As the son of a pastor, I was in church nine months before I was born. Growing up in church was quite an experience. Sitting beside my mom on those hard, wooden pews was great training for learning to sit still. But come on, what ten-year-old can sit still through an entire sermon? Just thinking about those days brings back two well-worn phrases I heard on many Sundays. The first one struck fear that still today makes me flinch. Since he had the best view of everyone in the audience, my dad would almost always catch me when I chose to misbehave. I will never forget the cold chill that ran down my spine when he got in the car after the services and said: “Wait till we get home.” The dread on the short ride home must be something akin to the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that a man on death row must feel. The second phrase is one that, if I’m very quiet, I can still hear my sweet mom say: “If you don’t sit still, I’m going to pinch a plug out of you!”
Sitting still was not in the cards for me when I was ten, and to be honest, it’s still not part of my skill set. I’m a fidgety kind of guy. If I’m sitting – it’s usually anything but “still.” I really don’t know why, but I’ve never mastered the quiet repose I’ve seen in others. From tapping fingers to twitching legs, I just don’t seem to get still.
I mention this because I recently read a passage in the Bible that has been very special to me for many years. It’s part of the Hebrew Hymnal known as the Psalms. The 46th Psalm seems to be written with three distinct verses, all separated by the rest or pause, so indicated by the word “Selah.” The third verse of this Psalm contains a familiar verse. As the Psalmist takes his dictation from God, he writes: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
Stated so simply – and yet so difficult: “Be still.”
The word translated “still” is a Hebrew verb that means “to cease striving, to relax.” I suppose it’s something akin to the phrase “chill out.” That’s difficult if you are a fixer. You know what I mean, right? When my wife tells me about a problem – I try to fix it. When a church member has a need – I try and meet it. When my friends are in pain – I try to ease it. And in my fixing, meeting, and easing, I’ve discovered that I can easily remove God from the equation. That’s not good.
I think God wants to use His people to fix, meet, and ease the problems, needs, and pain in this world. But in doing so, we must never lose sight of the one who is doing the fixing, meeting, and easing. It is God. The name the Psalmist used here is Elohim. The word Elohim is plural (think Trinity), powerful (this is the first name we are given in Genesis as Elohim creates something out of nothing), and intensely personal (as we see Elohim interacting with His creation).
In his book, “The Power of God’s Names,” Dr. Tony Evans writes: “Whatever situation you’re facing today or whatever challenge you’re trying to overcome, I want to encourage you to remember the name Elohim. The Strong One doesn’t need raw material with which to work. He doesn’t need logic or tangible solutions in order to accomplish His goal. All He needs is Himself, and all you need is faith in His name that He can do all that He purposes to do. Too often we get hung up trying to figure out the answer to our problems. Rather than trying to visualize how God is going to straighten out your situation, tweak your trials, or fix your failures, remember His name. Elohim can create something out of nothing. He’s done it before, and He continues to do it to this day. After all, He created worlds just by speaking them into existence.”
Read it again: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Between the “still” and “God” is the verb “know.” The word means “to perceive, discern, experience, to know relationally, to know through personal experience.” As we cease from striving, trying to figure out how to fix everything that’s wrong, we are called to focus our attention on Elohim, the one who created all things and who can solve our problems in ways we’ve never considered, and who invites us to know Him personally.
Are you tired? Worried? Anxious? Burdened? Hurting? Discouraged?
Hear and heed His command: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.