Cells phones. Alarm clocks. Television. Radio. Airplanes overhead and traffic below. The noise surrounding us is hazardous to our health. A.J. Jacobs calls it “the secondhand smoke of the ears.” Silence is something we fill, not something we embrace. But silence can be a gift, a tool for God’s purposes.
When the angel came to Zechariah to announce that he and his wife Elizabeth would miraculously give birth to a son, Zechariah questioned, “How can I be sure of this?” In response to his doubt, God silenced Zechariah until John was born. Can you even begin to imagine not being able to speak for nine months? Forget putting your two cents in or getting the last word. You would literally be speechless all the time.
This wasn’t the first time God had silenced one of his servants. When Job questioned the ways of God, he got an earful of the incomprehensible wonders of God. In response, Job simply said, “I put my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4b) Both Job and Zechariah were described as blameless and upright. But each of them was silenced when confronted with the glory of God.
In silence we are forced to listen. Elijah learned this lesson well. (1 Kings 19:9-13) God came to him in the quiet of a cave to let him know that the presence of the LORD was about to pass by. Elijah may have expected a glorious fanfare. But the LORD was not in the powerful wind, or the earthquake or the fire. The LORD was in a gentle whisper, or maybe even “a sound of sheer silence.” (1 Kings 19:12 NRSV) All Elijah could do was listen.
How would your life change if you could only listen? Would God’s gentle whispers suddenly become more audible to you? Zechariah’s life was changed by nine months of silence. After naming his son according to God’s direction, his first response was praise. A season of listening brought God to the forefront of his life.
If you find yourself far from an attitude of praise this season, perhaps some silence is in order. Find a place where the gentle whispers of God can be more audible; then listen well.
Beth Ortstadt shared today’s devotional thoughts with us – thank you for blessing us on our journey to Bethlehem! Beth served for many years as a Director of Christian Education in Kansas before “retiring” to full-time parenthood where she continues to minister through writing, teaching and speaking.