We are a caffeinated and competent people, with no shortage of things to go and do. There seems to always be another problem to conquer, a new technology to employ, a new mindset to engage. We are good at fixing problems, and we like it that way.
Yet, in the midst of all of our problem solving, we recognize intuitively that something is not right. We feel keenly our incompetence at being all-competent saviors.
The world agrees. Articles calling for a slower life, a life dedicated to minimalism and simplicity, clog the internet: ‘Slow down!’ ‘simplify!’ ‘minimalize!’. As one blogger argues:
“Letting go of the compulsion to do all things can be an awesomely liberating high. Simply choose what’s most important and do that. Even simpler, choose to do the things you are passionate about, and drop the rest.”
The world has rightly picked up on our need to slow down and rest. What the world does not understand, however, is why. Sure, rest can relieve stress, improve focus, and provide a clearer mind. These are great secondary benefits. But biblically speaking, rest is so much more. Rest is not first and foremost about us and our health. Rest is about God and his greatness.
Psalm 46 is a song about God’s greatness, written in a time of restless fear for Israel. The nations were raging, the kingdoms were unstable, and Israel found themselves in a real mess. But rather than telling the people to pick of a shovel and dig themselves out of their hole, God commanded them to rest. He tells them to “be still!” (v. 10). Or as the NASB puts it, ‘cease striving!’. In essence, God commanded them to sit down and rest.
If that were all God said, the command would seem rather unreasonable. How could any sane person ‘be still’ in the midst of such turmoil? The answer is the second half of God’s command. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
That ‘and’ is critical for a biblical understanding of rest. God’s command was not for Israel to just forget about all of the danger that they faced. They were not to ignore the situation and imagine a better world. They were to be still, and know that God is God. Their stillness was to be an act of remembrance. They could relax because God was for them. And having God on your side changes everything.
As the psalmist sings, God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (v. 1). He is the Most High and the Lord of hosts (v. 4). He is the one, the only one, who can put an end to all wars (v. 9). He is a great and powerful God. And, amazingly, he was their God, who dwelt with them (v. 5) and was fully committed to them as their faithful covenant keeping God. In other words, remembering that God is God was what would allow Israel to obey the command to rest. Without the remembrance, the rest would be impossible. God being God enables rest to be rest. And when God is the reality behind the rest of his people, our rest sings a song of praise.
What is the song that our rest is designed to sing? Verse 10 continues: “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Rest sings a song of praise to whoever is the source of the rest. Rest in God sings a song of praise to him, and his greatness. It’s a song that proclaims trust in his kingly rule over all. And it’s a song that makes abundantly clear who we look to for rescue. As Christians, we should be marked by real rest, not first because it is ‘healthy’, but because we have a God who reigns from heavens. God loves to be exalted in your rest. Make your rest sing a song of God’s greatness by resting in remembrance of him.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!