The Bible tells us that we should “be still.” But just what does that look like?
Taking a personal day, going on a hike, taking your Bible and spending a day in prayer? Is that what it means to “be still?”
Working to eliminate distractions, closing your eyes, meditating on a verse of scripture? Is that “being still?”
Finding some quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts? Is that it?
None of those things are bad things in and of themselves. But I don’t think they capture what God is telling us in Psalm 46 when He tells us to “be still.”
This Sunday, we will sing together A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, the great hymn penned by Martin Luther almost 500 years ago that is based on Psalm 46. Luther’s text is all about how, in a world where spiritual battle is the experience de jour, we can rest in knowing that “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46).
Luther, who knew something about needing help in the midst of trouble, wrote that “though this world with devil’s filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.” In the midst of spiritual battle, anxiety, fear, uncertainty and even despair, when our soul is agitated and our nerves are frayed, God wants us to turn to Him and to “be still.”
When I read those two words, what comes to mind for me is a squirmy, restless toddler. I think of a mother reaching over to her son or daughter and with a hand on his or her shoulder saying “sweetheart, be still!”
Toddlers are usually antsy because they are bored. But restlessness can happen for all sorts of reasons. We can become easily agitated by any circumstances that do not go as planned. Two days ago, Mary Ann and I were buckled in, ready for an on time departure from Little Rock when the captain came on the intercom and told us that the plane was going to need a replacement part. We should gather our belongings and deplane, he said. Instead of leaving at 8:30 as planned, our new departure time was going to be 11:00 am.
You can guess what happened next. 11:00 was moved to 12:00 noon. Then 3:00 pm. By that time, we were already booked on a different flight, leaving Little Rock at 5:15 pm – about nine hours later than planned.
Flight delays are a regular source of agitation and distress. Just ask any gate agent for any airline. They will tell you that many passengers find it hard to “be still” when plans are interrupted and a wedding or a funeral or a graduation or a birthday party will be going on without you, all because a weather delay in Wichita means the plane that was going to be taking you to Lubbock or Boise or Schenectady won’t be taking off on time.
What Psalm 46 describes is far more anxiety producing than a delayed flight. The Psalmist envisions a host of tumultuous natural disasters – earthquakes and tsunamis and the like. He considers the fear that comes when nations rage and kingdoms totter. Although he doesn’t specifically mention pandemics and insurrections, it’s hard to imagine that his words wouldn’t apply to those kinds of events as well.
It is in the midst of those, or any other stress inducing phenomenon, the people who trust in Yahweh are instructed to “be still.” To stop being restless or anxious. To stop squirming. Be still. And know that He is God.
Standing on the banks of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army on their heels, the newly liberated Israelites had reason to squirm. Pharaoh had changed his mind about letting his work force go. He had sent his soldiers to recapture the slaves. And here they were, off on the horizon, armed for battle. There was nowhere the children of Abraham could go to escape. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
Fully expecting they would either die in the wilderness or be re-enslaved in Egypt, the people went to their leader, their supposed deliverer, and bemoaned their fate. That’s when Moses told them “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
In other words, “be still. God’s got this.”
Being still before the Lord doesn’t mean we do nothing. It’s not a rally cry for passivity. The same Bible that tells us to “be still” tells us to train ourselves for godliness and to strive and toil in pursuit of righteousness and godliness.
But the call to “be still” is a charge to take our restless hearts to the Prince of Peace. To labor in prayer until our hearts find rest. To reset our minds on things above and not on things that are on earth. To worship our sovereign, all wise, all knowing, all powerful God whose steadfast love endures forever.
Know that He is God.
The LORD of hosts is with us.
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
trunk or treat!
It’s Trunk or Treat time! This Friday night. Bring your kids. Grandkids. Neighbor kids. And join us!
Last year, our Trunk or Treat event gave us a chance to greet some of our neighbors and put a gospel tract in their hands as they left. Pray that again this year, we can be good neighbors and share the love of Jesus with those who leave around our church.
|Next Tuesday is our third First Tuesday get together for men. We’ll be Zooming with Dr. Thaddeus Williams, author of the book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. We’ll be talking about race, justice and how we think biblically about those issues in our current cultural and political moment.
Guys – for those who are interested – bring $5 and show up at 6:15 for pizza. The main event will happen at 7:00 pm. All men are invited!
|October 31 is a significant date in the history of the church. On that day in 1517, a parish priest and professor of theology posted a document on the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany, inviting debate on whether the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance and the selling of indulgencies were violations of scripture. That event was the opening salvo that led to a wide spread movement to reform the corrupt practices of the church.
This Sunday and next Sunday, we’ll pause our study of John’s Gospel to talk about the need for reformation in the church then and now.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!