Monday, January 10, 2011

God, Exalted Among the Nations, Exalted in the Earth

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)
One of my favorite mugs has the first line of this verse imprinted on it: “Be still and know that I am God.” It is what is called a “refrigerator verse,” something people stick up on their iceboxes as a reminder. You can also find it at your local Christian bookstore or inspirational shop, on a variety of kitschy products: calendars, plaques, mugs, and even magnets to hold other kitschy things on your refrigerator. It is often thought of in a personal-devotiony sort of way, as if it were instructing us to go find a cozy little place to nestle into and get all quiet and still with God. There is no problem with that sort of thing, of course — I’ve had many precious times with God that way, silencing all other voices in and around me so that I can hear the voice of God more clearly. But the context of this verse presents it a bit more … militantly. Look, for example, at the verses that immediately precede it.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
(Psalms 46:8-9)
The “works of the LORD” are the desolations He makes in the earth (not of the earth), and the desolations are the end He puts to wars and all their implements. He settles things decisively and those who remain are unable to stand against Him. It is at this point that the psalm writer, one of the “sons of Korah,” says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is how many versions, such as the KJV, the NKJV and the NIV put it. However, consider how some other versions render it; I think they capture the sense of what “be still” means much better.
  • “Cease striving” (NASB)
  • “Stop your fighting” (HCSB)
  • “Desist” (Young’s Literal Translation)
  • “Let be” (JPS Bible)
  • “Stop fighting” (Good News Translation)
Put an exclamation point after each one of those, and I think we will have the force of it. God is speaking to those who have been warring against Him, and against His people! He is calling them to cease their striving with Him, to give it up. More than that, He is calling them to “know” — to recognize, acknowledge, confess — that He is God. He is not calling them to destruction, though, but to something very much better. In Psalm 2, He puts it this way.
Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
(Psalm 2:10-12)
“Exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth.” This is what He is; this is what He will be. The Hebrew can be rendered either way. God exalts His name among the nations, and in the end, the nations will acknowledge that He is King. Even now, this is coming to pass. God has raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him far above all principality, power, might and dominion, and has put all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-22). He has given Him the name that is above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

After the resurrection and before He ascended to heaven, Jesus came to the disciples saying, ““All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

All the nations will be taught of Him and be baptized. They will “kiss the Son” and be blessed, and they will know that He is God, Exalted in the Nations, Exalted in the Earth.