The Context of Psalm 46
Psalm 46 is a psalm of praise, exalting God as a “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Though the psalm doesn’t note the precise circumstance, it was likely penned after God protected or rescued Jerusalem from a great threat. In poetic hyperbole, the psalmist notes there’s no reason to fear even if the very foundations of the earth were to crumble. “Though the earth givesway and the mountains move into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:2-3, ESV)
While Psalm 46 was written about the city of Jerusalem (There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. Psalm 46:4), the God who was for Jerusalem is the same God who is for us. His character doesn’t change. God is also our refuge and strength in times of trouble. And in difficult circumstances, though everything shifts around us, we need not give in to fear because God is sure help.
While the psalm is national in context, our personal circumstances can also cause such upheaval that it feels like our very foundations are crumbling. This is exactly what I felt when my husband died suddenly and I became widow and single mom to seven children overnight. Life as I knew it had imploded and it would never be the same again.
But God who was for Jerusalem brought victory, putting an end to war, shattering the enemy’s weapons and destroying their chariots.
God is also for us, as His beloved children. (Romans 8:31). It’s in this context of God’s victory on behalf of Jerusalem, and in parallel on our behalf, that verse 10 commands us to “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, ESV)
Be Still And Know I Am God Meaning
The English definition of “still” means to “be silent, uttering no sound…quiet…motionless.”¹
But the way we use be still in English is different from the Hebrew word. The instruction to be still in Hebrew means to let go, stop striving, slacken and let drop.
It’s a picture of loosening our clenched grip on the circumstances and outcome and trusting God who’s sovereign over both.
I’m the first to admit that being still goes against my instinct. We are fixers. We want to make it happen, keep pushing through and force an outcome.
But the call to be still is a call to surrender.
It means giving up the myth that we have control to depend wholly on God.
To be still in this verse doesn’t mean doing nothing.
- It doesn’t mean to give up and sit down.
- It doesn’t mean to quit doing the last thing God called us to do.
- It doesn’t mean to wait for God to do everything.
When God commands us to be still and know He is God, He’s commanding us to release control of the situation to His sovereignty. That means releasing control of the timing, the outcome and the ways God will bring about His purpose in the situation.
When we surrender control to God in difficult situations, we can actively do these 5 things:
We cannot worry when we are worshipping. Psalm 46 is a song of praise beginning with who God is. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Worship reaffirms that God is on the throne and in control. Worship ushers us into the presence of God, where we find comfort and strength. In worship, we become less and the things of this world grow dim as God is exalted.
One of my college friends was super excited to spend her summer overseas on mission. When she arrived, she was assigned to the nursery tending babies – not exactly the edgy missions work she’d envisioned. But in long hours rocking babies and giving bottles, she grew a deep prayer life. She said she was forever changed and grateful for the gift of time to pray deeply.
When our calendars and hearts are stilled, we have time to pray deeply. Jesus modeled this throughout his earthly ministry, often getting up while it was still dark or going off alone to pray. While great crowds pressed to hear him and be healed, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16)
When we’re still, we can remember God’s flawless record of faithfulness. Psalm 46:8 says “Come and see what the Lord has done.” We remember two ways. First, by getting into the Word, where we’re reminded of God’s character, his miracles, his provision. Second, we remember what God’s done for us personally. God has not gotten us this far to drop us now.
Joshua at the end of his life reminded Israel of God’s constant faithfulness leading them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, in the wilderness and into the Promised Land. “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14
4. Give Thanks
Give thanks in all circumstances, God tells us. And once we begin, we see with fresh eyes God’s goodness all around us. That God is tenderly caring for us and threading the details of every delay and every setback to accomplish a will more perfect than we could ask or imagine.
God is good and God does good and when we stop to count our blessings, we realize what we thought mundane is rich indeed. We see that God’s grace and provision, love and kindness has not been merely sufficient, but extravagant.
Even when we’re still God is at work. Though we may not see what God is doing, we can be certain God is working every circumstance to accomplish his desires.
This was never more true than on Holy Saturday. Jesus had died and been buried and as the Sabbath began, the disciples could only be still and wait. How defeated they must have felt. But in that Saturday stillness, God fulfilled his eternal plan as Jesus experienced death on our behalf and then defeated death! In our stillness, are we looking for God’s hand?
Regardless of the circumstances that swirl around us, we can still our hearts to worship, pray, remember, thank and watch.
Betsy de Cruz says
This is so encouraging. I’ve been turning to Psalm 46 often lately. Thanks so much for your insight. <3
I read this verse many times as I do Jer 29:11. Both are my strength.
I needed this encouragement this morning. Thank you!
I have both scriptures tattooed on me! They are my favorite and the 2 scriptures I stand on the most!
Gabriela Koch says
Sinia Saafi says
Thanks for sharing & directing us to focus at this time on where we can be still & draw strength & answers from the Almighty God, the great I AM. God bless, Sinia
Wendy Gunn says
I love this. I’ve turned to Psalm 46 more than once during this season of unknowns and uncertainty:) I also love and read today Psalm 95-103, and the praise resounded in my heart! God is good, faithful, and He will be with us through this! As in every crisis we go through in life, He is there.
I look so forward to your posts .
Thank you for caring and sharing .
