Be Still

Posted on 05/01/2011 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***

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I love to be in Your presence
With Your people singing praises
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Lift my hands and raise my voice
You set my feet to dancing
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We praise you Lord because you're worthy
You are Lord and King of the earth and sky
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Even the mountains praise your name
the rocks and the stones cry Holy!
Whoever seeks for your face
     will never be the same
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     in Jesus' name

I'm an instrument, I am only a vessel
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Let us put to death thoughts of opposition
Let me step aside and point the world to above


Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you


*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***

Today, I'd like for us to talk about peace; but not necessarily about the feelings we associate with peace, but rather that which results in those feelings.

The title of today's message is "Be Still." And this isn't a message against fidgeting or moving around. It's not even a message about meditation.

In Psalm 46:10, God says, "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth."

Of course if I got up here and said the same thing, you would rightly see my words the same way many people see God's words. Think about it: "I'm going to be great and mighty in the nations. In fact, I'm going to be greater than anyone else on earth!" You'd think that I was boasting, and doing so under great dilusion.

But God wasn't boasting here. He wasn't saying, "I'm really something else, aren't I? Just look at how impressive I am!" Of course He would be well justified in saying that. But in this particular verse, I don't believe that's what He's saying.

Let's take a look at the context, and read this starting back in verse seven:

Psalm 46:7-11 (NKJV)

7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
         The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah 
 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
         Who has made desolations in the earth.
 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
         He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
         He burns the chariot in the fire.
 10 Be still, and know that I am God;
         I will be exalted among the nations,
         I will be exalted in the earth!
 11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
         The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah

That paints a different picture, doesn't it? God was speaking to a people who had many enemies. Time after time they were attacked by armies who greatly outnumbered them. Many times, because they had forsaken God, He allowed them to be defeated. But when their trust was in Him, He performed miracles on their behalf.

And that is the context of God's saying "I will be exalted in all the earth" -- He was comforting His people by promising to show Himself great on their behalf. "Be still and know that I am God." They had no reason to worry or be afraid -- God was God, and He would continue to show His greatness in all the earth.

Consider Gideon, just another man who lived during a time in which Israel had, once again, forsaken God, and God had turned them over into the hand of the Midianites for seven years. It was so bad that the Israelites had to live in the caves. When they grew food, the Midianites would destroy it, and they would kill their livestock.

And finally, Israel started to cry out to God, as Judges 6:6 says, "So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD."

Just imagine with me for a minute if you had a husband or a wife for whom you did absolutely everything. You fed them, clothed them, gave them abundance, defended them against their enemies, and poured out on them incredible, unending love. But time after time after time, they would leave you and shack up with some other person. When they ran out of money or their lover beat them up enough times, they would come back to your door promising to never do it again; but after you forgave them and took them back in, they just did it again... and again... and again.

Eventually, most of us would have enough. It would seem pretty obvious that they were just using you, and it would be pretty certain they will end up just doing it again.

Just like us.

When things get rough enough, we cry out to God. We promise to get things right in our life if only He will help us out of our mess. And most of the time, He does.

Then what happens? Eventually the memory of the pain of our past problems fades, and we start praying less, searching God's word less, and chasing after God less. We let things come back into our lives that we know God doesn't like, and we allow the cares of life to become bigger to us than God -- bigger in where we spend our time and what fills most of our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.

It's easy to read about Israel and incredulously insist we wouldn't be so quick to turn away from God. But we're no better than they. And God knows this and loves us anyway.

That's why He inspired the Psalmist to write His words, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

So Israel was in trouble. Since the Midianites routinely destroyed their food supply, Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress to reduce the chances he would be seen. And while he was hard at work, the Lord God sat resting under the shade of a tree.

Let's pick this back up, starting with verse 11:

11 Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.
12 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!"
13 Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."
14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?"
15 So he said to Him, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."
16 And the LORD said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man."

Notice what Gideon said: "My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." And yet, God called him a "Mighty man of valor," and told him to "Go in this might of yours."

