“Be still and know that I am God.”
In listening to the excellent discourse of brother William L. Benedict, preached at the funeral of our lamented granddaughter, on the sixteenth ultimo, from the words at the head of this article, the subject was opened with more sublime beauty and awful grandeur than we had ever before discovered in it, although we had on several occasions used the same words as a text; and sometimes with considerable liberty. But when our esteemed brother was enabled to apply its salutary instruction, admonition and consolation more directly to the grief-stricken circle of mourners, in which we were included, there seemed to be a power in the text as issuing from the mouth of God himself; perfectly irresistible, and full of divine majesty.
It is not our intention to repeat the discourse, for we feel incompetent to do so; but simply to record some of the leading presentations to our mind, at the time, and subsequently. Truly, to know God is eternal life; as our Savior has said, “And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” The admonition is therefore clearly addressed to such only as have received the gift of God, which is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The apostle John gives us an infallible criterion, or test, by which every saint may discriminate between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. “He that knoweth God, heareth us;” that is, all who know God recognize the high authority of the apostles who are divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost to rule in judgment, upon the twelve thrones of the house of Israel. “He that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Whatever a man’s profession or his works may be, we have no lawful right to recognize him as a child of God, or to fellowship him as such, if he is not governed and controlled by the authoritative mandates and decisions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A saving knowledge of the true God cannot be attained by any study or application of the natural mind to the instruction of men. No man can teach his brother, his neighbor or his child, saying, “Know the Lord,” for, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him (Matthew 11:27).”
When the apostle Peter, in behalf of the disciples, declared his and their knowledge of the Father and the Son, Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 16:17).” “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:6).” Christ is Himself the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of his person (Hebrews 1:3). “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature (Colossians 1:15).”
The words of this text imply that a knowledge of God will silence our murmurings, and cause us, like the Psalmist, to say, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it (Psalm 39:9).” Or, like Eli, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good (I Samuel 3:18).”
All who by experience and revelation know him who is “The true God, and eternal life (I John 5:20)” know he is too wise to err, and too holy and righteous to be unjust; and having this knowledge they can confide in him, and passively accept whatever of good or evil his hand deals out to them (Job 2:10).
Let us consider the awful import of the words “I am God.” A Spirit, infinite and eternal, self existent, independent, the Creator and upholder of all things. He is Author and professor of all conceivable and inconceivable perfections. High on his imperial throne; the “High and lofty One inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” He has created all things for himself, and for whose pleasure alone all things are, and were, created. He doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth. The septre of whose authority he sways over all beings, all worlds, and all events, with irresistible power, and unerring wisdom and righteousness. His absolute providence and decrees embrace the very hairs of our heads, unalterably fixes the number of them, and makes it perfectly impossible that one of them can fall from our head without an order from his throne.
“Life, death and hell, and worlds unknown, Hang on his firm decree.
Nothing exists independently of him, and all things that do exist in heaven, earth or hell, he has caused to exist for his pleasure, and all by his power shall subserve the great purpose for which he has brought them into being. His hand garnished the skies, and laid the foundation of the universe. The sun, moon and stars are the works of his fingers. The earth and seas are his, and he made them.
“God is a King of power unknown,
Firm are the orders of his throne;
If he resolves, who dare oppose,
Or ask him why, or what he does?
He wounds the heart, and he makes whole;
He calms the tempest of the soul;
When he shuts up in long despair,
Who can remove the heavy bar?
He frowns, and darkness veils the moon,
The fainting sun grows dim at noon;
The pillars of heaven’s starry roof,
Tremble and start at his reproof.
He gave the vaulted heaven its form,
The crooked serpent and the worm;
He breaks the billows with his breath,
And smites the son of pride to death.
These are a portion of his ways,
But who shall dare describe his face?
Who can endure his light? or stand
To hear the thunders of his hand?”
“By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? But the thunder of his power who can understand (Job 26: 13,14).”
To know then that God is all this, and infinitely more; that inspired prophets and holy apostles have only been permitted to tell us parts of his ways, while the thunder of his power is yet unexplained to mortals, is calculated to seal up our lips in silence, and fill our hearts with the most profound reverence in his awful presence.
“Earth from afar has heard his fame,
And worms have learnt to lisp his name;
But, O! the glories of his mind,
Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.”
