Wait in Silence

My soul waiteth in silence for God only / From him cometh my salvation (Psalm 62:1).

If God is who He says He is, we must trust Him and find our security in Him and in no other.

We know this to be true in terms of intellect and cognition: we understand the logical nature of the premise, and by faith we accept it to be true. And yet what happens the moment we are tempted to trust in someone, or something, else? Or, perhaps, what happens when it is revealed to us just how much we have been trusting in someone, or something, else, and not truly in God?

David meditated on the matter in Psalm 62:1-12. David waited in soul in silence for God, and God alone, for his salvation came from God: God was his rock, salvation, and high tower, so David would not be moved (Psalm 62:1-2). David noticed how many people laid in wait to strike one another: they focused on other people to tear them down, delighting in lies; they might bless with their mouths, but they curse in their hearts (Psalm 62:3-4). Thus David reinforced his message: his soul should wait for God only and in silence, for David’s expectation is from Him, his rock, salvation, and high tower, so he would not be moved; his salvation and glory were with God, and in God was his strength and refuge (Psalm 62:5-7). David called all people to trust him at all times, pouring out their hearts before Him, for He is their refuge (Psalm 62:8). David again considered humanity and how he could not rely upon any: those of low esteem are “vanity,” a breath (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2, etc.); those of high esteem lie; they all, when weighted, are lighter than vanity/a breath (Psalm 62:9). People should not trust in oppression or robbery; if people gain wealth they should not trust in it (Psalm 62:10). David has seen the end of the matter: God has spoken, that power belongs to Him, as well as hesed, where covenant loyalty meets steadfast love; in His faithfulness to His covenant God will render to every person according to what they have done (Psalm 62:11-12).

David thus understood who God is: all power belongs to Him, and He is faithful to His covenant. Thus David recognized his need to wait for God in silence, to trust in God as the source of his salvation and a place of refuge and strength. People always fail: they are here one day, and gone the next, and focus the whole time on looking better by reckoning others as worse. Wealth, whether gained honorably or dishonorably, is vain, and does not deliver on its promises; poverty is no less vain.

The world has not appreciably changed in these regards over the past three thousand years. People still always fail. People still focus on other people, looking for reasons to tear down others and look better by comparison, as exemplified in modern social media. Those lowly esteemed in society remain but a breath, a vanity; those more highly esteemed promote the lies that allowed them and their ancestors to obtain that esteem and the privileges which flow from it. Wealth remains as David, and Jesus and Paul, described it: a continual source of temptation toward idolatry, to trust in one’s material prosperity over the God who gave it all (cf. Luke 12:13-48, 1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19). Meanwhile, God remains all powerful, and has proven faithful to covenant; He will recompense all according to what they have done (Romans 2:5-11, 13:1, Hebrews 10:19-25).

As Christians we “know” these things: we accept their truth on a cognitive level. But how deeply have we internalized it? Has it transformed our hearts? Has God revealed to us our dependence on the opinions of others, our valuation of our status, whether low or high, and/or our reliance on material wealth, whether by heeding His wisdom or through trials and distress? Have we really learned to depend upon God as our refuge from all of the unreliability of the world, or are we still trying really hard to make the world more reliable for us?

How we answer these questions might depend on how well we have internalized and practiced David’s posture in Psalm 62:1-11: do we wait for Him in silence? Waiting for God requires great patience: God works according to His time scale, and that goes well beyond ours. We may cry out for justice, peace, or any number of things, and have to suffer long until God’s purposes are fully accomplished. Watching God’s purposes play out can be a glorious thing; when in judgment, it can prove quite painful, and more prolonged than we might want to imagine. Yet, as God’s people, we must reckon God’s longsuffering as salvation (2 Peter 3:15): if God had proven as patient with us as we are with Him, we would all be doomed.

We must also wait for God in silence. Most of us do not tolerate silence well. We find it awkward. We want to fill that time and space with noise and busy activities. Perhaps, in the silence, gnawing questions, trauma from our past, or other things bubble up, and we would rather not address them. Perhaps we have been acculturated to resist silence, choosing the dopamine release of constant stimulation from devices or activities. Or perhaps we lack the patience to sit in the silence. Such is especially manifest in our prayer life: do we ever just sit with God without having to speak? Is there any other relationship in our lives that only involves one-way monologue quite like the relationship many of us have with God in prayer?

God has all power; God displays covenant loyalty, and because of that covenant loyalty will both reward those who seek Him and judge those who do not. We are weak; He is strong. We are often and easily beset with temptations and trials; He can rescue us. We easily look to the idols of this world, making much of little and esteeming little of what is great; He would be our everything, but only if we wait on Him in silence. As God’s people we will learn to wait for God in silence by heeding such wisdom, be humbled by our circumstances and trials as through fire to wait for God in silence, or have our idolatry exposed, either to repent and turn to the living God or to cling to them ever more closely and go into perdition because of them. May we all turn to God in heart as well as mind, and wait for Him in silence!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Wait in Silence

Wildfire!

So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

Those who live in the eastern part of North America can be forgiven for wondering why wildfire might be a great concern; most of the time the east is green and lush. In the West, however, wildfire is an almost ever-present danger. The land is frequently dry. It does not take much to start a wildfire that burns tens of thousands of acres: an unattended campfire. A car accident. Lightning. Wildfires are very dangerous indeed!

James, the brother of the Lord, understood the power of fire and how a great conflagration could start with a small catalyst. Parts of the Levant are not unlike the American West in that way. He speaks of fire in order to help his beloved fellow Christians to understand the great danger behind another element which can start great conflagrations with the smallest of catalysts: the human tongue.

