What the Bible says about Be still

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Psalm 46:10

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

46:10 This verse might record a direct speech from God given to a temple priest or prophet (see note on 50:7). However, because of its brevity, this verse is more likely a citation of a well-known prophetic saying (cf. Hab 2:20). The force of this command is probably directed to the worshiping community; the people are encouraged in the context to rest in God’s power to save them from warfare (cf. 37:7). In this respect, it is similar to the command of the Assyrian prophet to King Esarhaddon (c. 680 BC), who was encouraged at the end of a civil war to rest in the help of his goddess Ishtar. Be still. Silence before God shows reverence, as illustrated in the Assyrian Hymn to Marduk, in which the other gods bow in silence before him. The term does not suggest meditation, but trust that lacks fear or anxiety.

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Psalm 46:1 - Psalm 46:11

Psalm 46

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. 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.

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.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    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 with fire.

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46. Faith and fact

Many link this psalm (and 47, 48) with the suggestion of an (annual) drama enacted in the temple, celebrating the Lord’s kingship over all the earth (like Ascension Day, cf. 47:5). Such a festival would be grounded in the Lord’s victory over the ‘world’ at the exodus and look forward to the final and climactic Day of the Lord (See Introduction.) Others point out that Come and see (8) sounds more like an invitation to survey an actual victory than to watch a drama (cf. walkcountconsider, 48:12–13). In this case an event like the Lord’s victory over Sennacherib (Is. 36, 37) provides an excellent setting: the combined nations of the Assyrian Empire came against Zion and met their match.

The psalm consists of a profession of faith (1–6) and the facts which vindicate faith (8–10).

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Psalm 23:1 - Psalm 23:6

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd

A psalm of trust which celebrates the gracious care of Yahweh; and in which the needs and troubles of the psalmist are touched on only incidentally. Most commentators find two pictures of Yahweh here: the Shepherd looking after His sheep (vv. 1–4), and the Host providing for His guest (vv. 5, 6). Certainly vv. 5, 6 do not maintain the sheep metaphor, but there is no need to assume the conscious introduction of another metaphor; the psalm is a unified expression of what God does for the psalmist. Verses 5, 6 suggest that it was written for, and most suitably used at, a sacrificial meal in the temple, probably a thanksgiving banquet (see on 22:25; cf. 36:8; 65:4; 116:17 f.) after an experience of deliverance.

Sheep in green pastures (Holmes Photography)

It is not surprising, especially in the light of Jn 10 (cf. Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25), that Christians have applied this psalm to Jesus Christ; nor that it has been paraphrased a number of times to be sung as a hymn: e.g. ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want’ (Whittingham, etc.); ‘The God of love my shepherd is’ (Herbert); and ‘The king of love my shepherd is’ (Baker).

TITLE: see Introduction III. 1, 2. 1. shepherd: used metaphorically in Israel and in other ancient Near Eastern nations as a title for a king or leader (cf. 2 Sam. 5:2; 1 Kg. 22:17; Jer. 23:1 ff.; Ezek. 34:1 ff.), it contains the ideas of authority and care. In the OT Yahweh is usually thought of as the shepherd of Israel, rather than of the individual (80:1; cf. 28:9; 100:3; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 23:3; Ezek. 34:11 ff.). 3. my soul: see on 3:2; 19:7. right paths: conveys the ideas of ‘straightness’, ‘conformity to law’, and ‘deliverance’ (see on 33:5; 5:8). for his name’s sake: because it is His nature to do so (see on 5:11; 20:1). 4. the darkest valley: It could apply to any terrifying experience (see on 9:13). rod: a club (often iron-tipped) used for protection from wild animals. staff: used for support and guidance. comfort: there is no promise of immunity from trouble or suffering.

5. enemies: presumably fellow Israelites, also in the temple. anoint: lit. ‘make fat’ (cf. NEB ‘hast richly bathed’); not the word used for anointing a king but of entertaining a guest (cf. Lk. 7:46). 6. love: Heb. ḥesed (see on 5:7). follow: ‘or ‘pursue’ (cf. the enemies of v. 5). I will dwell: NIV follows the ancient versions; MT reads ‘I shall return (to)’. In either case it expresses the worshipper’s ideal of continual communion with God (see on 15:1): ‘your house will be my home as long as I live’ (GNB). house: see on 5:7. forever: lit. ‘to length of days; cf. NEB ‘my whole life long’.

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