You’ve probably seen this phrase on a wall, social media page, or someone’s tattooed arm. “Be still and know,” has been a phrase that’s been used a lot to get people to calm themselves and not worry about the storm they are in. But if you’ve never actually read the verse, then you’re missing out! The phrase has so much more depth if you read it with some other scripture and read the last part of the phrase.
“Be still and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10a NLT
Okay so maybe you have read that whole phrase. It sounds so familiar, right? But for the unbeliever: it means so much. And for the believer: it means so much. And this meaning is found in two great little stories in the bible. One about Moses and the other; Elijah.
We’ll start with Moses. He was a Hebrew man born and raised in Egypt. His people were slaves by that time (originally refugees centuries prior) and yet he himself was like a prince! He was adopted by the king of Egypt’s daughter and raised as an Egyptian. Events led him to flee Egypt and he found himself wedding Zipporah, having kids and living a regular (1500 BC) kind of lifestyle. But one day, recorded in Exodus chapter 3, when he was watching his father-in-law’s flock, he wandered way out into the wilderness and came upon Mount Sinai. And on that mountain he saw, intriguingly, a bush that was burning, yet not burning up. It simply was ablaze. Turns out God was there and He spoke with Moses and told him to go back to his people in Egypt and free them. Moses asked in which god’s name would he be appearing before his people. You see the Egyptian culture (Moses’ adopted culture) believed in a god for almost everything. So naturally when he met “the God of his ancestors,” (vs. 3:6) he wanted to know God’s name.
Do you know how God responded? “I am that I am,” (vs. 4) the text reads. And looking at the original wording, it can be translated as a few different things, two of which being “I will be what I will be” and “I am because I am.”
To Moses, an unbeliever, God’s proof for His existence is His existence. God so boldly states that He is, simply because He is! When I tell people I’m a father, I usually back it up with pictures of my sons to prove my statement. When I say I’m a husband I point to the ring on my finger or the way I interact with other women. When I say I’m an author I show them my website and invite them to read one of my works. We always follow up with proof for our claim. God’s proof to His claim… is the claim itself. This is the boldest and most daring thing God could say to Moses.
God could have shown Moses a vision of how He created the universe. God could have told Moses every decision he had ever made. But when Moses asked God for His name… when he asked who God was as a god… our Lord simply and boldly stated that He is.
If this response is still a little confusing, (don’t worry, because it certainly can be!) let’s jump into our next story; what God says to the believer, Elijah.
Elijah is best known for his feat on Mount Carmel where he has a ‘whose god is best’ showdown against the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). The challenge is an epic one and well worth a read! Spoiler alert: Elijah and God kick butt!
“Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself,” Elijah asks (vs. 27 NLT ). And his Lord is showing up by sending down fire from the sky and burning up a water drenched alter! God is proven to be God. Elijah means: my God is Yahweh, I’ve also heard it described as Yahweh is God and that perfectly sums up his ministry: proving God is God. Elijah backs up the statement, “I am that I am,” through his God-proving battle.
But, the story I want to tell takes place right after that accomplishment. A woman of great power, named Jezebel, wishes to kill Elijah because he is a prophet of the Most High. So he calls fire down on her! No, not really… he runs! He flees! He gets out of dodge!
And it’s in his moment of despair, when he is hiding and seemingly low on faith, that God shows up.
“9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”
1 Kings 19:9-12, NKJV
Where was God? He was in the quiet. He was in the still. He came to Elijah in that still, small voice because that’s what Elijah needed. He had seen God’s fire. He had seen God’s power. But Elijah needed to know that God was his… oh, the word for this is hard to find but let’s list a few: friend, protector, tender guider, shepherd, love. If there is a word that could sum all that up, it’d probably be Yahweh.
Imagine you’re in that cave. Are you afraid? Are you low on faith? Are you in the middle of a storm that could never be calmed? Are you before a mountain that you could never climb?
“The LORD Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Exodus 14:14 NLT
Listen and hear God’s whisper.
Luke Langman’s song “Every Word You Say” has a gorgeous opening line: “You only whisper because You’re close.”
God is not One who requires a chaotic approach. He is not One who requires a clean and perfectly practiced approach: He offers an approach to Himself that is calm, still, and awe filled. And as a result, we are calmed, stilled, and awed. Even if we come to Him in a storm, He’ll calm our waves (Matthew 8:23-27). If we come to Him with a mountain before us, He’ll move it (Micah 1:4, Mark 11:23, Matthew 17:20).
These two men, the unbeliever and the believer, were approached by God in a way that demanded awe. Did you know, Moses had to remove his sandals because he was upon holy ground (Exodus 3:5)? Elijah saw God’s power manifest in nature and yet His voice, His presence was found in a still, quiet, humble, small voice.
And if I were Elijah in that cave, I would close my eyes and listen to His whisper. I’d hear the One who exists because He exists say:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Friends, He is God. He is your God and He fights for you. He loves you. He is enough for you. Calm yourself. Be still and know this.
This would be a great time to take a moment and reflect on the passages we just read. Reflect on what God has done in your own life. Maybe read Psalm 77. Do you notice the second half of Asaph’s prayer? Sometimes God doesn’t need to do a new, big thing in our lives. Sometimes we’ve got to look back at what He’s already done and remember that He’s close to us, whispering and leading us by the still waters (Psalm 23:2). Take some time, right now if you can, to pray and thank God for what He’s done in your life, invite His Spirit to meet with you and then just sit there and be still. Let God do the rest.