To know that the Lord is God is to know, not only in a general, but also in a particular sense, that he is the supreme Ruler of the universe, that in all minute things, as well as in things of greater magnitude, he executes his sovereign will and pleasure, leaving nothing to chance, or uncertainty. The sparrow cleaves the air in the precise track marked by the counsel of God with no less certainty than the blazing sun fills his fixed orbit in the heavens. Poor blind mortals gaze, wonder and are confounded in the contemplation; but God declares the end from the beginning, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
But we propose to contemplate this profound subject in the connection in which the inspired psalmist has presented it in the psalm in which the text occurs.
“God is our refuge and strength.” Can any refuge be so secure, so safe, so perfectly reliable? God who is everywhere present, must surely be a very present help in all our troubles. Pursued by sin, by Satan, by doubts and fears, we find no efficient refuge short of God. He is our Rock, and his wings are spread for our defense, and however weak and trembling in ourselves, God is our Strength. He is the Strength of our life, the Strength of Israel, and we are assured that “the Strength of Israel will not lie.” He will not betray our confidence in him, for, “They that trust in him shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever (Psalm 125:1).” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).” And the psalmist says, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations....even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:1,2).” This assurance of safety and protection is enough to banish our fear. Of what can we be afraid, if he who holds a perfect control of all powers, and influences, is our Refuge? A refugee cannot be unsafe if his refuge be invulnerable; for a refuge must first be stormed and captured before the refugee can be imperiled. And this hope have we, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. Sin, death and hell, the world, flesh and devil, doubts, fears and temptations, losses, crosses and bereavements, all may assail the child of God; and yet he can be still, rest confidently, for he knows that his Rock and Refuge is God. “Therefore” says the psalmist, “will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” What odds, where the earth shall rest, or whether it is dissolved and cease to be? God, not earth, is our refuge and strength, and God cannot be moved nor overcome; and as he is not moved, so neither can his holy city, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High be moved by any or all of the commotions, or convulsions of the earth: for, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.” The wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, or be still; because the earth does not know that he is God. Yet, though the waters of the sea roar and be troubled, and the mountains of the earth be shaken with the swellings thereof, the river which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb, whose waters of life are clear as crystal, are tranquil in their channel; for, “There the glorious Lord shall be unto us the place of broad rivers and streams; subject to no such turbulence, its peaceful, placid streams make glad the city of God. The Lord their Shepherd leads them beside the still waters. “The heathen [those who do not know that the Lord is God, and therefore cannot rest] raged; the kingdoms were moved.” But, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers [of the earth] take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure (Psalm 2:1-5).” Yet, notwithstanding all their rage, their counsel, their resolutions, their kingly power, and lordly authority, and their united assault upon the bands and cords, by which the church of the living God is bound together and secured in his impregnable fortress, the government of Christ shall tower above their rage and violence; for, “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” The kings of the earth set themselves; but the government of God, in Christ his Anointed, God himself has set. And Christ shall rule them with a rod of iron, and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel; so that they can never be reconstructed or put together again. The heathen raged, the kingdoms (or governments) of earth which set themselves against the Lord, and against his anointed, were moved. He who uproots the mountains and casts them into the midst of the sea, removes the established nations and governments of the kings and judges of the earth; “the kingdoms were moved.” How were they moved? We are told. “He uttered his voice, the earth melted.” By the utterance of his voice, the world with all its kingdoms, nations, generations and powers were brought into being, and at the utterance of his voice they melt and pass away. “Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge.” With whom? With those who know that he is God, and who dwell in him: for he will never leave nor forsake them. God is in the midst of her; and she is safe. Do we ask for evidence that God, who is our refuge, is with us, and in our midst, and that he will help us right early? If so, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth.” Look at a deluged world in the days of Noah. Where now is Sodom and Gomorrah? What became of the Egyptian army that pursued Israel? Where are the Canaanites? Where is Moab, Babylon, - or any of the nations that opposed the armies of the living God? Can we review the desolations which our God has made in the earth, and doubt that he will, in due time, make wars to cease unto the ends of the earth? His word has gone forth in righteousness, and shall not be recalled; unto him every knee shall bow, and to him every tongue shall swear. All this will be accomplished without our aid; for what can we do to strengthen his hand, or subdue his foes? Yet, “The enemies of the Lord shall be broken to pieces, out of heaven will he thunder upon them.” What had Israel to do when confronted by the Red Sea, hemmed in by insurmountable mountains on the right and left, and closely pursued by a mighty army in the rear? “Stand still” was the command, “and see the salvation of God.” And even so comes the command of God to his people. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
This whole psalm is replete with striking illustration of the power, wisdom and providence of God; giving testimony of what he is, and what he does in ordering and executing his government over all beings and all events. First his recognition of the exposure of his people to the violence of their adversaries, and the perfect security he has provided for them in himself as their refuge, and their strength. The faith and confidence he inspires them with, in him, to shield them from fear or dismay when his judgments walk the earth, remove the mountains, disturb the seas, and dissolve the world. Then the opening to his people the fountain of joy and salvation, whose ever flowing supplies make glad the city of God, the holy place of his tabernacles. The assurance that God is never absent from Zion; God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; although the earth be removed and the mountains deposited in the midst of the sea. Her own inability to protect, or to avenge herself shall not imperil her safety at any time, for God will help her, and that right early. In evidence of his power and faithfulness, “Behold what desolations he has made in the earth, and with what ease he can break the bow that is bent, or the spear that is aimed for her annoyance, and what peace he can command for her to the earth’s most distant bounds.”
