The Sound of Silence


 There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!” The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?” He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.” (1 Kings 19:9-14, Common English Bible)

The picture above makes me sad. Strings are missing. The bridge could never hold up to string tension even for the few strings still on the guitar. So, even of the tuners are in working order (and I doubt they are), the guitar couldn’t hold tune. In its current condition this guitar is unplayable. Without some major work this guitar, beat up and uncared for, doesn’t even look pretty. There is only one thing this guitar is good for, at least at the moment the picture was taken, silence. And to me, a silent guitar is a sad guitar. Further, if a wooden stringed instrument remains with no one playing it, the wood will lose its tone quality. It can be restored but until that happens and someone begins to play this guitar seriously again, it will never sound quite right.

The thing is, it isn’t good for a guitar to remain silent. They were made for music. Anything less doesn’t fulfill its purpose in the world.

Such isn’t so true when it comes to people. I believe God created us in order to have a relationship with us. And, if we are to have that relationship, we have to move from the noise to the quiet.  For those who know me, that might seem a weird thing to hear. I am a man of many words. I have often worked under the mantra, why say it in five words if you can say it in 10 instead. Truthfully I am probably not quite that bad, but I can be loud. I am not afraid to use my voice. I love to talk. I love words and I rarely miss the opportunity to use them. I have always been this way.

As I have gotten older I have come to realize that I need times away from the noise. I need times of silence in my life besides those when I am sound asleep. I need to give God a chance to speak and, at least in my experience, God doesn’t often try to speak above the noise in the world.

Elijah is learning that in the lesson today. God is speaking to Elijah. There was powerful wind. There was an earthquake. There was fire. All of those can be extraordinarily loud. But, God wasn’t in any of those. We might expect God to be there, but the Scriptures say God wasn’t there.

Then came the sound of silence and Elijah immediately knew he was in the presence of God. He reacted accordingly.

Former President Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. He was such a quiet man that he earned the moniker “Silent Cal.” He ran for President under the campaign claiming him, “Silent-Safe-Sure.” I think many of our current day politicians could learn a few things from Silent Cal. He was known to say, “What you don’t say you don’t have to explain or repeat.” He made the press corps work for their stories.

One Sunday when leaving from worship at about noon a reporter asked “Silent Cal” what the sermon had been about that day. Coolidge responded, “Sin.” Not to be dissuaded the persistent journalist asked, “What did the minister say about sin?” Coolidge responded, “He was against it.” In four words Coolidge ended an interview that could have gotten a lesser politician into deep trouble.

We could all learn at least a little bit from Silent Cal. There are definitely times when fewer words are better. God is in the silence and God is polite and will not often try to speak above our noise.

A man from the farm was visiting his college roommate in New York City. Walking near Times Square one day, the farm boy suddenly remarked, “I hear a cricket.”

“You’re crazy,” his city friend replied. “It’s the noon rush hour, and in all of this traffic noise you heard a cricket? C’mon, man!”

“No, I did hear a cricket,” the visitor insisted. Focusing more intently, he walked to the corner, crossed the busy avenue and looked all around. Finally he approached a shrub in a large cement planter. Digging beneath the cover mulch, he found his cricket.

His friend couldn’t believe what he had seen. But the friend from the farm said, “My ears are no different from yours. It simply depends on what you have learned to listen for. Here, let me show you.”

He then reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a handful of change, and dropped the coins on the sidewalk. At the sound of the money hitting the pavement, every head along the crowded block turned.

“You see what I mean?” the visitor said, as he began picking up what was left of his coins. “It all depends on what you are listening for.”

It seems to me that a guitar wasn’t made to be silent. We were not created to live in constant noise. We have to take the time to listen and know what we are listening for.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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