Keeping silent is not in my nature. It is not necessarily opposed to my nature, but we all have things that God asks for us that are a tad harder than they would be for someone else. This is mine.
Patience, gentleness…and silence. These are my challenges.
One time in college, one of my professors turned to me and said, “I want you to count to ten before you answer a question in this class. Let’s just see if anyone else answers first. Ok? Just wait and see.” She was speaking the truth in love, for sure, and at the time, as hard as it was to hear, those words of truth cut straight to my heart and change began. To this day, I usually count to ten before answering anything in a group situation. And I still praise God for that admonishment to grow up. I didn’t get it instantly, but I got it eventually. And I’m still a work in progress.
God tells us there is indeed a time to keep silence. I love the language of the translation. I can picture holding silence as a precious commodity. In a world filled with noise, we have the opportunity, the gift from God, to hold silence close.
The Hebrew verb root “chashah”, for keeping silent in Ecclesiastes 3:7, is an active word. We are not simply silent out of happenstance, but we have chosen silence, we do silence, we choose inactivity even.
In a house full of small people, we try to teach the value of silence every day. My children, like myself, love to fill the void. Most of us, as moms or grandmas, or siblings, understand the value of silence. Noise, laughter, arguing, and daily living all compete with silence. And there is a time for these things as well, which is part of the essence of Ecclesiastes 3. The back and forth, the seasons and cycles of life.
What else does God have to say about the value of silence?
Joshua 6 contains a fun story many of us remember from our youth – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Read below and see how God worked in the silence and in the shouting.
Joshua 6:8-16 –
“And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of theLord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.”
Verse 10 above says that the people were instructed not to shout or open their mouth until they were instructed to do so. These instructions may seem odd to us, but God has that right. He has a plan and sometimes surprising, or contrary to our nature. Many times God works in the silence. When we seize the opportunity to hold our tongues in a stressful situation in particular, we let God do His work instead of getting in the way. God may call on us to speak, just as on the seventh day the Israelites shouted, but the time in between can be used to seek God, to pray for the words, to be given wisdom and insight.
Jesus took many opportunities to remain silent. When you read some of the examples, they are just beautiful. When the pharisees charged him, he sometimes answered and sometimes kept silent. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but did not open His mouth. And perhaps one of the stories where Jesus’s intentional silence is most clear is found when Jesus comes before Pilate.
Read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 27:11-14, below:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Three times, Jesus keeps silence in this passage. Why? I don’t know, but what we do know is that God had a plan and Jesus was walking in and through that plan. Jesus was not looking to testify to skirt around the plan. He chose silence and left pilate amazed.
Finally, I discovered this beautiful verse at a time in my life when silence was my only option. When life itself had taken away my speech, when I was world weary, trampled on, and exhausted from the battle of it all…I could only be silent. Pay close attention to verse 14 below…a balm for the soul, sisters.
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.The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
There are battles that are truly not ours. They are God’s. He would have us hand them to Him and let Him do what He does best.
A time to keep silence, it sounds restful to me. I pray today, sisters, that you find some rest in God, a moment to be silent in His presence and with His Word. You speak, Lord, we’re listening.
Are you naturally a talkative person or quieter?
When was a time you felt it difficult to stay silent and you should have (insert foot in mouth)?
When have you been blessed by a period of silence?