Relying on God to do all this for her, she has no occasion to bestir herself, to bend a bow, or raise a spear in self defense; but, knowing that the battle is the Lord’s, leave the whole result with him, and simply be still, be calm, be confident; for the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, therefore he that believeth shall not make haste.
We had designed in this article to say something in regard to the manner in which the text was applied to our own mind in relation to the melancholy death of our lamented granddaughter, at whose funeral it was used as a text. In addition to the appropriate application made by our beloved brother, a train of thoughts came forcible to our mind. In the knowledge that the Lord is God, and that we are to be still; to hush every murmuring thought, and leave all with him; we were led to contemplate his inscrutable providence in dealing with the children of men. Who hath made us to differ? Why are some more subject to diseases, physically and mentally, than others? It was not because those Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices were sinner above all the Galileans, that these things were suffered; or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem, that they were slain; nor was it either he that was born blind, or his parents that were sinners above others, that he was born blind, nor yet was it because the children of Rebecca had done any good or evil, that it was said of them, “the elder shall serve the younger;” as it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated ” David speaks of the wicked who oppress and persecute God’s children as God’s hand and his sword. Whatever may be their malignant design; they can only go so far as wielded by the power and wisdom of God. They are used by him, as we use our hand or sword, to execute our purpose. So are all the diseases, whether of body or mind, to which men are subject as God’s servants. They are employed by him to do his bidding. “Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” “Shall we receive good from the hand of the Lord, and not evil?” The evils are employed by him to chastise his children, or to scourge his enemies, embrace wars, pestilence and famines, together with all the evils that are brought upon us. Our troubles come not up unbidden out of the earth, nor do our afflictions come on us by chance. Some by physical disease are bowed down with pain and infirmity all their days, from the cradle to the tomb. Why is it? What is it? We call it a dispensation of divine providence, and however dark and mysterious to us, we dare not protest; for we know it is by the inscrutable judgment of God; therefore we feel admonished to “Be still and know that he is God.” When others are diseased mentally, their reason dethroned, and in their irrational moments they do deeds of violence to themselves or to others, is it less providential? By no means. Insanity, or alienation of reason is as truly a malady, to which our nature is subject, and which comes as directly from the hand of God, as comes the cholera, the typhoid, or any other fever, or disease, and the consequences resulting are as fully appointed as all other causes and results are. We cannot perceive that any of the human family ever came to their death by any other than the means appointed. A sparrow cannot fall, nor a hair from our head, without our Heavenly Father. God careth for sparrows as he cares for worlds. Our hairs are all numbered, as are the days of our pilgrimage on earth, so that we cannot pass our bounds. Nor can we by any possible care or foresight of ours add to our stature one cubit, make a hair black or white, or lengthen or diminish from the number of days which God has allotted us upon his footstool. When men die suddenly, human theology says they go unprepared to the bar of God; but divine revelation teaches us that “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Jesus says “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37).” No accident, casualty or fortuitous event can interrupt the execution of the counsel of God; and he who falls in death by a thunderbolt, if an heir of salvation, will as certainly reign in glory with Christ, as though he were translated· like Enoch or Elijah; and if not a subject of God’s saving grace, would be no nearer to heaven, or likely to be saved if a thousand years were added to his days.
“Plagues and death around us fly,
‘Til He bids, we cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
‘Til the God of grace sees fit.”
God is immutable in his counsel, of one mind, and none can turn him; and it therefore becomes us to “Be still and know that he is God.”
May 15, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 18 – 27