The world is a noisy place. It is full of buzzing, whirling, electronic noise, cars and trucks, construction sounds, and of course the noise of human chatter of lies, shouting, violent voices, and gun fire. It is a noisy world and it keeps us from thinking. We cannot hear ourselves or even our friends.
Our world is designed to destroy us. We think it feeds our soul and makes us smarter. Now we can google a subject and become instant experts, so we think. We stare at our smartphones and read about the lives of “friends” we have on social media.
We are so distracted that we cannot hear ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, or nature, and most certainly we drown out the voice God. Open source theology on the internet has become our frame of reference because we don’t have time to think or ask thoughtful questions. Who has time to be thoughtful? Who has time to meditate on weighty words or respond to biblical challenges? We prefer short, cute, positive statements that make us feel good. It is something like cotton candy. It tastes so good as it hits our mouths but then it is gone, no substance, nothing to fill you up or feed your body.
Our spiritual, emotional, cultural, and moral confusion all stems from our noisy world where we can’t think or ask thoughtful questions. We don’t think. Most people think that milk, eggs and their organic chicken comes from the store nicely wrapped and packaged. Most have no idea where the basics of life come from. We live in a world where we have our smartphones made by child labor or sometimes prison or slave labor. Our clothes are made in countries for less than a dollar an hour, and our food is often composed of more chemicals that real meat and vegetables.
I think we all feel this problem but we cannot name it. I have a friend who has made his own forge and is making knives from scratch. He is learning leather work to produce scabbards to hold them. I think he is both escaping the modern and trying to recover the old. It easy to do this in a modern manufacturing setting, but he is doing it as primitive as possible. He wants to remember reality and the past and old ways.
The saddest part is that our attention spans are short. We spend our time with worthless things or things that will not last. We teach our children that sports is the most important thing in life which will lead to nothing. Our vision of life suffers. But most of all, we no longer know how to love. We like the word love and we redefine it to meet our purposes but we have forgotten how to love our children and our spouses. We have forgotten how to love our neighbor. We don’t have time to think about it. We are too busy and too distracted.
We all might be shocked to learn that we are not the first generation of humans to be so busy and distracted. The ancients had the same problem. Psalm 46 was written for times like these. Psalms were songs that the people of God sung on various occasions from shepherding the flock in the fields, to building a wall, or to standing before the Temple in worship. There is one for every occasion. Psalm 46 was written for times like these.
“To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. (Psalm 46:1)” These are the instructions to sing this song. It was expected to be sung by a choir perhaps since the instructions are to the choirmaster. It was written by the Sons of Korah who were Levites, the priestly family of Israel. They were the musical leaders of worship. The Song was to be sung to the tune or the style of Alamoth. Alamoth root meaning is “a young woman.” It may have been the name of a musical tune or, called for the use of high musical instruments. Or, and I wonder, it may have meant to be sung in a Soprano voice or perhaps by a woman or a women’s choir. It would not be the first time in the Old Testament that women sang songs of praise to God. The Psalm is to be sung to the congregation helping us to remember the God who is our refuge and strength.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Ps. 46:1-3 ESV)
These words place the Psalm in its setting, a time of trouble and fear. It is certainly appropriate for our day. It is like the whole world is coming a part. But in that world God is our refuge, our shelter from the storm. He is our strength. Even when we cannot go another step, God’s strength carries us. He is with us in times of cosmic troubles and in times when we seem to be judged by others.
What we need to hear, perhaps we to want to hear is, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10 ESV) It goes against the grain of society, but we are called to be still. The word means to relax, slacken, to even be lazy. It is the opposite of being uneasy and full of fear. We are to relax and know God, to spend time with him.
We cannot relax in the world. We may go on vacation but often there is no relaxation and when we come home, the world has not improved. How can we escape the tyranny of time, the violence of the day, and cultural pressure? By being still, by going slack, by relaxing in the presence of God.
The whole verse says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps. 46:10 ESV) God makes himself known to us and to the world when we relax before God. Many people have found great hope in this Psalm. Martin wrote my favorite hymn based on this Psalm, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.
Someone might say, I don’t believe in God or I don’t have time for God. It seems that everyone wants personal peace and meaning. Often we think we have peace but it is just a gaze bandage covering the wounds of our soul. We dare not be still lest the truth overwhelms us. Why live like that? It is the artificial world we have created. Sooner or later that world will collapse, it will fall into the darkness of meaninglessness and you will fall into the hole along with it. All that you thought you loved will be gone. All that gave you meaning will turn against you. You will be frozen in a state of vacuity where no one cares or loves or even acknowledges your existence.
Why not be still, slack. Why not give in to the true reality of God? God is not the enemy of our soul. Be still and know, heart and mind, know that the one who created us, loved us, guards us, and will give us peace.