The Art of Spiritual Silence

Be silent, all mankind, before the Lord: for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling’ ~ Zechariah 2:13

For one to enter into and experience the glory of God, silence is needed. God tells Elijah to ‘stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord’ (1 Kings 19:11), because He ‘was about to pass by’ (v11). Elijah was on the lookout to see when God would pass by. Being a God-fearing man and a Prophet, Elijah obviously heard God in many ways, but was now about to see Him. Of course he did not know exactly what to expect because ‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side’ (John 1:18). So, Elijah stood at the mountain as instructed, waiting to see. ‘Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire’ (1 Kings 19:11-12). The Lord was not in any of these powerful forces. But ‘after a fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave’ (v12-13). Elijah then spoke to God about his worries, and God reassured and directed him. If Elijah had not heard the gentle whisper, then God would have passed by without him noticing. Him hearing the gentle whisper meant that there had to be silence.

Hearing God is equivalent to seeing Him. But hearing God is dependent on the level of silence around. Job recounts when God had told him, ‘Listen now, and I will speak: I will question you, and you will answer me’ (Job 42:4). When Job actually listened to God and so heard Him, he remarks, ‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you’ (v5). When Job heard God’s words, then he knew that he had in fact seen God. It, however, took listening to God for Job to actually see Him. Job was surrounded with friends who spoke many things. His wife also was not devoid of opinions. Job’s own opinions were also raging within. There were just too many voices, within and without, that surrounded Job. These voices were raging like the wind, the earthquake, and the fire that Elijah had literally experienced. But when Job silenced his friends, wife, and became silent himself, he was able to listen. And behold, he heard a gentle whisper, he heard God, he saw God – because hearing is seeing. When Philip told Jesus to ‘show us the Father and that will be enough for us’ (John 14:8), Jesus was utterly amazed and tells him, ‘Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (v9). Phillip was Jesus’ disciple who had heard His words, and so in essence, Jesus was trying to get him to understand that since he heard and believed His words, then ‘from now on, you do know him (God) and have seen him’ (v7). To paraphrase Jesus, Anyone who has heard Him, has seen the Father, because Jesus is the ‘Word’ (John 1:1/Revelation 19:13) of God. However, it is only those who have gone to the ‘mountain’ to silently listen to the whisper that manage to hear what the Word of God says.

People who have heard and thus seen God, develop a silent disposition. Ironically, before encountering God, Job who was not short of words and opinions. But after the encounter, he says, ‘Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know’ (v3). Not only is silence required to hear God, but true spiritual (inner) silence is birthed as result of hearing God, of seeing God. This is because God’s gentle whisper is not only heard by a person, but it enters into them and becomes part of them. God does not merely speak to us, but leaves His Character impressed on us with every listening we make. When God’s ‘Spirit came into him’ (Ezekiel 3:34), God caused Ezekiel’s ‘tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth so that you will be silent’ (v26). This is because Ezekiel had to first listen to God’s words and receive downloads from Him, before he could declare them before the people. It is only when Ezekiel had listened in and heard that God says, ‘I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse for they are a rebellious house’ (v27). This ensured that Ezekiel only spoke the words of God while he prophesied. God, thus, requires our silence in order for us to hear and listen to Him, before we can go and proclaim the Gospel, as commissioned to all Believers. Those effective are those who have made it a habit to be silent before God and listen in to His gentle whisper. When Jeremiah sent a prophecy he received from God to reach the King of Babylon, he sent Seraiah. Little is known about Seraiah except that he was ‘the son of Neriah’ (Jerimiah 51:59) and that ‘this Seraiah was a quiet prince’ (v59). Just as silent Seraiah received Word from Jerimiah to speak before the King of Babylon, so those who are silent before God receive Word from Him to declare forth.

‘When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’ (Revelation 8:1). When God speaks and His awesome glory shows forth, heavenly beings fall into silence. Yet, humankind who have Emmanuel, ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23), never fall into silence to behold in awe the beauty of His holiness and majesty, and listen to His gentle whispers.  God dwells among us, and not merely visits, but most never seem to notice because around and within them, silence lacks to enable them to hear His gentle whispers, the whispers that turns one away from death to life. Believers who have turned from death have an advantage of the Spirit of God within them. Yet, some fail to fully take advantage of silence to increase their sensitivity of the leading of the Holy Spirit within them. That is why Jesus cautions Believers, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2:29, 3:v22). Of course Jesus did not mean physical ears which can in no way hear God, but rather our spiritual ears which come into formation by the degree in which a Believer cultivates silence to listen to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In the practical sense, cultivating a silent disposition can be done by spending quality time with God through prayer, sincere worship, reading of His word, and activities that glorify God, and upholding what God says in His Word as the ultimate truth regardless of the present circumstances, other people’s opinions, and even our own opinions. So, ‘It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him’ (Lamentations 3:27-28).

I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quietened my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me’ ~ Psalm 131:1-2

What troubles you now, that you have all gone up on the roofs, O town full of commotion, O city of tumult and revelry?‘ ~ Isaiah 22:1-2

Let the little children come to me . . . ‘ ~ Matthew 19:14 ~ Jesus Christ of Nazareth