Be Still and Know that I am God

This is such a beautiful verse. I have always associated the urging to “be still” with peaceful evenings by a fire or contemplative sessions alongside a lake or ocean. An invitation for us to sit quietly with God’s creation and seek to find Him in the great and the small.

I think that does apply, and is certainly a soul-refreshing exercise. But I also think there is more to it. The Hebrew word here is raphah, which means “to slacken.” In the KJV, this word is also translated as feeble, fail, to weaken, go, alone, idle, stay, slack, faint, forsake, abated, and cease. It’s kind of amazing when you pull up the original words in Hebrew and Greek and find the variety of meaning in them.

רָפָה râphâh, raw-faw’; a primitive root; to slacken (in many applications, literal or figurative):—abate, cease, consume, draw (toward evening), fail, (be) faint, be (wax) feeble, forsake, idle, leave, let alone (go, down), (be) slack, stay, be still, be slothful, (be) weak(-en). 

Blue letter bible lexicon

Cease Striving

Most of the common Bible translators use the same translation as the King James,”be still.” The NASB’s word choice of “cease striving and know that I am God” is highly compelling. To cease striving aligns well with the concept of slackening, abating, etc. It speaks to going beyond being still in our physical movements to a spiritual letting go of the troubles that weigh us down. If we can’t cease our striving, how can we know God? If we can’t cease striving, then we are putting our faith in ourselves instead of in Him.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

We can cease striving because Jesus is beside us, carrying our burdens. Of course this doesn’t mean we make no efforts in our lives. But we do let go of that endless striving when we know that we aren’t the ones in control. We can trust the One who IS in control, and that brings so much peace.

What’s the rush?

Our culture doesn’t know how to be still. We are always seeking something to do, some entertainment to enjoy, or some project to complete. Addicted to quick results for everything, we expect instant food, on-demand entertainment, and immediate relief from any kind of discomfort. We don’t even know how to sit in grief or pain with our friends when they are hurting beyond words. Instead we offer banal platitudes because we want to feel like we’ve helped without getting too close to their pain. We can’t just sit still in that pain because then we might feel it along with them. But isn’t that what we are meant to do?

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15 (NASB)

This is something I really need to work on in myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush and the societal pressure to produce, produce, produce. But why the urgency? Why can’t we slow down long enough to see the people we pass; to listen to our family and friends when they speak? Why can’t we spare five or ten minutes to go beyond reading a passage from the Bible to sit quietly and reflect on what we’ve read?

I am so bad about reading through a chapter or a study and then immediately moving on to the next thing without allowing what I’ve read to sink in. That’s not how true learning and study works. We have to let things sit and turn over in our minds to understand them. Often times, we really need to read through them another time or two to really allow a concept to take hold. This is something I have been working on and hope to continue to improve on going forward. Not treating “reading the Bible” as a to-do item to check off of the list, but an exercise in learning and seeking to know God better.

We have to be still to learn. We have to be quiet to listen. If we are constantly in motion, when will we have the focus to truly know God? If we are constantly making noise, when will we hear and truly absorb His word?