Was God just practicing the power of positive confession? Wouldn't it have made much more sense to gather together the best and the bravest to outsmart their enemy and win the day?

But that seems to be a regular pattern with God: He doesn't pick those the world would pick to accomplish His greatest tasks; instead, He chooses the weak and the lowly, in the world's eyes. Perhaps this is, in part, so everyone will know it was God, instead of destroying that person with their worship.

In God's eyes, a meek and contrite spirit is more powerful than a proud and highly skilled warrior, because they are much more likely to allow God to work through them, instead of trying to do things the way they think is best, while relying their own human strength to do it.

And this shines a little more light on what God could have been saying when he said, "Be still." Just maybe this is the same type of stillness God was talking about in Hebrews chapter four, verses nine and ten:

Hebrews 4:9-10 (NKJV)

9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
10 For he who has entered (God's) rest has himself also ceased from his (own) works as God did from His.

In verse seven, it says God designates the day called "today" for this day of rest, this day in which we rest from our own works.

In other words, "Be still and know that I am God." "Be still from doing things your own way, and let me be who I am and work in and through you the way I choose."

Let's turn back to Judges chapter six and see what happens next. God immediately addressed Israel's adultery, and told Gideo to tear down their false god. Let's read this, starting with verse 28:

Judges 6:28-31 (NKJV)

28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal, torn down; and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built.
29 So they said to one another, "Who has done this thing?" And when they had inquired and asked, they said, "Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing."
30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it."
31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, "Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!"

Do you find that as interesting as I do? In verse six, Israel was crying out to the Lord, but they were still worshiping a false god. Go back to our example of the unfaithful spouse, and imagine they are calling you on the phone begging for your help, but they're still living with their lover. Personally, I'd probably hang up the phone and block their number.

But God visited the person through whom He was going to deliver Israel even before Israel was ready to repent for her sins.

And then He began to speak to her: "Be still. Put aside your own plans, your own idols, your own sin; be still and know that I am God."

How often do people get angry when someone challenges the sin they love, whether that sin is a homosexual lifestyle, pornography, illegal drugs, drunkenness, gluttony, entertainment which displeases God, or whatever else they unwittingly worship. And yet, sometimes that idol must be destroyed before God can bring about your deliverance.

Will you become angry with the messenger of God when he or she confronts your pet sin? Israel certainly did. They were crying out to God for help, but wanted to kill Gideon for tearing down a pagan idol. To us, this seems an obviously silly thing to do, but we should remember that we tend to do the same.

And this story from the past also reminds us to consider that the things we are trying to save cannot save themselves, much less us. Maybe this is part of why God chooses the humble and the weak to display His strength: because they realize their own weakness, and are more likely to agree to do things God's way instead of second-guessing God and questioning whether God really knows what He's doing, or whether they might be able to come up with a better plan.

For example, God makes it plain in His word how people are drawn to Jesus; but many of us in the Church today have decided God's method is out of date, and just scares people away. So they don't talk about the blood, or about the cross, and they certainly don't talk about repentance and turning away from sin. We're so smart, aren't we? We're so smart that we're smarter than God. But God is looking for people who will do things His way, because His way is always best. And God will let people who choose to do things their own way be destroyed, because any way besides God's only brings death and destruction in the end.

And God continues to say to us today, "Be still." He says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Now, as I mentioned at the very beginning, this "stillness" isn't talking about sitting still or the absense of movement; rather, it is a stillness from our own ways, or as worded in Hebrews, "resting from our own works."

In our "being still" from our own ways, we must continue moving forward on the path God has set before us, even when that path seems to be utterly rediculous to our natural minds.

Gideon had gathered together an army of 32,000 men. This sounds like a lot, until you consider that the Mideanite army was 135,000 strong. Israel's enemy's army was already four times the size of their own. And God didn't like those odds, but for very different reasons than the people of Isreal.

Let's continue this story in Judges chapter seven, beginning with verse two:

Judges 7:2-7 (NKJV)

2 And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'
3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.'" And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.

