Be Still and Know

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland. Also known as St. Patrick’s Rock. Photo by Robert Linsdell, June, 2015.

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

Over the past several days I’ve found myself feeling jostled by each successive breaking news alert. Perhaps you have too. It’s difficult to know how to respond and prepare when our situation is this unprecedented and this fluid. I’m sure that my heart rate has been humming slightly higher than normal. Maybe yours has as well.

Into this flurry of activity, Psalm 46 speaks timely and wise counsel. Martin Luther called it his favorite psalm. In fact, while meditating upon this psalm en route to the Diet of Worms (1521) he wrote the words to his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Later Luther added this pastoral note, “We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us, and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends his church and his word, against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh and sin.”

To a contemporary audience, Derek Kidner commented on Psalm 46 saying, “Until recently, man has had few thoughts to spare for the possibility of a world catastrophe. But this psalm can face it unafraid, because its opening phrase means exactly what it says. Our true security is in God, not in God plus anything else.”

God’s counsel to his people is not “Keep calm and carry on.” Nor is it merely “Be still.” God tells us to be still and know that he is God. He is “our refuge and strength,” our “very present help in trouble.” It’s because of who God is and who he is for his people that we do not need to fear, “even though the earth gives way” or “mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.” It is the Lord of Hosts who is with us. He is our fortress.

Do you remember how the disciples felt when that great storm suddenly came upon them in the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41)? They were deathly afraid! They looked for Jesus but he was “in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” When they woke him, Jesus spoke to the storm and said, “Peace! Be still!” The wind stopped. The seas stopped, and there was “a great calm.” One day Jesus will say to coronavirus, “Peace! Be Still!” — but until that day he speaks the same words to our hearts today. Let us know him and know him better today.