“Be still and know that I am God” — a verse I have read and sung and meditated on many times. But, you have probably guessed, it means something more to me now, after reading it in Hebrew. I noticed this week that the CSB translation says “stop fighting” instead of “be still.” I had to know what that verb meant. I was surprised to find out it means to relax one’s grip on something, to slacken or release. Robert Alter uses the expression “let go.”
Let go, and know that I am God. I loom among nations, I loom upon earth.”Psalm 46:10 (The Hebrew Bible, a Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter)
I think I used to focus on the command to be still in this verse, picturing myself at rest in order to quiet my heart and mind. And, like the verse implies, that only becomes possible when we take time to know that God is God (and we are not). But I think this verse is getting at more than just a quiet spirit of meditation. When I remember who God is — His greatness, His power — I can relax and release. The presence of the Lord of Heaven’s armies with me means I can let go and fall on Him and His strength.
This entire psalm is meant to put us in awe of God. If a realization of His majesty could actually sink deeply into us, we would realize how foolish we are to keep a tight grip on so many trivialities. If we really knew God, there are so many things we would let go of. Sometimes our part in the battle is to just be still, to sit quietly and let God fight for us. But sometimes He has a part for us to play in actively releasing something that He doesn’t want us to cling to anymore. There’s a time to be still and a time to let go.
It reminds me of a powerful scene in George MacDonald’s book Lilith where she is being urged to repent of her wickedness and be restored to who God created her to be. She is resisting with every ounce of strength she has, convinced that she actually has freedom in her slavery to “the Shadow” and to sin. When she finally begins to relent, she is told she must open her hand, but this hand had grown more like a paw, the fingers pressed into the palm. She knows that she cannot open it and says she won’t even try to do the impossible. But then she is told, “I know you better than you know yourself, and I know you can. You have often opened it a little way. Without trouble and pain you can not open it quite, but you can open it. At worst you could beat it open! I pray you, gather your strength, and open it wide.”
Without trouble and pain you can not open it quite, but you can open it. At worst you could beat it open! I pray you, gather your strength, and open it wide.from Lilith by George MacDonald
That Hebrew verb for relaxing one’s grip reminds me of Lilith’s deformed hand — a hand that had held so tightly and for so long that she became weary beyond exhaustion with trying to pry it apart. What kept her from opening her hand was really her misconceptions of God. She convinced herself that He was the enemy of her supposed freedom. Defiantly she screams, “You have not succeeded, nor shall you succeed! You shall yet find me stronger than you think! I will yet be mistress of myself! I am still what I have always known myself — queen of Hell, and mistress of the worlds!…What I choose to seem to myself makes me what I am. My own thought makes me me; my own thought of myself is me. Another shall not make me!”
The reply comes, “But another has made you, and can compel you to see what you have made yourself.” She is enslaved to the Shadow, enslaved by her sin, and totally blinded to God’s goodness and love. If she really knew God, she would not hate Him. If she knew God, she would trust Him. She would be able to open that withered hand and let go of everything that was killing her and keeping her from her true destiny in Him.
Eventually Lilith is taken to Adam, whom she had offended worst of all with her sin. He has a sword that is able to “divide whatever was not one and indivisible” and with this sword he finally cuts off Lilith’s offending hand. To everyone’s surprise he doesn’t dress the wound. “A wound from that sword needs no dressing. It is healing and not hurt,” he says. “Where the dead deformity clung, the true, lovely hand is already growing.” Finally, Lilith is peacefully sleeping and free from the terrible Shadow that had taken possession of her.
What is it that we are holding tightly, to our own demise? Maybe it’s a sinful habit. Maybe it’s our pride and a desire to be vindicated. Maybe it’s a need for control. Maybe it’s bitterness and unforgiveness. Maybe it’s worry. Maybe it’s wealth. Really, the list could be as long as all of creation, as long as the list of all God’s good gifts to us that we spoil by clenching them smotheringly and selfishly in our fists.
What do we need to let go of today to finally find peace? I challenge you though, instead of focusing your attention on what seems so very impossible to release, focus on who God is! Ask Him to show you what He is like. As you begin to understand His greatness, His goodness, and His infinite love for you, you will be amazed at how your grip will loosen, how you will be able to let go and trust His heart with yours!