February 22, 2021
I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. (Job 40:4)
The following silences caught our attention as we meditated on this topic:
- The first book of the Bible starts: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God breaks silence with his first words, illuminating all creation with his light.
- In the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 8:1, it reads: When he, [Jesus, the Lamb who was slain] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for half an hour. Just a verse earlier, at the end of chapter 7, heaven was in a chorus of praise and worship and this chorus is not to resume until the seventh trumpet (11:15) and the declaration (now made famous by the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah): “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” In between, there was judgment on earth of an intensity not described elsewhere in Scripture. Before that, like the silence in a courtroom before a judgment is delivered, heaven holds its breath. God breaks that silence by declaring his eternal kingdom.
- In between the bookends of Scripture, we read of the silence of Jesus led to slaughter, as the Lamb of God, stricken for the iniquities of man (Isaiah 53:7). The One who could have legions of angels at his disposal (Matthew 26:53) said not a word before his accusers – the High Priest (Matthew 26:62-63), Pilate (Matthew 27:14) and Herod (Luke 23:9) – as he resolutely carried out the Father’s will by dying for our sins and taking the judgment due to us so we need not face the wrath of God and instead live by his righteousness. Far from being weak, his deafening silence is divine strength. It leads on to our glorious salvation.
Silence enables us to behold the majesty of God. For 35 chapters, we hear Job speaking (Job 3-37). But when God begins speaking (Job 38-41), Job becomes silent (Job 40:4-5). Finally, he is quiet enough to be awed by God. The Christian discipline of silence is not about being emptied of thoughts but is about being filled with the right thoughts — God thoughts. It allows us to chew on:
- the wonder of the Almighty God in creation;
- the love of a God who is all-sufficient but who nevertheless decides to make us in his image and, despite our rebellion, graciously pursues and redeems us in his Son;
- the justice of a Holy God who makes his wrath fall on his own Son so that we may become his righteous children and so escape the day when God judges the earth with finality and makes all things new;
- the wisdom of an infinite God who condescends to reveal himself to us in his written Word, who became flesh, so that we may behold him, full of grace and truth;
- the ever-present God who gives us his Holy Spirit to seal us as his children and lead us into all truth.
Friends, there is so, so much to fill our minds with! May you be silent this Lent as you ponder on him whom all heaven adores. Then join its magnificent chorus and declare his matchless glory!
The wonder of God compels silence and commands praise.