Summary: The measure of our faith may be known in our abilty to be still

Do you have trouble being still? We commonly associate trouble keeping still with children. Many of us remember the methods or means that our parents and for some reason particularly our moms would use to keep us still in church. My mom had the secret pinch. It looked like she was just moving up beside me with her arms crossed when in actuality she had used her thumb and finger to hold just a small part of the back of my arm… and she would look at me and smile and if I remained a distraction she applied pressure… until I stopped. Some of you have told me of the secret laser eyes that your mother had, how she could stare you down from across the sanctuary, even from the choir and burn a hole in your stomach, or at least it felt that way.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not of the persuasion that the church ought to be solemn and quiet and still all the time. In fact, I am excited that our worship has seemed to become more invigorated. I am glad to see people clapping with the music or raising their hands or in any way legitimately expressing that emotion so that action or emotion and really everything is focused on God and we are not being distractive. No, I am not really concerned that we may not be still before God at church. I am really concerned that we are never still before God… at all. I am concerned that we may never find time to be quiet, to stop striving, to just be still and quiet before God. That is one reason I am so encouraged by our new Sunday School Curriculum and the family Bible study involved and devotion.

I am also glad that our texts this week is such a poetic and powerful call to do just that, to be still before our God. Psalm 46 is a song of celebration and meditation. It is written for worship and praise. It is poetry and uses all of the rich poetic devices available in poetry. And in the Psalter, the entire book of the psalms, its place is to commemorate the righteous rule and kingdom of David and the strength of the nation when their trust was in God. Even so, even in the best of times in Israel still has enemies and bad things still happen and so it is very important for them to remember the source of their strength, their stability, and their serenity is not their prosperity or their land or their weaponry or really any part of their temporal situation. The psalm celebrates God and calls the people to return to God in whom they trust.

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. [1] A song.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields [2] with fire.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The psalmist begins with a foundational claim. God is our refuge and God is our Strength, a very present help in trouble. This is the given in the equation. And with that there is a call to question. Do you really believe that God is your refuge? Do you really believe that God is your strength… a very present help in trouble? You can reject this foundational claim, but if you embrace it, then some reasonable things will follow.

Because if God is your refuge and not the mountains that would provide you refuge in the time of war, or when you needed a secure place, if God is your refuge and your strength and not the earth or even the mountains, when the mountains tremble… when the thing that seemed the most secure is suddenly insecure... and carried to the depths of the sea, then you are not overwhelmed when the false security has proved to be just that.

And in fact in these very first texts the psalmist uses the power of poetry and imagery to demonstrate the turmoils of life, images of the earth giving way from under you, images of the mountains trembling and the sea raging. And if you ever have been in the middle of a great storm or earthquake you know the sense of helplessness and fear they create. And what is true of nature and its fury is also true of our lives. We at times feel our world, our family our very selves are out of control often because we have placed our security in the things that seem stable but are not, but often because life just has turmoil in it. But I want you to notice what we said earlier, the psalmist starts not with turmoil… but with faith in God.

And in the texts that follow the writer transforms this image of water of a raging sea into a river of blessing. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. A raging sea destroys. A calm river builds. A raging sea brings death. A calm river gives life. Which is to say that God has the capacity and the desire to take what is meant for evil and use it for good. That God will use even the most destructive things we’ve experienced and if we will return to our foundation and find our strength and refuge in him… somehow, someway, God will use that sorrow to bring about good, which is not to say that God is the author of destruction but that God can use anything or anyone that will find refuge and strength in him to bring about good. And the psalmist says that is the greatest evidence of the presence of God…He says, “God is within her, she shall not fall!” God is present. God is with us, when the earth trembles, when the mountains are carried into the sea, when the sea roars and foams. God is with us and God is our strength and our refuge, a very present help in trouble and because he is here he can exchange ashes for beauty and death for life. And just so were sure… the psalmist declares again…. The Lord Almighty is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.

And then the psalmist invites the experience to take that knowledge and put it into action. Come and see the work of God. He makes wars cease. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear. He destroys the weapons of war, the means of destruction. And certainly we look forward to the day when war will be literally learned no more and peace shall reign. But remember the writer is using poetic and personal imagery, and he is saying that because our God is present, and because he is our strength and refuge, he has the power to change the destructive forces that work against you and your family and your home and our community and even our church. And so I ask you again to deal with the claim of verse 1, the starting place, which is not the turmoil of life, but a declaration of faith… God is our refuge and God is our strength… Do you really believe it?!

Then the writer says… “Be still.” Be still before God.

Quiet not only your mouth but your mind… and your spirit… and your very being…. Be still and know… that He… is God. Don’t trust in the false security of wealth, or popularity, or power, or politics. They may seem secure but they will come out from under you and be carried into the sea, and if your trust is there, you will be carried with them. Be still and know… that he is God.

Did you notice that God is not calling you to figure it all out? Did you notice that the psalmist does not give you three points and a poem explaining exactly the propositions and presuppositions one must have to find the help and strength of God. He simply says… be still and know that he is God.

And I kind of laugh at that kind of simplicity and its wonder and its profound nature… Until I try… and be still. Until I try to quiet my mouth and the few times I am successful, I still struggle to quiet my soul and my heart and know, just know that he is God and that he is with me. God calls me to find him as my refuge and him as my strength not through a logical or intellectual exercise or propositions and points. I could do that much easier. God calls me to be still and to know him… to experience him… to commune with him… to be still and know that he is God and in that stillness to find to find my refuge, my strength, me ever present help in trouble…

I’m not a kid anymore. And my mother doesn’t pinch me on the arm in church. But still I so greatly struggle to just be still… How about you? Well, lets see.

(4 minutes of silent prayer)