Be Still and Know: May it be Tattooed on My Heart (as Well as My Ankle)

I vividly recall several years ago, when I was on a weekend run on a trail near my house and received a text message from a friend that stopped me in my tracks. Not because it was bad news or urgent or anything. But because the Lord had clearly given her a message for me, and I felt compelled to listen to it with urgency. The text went something like, “I came across Psalm 46:10 and thought of you so I prayed for you.” And accompanying it was a link to a song. I stopped my run, cued up the song, and continued my run with a different posture. Seeking in prayer to understand what the Lord had for me in this message. It was a moment, a pause, with the Lord that has stuck with me to this day. But more on that shortly…

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Like many Bible verses, Psalm 46:10 is often taken out of context to declare something that was not intended in the passage itself. While “Be still…” sounds perfect for someone who is busy and maybe needs to slow down and be reminded of God’s presence, that is not even close to the fullness of what God intends for us from these words.

Psalm 46, considered by Bible scholars as “The Torah of Surrender,” was written by the sons of Korah, who were the descendants of the Levites, when they needed to reassure themselves that God is their Savior and deliverer whenever they call on Him in times of difficulties. The concluding section of Psalm 46, where verse 10 can be found, calls us to see the mighty works of God. These works are presented as ‘desolations’ — the ruins of the nations who oppose Him. The promise of God’s peace and reign over all is illustrated by the destruction of weapons. All are called to be still and know that He alone is God, and He will be exalted above all. The Psalm ends with the assurance of His refuge as the fortress of Israel.

So, when we break down Psalm 46:10 in context, looking at the Hebrew meaning, we get an even further richness. The command, “be still” (or in some versions, “cease striving”) comes from the Hebrew word stem of the verb “Rapha” which means “be weak,” “let go,” “quiet,” or “release.” “Be still” is very much a call to action, where we are called to quiet ourselves before the Lord, and most importantly, surrender all to Him so that He can do His work in us. In Hebrew grammar, the emphasis of the coordinate imperatives “be still” and “know” is on the second imperative. In other words, we surrender so that we may know that God is in control.

Psalm 46:10 is a direct command from God to stop our futile efforts in dealing with things that are His domain. He asks us to put down our weapons of war and stand in awe of Him and His mighty power. As God, He is sovereign, faithful, omnipotent, and unfailing. But in order for us to do this, it takes obedience on our part. When life gets crazy, this verse is an answer to the chaos. Not so we can ‘be still’ and rest and slow down (though all those things are good), but rather to pause, and surrender all to Him. It is when I do that, that I believe I can hear what He has for me.

This past Spring, I took a trip to the Holy Land. (I wrote a bit about it here.) In the heart of the Old City Jerusalem, sits a 500-year-old tattoo parlor, Razzouk Tattoo. Our group of travelers decided to take a visit. I knew this visit was coming for days, and I spent the time determining whether I was going to get a tattoo, but surprisingly felt compelled to do so. It seemed most obvious to get a cross, and the question was just, “Where?” However, the night before, I couldn’t get “Be still and know” out of my head, thinking that perhaps I was supposed to ask them to write that in Hebrew and “ink” it, well, I didn’t know where!

Upon arriving, I glanced through their books several times, and spent probably close to 30 minutes trying to make up my mind about a cross. I decided to look through one of their books once more, and as I turned to one of the last pages, it jumped out at me. These Hebrew letters with 46:10 below:

I knew right away I was to get that, and I was to get it on the inside of my right ankle. THIS. This would serve as a reminder to Be still and know. To walk in surrender of Jesus and be confident in His plans for me.

So, a 27th generation tattoo artist, Wassim Razzouk, penned this on my ankle and yes, it was one of the most physically painful things I’ve endured, but that too served as a reminder that through pain, we are made stronger and more confident when we surrender it to Him.

This “permanent” reminder has been a gift to me. In the heat of a workday or in the quiet of an evening. With friends or sitting alone on my patio. I never thought I would say the words, “I love my tattoo!”

“Be still and know” is a part of my story that is still being written, and I know He has even more for me to learn about this, and I can’t wait to see what He reveals!

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