October 5, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XVIII: My Master's Voice

Silence In Heaven

In Revelation 8:1 we read that there was "silence in heaven for about half an hour." Considering the angels ave been singing God's praises from time immemorial I imagine silence in heaven will be quite the anomally. I generally do not like speculating what is meant in Scripture when something in Scripture itself does not clarify it. It is a mystery and to read into it…I am potentially reading something into God’s inspired word that is not there nor is it supposed to be. Scripture does not tell us why this silence was maintained for so long. But I do believe Scripture gives clues in the Old Testament and to propse this fits the pattern of Scritpure. What I can say with certainty about this passage is that this silence comes after the opening of two scrolls of judgment of unbelievers by God. The silence comes before or after the second of two scrolls and is a continuation of the sixth scrolls judgment. The silence appears to be a reference to the Presence of God in the Old Testament Minor prophets Habakkuk and Zechariah

But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." Habakkuk 2:20

Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13

To me this implies are sustained state of reverence for the Lord God’s presence where all cognizant or sentient beings will probably be either too dumbfounded or too dumbstruck to speak. During this silence is the outpouring of God’s wrath which I imagine would be quite fear and awe inducing. The implication being that there are justifiable reasons for sustained silences in God’s presence.

Noise or Not To Noise

I often play music or converse with people to fill audible downtime. I need to fill empty spaces or at least until recently I felt I had to. In the past I felt God has given me a limit amount of time to get tasks done and I felt if I was not using that time I was wasting it. I now realize that spending time in silence is not a waste of time. If I am in the presence of God, or He in mine, it is time well spent. The trick is slowing down long enough to realize He is there. Sensing Him often requires me divesting myself of distractions that include a cluttered, busy or racing mind that I can’t seem to clear the junk out of. If this is truly the case then these distractions are satanic in origin and I need to absolutely block them out. The trick is timing.

Filling The Silence

One thing that I constantly fill my “hearing” time with is sermons. I realize that I must devote some silent time for God and being in His presence…but I justify the sermons in my mind. I believe that I am continually learning about God and the things of God if I am continually dealing with things of the Gospel. I often wonder if it is time I should be spending in silence. Having already discussed that I am of the school of “silent time” is “wasted time”, I wrestle with this one. Do I shut off the sermon and just sit in silence or do I keep the sermons playing so I can continue to learn? Or will I learn more by hearing the silence off God? I feel both have their merits and spiritually both are beneficial and like everything else in life…balance is the key. Silence AND sermons and at a secondary level - conversation and relation with others. In the end I believe that it means God makes us to be balanced beings with equal measure of silence and learning.

Making The Silent Time If You Don't Have It

I have children and that responsibility can never be abdicated when they are young. Anyone that has them knows that the child being out of sight for long periods of time can only mean disaster. As such I have to make my time for silence when I am away from home on campus or at night after the children have gone to bed. I can often gain some of this audible quiet time on my mountain bike in the trials back in the woods. All I have is the sound of my breathing and what is going on in my head.

How Much and When

I try to give time to remaining silent in the evening, otherwise distractions overrun my life and I cannot focus on spiritual things that these distractions would drowned out. Unfortunately or fortunately I am requested to help teach and or learn quite a bit an this requires reading. Putting side the printed word is not always that easy. The time I spend in silence is often the same time I need to study or brush up on new ideas required for learning or teaching.

The Humble Approach To God

I sense that there is no other way for us to approach God other than prayer and silence. God being omnipotent and omniscient can approach us any way He chooses but I believe the best approach to God for a human is in silence. In this way we divest ourselves of the baggage that the world piles on us. To be able to reach into the silence we must unpack all the confusion our day throws at us. In the end I wish I could spend more time in silence but it is also clear that God as given me quite a bit to do. As such I also believe that He is honored when I dedicate time to Him in any form. As much as silence is important…God has given us tasks and sometimes the task require more than silence. I know that many quote the verse from Psalm 46:10 that says, “Be still and know that I am God”. To defend sitting and doing nothing. This is a commonly misunderstood passage. Being "still" in God doesn't mean be immobile in Him. Still- הרפו Raphah: it means "to be weak in" or turn your problem over to Him and let Him take care of it. To slacken, let your pressure abate and ease. It doesn’t say you need to be totally relaxed and lying prostrate in the ground totally limp in silence.

I believe silence as we percieve it being an absence of audible experience is not quiet to God anyway. For One that can "hear" our thoughts, He is capable of "hearing" across multiple bandwidths. Just as there are many forms of light in the electromagnetic spectrum and we can only see a narrow width of them...I believe the same can be said of God communicating with us. We may only be able to hear in the audible spectrum but God "hears" everything including our minds, thoughts and even the longing of our hearts when we are too beaten down of crushed to speak. He does it through the Spirit and spiritual.

I'm also guessing that the farther we get away from God the more the things God is trying to communicate to us become shifted (doppler effect) and subsequently they become more faint and/or distorted until we either cannot hear Him or we misunderstand or hear Him incorrectly. God's hearing on the other hand is perfect. The silence isn't so God can hear us better, it is so we can hear Him when He whispers to us.

Picture credit: Gramophone by Daniil V. Alikov

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