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Be Still and Know

April 10th, 2018

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

The end result of the stillness God has commanded is the deep personal knowledge of God. We say of rivers, “still waters run deep,” and certainly this is true of human souls as well. Do you want peace that is unshakable? Do you want confidence that endures the storms of life? Do you want the true spiritual life of the One True God that feeds the soul in all seasons of life? Then learn the discipline of stillness.

The psalmist said, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2-3). Before we set foot upon that path that God has for us, we would like to be nourished by visible means – a Christian conference, an edifying book of faith, Christian music, or the visit of a Christian friend.

The deep knowledge that the soul needs often comes from such places and experiences. Yet above all of these outside influences – outside our hearts, that is – is the fact that we must be still before God in order to receive the knowledge our soul needs. In a busy and noisy world, with multiple messages yelled in our direction daily, we need the discipline of  stillness to hear God and through being still before Him we can receive the knowledge of who He is.

Directed Stillness

The first trait of this stillness is that it is another way of expressing faith in God. The word means to rest or to do nothing. This, however, is not the stillness of laziness or aimlessness. It is not the stillness of an undisciplined mind, nor the stillness despair that flails its hands in the air. Rather it is the stillness of the soul that rests in God. This stillness is directed toward trust in God and to depend wholly on Him.

In the early verses of Psalm 46, we read, “There is a stream whose waters make glad the city of God,” and that is a reference to the fact that Jerusalem was watered by artesian wells, and not by flowing surface waters. Jerusalem, then and now, in fact, is one of the largest cities in the world that is not situated by a river or ocean. This was used often in scripture as an analogy of the Christian life, that, like Jerusalem, the Christian’s soul is nourished by the invisible Spirit of God.

We still our souls in Christ by coming to His Word and meditating on it. We are still within by praying to Him directly and asking for His strength and patience. We are still within by trusting in Him. Christ said: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38). He referred to the Spirit of God that indwells believers today.  

Disciplined Stillness

Much of the Christian life is learning to wait on the Lord. Good men are prone to action, not to sit idly by, but this directed stillness of the heart is the learned disciplined of waiting and trusting. If we would study the scriptures carefully, we can see how often God commands us to wait, and how often human impatience has caused harm.

From the beginning of His public ministry, Christ was pressured from others to hurry up and get on with it. He said to His mother Mary, when she sought to prod Him into action, “Woman, why do you involve me? … My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). To the disciples who wanted the kingdom restored in their day, Christ said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). We are to wait for the revelation of God: “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Hab. 2:3). When God has told us what to do, we should do it, but when He has been silent, we should wait.

But it is not apathy or hopelessness that is described, but faith. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). David was restless and desired to build a temple for God, but God told him that it was not a task that David, a man of war, should undertake. David had to learn to leave the matter in the hands of God for the next generation to do, namely his son Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:3).

Determined Stillness

The verb form is the Hebrew imperfect, and it means that the action or, in this case, the attitude of the past was not completed or “perfected” in the past alone, rather it continued into the future. In this Bible verse, stillness of the soul means more than a single thought, or a single moment’s faith in God. It describes a determined state of the soul, one whose trust in God is the consistent thought of that soul day in and day out. Therefore, this soul, enjoys the deep waters of the Spirit of God.

The soul that has only momentary bursts of faith, will enjoy only momentary benefits of that faith. During the long runnings away from God, of dabbling in the world and in its values, the soul un-steadies itself, planting seeds of instability. The hearts of many Christians have a mixed crop sown in the ground of the soul – some good seeds of God, and some bad seeds of the world. So these seeds of faith sprout only sparsely, and across this soul’s landscape which he treads each day, are only random moments of relief.

How different is the heart of the believer that truly dwells in God, in His reality, in His life. For the soul that exercises this determined stillness has a reservoir of life and confidence swelling up inside him. The victory is already his through faith, and he rests in the blessed peace of the Father.

Rest in God today, in the assurance of His help, in the wisdom of His timing, and in the blessedness of His peace.

 

 

Psalms

Raising the Needy from the Ashes

March 23rd, 2018

Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!

The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children. (Psalm 113 ESV)

The Lord is gracious and blesses the ones who are the least impressive among us. When God is exalted in people’s hearts, graciousness pervades the land. The great sign of a movement of God is not only the preaching of the gospel and the praise of the name of Jesus, but it is also the absence of animosity, jealousy, envy, resentments, and pride.

This morning I listened to a conservative political commentator in America protest the treatment of Christians in the liberal media. She specifically mentioned the way some “celebrities” had reacted to the church shooting in Texas a few months ago. These were definitely “B” celebrities, if they could be called celebrities at all, and the things that they said were terrible things for anyone to say, but she responded in a spirit of resentment and attempted to ridicule them.

Is this what the glory of the Lord is all about? Is this how people act when Christ is exalted in their lives? Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “…you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Cor. 3:3) The word translated “strife” means “contention, wrangling, disputation” that come from an argumentative spirit.  To be contentious and argumentative, or to be easily provoked to envy and jealousy, are marks that we are living in the flesh and that our hearts are not surrendered to Christ.

The command of Christ to His followers is to bless those who curse us, to love those who abuse us, to minister graciously to those who despise us (Matt. 5:38-48). The Bible permits us the right to defend ourselves and our loved ones against threats of physical harm (Exodus 22:2-3). We also have a right to protect our own reputation (Acts 16:37-39), and our property (Exodus 22:5-6), and our labor (1 Cor. 9:9-11). But jealousy, resentments, envy, and contentiousness usually come not from attacks against us, but merely from jealousy, from the imagined threat in our hearts when someone seems to be doing better than we are.

Graciousness in thought and speech and actions come from those who have let Christ rule their hearts. When Christ is on the throne of our lives we are kind to others. Instead of resentment against those who are doing a little bit better, we have compassion toward those who are much worse off. We let the Lord lead us to reach out and lift up the fallen, helping the poor, the forgotten, the troubled, and the defeated to rise from out of the rubble, rise from the ash heap and go forward confidently.

There is nothing admirable about being envious of those who are doing better. There is much, however, admirable in the person who looks for ways to help those who are troubled, poor, and defeated.

Daily Devotions, Psalms