Silence – the absence of sound, the aftermath of activity, or the calm before the storm. Popular culture (rightly) calls for self-care to include moments of silence, times when we cut out the noise to take a grateful, reflective pause. When God calls for silence in Scripture, He takes silence beyond mental health and into the realm of His powerful activity.
When you as a ministry leader seek moments of silence this year, be reminded of three ways that God connects with you through silence. Amy Flattery, Director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, takes us from Exodus through Luke to share more.
1. Silence can indicate that God is fighting for us—without our help.
In Exodus 14:14, God says in essence, “I myself will fight for you; you be still." The Hebrew word for still here means “to be silent.” There are times when God is the only one who can fight our battles. Have you ever stepped in to help God and then realized that your intervention made things worse? This verse reminds us that some battles belong to God—and Him alone. We can grow in our silence as we grow in our trust of the Lord.
2. Silence can usher in the presence of God.
While culture may call us to empty our minds, God comes to fill them. He can flood them with peace, patience, perseverance, and the greatest gift of all: His presence.
After the prophet Elijah asked God to end his life because Queen Jezebel vowed to kill him within 24 hours (1 Kings 19:4), the Lord instructed him to stand on Mount Horeb because He was going to pass by. Before God passed by, Elijah experienced a rock-shattering wind, an earthquake, and a fire—but the Lord was not in any of these. Instead, the Lord appeared in "קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה" (qol demamah raqqah), translated as ‘thin silence,’ ‘soft breath,’ or ‘gentle blowing’ (1 Kings 19:12). When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. In this ‘thin silence,’ God’s presence passed before Elijah, and God told Elijah the next step in his ministry. It can be in the silence where God meets us, speaks to us, and calls us forward.
3. Silence permits God’s purposes to grow within us.
Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer (NLT). Silence comes with the territory of deserted places. Jesus knew well that true strength was found in quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15), and He found this strength by spending time communing with His Father in barren lands. So too, in Luke 23:56, another type of silence is connected with the life of Jesus—one not geographical but spiritual. The women who wanted to care for Jesus’ body in the tomb had to wait until after the Sabbath, a time of rest and reverence for God. The women were likely still abiding in such silence, not only of Sabbath but of mourning for their Lord, when the next morning they found that the stone over the tomb’s entrance had been rolled away (24:2). During that period of silence, what some traditions call Holy Saturday, God was not truly silent: he was about to raise Jesus from the dead. And once He rose, He fulfilled all He said He would: He ascended, the Holy Spirit filled His people, and the Church was born. From the silence came the growth that turned the world upside down. If you feel that this period of your life is marked by silence from God, rest assured that He is still working—for your good.
Yes, it’s true that God's voice is not always silent: at times it "booms like the sound of many waters (Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15; 14:2, 19:6), it thunders (John 12 and Revelation 14), it rebukes (Acts 26), and it trumpets (Hebrews 12). But He often seeks to engage individuals in peaceful, transformative silence—where our spirits can truly hear.
As we look ahead to the next eleven months of 2021, let all that we are wait quietly before God, for our hope is in him (Psalm 62:5).
*Adapted from “The Sounds of Silence” by Amy Flattery, Director of Center for Holy Lands Studies. You can read that article here.