Tag Archives: silence

Be still and quiet

Over the years, I’ve noticed an interesting change. When I was a kid, life involved a great deal of waiting. The doctor’s office, the dentist’s office, government offices, lines at the bank all involved waiting. I have memories—some fond, others not so much—of trying to entertain myself in such places. This usually meant doing things that tried mom’s patience but with the challenge of going just far enough to have fun, and not far enough to earn the belt. I still see some of these places in my mind. Each seemed to have the same magazines, almost identical furniture and the almost palpable scent of boredom. In time, I learned to bring a book or something else to occupy my mind. I also learned that, at times, it was enjoyable to simply sit quietly and think—about life and other stuff. But things have changed.

For me, it started when I saw a TV at the head of a bank line. It was in Colorado Springs, so it was of course set to Fox News. The TV was muted, but had close captioning turned on. This way, people could turn their minds to the news while waiting in line. I’m sure the staff realized this made people more patient as they waited—they were distracted from the time it was taking for the line to move.

This was just the first step. Everywhere I go these days has a TV. It is usually turned onto some mindless drivel and loud enough to drown out the thoughts of anyone waiting. There was a time when you walked into a waiting room, every eye would turn to see you. Now when you enter such a space, every eye is locked onto the glowing box of distraction on the wall. No one looks away until their name is called. There is no desire to talk, to meet new people, to share each other’s lives. There is even less desire to simply sit and think.

Of course, the offices and other places which force us to wait are happy to provide this distraction. It keeps us from noticing just how much of our lives are being consumed in line and in waiting rooms. We are easier to deal with. When people are forced to sit quietly and think (heaven forbid), they get uncomfortable. We no longer want to spend time in our own minds. We no longer want to think, to consider, to wrestle with great truths. We want to be entertained day and night.

Recently, I was in such a waiting room and realized I forgot to bring a book. For some reason, there was no TV in the room and the magazines were not for my demographic. Having developed the same habit as many, I pulled out my phone to spend time on social media. Suddenly I found myself thinking about the trap I had fallen into. Like others, I had lost the enjoyment of simply sitting quietly and thinking—something I had once truly loved doing. Instead, I had to be entertained. I put away the phone.

When was the last time you put away the distractions? When was the last time you simply sat in solitude and silence? We need such times. This morning, while thinking about this I read the story of Elijah and his run from Jezebel. Elijah had been busy. He stood opposed to the evil King Ahab. He slew the prophets of Baal. He saw many miracles. But when threatened by the queen, he ran to the wilderness. The story in 1 Kings 19, tells us that in the wilderness the Lord asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Can you imagine God letting you know in this way that you are not where he wants you? Of course, being a human, Elijah sought to justify his flight. He claimed to be the only one in Israel who still worshipped God. Of course, he had to run, because if they killed him there would be no one to serve God. In Elijah’s mind, God’s interests in having someone to serve him and his own interests in staying alive meshed. He seems to have thought, “God needs me to live, so I have better run.”

God corrected him, but first showed him a fact about hearing. Standing upon a mountain, Elijah experienced several natural events: a great wind, and earthquake and a fire. But God was in none of them. Instead he heard a quiet whisper, through which God spoke. It’s interesting that the main thing he told Elijah was, “I have seven thousand others who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In other words, God told Elijah to stop believing his own assumptions and listen better.

How many of us face trouble in life and wish God would speak to us? It is a common plea: “Please God, just tell me what I should do.” I’m not going to say God will always—or even ever—speak directly to each and every need you have. However, I will tell you that begging God to speak and then filling every waking moment with the din of distraction is contradictory. In effect, we are saying, “I want God to speak, but don’t want to hear him if he does.” Doing this means we only hear God speak if he shouts. God shouts by shaking the mountain of your life. God shouts by blowing through your life to get your attention. God shouts by burning away the distractions. Don’t leave God no other option but to shout. Get quiet. Get away from the noise and din of life. Return to a regular time of quiet and silence. Regain an appreciation for being alone with God so he can whisper into your heart.


Handling Silence

This morning a friend posted a meme on Facebook that got my attention. Now, before I continue, understand that I consider this brother a friend and respect his views and opinions greatly. So nothing I say here should be taken as a rebuke of the brother. Everything here is meant to address the meme itself and the underlying view. Whether my friend actually holds this view or not is unknown to me. Even if he does, that doesn’t matter because I intend to show some problems with the view and not with those who hold it. One thing we need to learn as Christians is to separate the person from the views they espouse. I actually sent him this for review before posting.