Because he lives , Dawn
This is powerful, i am going through crisis right now and everything seems to work against me.At this time i have to let go by praying,thanking,gratitude,worship etc and watch and see how God unfolds everything to glorify him. I am excited to stumble upon this ,it works for my situation. Praise God for this knowledge. It is well
BE STILL is also to TWIRL in your ‘dance’
So beautiful and easy to remember. Thanks for sharing this 😊 x
Thanks for sharing knowledge with understanding I am richly bless
Eniola Olakunle-olubiyi says
I find this very timely as I’m currently going through stuffs that are overwhelming, but in the midst of everything, I hear God say to me “be still and know that I am God”, that’s how I found myself here.
Thanks so much. God bless you richly
Brandy quickel says
This is exactly what happened to me last night!
David Green says
This is so perfect during this time. About to use this in a sermonette. This is a blessing.
Giving me the reason to wait or to be still… It has help me throwing my argument about God away… It was a blessing
I have been going through this chapter of Psalm 46:
Meaning of how to be still..
Trusting God in a circumstances and every situation while knowing that He is good
Well said, I went through a long season of warfare some what of a dark night of the soul and when he spoke it was through this psalm, thank you for making it clear as to how to be still.
Carol J. Turnbough says
Our Pastor asked us how did we want to better ourselves in 2021. I ask God what He wanted for me. It was dropped in my spirit to listen, to Him more and to others. The scripture came in my mind was, Be Still and know that l Am God.” I wanted to see how they builder on one another. I Google and your link was the first thing l saw. I read and God allowed the following seed to be planted in me, “Let Go. Be Still and You Will Be Able to Listen “. All that can be done by,” praying, thanking, gratitude, worship,” while watching and seeing how God unfolds everything for His glory.
As the year comes to an end, the Lord used my hands to write my first book called, Wee God Moments of Meditation”. Please check it out. Be Blessed!
An Enlightening post i am grateful to have stumbled upon.
Now i understand that when im still God is at work.I’ll watch and pray and always be grateful . I’m so encouraged that God would never bring me this far and just drop me. sometimes we seem to be in a hurry and loose focus with God’s purpose for our lives.
But that isn’t the context of the verse at all. “The context of verse 10 is war. The setting is a battlefield. In this war, God protects his people and brings the nations into submission. Psalm 46.10 is God entering the battlefield of the raging nations and defeating them by his voice. When God says “Be still, and know that I am God,” this is not directed at God’s people, but at the nations. It is directed at the enemies of God. It is a royal command of the King of Kings and by that command, he brings desolations upon his opponents. Be still and know is the battle-cry of the LORD directed at his enemies, not an encouragement for believers to find rest in God. It is God entering the war and claiming victory by the power of his voice.”
I just read the same thing, but God reaches out to us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. To a soldier in Afghanistan, the war interpretation may speak more to him/her. To a single mother who goes, goes, goes all day every day, as she maneuvers through her “to do list,” she may be battling against time, trying to get it all done, battling against her checkbook, trying to provide everything her family needs. God did not provide a book to go along with the Bible entitled, “This is What the Bible Means.” We all approach it bringing with us our circumstances, experience and mindfulness. That way, everyone can reap its benefits, never outgrowing it, but by examine it through changes lenses as our lives change.
Praise God for this.
Indeed, facing uncertainties, with distractions and unknowns, goliaths and also storms and noises… Literally and figuratively speaking. A difficult time to feel peaceful. Somehow I am reminded of this verse, “Be still and know that I am God”, and stumbled on this site. Thankful for this timely and healing encouragement. God bless.
Thank you for these words of encouragement. Ps46:10 dropped on my mind some days ago and I wanted to find out ‘How’.
This write-up is very timely and appropriate. Will observe the 5 things outlined.
Stay blessed and keep being a blessing!
Gerald phiri says
Powerful teaching there! and full of revelations. I’m very blessed. God bless you Lisa
Thank you for the message about be still and know I’m God.it kept coming to my mind this hard time. I’m in bed sick with covid .my mother in ICU for a week now in ventilator and when I was looking for deeper meaning I came across this. I’m encourage to let God do his work.
I woke up this morning with this scripture on my mind, my search for what it means to ‘be still’ brought me to your page. I’m bleseed and encouraged. Thank you for this eye opening and timely message. Grace abounds.
Florence Tolo says
I was going through storm and God spoke to me and told me “Be still and know that I am God”. I stumbled upon this message as I googled. I have learnt more about the meaning of “Being still and know that I am God” So powerful! The sharing here has blessed my heart! God bless you all!
Veronica Lim says
Thank you for your post. It encourages me greatly. I have been struggling with surrender of my situation and often questioned “does it mean I do nothing?” Your sharing answers my question. May your writing continue to be a blessing to all strugglers around the world.
Thanks for sharing this. Especially what is expected of us while we are still. Worship, pray, remember, thank and watch. 🙏🏻
7 children… Wow what a warrior, thank you for your post. God’s ear is open to the cry of the widow and the fatherless. God hold you and cover you, may your basket always be blessed and your enemies subdued under you. He is close to the brokenhearted and our redemption draws nigh.
Father please save our innocent children, help Lord, avenge speedily ✝️💞🛐