By Warren B. Smith
Ironically, Psalm 46:10 (“Be Still and Know” . . . ) was the founding credo of the pioneering New Age community of Findhorn in Scotland. Co-founder Eileen Caddy distinctly heard the words “Be still and know that I am God” in a meditation, and as a result, Findhorn was founded on this Bible verse. She describes her “Be still” experience:
Yes, we were like children then, and God was still somewhat like the Father, separate and above us, reaching down to help. But gradually I have come to understand what it means to find that same God within myself. . . .
The first time I heard this voice was in 1953, when Peter and I were visiting Glastonbury, a center of spiritual power in England. I was sitting in the stillness of a small private sanctuary there, when I heard a voice—a very clear voice—within me. I had never experienced anything like that before. It simply said, Be still and know that I am God. What is this? I thought. Am I going mad? I had been brought up in the Church of England and learned in Sunday school about the “still small voice within”—but when you actually hear a voice, it’s a different matter. I was really quite shocked, because it was so clear.1
“God” later told her:
What greater or more wonderful relationship could man ask for than the knowledge that he is truly one with Me, and that I am in you and you are in Me.2
Accepting the reality of this oneness came slowly. In fact, at first I felt it was audacious even to speak of such a thing. Yet I couldn’t deny my experience. I know that God is within each one of us, within everything. I feel that the Church teaches about the God outside of us, but that’s the same God as the one within. You can call him by different names if you like, but there’s only one God.3
Misuse of Psalm 46:10
Eileen Caddy’s New Age understanding of the “God within” and “oneness” started with an inner voice that told her “Be still and know that I am God.” Like Caddy, so many people who have been raised in today’s church have been similarly deceived into believing that the “be still” verse from Psalm 46:10 is God’s heavenly instruction to enter into solitude and silence so they can hear His voice. Ironically, the real meaning of this verse has nothing to do with sitting in silence, practicing the presence, or any meditative practice. Undiscerning church leaders have misappropriated Psalm 46:10 to justify contemplative prayer. They now use this verse to incubate a “conversation with God.”
Trusted Bible commentaries and discerning pastors teach that the command in Psalm 46:10—“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth”—is a call to faith and obedience, not to contemplative prayer. Matthew Henry’s respected Bible commentary presents a more accurate exposition of this verse:
Let his enemies be still, and threaten no more, but know it, to their terror, that he is God, one infinitely above them . . . he will be exalted among the heathen and not merely among his own people, he will be exalted in the earth and not merely in the church. . . . Let his own people be still; let them be calm and sedate, and tremble no more, but know, to their comfort, that the Lord is God, he is God alone, and will be exalted above the heathen. 4
Using Psalm 46:10 as a call to practice contemplative prayer is completely contrary to the intent of this passage of Scripture. However, this is what is being advocated in the New Age/New Spirituality, the emerging church, God Calling, and Jesus Calling. In fact, the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling falsely teaches that Psalm 46:10 was given as a command to “sit quietly” in his presence:
The world has changed enormously since I first gave the command to be still and know that I am God. However, this timeless truth is essential for the well-being of your soul. As dew refreshes grass and flowers during the stillness of the night, so My Presence revitalizes you as you sit quietly with Me.5
Sarah Young also states in her “Introduction” to Jesus Calling:
A life-changing verse has been “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Alternate readings for “Be still” are “Relax,” “Let go,” and “Cease striving” (NASB). This is an enticing invitation from God to lay down our cares and seek His Presence. I believe that God yearns for these quiet moments with us even more than we do. . . .
This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received.6
This “enticing invitation” does not come from God. Her interpretation misses the real meaning of the verse and is actually more consistent with the New Age twisting of this verse. God definitely meets us in our prayer times as well as when we think on Scripture, but Psalm 46:10 is not an invitation to be still and listen for God’s voice. Rather, God is calling Israel into an attitude of quiet faith and rest in which His people will trust that no matter how perilous the times, He is working out His plan among the nations. Everybody is to literally be still, know He is God, and know that He will be exalted among the nations and in the earth.
Sarah Young followed up her erroneous teaching on Psalm 46:10 by stating that “God yearns for these quiet moments with us even more than we do.” This is reminiscent of the “I need you more than you need Me”7 statement that was uttered by the “Jesus” in God Calling. Nothing in Scripture substantiates either one of these statements. And there is nothing in Scripture about being still and sitting with pen in hand waiting to hear from God while practicing the presence and doing contemplative prayer.
Biblical meditation is different. We are to meditate on—think on—His Word, His precepts, His laws, His attributes, His statutes, His testimonies, and His works.
Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word. (Psalm 119:148)
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. (Psalm 119:99)
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. (Psalm 143:5)
1. The Findhorn Community, The Findhorn Garden: Pioneering a New Vision of Man and Nature in Cooperation (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1975), p. 36.
3. Ibid., pp. 36-37.
4. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1991), p. 810.
5. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004),, p. 258.
6. Ibid., p. XIII.
7. Edited by A. J. Russell, God Calling (Grand Rapids, MI: A Spire Book published by Jove Publications Inc., for Fleming H. Revell, 2005), p. 60.