Open your bibles to Psalm 46.
I do want to encourage you to have your bible out or use the pew bible.
You’ll find this chapter on page 403.
By the way, if you don’t have a Bible, feel fee to take that one or take one from the Book Nook after the service.
Either of those would be our gift to you!
Have you ever been wrong about something you’ve read in The Bible?
As Psalm 46:10 says...
Now, if you have your bible open to that chapter - it likely reads a little differently.
The Bible that I typically use says...
Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
“Be still, and know that I am God....
Being still and ceasing striving certainly have big overlaps, but there are also some distinct differences.
A few weeks ago, Armal and I were talking about a chapter in the book The Practical Pastor.
The topic for that chapter was on silence and solitude.
I was so struck by that conversation that I felt led to do a sermon on the topic, and yet the verse that came to mind was this verse Psalm 46:10.
Now, I gotta tell you, when I began thinking about this verse and this sermon - I had it all wrong.
I had in mind to reflect on stillness, calm and resting in the knowledge of God.
While there are elements of that in this verse, the context is key.
Psalm 46:10 sits in a stanza of about 3 other verses - which means - I needed to consider that context.
But even more, the verse sits as one part of a larger Psalm.
So today, as we consider this verse, we’re really going to consider the whole chapter in order to understand what the Psalmist is saying and what God is communicating to us.
You see, we could zero in on this one verse or even on the one phrase that I wanted to reflect on (Be still and know that I am God) and totally miss the premise.
Before we dive into the text, I want you to look at the structure of the chapter.
Most likely, your bible has some separations in the chapter - after v. 3 and 7.
You may also notice the little word Selah.
(v. 3, 7, 11).
No, the Psalmist isn’t making notes to the Christian singing group - that word is a sort of musical pause.
Based on the spaces and the selahs, we can observe that this psalm or song is divided into three stanzas - kind of like some of the songs we have already sung today.
There is one final observation I think we need to make.
This song has a chorus or a refrain.
Notice verses 7 and 11 - they are identical.
I don’t think the Psalmist has run out of material - I think he/they are trying to remind us that the God of Jacob is our protector or refuge or high place.
He is our assurance.
As we go through this, I’m going to use a different translation than usual because I think this version, the NET, picks up some of the nuances of the language a little better.
So let’s begin by considering...
Stanza 1: God is our refuge amidst earthly calamities (1-3)
We can often find refuge and solace in the consistent nature of our environment.
Generally speaking, the earth is viewed as a solid, stable force in our lives.
We can rely on the changing of the seasons.
We can generally predict weather patterns.
Here in the Mid Atlantic, Earth quakes are rare, weather patterns are generally moderate, and even huge hurricanes, while they can be devastating, have typically lost some of their frenzy by the time they get to us.
But, what happens when that which is so stable and predicable in our lives becomes unstable?
Psalm 46 begins...
Clinton McCann notes:
In the ancient Near Eastern understanding of the universe, the mountains were the foundation that both anchored dry land in a watery chaos and held up the sky.
In short, verse 2-3 are as close as the psalmist can come to a literal description of the world’s falling apart.
In the face of this worst case, the psalmist affirms God as “refuge,” “strength,” and “help.”
When the very structures of the universe as we know it cannot be depended upon, when our wold is falling apart, God can still be depended upon.
Creation - We can look back on creation and wonder in amazement that God created all that we see with the word of His mouth.
Seasons - We can study the patterns that weather cycles typically follow in order to plant and harvest.
Calamities - Scripture tells of times when God brought floods and droughts.
Jesus even demonstrated control over the wind and the waves.
So the Psalmist wants us to know that God is our refuge even when the earth seems to be falling apart.
In the second stanza, the Psalmist instructs us that...
Stanza 2: God is our fortress amidst interpersonal conflicts (4-7)
The Psalmist begins by reflecting on what some have called a “river of blessing” or life that flows in the “city of God” or among His people.
When challenges come, God is the one who will be the a strong tower or a fortress of protection.
These conflicts might be:
National conflicts - Psalms were written in an historical context.
Sometimes the introduction provides that context - at other times - we are left with only clues inside the text.
In this case, the clues are a bit vague.
I think it part - because the point is that the Psalmist is bringing out is not the conflict but the God who is sovereign over it.
Commentators work hard to discern which events in Israel’s history might have prompted this Psalm.
Commentators often suggest that the Psalmist may have been writing this in the context of...
Isaiah 37 - Hezekiah with the letters from an opposing force - spread them out before the altar of the Lord and prayed for deliverance.
Other commentators consider reference...
20- Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord as the people of Israel were were again facing attack.
Consider reading: 2 Chr.
Eventually, when the invading armies began to attack but ended up attacking and killing each other
But, in addition to God’s presence in big and national conflicts, he is also present in...
Personal conflicts - my ways are not your ways, upside down kingdom
Stanza 3: Our call to respond to God (8-11)
Observe what God has done in the past
Look back and see how God has acted
in Your life
Stop striving in your own strength
Many translations say “be still” - but it seems like the Hebrew is communicating so much more than a “mindful moment” or an inner calm.
Instead it seems to be saying...
Psalm 46:10 (NET)
He says, “Stop your striving ...
James Montgomery Boice applies it this way:
“Lay down your arms.
Surrender, and acknowledge that I am the one and only victorious God.”
Ultimately, for the people of Israel - there were times when they truly did have to put down their arms and let God fight for them.
Let’s think through a few areas in our lives where this might be applied.
In life and the conflicts we encounter - we tend to fight battles by different standards - we want justice and vindication - we want to defend our rights and dignity.
We can sometimes assume that our way is the right or only way.
(Story of Fletcher - job, overlooked?)
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
In our worries - (cast)
1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Resisting God’s way -
Acts 26:14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’”