Worship at Home - Wednesday 25 March 2020
Be still and Know that I am God...
I was enjoying my ‘one form of exercise a day’ this morning as I walked Mike (my Jack Russell terrier for those who haven’t yet met him!) around the showground. And I was struck by how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful place. Always so, but perhaps even more especially at this time. The sunshine is bringing with it some welcome relief in all of the gloom and clouds of uncertainty.
And it was quiet. Yes, there were a few other folks around, walking their dogs or just enjoying their own ‘one form of exercise a day’, and in a rather English and polite way we managed to keep our distance whilst still offering the usual greetings. But it was quiet. Very quiet. Not too much traffic noise. Certainly, very much less than usual. And only a very few aircraft climbing into the sky from Gatwick. It was quieter than I have ever known it. Which in truth was a little eery, but at the same time, in that quiet I found myself hearing the words the psalmist attributes to God in psalm 46: Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46: 10)
Be still, and know that I am God. Perhaps one of the positive things that may arise from the current crisis, in the very short term at least, is an opportunity to slow down and step back from all of the usual frenetic activity that envelops so much of our lives nowadays. That rush to be here and there and everywhere. That need to do. to shop and so to acquire. Maybe for a moment we can all just slow down and, be still, and be more aware of God. In other words, have more faith. After all, if I understand the psalmist correctly, one of the things he is reminding us of in psalm 46, is that God has fully proved himself in the past to be a totally reliable help in times of trouble. So, trust him now. Have faith. Be still...and be aware of God.
Psalm 46 is certainly the right psalm for a time like this when our lives feel engulfed by crisis. Its opening verses actually envisage national calamity and the advance of the forces of chaos, but let’s not be too pessimistic! There’s uncertainty as to what this actually refers to, although the threat to Jerusalem in the times of King Hezekiah, in the days of Isaiah and of Assyrian invasion seems most likely. What really matters more than when is that in the face of the danger whenever that was, there was confidence. Real confidence. Confidence that God’s powerful presence would remain like an unshakeable rock. The refrain in the psalm is: The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Forces of destruction had seemingly threatened the whole fabric of the ordered world of creation. But against all of this, says the psalmist, God is on our side, he is our refuge and strength, he is an ever-present help in trouble of every sort. Despite all the rage and fury that is without, we can know an inward source of strength, something that the psalmist pictures as a stream, God’s own presence, flowing through us to calm us from within. God’s refreshing presence in the midst of the crisis.
It is a reminder of his immediate and effective control over the whole earth. And it should take us back perhaps to our interrupted Lent series looking at the Book of Exodus and to Exodus 20: 3 in particular: You shall have no other gods before me. Maybe all that is going on at the present time should be a reminder to all of us of God’s sovereignty, of his supremacy and how nothing can usurp it. It’s a thought to give us confidence. Be still, and know that I am God.
In the psalm, God’s people could say in the face of all their threats ‘God is within, God will help, the Lord Almighty is with us and so we will not fear’: Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging [verse 2 - 3]. To that list of threats from the natural world we can now add COVID-19. But as the threats increase so likewise our faith must also now increase, if we’re to cope: Be still, and know that I am God.
It is a command that urges us to be calm whatever the turmoil, no matter the threat nor how great our worry. The writer Michael Wilcock in commenting on this psalm observes how the entire psalm actually shows how calm and confident the psalmist’s people were. It is actually time, he says, that the opposition, like the raging waters of the Galilee in Mark 4: 39 were told to stop their noise and recognize their Master.1 How true is that!
The LORD is as always for his people here and now, so be still, and know that He alone is God.
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Bible Quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
1 Michael Wilcock, The Message of the Psalms 1 – 72, [Leicester, England: IVP, 2001], p. 169