Consider these three commands: Be still. Be calm. Be quiet. Do they have merit and meaning in our spiritual lives? These directives were put on my heart so poignantly, that I wanted to explore them further and test them against scripture to unpack their meaning and find if they had merit.
“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. This is the verse that first comes to mind when I consider the instructions, “Be still. Be calm. Be quiet.” But what does this instruction “be still,” really entail? It has to be more than an instruction to stop physically moving. I think we often interpret it to be a verse of comfort, a phrase to cast out fear, but as I look into it, it’s really more about honor and worship. It’s about submitting to God. The Hebrew term is “raphah,” which is translated as “cast down,” “drop,” “weaken,” even “to fail.” We see it translated as “to fail” in Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid; for the Lord thy God goes with thee, he will not fail (raphah) thee nor forsake thee.” So with “raphan” meaning “to fail,” how can it be that God is calling us to fail? I believe it is a call of surrender, to heel to His will, to lay our own will down before Him. It is to recognize His awesomeness, humble oneself and “fail” and “fall,” if you will, before Him. It is knowing that He is God. He is exalted. It is not about you. Take whatever plans you have and selfish motives and lay them before the Lord, for He is good.
Everything that churns in your mind or that concerns you, belongs to Him and His lordship. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” But also Psalm 46:10 when it says “be still,” can apply to your whole being, not just your will. It can be a complete whole-being surrender, knowing that you are man and He is God. He in in charge. This command may seen harsh and demanding. Well, I think it is. There is the authority of the almighty God in these words. He is deserving and justified in his command.
Although these words may be direct, authoritative, and could even be seen as a raising of the voice, we are also instructed to “be calm.” God is love. Love casts out fear. In Exodus 14:14 Moses instructed the Israelites: “The Lord Himself will fight for you, just stay calm.” or in other translations, “hold your peace.” This was commanded when the Israelites were being chased down by the Egyptians and approaching the Red Sea, a seemingly impassable barrier. Can you imagine the stress? If the Israelites were supposed to be calm and “hold peace” while cornered by the Egyptians at the Red Sea, how much more can we be calm in the situations of our lives?
More than any other command in the Bible we are told to “hold our peace” or not worry. In the NIV translation we are instructed to “not be afraid” seventy times, and in the KJV “fear not” is commanded over 500 times. Could God be any more clear, “be calm”.
In the gospels we read of the disciples on a boat with Jesus, afraid of the storm stirring. We read of Jesus sleeping but then getting up when the disciples expressed distress. He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace, be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely “calm.” He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
When the angel Gabriel appeared to both Mary and Joseph he instructed them not to be afraid. One reason could be that the heavenly being was so different to behold that it struck up fear, but also it is our human nature to fear. How many different fears can we label with a “phobia”? How often is our stress rooted in fear? There is a reason we are instructed so many times to calm our fear in the Bible. To live in this fear is our default human setting, but whether acute or chronic fear, God is here to deliver us from it, and He commands us to “heel” and “be still.” The battle belongs to him. Our fear has no merit. It has no credit in the presence of God.
To behold this type of peace, as commanded, is to know you are complete, you lack nothing. The origins of the word peace is the Hebrew word ”shalom,” literally translated to “completeness.” How often is our lack of peace caused by a notion that we are not equipped or complete? Our stresses are caused by lack of finances, inability to change circumstances, fear that we will not have what we need, that things will not turn out the way we imagine, that we are not enough. Heal, before Him. “Be still,” “Be calm,” for you are complete in Him. Fear is but frivolity. If we could only truly adopt that would we be so better off.
“Be quiet” I think is quite synonymous with the others. It reinforces and compliments them, but also it has its own subtle notions. In James 1:10 we read “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This is often taken in an interpersonal regard, but what if we apply it also in our relationship with God? How mindful are we of the voice of God, versus how much are we distracted by our feelings and are too busy listing our grievances in prayer or lifting up verbal praise that we forget to silence ourselves before the Lord? In Psalm 37:7 we are instructed “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Hearing from God may often involve quietude and patience.
I know there is a time and place for celebration, for exalting God with words and songs in community or in private, to teach and instruct from the written word of God, to pour out our hearts in words to God in prayer, to write, reflect, and read from others inspired by His word, but could it be that sometimes our words are but ornaments, or adornments, on our religion? In 1 Peter 3:3 it is said, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Can sometimes our words be external adornments? Is what’s more valuable a “quiet spirit”? We have to be careful. Proverbs 10:8 says, “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.” It implies that wisdom involves silence and listening.
Can you find a place to embrace the silence, to simply acknowledge your presence before God and rest in his peace? Can you set all your words aside for a moment. Perhaps you’ll find this place in a walk in the park, a hike in nature, a drive in the car, taking in the sunset, looking out the window, or sitting in a pew of a church or cathedral.
While the world may run around self-absorbed and laser-focused on selfish plans, being esteemed as “empowered”; the media may manipulate us with fear saying “do this to stay safe and healthy,” or “buy this to not miss out and to fit in,” or “vote this way to prevent imminent doom,” and then praise us as being “prepared” and “responsible”; and while babble, chater, heartless words, noise, distractions, and slander boil up all around; Heel. “Be still. Be calm. Be quiet.” Recognize your completeness in Him, your security in Him, and your place in the awesome presence of God. He cares for you.
Be Still (Heel!)
– What plans do you have, immediate or long-term, that you need to place before the Lord, to set in His hands.
– What are some attributes of God character that you can praise Him for as you surrender and humble yourself before Him.
– What worries do you have that you can give up to God? What attributes of God’s character directly address these fears?
– In what ways has God delivered you or His people from troubles in the past?
– Just be quiet. Acknowledge your presence in the almighty God and rest in His care and His peace.