Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The words, "Be still, and know that I am God," have usually been taken as an invitation to believing hearts to trust and not be afraid. It is very natural that this should be so, especially as that interpretation harmonizes with the prevailing message of the psalm. As a matter of fact, however, they seem to have been addressed to the enemies of God's people, those who were making war upon them oppressively. The words are not a message of soothing but an utterance of prohibition: Do still. Desist from making war upon My people, and know that I am God, God whose will it is that all nations should own His sovereign sway.
1. Let us consider the words first from this point of view, which is that of the psalmist. Then we can go on to think of them in the sense in which faith has loved to interpret them. "Be still from war, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth." Admittedly, when God is exalted among the nations in the earth, there will be no more war. Where selfishness and tyranny have given place to obedience to God and consequent love to man war cannot possibly be. It is quite true that God has made desolations in the earth by means of war. From the history of Israel to the history of England the Spirit of the Lord has come upon God-fearing men, and bidden them make war either in self-defence or in defence of the weak against some tyrant. On the other hand, it is equally true that God maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. The more God-fearing a nation becomes, the more reluctant it is to make war. The knowledge of God involves forbearance towards enemies, the desire to use every persuasion rather than come to an open rupture. Above all, it involves regard for human life and for the sentiment of goodwill amongst men, which is more precious even than life. God says that men are not to learn war any more, but to learn to know Him. Let be, and know that I am God; and let all the nations know. Go ye into all the world, not carrying weapons of war, but the Gospel of peace.
2. In the second place, let us take the words of our text in the more generally accepted sense. It is almost a commonplace that men in the midst of trial do not think of the love of God except to conclude that tie has forgotten to be gracious. And yet all the time He is keeping watch, as much is the time of darkness as in the light. I sometimes think that life is like a voyage regarded from the point of view of a passenger. Some travellers are good sailors, others are not. Some make their voyage easily, others not; but the captain of the vessel is equally concerned for the lives and safety of all. While you are lying in your berth ill during the storm you don't blame the captain because the sea is rough. You do not see the man at his post on the bridge while you are below, but you are quite sure he is there. You saw him there during the fair weather when you were on deck. You noticed his vigilant care even when the sea was calm. You do not imagine for a moment that his vigilance is relaxed during the storm. God is watching over your soul in all its voyage through life. No storm can endanger your safety if you are trusting Him. But you will make shipwreck of your life if you take the control of it out of His hands in time of storm. I do not wish to pretend for a moment that faith is always easy, that it is easy to put a restraint upon impatience. But the effort must be made. It is calamitous if in the storms of life we lose our faith in the Captain. If we obey His order, "Be still, and know that I am God," our confidence and peace will be maintained. Trouble does not always become easier to bear with time: sometimes it becomes harder; and there is nothing left but a choice between faith and despair. George Eliot well expresses this when she says: "The first shock of trouble may produce an excitement which is transient strength. It is in the slow changed life that follows — in the time when sorrow has become stale — in the time when day follows day in dull unexpectant sameness, and trial is a dreary routine — it is then that despair threatens; it is then that the peremptory hunger of the soul is felt, and eye and car are strained after some unlearned secret of our exist. once, which shall give to endurance the nature of satisfaction." Whether we recognize it or not, glumness is the result of shutting the door of our heart against the Holy Spirit, and putting our foot against it. No sufferer is ever glum who says, "I cannot close my heart to Thee who seekst me through pain." They sometimes call it" temperament; it is selfishness pure and simple, the refusal to cultivate a heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize, the refusal to cultivate the sympathetic spirit which rejoices with those that rejoice and weeps with those that weep.
3. We are not all sufferers, by any means, and many of us are active workers for God. There is a message for us also in this verse, "Be still, and know that I am God." We sometimes leave too small a part for God in our work. We think that our carefully prepared sermon or lesson will do its own work, and forget to pray that the Holy Spirit may carry it home. We can teach truth. God alone can make that truth life-giving. Recall the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea. The sculptor Pygmalion had made a perfect statue of a beautiful woman. She was so beautiful that he fell in love with her. But one thing he could not do, and that was to give her life. So he prayed to the goddess of love and she granted his petition and touched the statue into life. Burne-Jones has painted the incident in four scenes, which he calls — "The Heart Desires; .... The Hand Refrains; .... The Godhead Fires; .... The Soul Attains." Every Christian worker must pass his work through these four stages if he is to be successful.
(R. M. Moffat, 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.