While the world is being turned upside down and people’s lives are in turmoil, God’s people – as individuals and collectively as the Church – remain unmoved; rock steady because God is among them.

The power of God

Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. (Psalm 46:8, 9 TNIV)

This is a historical paragraph; the people around Jerusalem are advised to look around at what the Lord has done for His people. God has delivered them time and time again from peril and disaster. Those deliverances are part of the history of Israel, and part of your personal history too if you are serving God. But God is sovereign. Yes, He’s your personal Lord; He saved your soul personally; He cares for you as a person, but God is also completely sovereign, over all the world. That’s the point of verse nine. We can take comfort in the knowledge that no war, no uprising, no tyrannical state may arise or fall with God’s involvement for His glory and the good of His Church.

Verse nine teaches us something else that drives the left crazy. Look at those words in The Living Bible:

[God] causes wars to end throughout the earth, breaking and burning every weapon. (TLB)

If we were to use one word to describe most of human history, it would have to be “violent.” There have always been wars and there will always be wars because only God can stop them. No treaty, no single nation can being an end to any of the conflicts burning around the world. Education can’t do it. Elections don’t do any good. The source of all human conflict is not outward circumstances like poverty or greed, but it’s in man himself – his sinful nature. No power can change that but God Himself.

And that brings us to the third “Be” in our series.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 TNIV)

The Hebrew word behind “be still” is the exact same word used Psalm 37:8 –

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:7, 8 TNIV)

The idea is the same in both psalms. There are times when we are overwhelmed by the wickedness all around us. There may be times when we feel absolutely set upon, as though everybody in our lives is taking advantage of us or they don’t care about us or understand us or whatever. It is during moments like these that Christians are to “be still.” It’s a command, not a suggestion, that’s linked to it’s counterpart: let God do the work. That work may be stopping wars and conflicts in the world, or quelling the wars that rage in your heart and the conflicts that may be present in your marriage or family or at work.

It’s not easy to “be still,” which is why it’s a command. The quirky Message translation puts it like this –

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:10 MSG)

This idea of “letting God do the work” is not an unimportant one. It’s an admonition found across the Old and New Testaments, and here in Psalm 46 the word the psalmist used is “know”; God’s children are to “know” that God is God. The Hebrew word is a big one that means “to admit,” “to realize,” “to acknowledge,” “to experience,” “ to enjoy,” or “to appreciate.” No matter how devoted you may be, you need to be constantly reminded how great our God really is. When we don’t pray enough; when we don’t read the Bible enough; when we don’t think rightly about Him, God becomes smaller and smaller in our view. But when we pray more, study the Word more, and consider Him more, the more often we turn to Him for help and deliverance, the more He will do those things and the more convinced we will be that HE is God and there are none like Him.

It’s not easy to “be still.” But God’s greatness is seen and experienced during the greatest troubles of life you may encounter. It’s relatively easy to “be still” or serene when things are going well and trouble is far behind. But your faith is strengthened and rewarded and God is revealed during difficult times.

During a particularly depressing time of his life, an old minister wrote a letter to his son. Describing his progressively worsening health, he wrote, “Son, I am just battling with the inevitable.” That minister got it wrong. He wasn’t “battling with the inevitable,” he was a child of God, so he wasn’t alone, for he was “battling WITH the Inevitable.” That’s how it is with you. When the storms of life are raging, you are battling WITH the Inevitable!

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