Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Psalm 46:10–11
We live in a world that is constantly bombarding us with noise. It may be the noise of crowds, groups of people clamoring for our attention; it may be the cry of newscasters sounding off about the latest political problem or natural disaster; it may the persistent call of our mobile devices ringing and dinging in our ears disturbing the quiet of that peaceful place. Even in our quiet time, there is noise. It seems that everywhere we turn there is something or someone competing for our attention.
As I walked along a sandy beach on the South Carolina shore during a time of “rest” this past week I was reminded that even now as the “waters roar and foam…God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1-3). It is He “who stills the roaring of the seas; The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples” (Psalm 65:7). The one who created all things by the word of his power is the one who calms all these things by the power of his word.
We tend to think of peace as a quiet place where there is no commotion. We want to find that place of perfect peace and rest and we want it without trouble or tribulation, without distractions, without noise. It is true, God has given us one who is the “Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords (Isaiah 9:6), but Jesus also said, “In the world you have tribulation...” (John 16:33). He said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Peace is not found in the absence of strive. Peace is found in acknowledging the overwhelming presence of God. Peace is knowing “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Psalm 46:11). Cease striving, be still, and know that God is God.
As I walked along the beach early one morning before families began to take their umbrellaed position, it was not quiet. The ocean waves crashed upon the seashore, splashing my feet and my legs. The red and blue warning flags flapped in the wind warning of dangerous tides and lurking deep sea creatures. The broken shards of seashells littered the sandy beach evidence of the powerful pounding effects of the unending ocean turbulence.
In the midst of all this “noise” I noticed the sand on the seashore and was reminded of the promise God had made to Father Abraham. “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22:17). The peace that God gives to us through faith in Jesus Christ is not the absence of noise and difficulty. It is not living in a place where there are no enemies. This “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7) is more than just the absence of strife, it is the presence of God - his protection, his provision which he gives to us despite all the trouble of this world. It is through these things that He calls us to rest in Him.
“Cease striving and know that I am God.” Most translators of this text insert the word “striving” so we can make some sense of the Hebrew words. The Masoretic Text simply says, “cease” – stop doing, stop striving, stop worrying, stop fretting, stop trying to take the weight of the world upon your own shoulders – simply “cease” and know that God is God. Know that it is the Lord who sits as king on his throne. It is he who gives strength to His people and blesses His people with peace (Psalm 29:10-11).
The people of Israel led by Joshua into the promised land found themselves surrounded by hostility and hatred. They were confronted with distractions and the noise of competing religions trying to draw them away from wholehearted devotion to God. The world those people lived in was no different than the world we live in today. People then struggled to find peace and rest in the land God had given to them, because they failed to rest in God’s provision. We today often fail to find that same peace in the one who is our refuge and our strength - our peace and rest.
Jesus said this, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Next time you find yourself struggling with the burdens of this world, struggling to keep your head above the water, feeling as if you are going to drown in a mighty ocean overwhelmed by the waves of distraction and despair, remember....
“Cease striving, be still, and know that God is God.”