By Alistair Begg
Be Silent and Listen
Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.
The world around Habakkuk was in a state of turmoil and appeared to be past the point of recovery. His own heart was deeply unsettled, prompting him to ask God why He was permitting all that was happening (Habakkuk 1:2-3). The prophet longed for something to be done. He longed for answers. He longed for change. And God said to Habakkuk, Remember that I still reign. Remember who I am, and who you are. God was still present “in his holy temple,” sovereignly ruling over all the earth. He had already ordained the means by which His will would be achieved. Recognizing this was a call to humility and silence for Habakkuk. Though he had his questions and complaints, and though he was permitted to raise those with God, most of all he needed to choose to listen to what God said and think about His words.
We see this call to silence throughout Scripture. God says through the psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the New Testament, when Jesus stood before Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration in His heavenly glory and Peter, in his fear, said the first thing that came into his head, this was the divine call the disciples heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, emphasis added).
When times are hard, some of us by character respond as activists: the problem needs to be overcome, and so we throw ourselves into working for a solution. Others of us respond as pessimists: the problem cannot be overcome, so we simply buckle under it or waste time on activities to escape it. In both cases, our response is prompted by an absence of being still before God to listen to and think about His words. We live in a world of constant noise: words, words, words—the babble of the pundits, professors, and politicians. But if we will not listen to God, we will end up relying on an idol that cannot speak (Habakkuk 2:18-19). Idols cannot truly speak about our lives or the circumstances in our world.
When days of difficulty are upon us, Habakkuk reminds us, “Let all the earth keep silence before him.” We do not have all the answers, and neither do the experts. It is not wrong to ask questions or pursue solutions, but it is wrong if this comes at the expense of simply being still and hearing God’s word to listen to God’s voice. Whatever is going on around us, what we most need is to remember that the Lord is in His holy temple, directing history from His throne for the good of His people. That is the foundation upon which we can build a framework for understanding what God is doing in the world around us.
Do you feel as though the nations are raging and the kingdoms tottering? Are the mountains moving and the waves mounting up (Psalm 46:2-3, 6)? Be still, know that God is God, and listen to Him.