4 But the LORD said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' the same shall not go."
5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, "Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink."
6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.
7 Then the LORD said to Gideon, "By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place."

While we would have gathered more people to fight, God had something very different in mind. God knew that, even outnumbered four to one, Israel's heart was not ready for victory in that way, because they would think they had done it themselves. So He changed the odds -- in the enemy's favor!

Remember that the next time it seems as though the odds are stacked up against you. Sometimes God lets things get even worse and seem even more hopeless, so that the best and longest-lasting good can come out of the victory He is bringing to pass.

So God told Gideon to send home most of his army, until only 300 men remained. That made the enemy's army 450 times larger than theirs. That's 450 soldiers to every 1 man! I think you'd agree that, in natural terms, Israel didn't stand a chance and wouldn't last five minutes.

Now we should keep in mind that "The Lord gives Wisdom; out of His mouth come knowledge and understanding." The Lord will often give brilliant plans to us that even the world would recognize as sound. But if we rely on the soundness of what God says, then we will be like the people of Israel after they had defeated their enemy, and Gideon built an ephod with gold from their spoils of war, and set it up in his city. And verse 27 of chapter 8 says, "And all Israel played the harlot with it there."

While it is not clear what the ephod is, my guess would be that it was some sort of monument or symbol of God's victory over their enemies. In the Talmud, the wearing of the ephod, which in that case would have been a type of garment, atoned for the sin of idolatry, which is exactly what Israel was doing and continued to do even as God delivered them from the results of that very sin.

And we do this very thing still today. Many Christians pray to Mary and the Saints, expecting them to have some sort of supernatural power, including the power to hear millions of prayers from people on earth. But without realizing it, when you pray to someone besides God, you are performing an act of worship. You are playing the harlot with people God has raised up as examples of His greatness, just as Gideon made the ephod as a reminder of what God had done.

Other Christians unknowingly worship their denomination, believing that those who do not follow what they teach are not true Christians, or will have a lower place in heaven. And I say this is worship because it is assigning the power of salvation and position with God to the religious persuasions of men, instead of to Jesus Christ and the work He did on the cross.

Others unknowingly worship money, or entertainers, or a relationship, instead of letting those things point them to God.

So be careful. Don't allow yourself to give inordinate attention or glory to things that only symbolize what God has done, or you too will be "playing the harlot" just as did Israel.

Instead, be still. Let go of your desire to give credit or honor anywhere besides to God, and not through His servants or His vessels, but directly to Him and Him alone.

Let's wrap up today's service by reading about the victory Gideon and his small group of men won over their enemy, reading from Judges chapter seven, beginning with verse sixteen:

16 Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers.
17 And he said to them, "Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do:
18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, 'The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!'"
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.
20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers -- they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing -- and they cried, "The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!"
21 And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled.
22 When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath.
23 And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.

Sure, the enemy would have been rather startled by their rude awakening, but it's unreasonable to think they would kill eachother just because 300 people blew trumpets at their army of 135,000 men!

But as verse 22 says, "the LORD set every man's sword against his companion." It wasn't the element of surprise that caused the army to kill their fellow warriors; rather, it was the Lord.

If we had time, we could look at many other times God did amazing and unbelievable things through a few people, often times people who nobody, including themselves, would expect to ever amount to anything.

But the message is clear: Each and every one of us needs to be still; still from our own ways of doing things, still from our need to be in control, still from our trust in our own thoughts, or in our doctrines, or in any vessel of God, or anything meant to point our attention to Him. And as we get our flesh out of the way, God will bring us through to victory.

Let's end today's service with a time of prayer. If you feel the Holy Spirit pulling you to seek after God, then you're invited to get out of your seat and make your way to the front.

If you want someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message me or Mariposa or someone on the staff or ministry team. Whenever you need to go, you're dismissed. If you can stay until after this time at the altar, make your way to Fellowship Room to your left, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for some fellowship.

Come. Let's surrender our ways, our ideas, our idols, and our lives to God, as we ask Him to teach us to Be Still.