“Be still and know that I am God.” —Psalm 46:10
Often this verse is used as a source of encouragement, and it is one of the most “liked” verses in the Bible. I remember hearing this verse often in Bible studies back in college and reading it in a daily devotional. Sadly, though, it has become just another cliché Christian phrase that is repeated in Christian circles.
Notice to whom this line is directed. It’s actually not an encouraging verse written to Christians. It’s a call to the nations to cease fire and bow down to the Lord who is God. “Be still and know that I am God” is not a great devotional memory verse; rather, it’s a severe warning.
Psalm 46:10, in context, is a warning to all of the armies of nations who oppose God and his people. It’s as if God is saying, “Be still! Stop!!! CEASE FIRE! Know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” In other words, “If you oppose me, I will crush you. This is a battle that you cannot win.”
Context is extremely important in the interpretation of Scripture. We can’t extrapolate Bible verses and use them however we choose. We have to read every passage as God the Holy Spirit wants us to do. This verse is a warning to the rebellious nations. God is in essence saying,
Get this, world. What I did to all of those foreign nations in the Old Testament—when I commanded Joshua to conquer the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Jebusites, and all of the other “-ites.” This was a preview of what I’m going to do when my Divine Warrior—King Jesus—returns. All of that conquest and all of that death was a preview of what’s going to happen when the world ends and my Son returns. I will bring judgment down upon the nations who rebel against me.
This is the worst catastrophic event that we can imagine. God is coming to judge.
That’s the bad news. God will be present in wrath for eternity to all of those who have rejected him and have never bowed the knee to his Son. That’s very bad news. But the good news is that this same God who is coming as Judge is also the God who right now holds out mercy and forgiveness to all who believe in his Son. Psalm 46 as a whole is ultimately about the safe refuge that God’s people have by placing their hope and trust in him.
To all of you who have embraced Jesus Christ by faith, God has become your fortress from destruction on the last day! God himself came down from heaven in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This Son of God became God with us so that God the Father would be a God who is for us and not against us!
The good news is that God has the power to protect his people from his justice, and he has the power to forgive us our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and bring us safely into his heavenly city that is to come.