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