March 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 118: God of Silence

God of Silence

"The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20 NIV)

One of my favorite examples of a time to be silent is found in the book of Job.

Our beleaguered main character has just finished a lengthy discourse, during which he says things like, "Oh how I long for the days when God watched over me...when I was in my prime...when the Almighty was with me...when [this is the part I like best] my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil" (from Job 29).

He's gone on like this for several chapters (just when you think he might be done, our Bible translations helpfully inform, "And Job continued his discourse"), and then, at the beginning of Job 38, my Bible heading reads, "The LORD Speaks." 

You can almost picture God standing patiently with His arms folded, listening to Job go on and on, and when "the words of Job are ended" (Job 31:40), God says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Are you finished?" 

In fact, Job 38:1 tells us, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm."

When the Lord speaks, He doesn't mince words (from Job 38-41).

"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Who shut up the sea behind doors? Have you ever given orders to the morning? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are'? Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" 

And, "Then Job answered the LORD: 'I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more'" (Job 40:3,4).

Can't you just see Job clapping his hand over his mouth? Can't you hear his muffled response? "Um, I'll just be quiet now."

There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak. I usually err (and I do mean "err") on the side of speaking more than being silent, which is why I often have to remind myself of the classic children's church object lesson about words. Students are asked to squeeze out the contents of a tube of toothpaste. They do this successfully, of course. Then they are asked to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They fail miserably at this, of course. And so it is with our words. We can always speak them later, but we cannot unspeak them.

Sometimes, a time of silence protects us from saying something harmful. And sometimes, it allows us to hear something helpful. Then too, when we hear more, we see more.

Oh, Almighty God, give us the humility and wisdom to know when it is time for us to be silent. And out of that silence, help us to echo the words of your servant Job (42:5): "'You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak...' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.'"

1 comment:

I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!