Words for Living
The following is the second in a short series on Psalm 46:10a.
Scripture: Psalm 46:10a, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Last time we looked at the command to be still. Now let us turn our attention to “know that I am God.”
The God of the Bible, the God who identifies Himself as YAHWEH - literally, “I am” - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who made a covenant with His people Israel: this is the identity of the first person pronoun “I” in this verse. This God is instructing His people to know that He is God. At first glance, it looks like a simple declaration, maybe even simplistic. “Know that I am God.” Yet this seemingly obvious statement includes significant implications.
For one thing, He is God, and none other is God. There is only one God. All other pretenders are false gods. The second half of Psalm 46:10 declares, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
In the days of the Old Testament, the nations and cultures surrounding Israel - and even some people groups living in the land of Israel - worshipped various false gods and made for themselves idols of wood, stone, or metal. Isaiah 44:9-20 addresses the folly of idolatry: craftsmen use part of a piece of wood to fashion an idol to worship and the other part to burn in fire. As fuel for a fire for cooking or heating, the wood works well. As a “god” that its owner worships and asks for help, it’s useless.
Before we, sophisticated 21st century modern people, laugh too much at the primitive foolishness of these bronze age make-your-own-god people, let us remember that members of our society are just as prone to idolatry, even if it is packaged in a more sophisticated veneer.
Consider this definition of idol: “An idol is an object or image, such as a statue, that is worshipped as the representation of a deity or god. …This sense of idol and its related terms are typically used in a negative, judgmental way, implying that the god that the idol represents is not actually real and that such worship is wrong or sinful. …Sometimes, idol is used in a metaphorical way to compare something to an object of religious devotion and worship, as in Money has become her idol. This sense of the word is also used in a critical way.”
Or perhaps this definition from retired pastor and author Tim Keller: “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”
The idols of our society are legion: Power, Fame, Sports, Entertainment, Materialism, Technology, Sex, Status, Beauty, Comfort, “Science,” Family, to name a few. And of course, there’s the chief idol both now and since the beginning of the world: Self. God calls us away from these idols and toward Himself - the One True God.
For some people, the problem is not idolatry but an inadequate view of God. While whole volumes could be written on this subject, here are a few of these faulty views. For some, their God is too small - their problems are beyond His ability, or He couldn’t know what it is like to deal with our struggles. Yet God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (all-present). Nothing is too difficult for God or beyond His understanding.
Others’ God is too distant - God created the universe and all that is in it. But God is also near; He is not a distant, unknowable being. He knows the number of hairs on our head, and He knows and cares about our troubles. Others see God as their good buddy and forget His majesty, power, and holiness. He is close, but it is a both/ and matter - He is both transcendent and immanent.
Another common misconception is God as a benign, grandfatherly Santa - chuckling at our sins and handing out whatever we want. He is holy and does not ignore our sin. While He is our Heavenly Father who gives His children blessings, He is not a genie to be summoned to fulfill our wishes.
Some people put God in a box: they decide what He can and cannot do. It is true that God will not act in ways inconsistent with His nature (He won’t do evil, for instance), but He is also almighty and not answerable to His creatures. His ways are higher than our ways.
Another pair of God’s attributes that frequently get misapplied are His love and his justice. God is love, but love as He makes clear in His Word, the Bible, not whatever definition people make up. His love must be understood in terms of His other attributes, such as His holiness and justice. He does not excuse or tolerate sin or change His holy standards to accommodate the world’s fickle values. By the same token, God is not a mean-spirited, vengeful, cosmic killjoy, eagerly awaiting opportunities to zap people who get out of line. We must remember that it was we humans who rebelled and declared war on our Creator. He does punish sin, but He demonstrates His love - and satisfies His holiness - by having sent His Son to die in order to pay the debt of our sins, if we will repent and believe.
So we can see that this small clause, “Know that I am God,” is packed with significant implications. Next time we will consider how the two parts of our verse - being still, and knowing that He is God - are connected, as well as the results of being still and knowing that the Lord is God.
Jeffrey Westbrook is an ordained minister and former pastor. Although he currently writes for a living, it is a privilege and honor to write about the Bible and Christian living.