I suppose every Christian, in this time of unprecedented social upheaval (Unprecedented in our lifetimes!), has a verse to which they turn for comfort and strength. For some of us, the place is Psalm 46:8-11. The keynote of the passage is v. 10: "Be still and know that I am God."
When I was a fifth grader (Please note – the year was 1962!), each school day began with a time of "opening exercises." My teacher had a little book of poems from which we read each morning. Although 1962 was long ago, one of those poems still is sealed to my mind.
The world today is going so fast,
I can't keep up; I am traveling half-masked.
I think I will go east, and I find I have gone west.
I am hurrying so fast to keep up with the rest.
They're hurrying here, and hurrying there;
Not sure where they are going, and they don't much care!
In the rural world, where I find my greatest delight, we call it "chasing our tail" – creating lots of activity, for little or no purpose. And if that was the case in 1962, how much more has been true in more recent times! Sports, music, school activities, church activities, political activism, professional activities, texting, social media, electronic communication – that is life! Or is it? Evidently God does not think so! For on the seventh day, God rested (Gen 2:1). The Creator God found it necessary to hit the "pause button" – to take time to reflect.
The world has defied God in many ways, and the church has rightfully decried many of them. Sadly, however, the church has joined the world in defying God's call to rest – to "be still and know that I am God." And I cannot help but wonder if the current change of pace isn't, in part, God's way of getting His people to do by decree what they refused to do by choice – "be still."
Please do not misunderstand. I do not know whether God sent this virus, or, like with Job, allowed it. I also do not know what God's purpose is in this current crisis. I just know He has one! And I am quite sure that His purpose involves His people as well as the world. And it doesn't seem His people are taking very kindly to what He is doing! One dear brother mentioned that his wife is not taking very well to this idea of cooking at home! I hear others decry this loss of freedom. Yes, change is difficult to accept, especially when we seem to have little choice!
In commenting on Psalm 46:10, Charles Spurgeon makes this interesting observation. "Either by terror or by love God will subdue all hearts to himself." The cross showed His love. And in a smaller way, COVID-19 shows His terror. He is the Sovereign God, so COVID-19 did not take Him by surprise.
Let's go back to Psalm 46:8, where the psalmist talks about a part of the work of God being "what desolations he hath made in the earth." Verse 9 talks about God's ability to stop war by bringing desolation. It is in that context that God, through the psalmist, calls upon his people to "be still and know that I am God."
Job too faced desolation, and, to be sure, that desolation did not cause him to be still! In fact, Job became quite vocal – maybe like us – in his protesting the desolation in his life. Until, that is, God appeared in chapter 38. And when God gets done with dealing with Job's faulty theology, Job finally acknowledges that he should have not talked so much.
Therefore, have I uttered that I understood not;
things too wonderful for me, which I knew not (Job 42:3).
As stated earlier, none of us know for sure what God is doing through this pandemic. And we should learn from Job that, when God brings desolation, whether by decree or permission, we need to learn silence. Spurgeon refers to it as "expressive silence."
The modern church world is not very good at "silent praise." Maybe God is trying to teach us something new! Psalm 46 is an excellent place to learn what that "something new" might be!