Step Out of the Traffic!

If you have read these devotionals for a while, you know that while I love The Message translation for a different perspective on story-narratives, I dislike it for the Psalms. The Psalms were originally written to be songs of praise, lament, thanksgiving, wisdom, and trust. Peterson’s amazing ear for contemporary phrasing takes the lyrical flow away, in my opinion.

Today we are looking at Psalm 46. I love the phrase “be still and know that I am God” that is found in most translations. In fact, I used the NIV translation when I was putting together my book, Psalms by the Sea, for that very reason. There are several beautiful music arrangements of “Be still” that use this phrasing. However, when Psalm 46 popped up again in this week’s lectionary reading list, I decided to dip my toes into The Message to see what Peterson has to say. While not especially lyrical, I was not disappointed with his unique spin. See if you can spot the “be still and know that I am God” verse:

Psalm 46 (The Message)

1-3 God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
    courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
    the tremors that shift mountains.

What an amazing twist Peterson puts on this! God is a safe place to hide. Just that phrase alone speaks volumes to the discouraged, the abused, the addict, the downtrodden … to be reminded that God is ready to help when we need him is life-giving, even in those moments when we stand on the “cliff-edge of doom.” Having just come through another round of elections here in the United States, I really resonated with that. Are we never standing on the cliff-edge of doom anymore? A friend texted me the night that election results were being rolled out and said that he was “doom-scrolling” on social media. Actually, it doesn’t take an election to find yourself “doom-scrolling.”

    Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
    God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

4-6 River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city,
    this sacred haunt of the Most High.
God lives here, the streets are safe,
    God at your service from crack of dawn.
Godless nations rant and rave, kings and kingdoms threaten,
    but Earth does anything he says.

Two take-aways in this section: God is at our service from crack of dawn because God neither slumbers nor sleeps. So, when you are pacing the floor in the middle of the night with fretful worrying, God is ready and able to hear your needs and take up your burden. And be reminded that the Earth does anything he says, so any man-made construct of institution, relationship, law, or oppression is subject to God’s power and God’s correction. Even the sun in its rising listens to God’s direction.

    Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
    God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

8-10 Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
    He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
    breaks all the weapons across his knee.

As the war in Ukraine continues to rage on, my heart is lifted to know that when Jesus returns, there will be no more wars. Weapons of war will be turned into plowshares so that the world might harvest God’s bounty together as one people. Lord, haste the day!

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.”

Did you find it? “Step out of the traffic!” is the translation of “be still and know that I am God.” As always, Peterson’s whimsy made me laugh and nod my head. Yes, we need to step out of the traffic! We need take that long look at God and remember that he is above politics and above everything. What a soothing, timely message for us right now.

11     Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
    God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

Is God telling you to step out of the traffic of your situation or risk getting run over? Do you need to walk away from something destructive? Is God asking you to turn your eyes upon Jesus instead? If so, be still, and know that he is God.

Be Still by Kathy Schumacher

Know That

Everybody knows so much these days! Google has enabled us to become instant experts on every subject. Just ask someone a question and they will have an answer. But that has been our undoing, in a sense. If person A is quoting resource A to person B, who is only reading resource B, a disagreement is likely to ensue. A and B will never agree because they don’t trust the other’s resources.

Stop and think a moment…what do you REALLY know? I’m not talking about education, research, or reading copious articles on a subject. What do you KNOW?

We know the sun rises every morning and sets every night.

We know the earth revolves around the sun and fall follows summer.

We know that things freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and there is a certain level of humidity that is guaranteed to frizz a girl’s hair.

You know what else we know?

We know that the Lord is God and he made us. We know that we are his people.

Psalm 100 is a beautiful tribute to what we really know. It contains the everlasting truth of what can be known with certainty.

Psalm 100 (New King James Version)

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Did you notice that before we are assured that God is God, we are invited to make the joyful shout, serve with gladness, and come into his presence with singing? In Methodism, we call that prevenient grace. Before we are even aware of him, God comes to us with his grace. His unmerited favor, his unconditional love, and his offer of salvation come before we even know who God is. This indeed is a reason to rejoice.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Do you hear the invitation continuing? This Psalm is like a door that is being held wide open so that everyone can come in and set a spell. Come into the gates! Enter into the inner court! You belong here where the truth is made known. The Lord is God, and the Lord is good.

For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

So maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do. But if we know the goodness of the Lord, then we know everything we need to know.

Be Still and KNOW by Kathy Schumacher


Sometimes I wonder how in the world God puts up with us. I mean, really! The nonsense of humanity is mind-blowing. Our stubborn rejection of his power, our steadfast belief in our own self-reliance, and our ability to see a MIRACLE and then walk away complaining is legendary. It’s a good thing God is God and I am not, ‘cause I would have smote us long ago.

