The sound of silence

Scripture: Psalm 95:6-8a, NIV

Come, let us bow down in worship,
   let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah.”


This week I will read a little over 2100 emails, watch 20 hours of television (more if I can watch the Senior Bowl Saturday), read 35 newspapers, listen to 60+ hours of radio, read a dozen blogs, scan at least 6 sermons related to this weeks topic, consult 12 or so commentaries, squeeze in my devotional study so that I’m prepared for my Friday morning study group and write a sermon. Now I say all that to recognize that this level of activity is still well short of some of the people I know and work with. It takes a tremendous amount of time to keep up with what is going on in the world, the job and life.

I think that is what makes the silence of a commute or the solitude of a dog walk so enjoyable. There is some space that is created between me and the noise. It’s no wonder we use the oxymoronic phrase “the silence is deafening” because when you take out the distractions your brain is still processing all the stuff that has been let in.

I find that it makes it difficult to concentrate and be still when I pray. So many thoughts and images race through my mind that it takes a while to breathe and settle in. What is even more startling is that this problem is nothing new.


We use our scripture today to sing a song calling us to change our mindset and prepare to come before the throne in worship. In fact the melody is pretty upbeat considering the intent of the song is to slow us down. I’ve got to wonder if the psalmist didn’t have some of the same trouble I do; switching off the troubles and issues of the world.

It takes a lot to kneel especially when you’re older. But the physical aspect aside it requires us to stop, drop and focus. And look at what we should focus on – “we are the flock and we are tended (or cared for).” That is a lot to be thankful for – a God who knows and cares! But look further.

The writer reminds us that in our past we didn’t listen. You may not remember the story of Meribah over in Exodus 17 where the Israelites tested God so they could have some fresh water. Moses struck the rock and another miracle rescue took place. But in the end they forgot.

Now I like the Psalms for what they remind me of in the Old Testament but they point forward just as well. And speaking of a well we find a women being tested by God (Jesus in this case) when he was looking for some fresh water in John 4. What a turn of events, as people we’ve gone from testing God to him testing us but wait for it – she passed the test! This woman saw that life, real life, came not from what was drawn but what was heard. And believe me there was probably more silence in that conversation than you can shake a stick at!

Our world makes a sport out of those who claim to hear God’s voice. I can tell you that I’ve heard and felt him speak as if he was standing right next to me. But it was only when I was ready and still.

Today when you hear the voice of God calling don’t let it strike you like Moses rather let it wash over you in silence so that you too can spread the good news.

Prayer: (by Frederick Buechner)

Lord, catch me off guard today. 
Surprise me with some moment of 
beauty or pain. 
So that at least for the moment 
I may be startled into seeing that you 
are here in all your splendor, 
Always and everywhere, 
Barely hidden, 
Within this life I breathe. Amen.