Be still for the presence of the Lord
This modern song was first published in 1986, by David J Evans (b. 1957, Dartford), a music teacher from Southampton. He has written other hymns, but this is the only one to have gained widespread popularity, and is one of the few modern hymns to be widely known outside the circle of regular churchgoers.
What is the clue to its popularity? It might be the fairly simple structure, each verse starting in the same way with the words, “Be still”. It might be the message – stillness is a precious commodity in our very busy lives. Whatever it is, the hymn is rich in material for reflection. It is primarily based on the story of Jacob (Genesis 28.10-22). On the run from home because he had cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright, he lay down in what felt like the middle of nowhere to him and slept. While he slept he dreamed of a ladder between earth and heaven, and angels coming and going on it. When he woke he exclaimed “Surely the Lord was in this place and I did not know it.” Genesis 28.16. There are also allusions to the story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3.5), and perhaps also to the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Matthew 17.5)
- Which of the many images in this hymn speaks most strongly to you – God’s holiness, God’s splendour, God’s healing and transforming power?