I’ve often heard this verse at retreats, calling us to carve time out with God. While God invites us to this, here it is actually a command. The Common English Bible translates the Hebrew like this:
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God!”
I wonder, did this command come after countless generations failed to observe the Sabbath? God invites, God provides – but yet I continue to live my busy, over-full life as if Sabbath was a suggestion (or even worse, a silly idea). Surely God knows how busy my life is.
But it’s just because of my busy life that I need God to tell me “That’s enough!” I need God to tell me that the various things I devote myself to are not god. God knows how busy my life is: and I need to know that God is God. This is what Psalm 46 is about.
Be still and know… that God is near.
God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. (Psalm 46:1-3, CEB)
Be still and know… that God is reliable.
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The LORD of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety. (Psalm 46:4-7, CEB)
Be still and know… that God is in control.
Come, see the LORD’s deeds, what devastation he has imposed on the earth— bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire. (Psalm 46:8-9, CEB)
Be still and know… that God is to be worshipped.
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!” (Psalm 46:10, CEB)
Be still and know… that God IS.
The LORD of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety. (Psalm 46:11, CEB)
Wednesday Eldest and I were talking about Levitical Law (this happens at our house – one day when I was driving them to school we somehow got talking about forest fires, controlled burns and where we build our cities. They always seem engaged, but maybe they can’t wait to get out of the car). We got to Levitical Law because we were talking about gender and sexuality and what rules direct our lives as Christians today. Then he asked how far I thought we were supposed to take the Sabbath – what was work?
Haven’t we been asking this for over 3,000 years?
In the car ride we had left (and you know this conversation was going to end as soon as we got home), there wasn’t time to dive deep. But then I thought: gender isn’t just about sex, it’s also about orientation to ourselves and our relationships. And sex isn’t just about a physical act but it’s about intimacy and our relationships.
In some ways isn’t Sabbath the same?
To say Sabbath is just about abstinence from work is ignoring the orientation and intimacy in our relationship with God. Sabbath isn’t just about being still and knowing that God exists (somewhere out there). Sabbath is the wholeness of our being in relationship with God. Sabbath is about saying “enough already!” and being willing to be still knowing that God continues to be active in the world. Sabbath is submission to the understanding that God IS in a way that nothing (and no one) else can be.
My intention when I started writing this post was to talk about prayer and a new way I have been entering into it the last few weeks. But even to that, God says, “That’s enough!”
This week in 7, we are fasting from stress by feasting on sacred pauses throughout our day. Part of my week has been including one Sabbath activity each day. Maybe God says to even these activities, “That’s enough!” My prayer for you and me is to accept that what we have done is enough and in the absence of activity to know and worship the God Who is.