************ Sermon on Psalm 46:10 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 31, 2020

Psalm 46
Psalm 46:10
"Be Still and Know that I Am God"
Old Year's Service 2020

When COVID first hit, I used Psalm 46:10 every Sunday morning as our call to worship. We sang the text a number of times. I hope you notice the banners in the sanctuary with the words of Psalm 46:10. Now that the year is at an end, it is good and appropriate to be reminded of the words again.

I The Command for Silence
A "Be still," says the LORD. "Be still." Silence. Hush. Mute. Shhh. Other possible translations: sink, relax, be lazy, wait, cease striving, settle, cool your jets, calm down, chill, relax.

"Be still." The Egyptian Pharaoh accused the children of Israel of being still -- that is, being lazy -- when they weren't making enough bricks (Ex 5:8,17). "Be still." Samuel said this when King Saul tried to excuse his failure to listen to God's command about the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:16). "Be still." With this word God stopped an angel punishing Israel with a plague (2 Sam 24:16). Jesus says "Quiet! Be still!" to the wind and the waves (Mk 4:39). "Be still. Settle. Calm down. Relax. Cool your jets. Chill."

B "Be still." This is not a wish. This is not a prayer. This is a command. From the Almighty. From the God who made us and loves us and saves us. So it is not optional. It is not something we can take or leave.

"Be still." We are talking about silence before God, in the presence of God. There is a time to bring our hallelujahs and praises before God, our prayers and petitions; but there is also a time we are commanded to be silent before the Lord.

How long can you stand silence? Silence makes us uncomfortable. We have a silent prayer at the start of our worship service and a moment of meditation at the end -- but people don't want them to be too long. It is a bit unnerving if I stand here and do nothing and say nothing (PAUSE FOR 10 SECONDS). Silence is what God commands us to have before Him.

C "Be still." When? When are we to be still? Verses 1-3 give us a time frame for our silence:
Psalm 46:1–3 (NIV84) — 1 God is our refuge and strength, [when?] an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, [when?] though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
"Be still. Be silent." When? In times of trouble. When mountains fall and quake. We faced such times in 2020 didn't we?!

"Be still. Be silent." When? Be still before God when there is a nasty election. When the media twist facts or make up fake news. When a godly Supreme Court nominee is slandered and mocked. When rioters take to the street and attack people and destroy businesses with the support and blessing of governing authorities. When police abuse their authority and kill a suspect. When we deal with COVID. You know of what I talk:
-vast parts of the economy are shut down and people lose jobs and business
-churches are fined and taken to court
-travel is restricted
-the elderly are locked up in nursing homes
-we can't rejoice with those who rejoice or mourn with those who mourn
-our children and teens are separated from their friends
-our college students are sent home
In all these times -- and more -- be still, be silent. That is what God says to you and me.

D "Be still. Be silent." When? Throughout the Bible there is silence at the coming of God's judgment.
Isaiah 41:1 (NIV84) — 1 Be silent before me, you islands ... let us meet together at the place of judgment. (Cf Amos 8:2-3)
COVID is one part of God's universal judgment upon the sin of the entire human race. So, "Be still. Be silent."

Do you remember what happened at the city of Jericho in Joshua 6? Once a day, for six days, the Israelite army marched around Jericho in silence. They were not allowed to give a war cry, to raise their voices, or to say a word (Josh 6:10). On the seventh day, the Israelite army marched around the city six times in silence. On the seventh time, the people shouted, and the walls of Jericho collapsed. Silence before judgment.

With that in mind, let me read what is written by the Apostle John in Revelation 8:
Revelation 8:1 (NIV84) — 1 When [the Lamb] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
I want you to realize how unusual this is. Before Jesus opened the seventh seal, heaven is pictured as a noisy place. In picture after picture, in scene after scene, heaven is filled with noise, movement, music, songs, harps, shouts (Rev 4-7). But in Revelation 8, with the opening of the seventh seal, there is silence. Absolute silence. Total silence. Complete silence. Everything that has been going on in heaven suddenly stops. All the noise, all the music, all the movement -- it all comes to an end.

Why? You know the hush that falls on an audience just before the movie starts or the curtain rises or the ceremony begins? There is silence in heaven because something great is about to happen, something awesome, something awe-ful and dreadful. There is silence in heaven because the great day of wrath has come. There is silence in heaven because of the coming wrath of God and the Lamb (cf Rev 6:16-17).

