(460.4) SPIRITUAL FORMATION – Part 4: BE STILL – Interpreting Key Passages in the Bible Used to Promote Contemplative Spirituality – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY
BE STILL – PSALM 46:10
In the previous posting, we looked at how some misuse Scripture to fit its meaning to their own particular theology or belief. In the case of SPIRITUAL FORMATION, there are many examples of this that affect both lay people up to authors, pastors and college professors.
We will look at one of the most misused passages in the Bible relating to CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER under the guise of “good SPIRITUAL FORMATION”. This passage is used to justify all types of interpretations which in some cases have nothing to do with what the passage is saying.
Psalm 46:10 –
Be still, and know that I am God;
mI will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! (New King James Version)
CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER proponents will use a passage like this and focus on the phrase BE STILL. Does BE STILL imply for us to take a CONTEMPLATIVE approach to God? Many Christians today will take this verse to mean that we should literally BE STILL and connect with God through some form of MEDITATION. They will say we need to engage in STILLNESS. Even better, it is said that we can’t converse with God or even hear him except through SILENCE. Let that phrase sink in a bit.
Is this what Psalm 46:10 is saying? Again, read the passage in CONTEXT. Read the entire chapter at a minimum to determine its context. Read from alternate translations (literal) to understand the passage better.
Other translations of Psalm 46:10 –
- 10 Desist, and know that I am God, I am exalted among nations, I am exalted in the earth. (Young’s Literal Translation)
- 10 “CEASE STRIVING and know that I am God; I will be bexalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (New American Standard Bible 1995 Update)
- 10 “STOP YOUR FIGHTING —and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
The NASB says to CEASE STRIVING! When you read the context of the chapter, you quickly realize that the passage does NOT have anything to do with STILLNESS and SILENCE in MEDIATION. It is a warning to the enemies of God’s people that God is mighty and He will crush them – therefore there is no reason for God’s people to worry. God’s people need to settle down in light of this.
Commentaries include the following:
The Bible Knowledge Commentary states – “46:8–11. The psalmist exhorted the saints to observe the saving mighty deeds of God. These deeds portray how God brings peace to His people, destroying weapons throughout the earth. God Himself calls for the people to trust in Him and know that He is God, for He will be exalted throughout the earth. Verses 8–10 no doubt greatly encouraged the people of Jerusalem, as the final verse (v. 11) reiterates (cf. v. 7). Also to saints of all ages, the call for a silent trust in God’s saving power, in anticipation of universal peace, has been a source of comfort and strength.”
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states – “10 Second, the psalmist encourages the godly to “know” that the Lord is God. Though it was tempting to ally themselves with foreign powers, to rely on military strength, or to give themselves over to idolatry and pagan ways, the godly must learn to persevere to the end. The exhortation “be still” calls on them to stop doing one thing in favor of something else. What their temptation was may be implied from v. 2: “Therefore we will not fear.” Throughout the history of Israel and Judah, severe national distress brought the temptation to abandon true religion for the ephemeral security of political alliances, military strength, and worldly paganism (Realpolitik). Instead of choosing a negative option, the people of God distinguish themselves by the pursuit of godliness: “Know that I am God.” The “knowledge” of God includes a factual knowledge about him, his past acts, and his promises. But in this context the psalmist calls on them to commit themselves to the Lord and to seek his “refuge,” “strength,” and “fortress” (vv. 1, 7, 11). The life of faith is lived continually in commitment to God’s sovereignty, rule, and ultimate exaltation over all the nations (v. 10; cf. Hab 2:13–14). So Levenson writes, “In Jerusalem, there is peace and bliss” (p. 154; see appendix to Ps 98: Yahweh Is the Divine Warrior).
Matthew Henry states that “Let his enemies be still, and threaten no more, but know it, to their terror, that he is God, one infinitely above them, and that will certainly be too hard for them; let them rage no more, for it is all in vain.”
Take a second and look at Psalm 46:1-9. It is filled with language that talks about not fearing for God is great, He is our refuge, He is our strength…..etc. In Psalm 46:10, those who go against God need to remember this of they will be reprimanded and rebuked by God.
Again, Psalm 46:10 – BE STILL has nothing to do about STILLNESS (as we commonly define it), SILENCE, MEDITATION….etc. Many have used this verse to justify the inclusion of various techniques such as controlling your BREATHING during these times in order to FOCUS on GOD, repeating phrases (MANTRAS) over and over again to empty the mind and focus – MYSTICISM that has taken on the label of CONTEMPLATIVE or CENTERED PRAYER.
Where in the Bible does God command us to use repetitive phrases (mantras)? It says the opposite –
Matthew 6:7 – And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (NKJV)
Where in the Bible does God command us to use BREATHING techniques? SILENCE?…..etc. It doesn’t.
God’s word doesn’t tell us to be SILENT in order to communicate with God. Instead, God’s word tells us to think, be rational, to reason which originates from God and His word. Techniques and practices from other religions (e.g. EASTERN MYSTICISM) are combined with Christian practices in the effort to focus more intently on God through various forms of mediation – again much of it originating in how one interprets PSALM 46:10.
Psalm 46:10 calls us to be in awe of an awesome God. We can take great comfort in that perspective – that is what Psalm 46:10 tells us to do.
We will most likely talk about this verse again in the near future – it is a pivotal verse that many Christians misuse today to justify the syncretic mish-mash of CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM that has crept into the church. Even if SPIRITUAL FORMATION doesn’t seemingly include these perspectives (i.e. SILENCE, CONTEMPLATIVE, DISCIPLINES…etc.), they usually do in some fashion the deeper you probe into what is being taught. In the end, there is a real potential of people moving away from God’s will and the desired closeness to God may be the last thing you experience
=> In the end, there is a real potential of people moving away from God’s will and their desired closeness to God may turn out to be the opposite of what they expected.