There’s a wonderful passage in Revelation where there is silence in Heaven for half an hour (Revelation 8:1). The occasion of this deep stillness is the breaking of the seventh seal. In case you’re not into eschatology, the seven seals are on a scroll that is opened as the end times are revealed and executed. If you can picture a moment like that, you can imagine its breathtaking gravity.
Most Biblical events seem to be times of shouting praises, passing along a good word, or lifting battle cries. Every once in a while, however, there are times that silence is demanded.
Chariots of Fire
Take, for example, the day Elijah was taken up into the heavens by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11-12). His protégé, Elisha, was standing there watching. It was a moment of awe-inspiring quietude. Yet Elisha did what many people do in times like that. Not knowing what to say, he shouted out some meaningless words to no one in particular. For some reason, we often feel like we have to say something—anything. In actuality, we should just keep our mouths shut and observe what God is doing. There’s always time to give witness to it later.
Another of these times was on, what we call, the Mount of Transfiguration. During this event, three of the original Apostles were on a mountain with Jesus. As they watched, Jesus began to glow with a supernatural brightness. As he did so, Moses and Elijah appeared with him (Luke 9:28-34).
The awesomeness of that sight would be enough to shut anyone’s mouth—anyone except Peter. Peter was one of those guys who felt he had to say something at every turn. He blabbered something about building tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (probably because this took place during the Feast of Tabernacles). Then God spoke from the heavens, and Peter finally shut up.
I’m usually the kind of guy who argues that we need to speak up. We need to witness to the goodness and mercy of God. I believe that, and I attempt to put it into practice. But every once in a while, the Lord does something so awe inspiring and breathtaking that we should simply stand back and let it speak for itself. Frankly, he doesn’t need our help.
Silence is Golden
I suppose this is one reason why we often quote the old saying, “Silence is golden.” Shutting down all the noise (especially that which comes from our own mouths) is a good thing to do from time to time. A good example of this is when we gather in larger crowds and observe moments of silence. It’s easier to remember important things without the cacophony by which we’re usually encompassed.
As another old saying notes, “Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.” We tend to be so noisy, that we even have a hard time doing this in times of worship. If they can be silent in the joyous place we call Heaven, maybe we could try it more often ourselves.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]