Numbers 9: They camped at God’s command and they marched at God’s command.
It’s pretty straightforward. There’s a big cloud that glows like fire at night. All they have to do is follow it. When it moves, they move. When it stands still, they stand still. That’s the one that catches my attention: “stand still.” I do a lot better job of moving. After all, I’m a valuable part of the Kingdom of God and I’m sure the Lord needs for me to be in the game from start to finish. Other players might get a break but no bench time for me! Well, seriously, I know there’s always something else to be done. I need to take note that even as the Lord leads the Israelites in this clear and unmistakable way that sometimes he leads them to stop. For one thing that means taking time out. God built a day off into the very fabric of Creation. A minimum of one day out of seven is a day for the Pillar of Cloud in our lives to stand still. Another thing that comes to mind is that I don’t listen to God very well when I’m on the move. His Voice is precious, but it’s often so quiet that I won’t hear it at all unless I still my life and pay attention. Every day needs to have times when the Pillar of Cloud stands still for a while and I focus my attention entirely on the Lord.
Take Away: Taking time out is not only a good thing to do, it’s actually a requirement.
Habakkuk 2: God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone – a holy silence. Listen!
Chapter two is mostly a listing of the sins of Babylon. The Lord may intend to use this godless nation in his dealings with Judah but that doesn’t mean its despicable evil will be overlooked. As a series of “Who do you think you are?” judgments is being listed, the prophet suddenly has a vision of God. Immediately, the prophet calls for “holy silence.” This isn’t the time to preach sermons of condemnation. The only thing a human being can do at this point is to bow in silence before the Lord. This, I think is God’s second answer to Habakkuk. The prophet has asked how a holy God can use a sinful nation to punish Judah. One answer is that God is well aware of the sin of Babylon and that he will decisively deal with it. The other answer is heard as the Almighty reveals himself to Habakkuk. This is similar to what happens in the Book of Job. Job has asked for an audience with God that he might plead his case. However, when God appears, Job is speechless and all he can do is bow in worship and adoration. When I see God my questions are answered. My need is not for the Lord to explain to me everything I think I want to know. The need in my life is a fresh vision of God.
Take Away: All our questions are answered when we genuinely experience the Lord.
The fine art of silence
Lamentations 3: Enter the silence.
Jeremiah advises: “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.” I don’t know much about silence. My life is filled with noise: music on the radio, something on the TV, conversation. Even when I pray, I refer to my prayer list. After all I have much to say to the Lord. I’d say my list is a pretty good one, with not only requests, but plenty of praises as well. Still, though, Jeremiah says that there’s a time for silence. The thing is that when I try to be silent before God my mind races off in a dozen directions at once. The prophet specifically says silence is good for times when life is hard and recommends our getting away from it all, not to talk to God but to experience silence before him. Many years before Jeremiah David described the “quiet waters” experience. He said it was there that the Lord restored his soul. I need to work on “entering the silence.” Maybe I need to pass through the “Lord, here’s my list” and the “when I finish here I need to do this” stages so I can arrive at the “enter the silence” stage. There’s a spiritual depth that can only be found when I “enter the silence.”
Take Away: There’s spiritual depth in silence.