James had begun by warning Christians about not having too many become teachers on account of the stricter judgment teachers will face (James 3:1); he continued by pointing out that the one who does not stumble in word is able to control the body (James 3:2). He explored that illustration further, speaking of how horses are controlled by a small bridle in the mouth, and also introduced the notion of how a large ship is directed by a small rudder (James 3:3-4). He then speaks of the power of the tongue despite its small size (James 3:5-6); he would go on to recognize that while humans have tamed all animals the tongue cannot be tamed, and pointed out that we bless God and curse man with the same mouth, and that such things should not be (James 3:7-12). James therefore has a strong concern with the dangers that come from the use of the tongue.

James does not mince words about the dangers involved. The tongue is small, but boasts greatly. Of all the members of the body it is the tongue that can defile the whole, can set the world on fire, as it itself is set on fire by hell; such is the only use of Gehenna outside of Jesus’ use of the term in the Gospels.

We today know all too well about the dangers of the tongue. We have seen many people whose lives and careers were ruined because of an ill-timed remark or the wide sharing of a thoughtless remark. One is reminded of the story of Justine Sacco, who before departing for Africa made a foolish joke regarding not getting AIDS in Africa because she was white on Twitter. During the flight her tweet was shared many times; when she landed she was informed of the outrage her tweet had instigated and that she had been fired. The Internet proved merciless to Ms. Sacco; people would be foolish for judging her and her character based only on one decontextualized statement. Nevertheless, her example illustrates just how important it is for us to give consideration to what we say.

The danger of the tongue comes from many different sources. It may be, as in the case above, with a poor joke that may reveal more about our thought processes than we would like to admit. It may be the insult or cutting remark uttered in anger; you can claim that you did not really mean it, and ask for forgiveness, and even receive it, but the scars from those words will always remain. It may be gossip spoken and spread, ultimately reaching its subject. As they begin the words may seem very small and insignificant, and perhaps on their own they would be. And yet such messages can take a life of their own; ask any politician whose not well thought out comment would ultimately dog him throughout the campaign and cost him the election.

We do well to recognize how our tongues are always a potential wildfire within us. There are some times and certain contexts in which a foolish or thoughtless word may not cause too much difficulty or distress, as a spark that falls after a wet period in the forest. On the other hand, there are plenty of times and situations in which the ground is dry and the plants desiccated, ready to burn long and hot with only the smallest of sparks; the wrong word in the wrong situation and your life as you know it can be destroyed, your soul in danger of hellfire, and you are left wishing you could just take those words back.

Unfortunately, you can never take back your words. But you and I and all of us in Christ can resolve to not say them in the first place. In many ways wildfire control is dependent on humans using fire properly, and the same goes with our tongues. We must use the tongue to glorify God and bless man made in His image. We must give thought to how we speak for and about others so as to build up and not gossip, slander, or tear down. Foolish jesting is not worth our reputation and standing. May we all seek to control the wildfire in our mouths and seek to restrain our tongues!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Wildfire!

Speaking and Hearing Evil

Also take not heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy servant curse thee; for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).

There is an ill that we have all experienced, that gets all of us flustered, and yet we have all done to others. That ill is speaking evil or cursing another.

There are all kinds of reasons for it happening. We offend people, intentionally or unintentionally, and mouths begin talking. We may be trying to help– or trying to hurt. Perhaps we have not done as well as we could at living the life we are trying to live. Unfortunately, some of the times when we are living the life we are trying to live, the mouths keep talking.

We all know that we should not– we should speak words that build up and encourage, and we should not be bitter in our words (Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31). But we are human– and we all are more free with our tongues than we should be (James 3:1-10).

The Preacher knows all of these things. And yet his counsel seems strange to us– do not listen to all of the words that are spoken (Ecclesiastes 7:21). Normally we hear exhortations to listen (James 1:19)– and we all know that even though we have two ears and but one mouth, the mouth tends to dominate over the ears. We tend to be better at talking than listening, so why should we not listen?

The reason for not listening also seems strange. We should not listen lest we hear “[our] servant cursing [us].” Granted, the Preacher is writing at a time when society was more stratified than it is now, and many people had servants. As a master, to hear your servant curse you would be one of the greatest insults and indignities.

But wait a second. If people are talking about us, shouldn’t we want to know about it? Wouldn’t we want to listen even more if such things take place?

Well, certainly, we want to know. But is it good to know? Is it good to consider how others have cursed us, regardless of their social standing?

The Preacher encourages us to consider ourselves as we answer. Have we not, at times, cursed others, if not by word, in our hearts? What would happen if they all knew what we had felt and/or said? How would we want them to respond?

We should not imagine that the Preacher is excusing anyone when they curse others. He is considering the way things are, not necessarily the way things should be. We do well, therefore, to truly heed the Preacher’s advice. It is counter-intuitive to not take heed to curses that are leveled against us. It is much easier to dwell on them and allow bitterness and/or resentment to grow.

Yet we must take stock. We are no better than others; others are not really better than us. We would never want others to hold our cursings, internal or external, against us. We do best, therefore, when we show such grace to others, recognizing our own failures!

We are given a choice in life– we can either bear the burden of every negative word we hear about ourselves, or we can decide to not give them any heed. The former leads to anxiety, anguish, and constant feeling of betrayal; the latter, despite being the harder road, allows us to live in some measure of peace with our fellow man.

We should not be so simplistic as to think that we are never the subject of evil thoughts or cursing, just as we cannot deny that we have had such thoughts ourselves. Let us keep the “Golden Rule” in mind (Luke 6:31), and not take heed to every word spoken about us!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Speaking and Hearing Evil