A couple of Sundays ago, our Creative Arts pastor Scott England preached a sermon based on Psalm 46 and one of his songs entitled “Let Go.” Scott shared his powerful testimony of how God healed him after a terrible car accident and how he came to faith in Jesus.

I’ve always liked Psalm 46; it’s a beautiful, lyrical expression of praise. The first part of verse 10 is possibly one of the most familiar sentences in the Psalms, and it reads:

Be still, and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10a (ESV)

When I read this verse it’s easy to conjure up images of someone sitting in a lotus position, completely blocking out the world. The idea of being still is foreign to all of us these days, so imagining someone having to slow all the way down seems like the only way to escape the pace of our modern way of living.

That same sentence reads quite differently – and interestingly – in the Complete Jewish Bible: “Desist, and learn that I am God…” That’s a really different reading of the same concept, isn’t it?

The phrase “be still” in the extremely familiar ESV translation of that verse, at least to me, suggests almost having to escape the world to achieve what God is telling us to do. “Desist” sounds totally different. I decided to look up the word “desist” to see what nuances its meaning has, and, according to the dictionary, it basically just means to stop, although to me it really sounds like an abrupt way of putting it.

Because I’ve heard it on Law & Order and shows like that, I asked one of our elders at church who is a retired attorney and judge about the legal definition of the term, and in legal uses, “desist” implies that one should cease a particular action immediately – and for good.

There’s a difference in tone between the two different ways of expressing the need to stop and listen to God. “Be still” sounds like an invitation, while “desist” sounds like a command. But you know what? God may be doing both. He could well be ordering us to turn our attention to Him at the same time He gently encourages us to focus on His goodness.

At the same time, “be still” sounds temporary, as though we might pause for a moment, while “desist” carries the force of a court order to quit doing what we’re doing forever. Maybe that’s what it takes for us to truly listen to what God has to say.

Instead of us just slowing down for the moment, we might do better to cease our human activity, desist in trying to do things our own way, and still our hearts in order to truly hear from God.

Whatever is going on in your life, listen to these words from the Lord. Stop your striving. Cease your stubbornness. Desist in trying to live life your way. Be still… and truly get to know Him.


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Photo by klickblick (Pixabay)