Last week, I wrote about how the spoken word has great power for good or evil, depending on whether we choose to be wise and think first. Oddly enough today in my Bible study time, the subject of silence caught my ear! (Yes, ear. I have been doing an audio devotional on the YouVersion Bible App on Proverbs.) Today’s chapter was Proverbs 18, and one comment stood out – how not listening is folly and shame.
As I began looking into what God has to say about listening and silence, it seems to me that there are two areas relating to silence. I’m sure there are many more, but these two topics or focuses seem to be tops. The first is in how silence or listening relates to wisdom. The second is how it relates to God and our relationship with Him. Let’s look at the former first.
(Proverbs 18:13) If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 17:27) Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28) Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
(Proverbs 19:20) Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
There is an adage that says the reason God gave us two ears but only one mouth was so that we would listen twice as much as we speak. Listening is hard. And active listening is a learned skill. We need to train ourselves to focus on the other person and what they say. We need to understand what they mean, and if necessary ask for clarification. We need to show them that we are listening. We need to remember what they said. Google ‘active listening” and you will find any number of websites that will walk you through the process. But why is it important?
As we can see in these proverbs, to answer without hearing is “folly and shame.” And isn’t amazing that a fool can be considered as wise when he keeps his mouth closed? But what these and many other passages say is that being quiet, listening, hearing, leads us to wisdom. In being silent, we can learn and understand more than when we are speaking. Who among us doesn’t want to become wiser or learn more?
The second area centering on silence or listening is how we relate to or encounter God. We are told to be still before His holiness, but also when confronted by His judgments. When faced with the Creator of all things, the Almighty, the Holy One, God says “BE STILL”
(Psalms 46:10) “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
And just imagine if tells you to be quiet as watch what Him in action as the Israelites were told at the edge of the Red Sea:
(Exodus 14:13) And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. (14:14) The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
God’s got it, and you “only have to be silent.” And while God may have needed to tell the people to quiet their mouths and spirits before He acted, I imagine that they were dumbstruck afterwards! To see all that awesome power and might must have been indescribable!
Have you ever been speechless when meeting a celebrity or someone you admires? It happened to me twice. The first was when I got Rudolph Nureyev’s autograph at the stage door of the Metropolitan Opera House after seeing him perform in Sleeping Beauty. The second time was in Lancaster when my sweet friend took me backstage to meet her son, Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys! I couldn’t even say hello at first! Wow! If we get into that state just meeting another human being, imagine coming face to face with the God of the Universe! Isaiah did and reacted this way:
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(Isaiah 6:5)
I am lost! Unworthy. Incapable. In the Old Testament, there are many times when the people are told to be silent or quiet or still before the presence of the LORD or His judgments, such as Zechariah 2:13, Micah 7:16, and Habakkuk 2:20, just to name a few. But the Old Testament is not the only place where things are silent before the Lord. And it is not only mankind that is silenced before the might of God.
(Mark 4:39) And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
The forces of nature itself must submit to the LORD when He commands. The apostles were terrified of the raging storm, but Jesus slept until they awoke Him in fear. Jesus merely rebuked the storm and “there was a great calm!” Can you imagine being in that boat just then, fighting to keep upright in the midst of a sudden and terrible storm, only to have Jesus say “Be still,” and it is? As they say these days, “Mind blown!”
Often we need to still ourselves and our surroundings in order to approach God, to hear His still, small voice, and to worship and honor Him. There is so much noise in the world around us now that it takes considerable effort sometimes to do that. But make the effort. You will be glad you did.