Be Still and Know that I am God!


May 31, 1998 ~ Altona Road Church of the Nazarene


Psalm 46:1-11 - God is our refuge and strength, an ever- present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.


This week we heard on the news about the nation of Pakistan detonating five nuclear weapons in response to the five detonated by its arch enemy India during the past month. We also heard the responses made by various nations around the world and how many are now withholding economic assistance, reducing diplomatic relations and being angry all in an effort to prevent a nuclear weapons race such as that which once occurred between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Most of us can remember various aspects of that particular arms race: Pictures of children in schools hiding under their desks during drills in an attempt to gain some additional protection from a weapon capable obliterating an entire city, video clips of families entering well stocked bomb and fallout shelters, and books and movies by the score, all portraying the horrors of a world gone mad. Some of us have even benefited from that situation through jobs related in some way to the industry of national defence. Quite simply, the fear of nuclear war was a fear that affected almost every citizen of the world in one way or an other and now, some believe, it is beginning all over again.


There are other events, both global and local, which can raise in us the same fear that life as we know it is at an end. We may confront a burglar in our home, a mugger late at night, an illness beyond the cure of modern medicine, or the death of a close friend or family member. In each case our life changes greatly, no longer remaining what it was before, and in some situations our life even comes to an end. What are we to do in such circumstances? How do we overcome the trials that threaten to overcome us?


There can be no success in hiding from the world for we see that Howard Hughes, once one of the world's most wealthy men, became a recluse partially through his fear of human contamination and died any way. Jesus answered worry by saying:


Matthew 6:25-27 - Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?


Jesus was telling His disciples that no matter how hard they worried they would not be able to change even the smallest thing about themselves. He says that instead of worrying we should trust in God as His following statements show:


Matthew 6:28-33 - Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


We also can place no faith in alliances to people or powers in the hope that they will protect us. Just think of the countries which have once placed their trust in the Soviet Union only to witness that nation, once the second most powerful on earth, crumble and decay until it can barely maintain itself. The Bible also speaks to this misplace of trust:


Psalm 118:9 - It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.


Psalm 146:3 - Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.


God longs to be our protection, as we see in this passages from the prophet Isaiah:


Isaiah 30:15-18 - This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!  A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill."  Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!


Throughout the Bible Israel is criticized for constantly making alliances with external powers rather than depending on their God, so as far as the Christian is concerned that route is out even if it did work all of the time. A case in point from the time of Jeremiah and King Zedekiah; who had been made king by the Babylonian king, later rebelled against him and called upon Pharaoh and Egypt for assistance:


Jeremiah 37:7-10 - This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: "Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt.  Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’  This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not!  Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down."


What then are we to do when life gets crazy and worrying cannot help us and friends and acquaintances fail us? The words of our text begin to answer the question of our response to the tumult about us:


Psalm 46:1-3 - God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.


What we too often fail to remember is that it doesn't matter what happens to us in this life. It doesn't matter at all, what matters is how we respond to what happens to us. The psalmist lets us, and the people of his own day know that God is God regardless of what occurs in the world and that even if this world be removed it wouldn't matter because God will sustain the lives of His people.


Quite often we are not required to respond actively at all but rather rely on God for His deliverance just as Daniel and his friends did during the captivity:


Daniel 3:14-18 - Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?  Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had the uncommon attitude that even if God did not intervene on their behalf they would do His will though it cost their lives. They were not willing to sacrifice their salvation to preserve their life on earth but were entirely willing, were God to demand it, to sacrifice their earthly life to attain eternal life.


Their view of how they should respond to a bad situation echoes a verse found later in our text where the psalmist writes:


Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.


We read of many occasions in the history of Israel when God's people were besieged by forces far more powerful by earthly measure and yet won the victory having only to rely upon their God to fight for them:


2 Kings 19:32-35 - Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria: "He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."  That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning — there were all the dead bodies!


Looking at this situation all that the people of Jerusalem were required to do was nothing but trust in God, He promised to defeat the Assyrians for them.


We live in an extremely hectic and care filled time. While it is no harder now to be a Christian than at any time in the past, and in many ways it is easier, we constantly need reminding that, ultimately, we are not in control of our own lives and even less of the lives around ours. The view of this time is that our current lives exist as an end to themselves, that the reason we are alive is to enjoy "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in whatever form they take. But as Christians we know that this life, while important, is not an end unto itself, there is more to life than living, we must each confront death. Even Lazarus whom Jesus called from the tomb died in due time, and we all must die. No, this life is not the one that is of ultimate importance, its importance stems only from the fact that it is that period within which we prepare ourselves for eternity. Thus the words of the psalmist have a greater impact than they might otherwise have when he writes "be still and know that I am God." That is all that is required of us, when we acknowledge God in our own lives as a real person who is able to defend, support, and encourage us everything else will fall in line for:


1 Chronicles 29:11 - Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.


Our God is the ruler of the universe and all that lies beyond it, there is nothing in this life that can change that. Even if we are called to suffer greatly, and even die for our faith in Him that is of no consequence for our God is greater even than death. There is nothing in all creation that is able to take us from the arms of God. We rest today in our Father's arms, let us remain there and find comfort in His infinite strength.