Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
There is a class of persons who are designated by divines and Church historians as Quietists. They have not formed a community, but they have been found in all communities. They are not distinguishable by their doctrines so much as by a certain temper or habit of mind. They are to be traced among the Religious Orders of the fourteenth century, amidst the tumults of the Protestant sects in the sixteenth, in our Civil Wars, in the splendour and corruption of the French capital under Louis XIV., in the bustle and restlessness of those days. Now, it is not fair to judge of these men from the representations of their opponents, or even from their own accounts, unless we know their surrounding circumstances; but in so far as they showed dislike to energetic qualities, to conflicts, and to mixture with their fellow-men, so far their spirit seems alien from that which we discern in the holy men whom the Bible tells of. For they seem to be living always in contention and strife, and they confess that they are meant to live in it. How can a Quietist accept the Psalms? must it not be to him a very uncongenial book? How could the man after God's own heart have been a warrior and yet have given thoughts and prayer and music to the Church in all periods? For there is a Sabbatical character in these psalms. They have a quiet of their own; all feel that. It has been their charm to the weary and tempest-tossed pilgrims; they have taught man how to commune with his own heart, how to be still, how to rest in the Lord and to wait patiently for Him. And through man knowing thus the secret of being still, he has been able to toil manfully. And this is the quietism of the psalms, quietism in the midst of action, which only one who hears the call to act, and obeys it, can understand or prize. The ground of such quiet is given in our text. Only the belief of a Presence near us, with us, can inspire habitual awe, can keep us steady when all things are rocking around us, can take away the eagerness to move, or the cowardice which paralyzes movement. "Be still and know." You cannot know this deep and eternal truth unless you are still. If you keep the waters of your spirit in continual stir, you will see nothing in them, or only the reflection of your own perturbed self. "Be still and know that I am God." You may wonder to observe how often this form of speech is adopted in Scripture. He says, "I am God," not a conception of your minds, not One whom you make what He is by your mode of thinking of Him, but a living Person. And He is not a mere Being, not a mere Ruler, but the perfectly good Being, the perfectly righteous Ruler. And He alone can show you what the perfect goodness is. Israel had been trained in a school of suffering to feel the emptiness and falsehood of all visible creature worship, and that God alone was the Unseen King and Deliverer; they must seek in stillness to know Him, and must confess Him to be the Lord of their once revolted spirits, which in their efforts to be independent had become abject slaves. But the lesson would have been imperfect without the words that follow: "I will be exalted among," etc. Israel was not to despise the nations round about, or to think them of no value in God's sight. To do that was to despise God. Even as a comfort in any disaster, individual or national, the belief in God's presence, in His personality, in His goodness, would have been unsatisfactory, if it had not been accompanied with this belief in His power, with this assurance that it would one day make itself manifest over the universe, and would crush all that opposed it. It is a great question for us to ask ourselves, whether both these dangers are not assailing us at this time, and from the same cause? The words, "Be still and know that I am God," sound like strange words in the ears of most of us. "How can we be still," we ask, "while all things are in movement, while all things are unsettled? How can we be still while every one is hasting to be rich, hasting to get beyond his neighbour? How can we be still when all the political world is full of slumbering fires, ready to break forth? How can we be still while all the religious world is full of controversies, tumults, hatreds?" The answer surely should be, "Because there is all this mutation, restlessness, insecurity, therefore this is the very time to obey the command, Be still. For assuredly if we do not, we never shall know that the Lord He is God; we shall not believe, however we may pretend it, that He abides, and that He is with us, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the depths of the sea." And if we have not that belief, what other can we have? What other will be worth anything to us?
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.