"Be still. Be silent." These are the words of God towards the enemies of His people. These are the words of God to the governments of China and India and Muslim lands who hate and oppress the church. These are the words of God to the media of our country who hate the church, the Bible, the Gospel, and twist and distort the truth. These are the words of God to liberals in the church who hate the truth of God's Word.

"Be still. Be silent." Judgment is coming. The judgment of God is coming upon everyone who rejects His salvation in Jesus Christ.

II The Result of Silence
A "Be still. Be silent." Before God. And then what? "Be still, and know ..." God commands silence so we know.

There is so little real knowledge today. By that I mean there is little certainty. There are no absolutes. Facts and statistics have become flexible. American history has been rewritten. Today, truth is what you want it to be. And, it changes and mutates over time. What is true today was not true yesterday and will not be true tomorrow.

B "Be still, and know ..." Know what? Let me read the rest of our text:
Psalm 46:10 (NIV84) — 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
God commands silence so we come to know Him, hear Him, fear Him. God commands men and nations to slow down and be silent so they can concentrate on what is important.

"Be still and know that I am God." Knowing God is the most valuable knowledge in the world. More valuable than knowing the formula for the COVID vaccine. More valuable than knowing the alphabet or the periodic table. More valuable than knowing what the stock market will do in the next year. More valuable than anything. Knowing God is the most wonderful experience any human can have.

People who don't know God don't realize this. And they, I am afraid, are the majority of the world. "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction," says the Bible, "and narrow the road that leads to life" (Mt 7:13-14). Most people are on the wide way, not the narrow way. They don't know God.

C "Be still and know that I am God." What kind of God? The kind who "is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Ps 46:1). The God who break the bow and shatters the spear and burns the shields with fire. The God who saves us in Christ. We needed to hear this in 2020. We need to hear this in 2021. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." God. Not the government. Not pharmaceutical companies. Not medical science. Not President Trump. Not Joe Biden. Not Congress. Not the Supreme Court. Not the constitution or Bill of Rights. Not any of the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Packages. Not our kids. Not our parents or grandparents. Not our intelligence or hard work. Be still and know "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

D "Be still and know that I am God." What kind of God. The kind who will be exalted. The Hymn of Christ in Philippians 2 describes what happens:
Philippians 2:10–11 (NIV84) — 10 at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Most people don't live for God. Most people don't live to exalt Him and glorify Him. Be silent so you consider how to live for Him and His glory instead of living for yourself.

III The Creation of Silence
A "Be still and know that I am God." How do we do this? It starts with Jesus. Isaiah speaks of Jesus' silence in His suffering.
Isaiah 53:7 (NIV84) — 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Jesus suffered in silence. He did not defend Himself before Pilate or Herod or the Sanhedrin. He who has tens of thousands of mighty angels willing to come to His aid, kept silent before His oppressors and accusers.

Jesus suffered in silence. Why? So we might know God. So we might have a relationship with God. You can't be still and know God apart from Jesus.

B "Be still and know that I am God." Even with COVID our lives can be too busy and too noisy. What am I saying? Stillness must be created so we know God. One of the benefits of COVID is a God-created silence. But how many people used this as an opportunity to know God?

"Be still and know that I am God." How did we do that in 2020? How do we do that in 2021? By observing Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Maybe you realize this, maybe you don't, God has given us Sunday as a day to settle, be quiet, be still. Perhaps I should say God has commanded Sunday as a day to settle, be quiet, be still. Yet, for most people it is not a quiet day at all. I am told Sunday is now the biggest and busiest shopping day of the week. This is the day most people do the laundry and iron the shirts and clean the house. This is the day students do their homework. Even many Christians make Sunday too busy and too noisy so they don't have time to be still.

Our worship has been designed with moments of silence so that we can meditate on God's riches at every given opportunity: before the service begins and after it ends, when the offering is being taken, while the bread and wine are being passed out for the Lord's Supper, during the songs, and in the prayers. Did you think these all are times to read the bulletin, to file your nails, to talk to your neighbor, to day-dream? These are all designed as times to quietly meditate on God and His riches!

C "Be still and know that I am God." Have you ever spent time in a Japanese garden? There is a lily pond, a dogwood tree, a burbling brook, a wooden bridge. The gardener works to create a place of peace and quiet. There are people who make their homes into this kind of oasis of quietness. We need times and places like that. In our homes we need to have a "quiet time," a devotion time. So we can pray, read the Bible, meditate on God, and just plain enjoy silence before God.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Was this your experience in 2020? Will this be your experience in 2021?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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