Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10). This is a verse precious to many Christians. It’s a verse that has been used to call Christians to silence, stillness, contemplation, and rest in the midst of a busy world where things tend to move very quickly. I have heard some interpret this verse as if God is saying to me personally, “Little Christian, take rest in me. Just calm down. Have a time of solitude. Quiet your soul. Listen to my voice.”
Those are good things. Biblical things. Necessary things. There are psalms that call us to these things. Psalm 23:1-2; 25:1; 131:2, are just a few, for example.
But Psalm 46:10 is not one of them. Not at all.
God’s command to “be still” means something like “to leave off” or, as we might say in today’s terminology, “Knock it off!” It’s also plural. Our southern friends might say, “Y’all knock it off!” Now, who is the “you all”? The nations who are raging and the kingdoms that are tottering (v. 6). The rest of v. 10 confirms this: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Like in Psalm 2, the charge is leveled against those political players conspiring against God and his Anointed (the Messiah) for universal supremacy.
Psalm 46:10, therefore, should sound more like this: “Nations! Kings! Presidents! Prime ministers! Dictators! Shut your mouths! Cease fighting! Stop it! Stop playing king of the hill. I am the King, dwelling on Zion my holy hill. I will be exalted over you. Do you think your pitiful geographic dominion is so special? Do you think you are ultimate? I will break your bows and spears and crush your tanks and nuclear weapons. I will be exalted.”
God’s people sang this psalm to declare, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (vv. 7, 11). Though the global circumstances seemed dire and kingdoms fought for dominance (see vv. 1-2), they would trust not in earthly might but the mighty hand of their Deliverer who indeed would reign on the earth (cf. Ps. 33:17; 96:13).
For us today, on the other side of history, we can endure the degradation in the world, the raging and plotting and tottering of earthly kingdoms because we know God’s true King, Jesus, whose reign will never end. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord of all. At the end of the Bible, we get a glimpse of the end of history. There and then, all the peoples will exult in the Lord Jesus, singing his praise. “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9, 10). The saints—we—will sing to Jesus and reign with Jesus not because he flexed his political muscles to be king of the hill, but because he surrendered and obeyed the will of his Father, humbling himself to the point of death on a cross up on a hill called Calvary, redeeming all who take refuge in him.
When you see Psalm 46:10 this way, it gets your eyes off of you (and your quiet times) and puts them squarely on Jesus and his global supremacy as King of all kings. The King is with us. The King is our fortress.
Nations, stop! Attention! Bow before your true King and glorify him!