Legendary among the many examples of this comes from a time when God had delivered his people from slavery and death and was leading them through the Red Sea toward the Promised Land. After God brought the plagues, resulting in Pharaoh’s decision to release them, and then delivered the incredible miracle of an entire sea parting so that they could walk along the bottom, what did the people do? Complained. Whined. Questioned what was right before their eyes. In other words, they were human.

When Pharaoh saw the ease with which they crossed through the parted waters, he realized that he had just lost a lot of free labor, so he led his army after them in one last ditch effort to return them to Egypt. When the Israelites turned and saw them in pursuit, they freaked out. Immediately they assaulted Moses with accusations and anger.

Exodus 14 (The Common English Bible)

10 As Pharaoh drew closer, the Israelites looked back and saw the Egyptians marching toward them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the desert? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt like this? 12 Didn’t we tell you the same thing in Egypt? ‘Leave us alone! Let us work for the Egyptians!’ It would have been better for us to work for the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”

I confess that I have done my share of ungrateful whining in my life, but few of us can top their response. So you saved us for THIS? Now we are about be overcome in the middle of your miracle? What kind of miracle is that? What, there weren’t enough graves in Egypt, so we get to drown here?? Somebody take me back to Egypt where I can be an abused slave again!!!

(As a side note, sometimes pastors identify a particular group or committee in a church as the “Back to Egypt Gang.” Don’t be one of those.)

But look how Moses responds:

Exodus 14

13 But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never ever see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”

In other translations, the final sentence is “You just keep quiet.” And of course The Message nails it:

God will fight the battle for you.
    And you? You keep your mouths shut!”

The lesson we want to glean here is that in the face of our failings, God continues to be faithful and fight the battles for us. He stands between us and incoming armies, rising sea waters, sure and certain disaster, and is there every time we need a rescue.

What is our job? To stand our ground. To watch him work. To trust in his fight and his might. To stay still. And to keep our mouths shut when the urge to whine and complain overcomes us.

Where is God calling you to trust him in your battle today? Do you need a rescue? If you (silently) observe your situation, can you see him quietly at work, fighting for you?

Don’t be afraid. The Lord who parts the sea and provides dry land to walk upon will part the way for you to walk out of your problem. Be still, and know that he is God.

Sunlight Parting the Sea by Michelle Robertson


This obviously is a topic I know nothing about.

Have you ever had something happen that was so profound that it rendered you speechless? Like, literally not able to make words or even syllables come out of your mouth? Yeah, me neither. But we do know that it can happen to some people when a unexpected surprise comes along suddenly and without warning.

Zachariah experienced speechlessness. Not just for a moment, but for many, many months. He received the unexpected news from an angel that he and his wife (both “long in tooth and older than the hills”) were expecting a baby. Elizabeth had waited all of her life for a child, but was barren through her child-bearing years. Now, in her geriatric phase, she was suddenly pregnant. What the heck? The news was so startling, it took her breath, and Zachariah’s voice, away:

Luke 1 (The Message)

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

AHA! So it was the angel who took Zachariah’s voice away! Seems a little harsh, no? In the presence of an angel, in the moment of an unbelievable proclamation, the aged priest expressed his incredulity. That seems fair and reasonable, doesn’t it?

In Matthew Henry’s commentary, he explains it simply: “His unbelief was silenced.” That simple statement helps us to see it a different way. Zachariah was a man of influence, a temple priest. Were he to use his pulpit to brag, embellish, or publicly express doubt about the whole thing, the truth of Elizabeth’s pregnancy would always remain in question. As we know, pulpit-holders are held to a higher accountability:

Titus 1 (The Message)

5-9 Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, “Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?” It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.

He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.

And in fact, Zachariah’s speech was not returned to him until he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John,” as the angel had instructed him to do. With this sentence he confirmed the truth of John’s miraculous conception and affirmed John’s place in the story as the one who came to prepare the way for the Messiah, who was also miraculously conceived.

Maybe you woke up this morning and had second thoughts about something. Perhaps a moment of unbelief has come upon you in a difficult situation. You may be having doubts about God’s presence in your mess. God won’t render you speechless, but he most certainly will come to you in the quietness of your contemplation in a “Be still, and know that I am God” moment.

Know today that you are in good company. All of us, at one time or another, question God’s activity and wonder what the heck is going on. We retreat into the silence of our own thoughts, seeking out the spirit and finding him there.

In times like these, it is good to remember the miracles of Christmas. Each one had to be waited for, and each came in their own time…God’s time. So in your doubt, remember to look up, look out, and look for a sign. God is here, Emmanuel, and he came to save. You can count on it.

Look up. God is here. By Becca Ziegler