“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19)
How often do you find yourself in complete silence? If you’re like most people, the answer is “not very often.” Some people enjoy quiet; others are uncomfortable with it. Some of my friends like to listen to music or have the television on when they are working on a project or writing. Do your kids or grandkids do their homework equipped with earbuds and a phone? They may be ok with it. (And aren’t earbuds better than listening to their music?) Life in 2018 is noisy—restaurants, stores, and malls are exceptionally loud. But there is a time for silence if one wants to be wise.
When the Israelites were against the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was approaching, the people cried out in despair. Moses told them, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14). When Job grew tired of his friends uninformed advice he said, “…worthless physicians are you all. Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” (Job 13:4-5) David wisely told his soul, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalms 62:5). As Solomon wisely wrote, there is an appropriate time to speak and suitable time to be quiet. There are times when staying silent is tantamount to the sin of omission—neglecting to say something that should be said, as in sharing the gospel or rebuking a fellow Christian. But there are other times when stillness is the purest and wisest response. Quietness is a sign of wisdom in the face of foolishness.
This week we will explore the wisdom of silence according to the Bible. There are incidents reported in Scripture when quietness was the only appropriate response to God’s work. In Acts, Peter’s report of the Holy Spirit’s redemption of Cornelius’s Gentile household to the Jerusalem council was met with quietness. Luke writes, “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18). In John’s vision on the Isle of Patmos, Jesus, the Lamb received the worship of the multitudes with the martyrs, and before fire was thrown down to earth, opened the seventh seal. “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). In his now song, “I Can Only Imagine,” Bart Miller wonders if he will “sing hallelujah or…be able to speak at all.” There have been times in my life when God has done something so awesome that I am involuntarily silenced and glad for it.
So today I would suggest a little self-examination on the subject of silence, and your ability to be quiet when it is wise. In our culture that is increasingly obsessed with 24-hour news coverage, digital connections, and social networking, silence may seem out-of-place, and our children may have no appreciation of it. But the Bible is counter-cultural and we are to be likewise. Will you try a little silence today when you would otherwise be reading, talking, listening, or watching?