Monday, March 7, 2016

How silence before God is so refreshing

Isaiah 40:31 - 41:1 "Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. 41:1 Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, And let the peoples gain new strength; Let them come forward, then let them speak; Let us come together for judgment."

Silence. Stillness. The language of awe oftentimes entails no words, nor sound - only wonder. The world in which we live is too often noisy. When was the last time you pulled over to the side of the road on the way home from work to admire the sun sinking into the horizon? thanking the Sovereign God that regulates our course around it? The experience of watching snow fall and listening to each flake hit the ground in silence enhances enjoyment and appreciation of the snow. When we conjoin the experience of the snow with reflection upon God's Providential guidance of each flake, we come to appreciate God in a much deeper way.

This morning I did something for the first time in a long time - I sat silent before the Lord. I don't know about you, but I oftentimes fail to practice this simple discipline. Frequently I find myself and our Christian world too addicted to noise. In those moments of the Christian walk when we are unable to articulate how we feel, or when we don't know how we ought to pray - silence is far better than giving up. Whenever you read Isaiah 40 and 41, God's affirmations of "fear not" and "be strong" are best received in a mode of silence and surrender. 

Author Richard Foster quotes from an older writer - simply known as "Brother Lawrence" - concerning the place of silence in the Christian life:

"I do nothing else but abide in His Holy presence, and I do this by simple attentiveness and an habitual, loving turning of my eyes upon Him. This I should call....a wordless and secret conversation between the soul and God which no longer ends."

Think of silence before God as a form of fasting. When one fasts, they are quieting the soul. Physical appetites and the whine of the flesh are denied for the purpose of hearing the Holy Spirit speak to us through scripture and in our human spirit. In our prayer lives, talking to God with punctuated 1-2 minute intervals of silence positions us to wait upon His promptings. I don't know about you, but I find myself too hasty in bringing my requests before God to the detriment of silence. Silence prepares the heart to take a moment to be still and appreciate God. 

The cross and Jesus' accomplishments were interwoven with this thread of silence. We read in Acts 8:32 of a Deacon by the name of Phillip expounding upon Isaiah 53:7-8 wherein the prophecy is given of the Messiah being as a "a lamb that is silent before its shearer". When Jesus was brought before the Jewish officials in his pre-crucifixion trials - He remained silent (Matthew 26:63). As Jesus' closest followers stood before the cross - we see no words escaping their lips. Jesus Himself utters seven words from the cross - while His followers remain silent. The cross and all its victorious agony had deeply penetrated to the deepest core.  

The question before us as disciples of Jesus is how willing are we to take the time to be silent before our Lord? When we come before the Lord and contemplate the barren cross of the God-man, do we aim to enjoy our God? As Christ now sits upon His throne as our prophet, priest and King - we must ask anew: "Do I take the time to be silent and to recognize His Lordship and sway over my life?" As a final practical point - I would urge the reader to read through Isaiah 40-41 and mark down the verse that speak of silence before God. Then, take 1 minute or more to just sit and think upon what you read and say nothing. At first it may seem difficult to do - yet like enjoying a sunset or falling snow - God's tangible presence will be felt. 

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