Be Still, and Know that I Am God

“Be still, and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10

Many times throughout my years as a follower of Christ I’ve heard this verse given the application of quieting oneself, meditating on God, and sometimes, listening for his “still small voice.” I’ve also seen it used as a proof text for the New Age practice of contemplative prayer. On the surface, some of these things seem like good things to do. But is that what Psalm 46:10 is commanding?

As with any verse (or part of a verse in this case), we have to read it in context. Too often, a verse is found and ripped from its context to be used in ways that are completely foreign to the way the original author meant it or the original audience understood it. I think Psalm 46:10 is one of the most misused verses in the Bible.

Let’s take this verse in context by reading the entire psalm.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

It seems evident from the context that the command from God to “Be still, and know that I am God,” is in the context of warfare; it has a military context. It appears that he’s speaking to the heathen nations around Israel, commanding them to stop their striving against him and know, to their terror, that he is God. Another possible option is that he’s speaking to Israel, commanding that they stop striving to seek after military help from the nations around them.

Either way, taken in context, there’s nothing here about quieting ourselves before our Maker and meditating on him. There’s certainly nothing here regarding such dangerous practices as contemplative or “listening” prayer. To use Psalm 46:10 as biblical proof for these things is mishandling the Word and should be avoided by true Christians. When we see this verse used like that, we should sound the alarm, warning those misusing it and those listening to its misuse that such abuses are dangerous.

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One thought on “Be Still, and Know that I Am God

  1. Pingback: Don’t “Listen to God’s Spirit” When You Pray | By the way...

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