The Meme is posted here:

bible doesnt say

It shows the sons of Aaron—Nadab and Abihu—offering incense. It is of course based on the story of these two who were punished for offering ‘strange fire’ upon the altar.

If you look at the meme you see Abihu asking Nadab if he is sure this act is acceptable, to which Nadab responds “Yeah bro! The Bible doesn’t say we can’t.” The reason this meme inspired such thought in me is that it commits a serious error. I’ll list those here, but must first lay out the underlying concept this meme is meant to ridicule.

There is a train of thought which says, “If the Bible doesn’t say it is forbidden, then it is permissible.” It is a way of interpreting the Scriptures that would take all moral considerations and ask: “Does the Bible make a positive command concerning it?”

It’s common to look at the decision making process this way:

I am considering action A.

Does the Bible command me to take action A?

If not then I am not required to take action A.

Does the Bible forbid action A?

If not then I am free to perform action A.

However, it is based on a mistaken idea. It assumes the Bible contains instructions (positive to prescribe or negative to proscribe) for all possible moral considerations. There is a way to handle this question, which is acceptable (I’ll address it in a moment), but the problem is when people do, as the meme implies, and make anything not negatively proscribed into positive permission. They assume that because the Bible doesn’t forbid something they should therefore consider it proper and moral, as if Scripture was giving them direct permission through its silence.

Now, before going further, allow me to point out that the meme itself, even ignoring the underlying assumptions, is actually fallacious. It is pulling this story out of context and applying it in a way the Scriptures never intended. Actually, Nadab and Abihu knew their action was abominable. The meme insinuates that they had no command against doing this so they assumed it was acceptable. However, even the passage which records this (Leviticus 10:1f) says their actions were “contrary to his command (NIV)” or were actions “which he had not commanded them (LEB).” Leviticus 9 tells of them helping their father perform the proper sacrifice, so they knew what was proper. They were not acting in the absence of a direct command. They were acting in opposition to a direct command: Scripture said how to sacrifice and make offerings and forbade doing them any other way. If the Bible says “Do this and this alone” any person deciding “I’ll do that instead” is disobedient. Because of this, the meme’s subject matter doesn’t even apply to the argument about whether all actions not negatively forbidden are permissible—it’s a misapplication.

Getting back to the issue this meme poorly addressed, I spoke earlier of those who say “Anything not forbidden in the Bible is acceptable.” I would argue both sides of this question. First off there is the question of whether silence in Scripture should be taken as permission, but one must also consider the implications of silence in Scripture.

To take silence in Scripture as permission is fallacious: “God did not address it, so he must approve of it.” Actually God not addressing it in Scriptures just means it was not an issue he chose to address—for whatever reason. It may still be unacceptable, but God, in his sovereignty, chose not to speak to the issue. Perhaps it wasn’t an issue in the age when Scripture was being revealed. Perhaps it wasn’t a major consideration among the people to whom he was speaking. We must use our divinely given wisdom and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to know whether we should take an action or not take it when Scripture is silent. But never make the mistake of assuming Biblical silence equates to Biblical sanction.

But now, there is another dimension to this discussion—the implications of scriptural silence. What about those addressing an issue upon which Scripture is silent, who decide that even in the face of silence action A is not permissible (not something God would want them to do)? This is fine. This is an act of conscience. The problem comes when that person takes this decision and tries to make it a command for all to follow: “I believe this is forbidden even though Scripture is silent on it. Therefore, I insist it is forbidden to all Christians.” There is a problem with this—and not just a small one. Such Christians need to rethink their view of Scripture. Most protestant Christians would say, “Scripture is our only rule for faith and practice.” If so, then if you cannot find a command on it in scripture, or at least a concept that reasonably allows an inference of a command, you cannot declare it binding upon all. It remains a matter of personal conviction—it may still be unacceptable, but it is up to the Holy Spirit to guide the heart of the other person to that conclusion (which you are of course free to encourage through teaching and counsel). Some examples of this are eating certain foods, drinking alcohol or smoking. There are many areas of our lives which fall under this category.

We must be careful not to take silence of Scripture as permission. We equally must be careful about making Scripture say what the author of Scripture never chose to say. Both practices abuse the Scripture and do not show proper respect for the revelation of God to man.