"Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let
them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment."
This morning, discretion becomes harder and harder to find with each passing
day. Modern society - now more than ever - has lost the art of dealing prudently
and discreetly. The motto today is: if you want to say it, say it. More
unfortunately, the addendum to the motto is: whenever you want to say it, say
it. People speaking their minds with little forethought or even any
consideration to the ramifications of their speech is more and more commonplace.
In fact, the instant messaging and instant communication that defines our modern
society has left most people uncomfortable at even a moment of silence. A quiet
room makes today's most introverted soul quite unsettled. However, time and
place must be given to quietness and discretion, for they keep us from having to
retract so much of what we do and say as well as fulfilling the Scriptural
injunction of being swifter to hear than to speak. (James 1:19)
Many times when I read the Bible, I have to forget about the divisions that were
placed in it for our convenience. While I do not despise chapter and verse
divisions (as some do), sometimes they do serve as roadblocks to our reading and
study rather than an aid and help for retrieval of information. While many verse
divisions break up long sentences (as in Paul's epistles), verse divisions do
not trip us up nearly as often as chapter divisions in the middle of thoughts.
Quite frequently, I visit the 40th chapter of Isaiah, as it happens to be one of
my favourite passages with a wide range of comforting thoughts that are chock
full of the goodness, power, mercy, and great hand of God. Many times, we like
to ponder the first two verses and think of the rich tenderness of our Lord for
delivering us who were without hope and unlovable. We like to ponder the
greatness of His strength in the middle portions that describe the smallness of
the creation in relation to its Creator. Then, we like to ponder His strength in
our lives as the chapter reaches its conclusion with the culmination of mounting
up with wings as eagles when waiting upon Him and doing what even youths and
strong men at times fail to do.
The last verse of Isaiah 40 is almost as popular as the first two verses to
Primitive Baptists. Among professing Christians in general, it may be even more
popular. Considering the rich truth that our spirits are revived by the strength
of God so that walking can be done without fainting and running without
weariness, how comforting is that to those looking at all the gloominess in this
old, cold world? How comforting to know that His hand is not just with us in
eternity, but His hand is here now to help us and give us strength for the days
ahead? No matter what comes in life, we can bear it and get through it, for He
is ever with us. (Philippians 4:13, I Corinthians 10:13) Yet, how often is the
thought stopped at verse 31? More personally, how often have I stopped at verse
While there is a chapter division placed there for convenience, the thought
progresses into the next chapter. Many times, ministers get asked what to do in
a certain situation. The most common and best answer is to take it to the Lord.
If the inquirer tells the minister that they have done that, the most common and
best answer is to wait upon the Lord. Oftentimes, Abraham is used as an example
as he had to wait many years until the fulfillment of God's promise to him in
the birth of Isaac. The apostles are used as they had to wait upon the Lord in
Jerusalem until the power from on high came upon them at Pentecost. These
answers are good and Biblical to be sure, but Isaiah further writes, in our
verse, about how waiting upon the Lord can and should be accomplished.
While many of us fail as we should daily to talk with the Lord, walk in sweet
communion with Him, and feel that warm presence when in prayer and supplication
to Him, how much more often do we fail to stand daily in silence before Him?
Verse 31 plainly declares that waiting upon the Lord yields the result of
renewed strength. Our verse just as plainly declares that renewed strength comes
from keeping silent before Him. The prophet Habakkuk describes our position of
silence before Him when He is in His holy temple. (Habakkuk 2:20) Why is silence
so important before God when we are told to pray without ceasing? (I
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that asked you a question for what
seemed like an impure or improperly motivated reason? Did they ask the question
seemingly to open the door to talk about what they already wanted to talk about?
Maybe they even wanted the excuse for the conversation to try to "convince" you
of their way of thinking? Have you also ever conversed with someone that spent
most of the time while you were talking seemingly waiting for their turn to
speak instead of actively listening to what you were saying? Indeed, most could
attest to having been in these types or similar situations.
When we come before the Lord, pour out our supplications and prayers before Him,
and earnestly desire help in our present distress, we need to be ready to listen
and hear His reply. We should not approach God with what we already think should
happen in the situation. Such prayers are not really prayers at all but demands
of the Almighty. Our prayers should always contain the thought and sentiment of
"Thy will be done." (James 4:15) By humbly beseeching His will be done, we show
forth the readiness to accept His answer rather than how we already "visualized"
or "planned" for things to be. Showing this voluntary readiness and humility
before God, our supplication should logically be followed by a ready and
listening ear for the answer.
As mentioned above, ministers get asked quite a bit about the problems of life
and what to do about them. Most claim to have prayed about it and even might
claim to wait on the Lord about it. However, how many of us actively listen in
silence to Him? Countless times, I have had people say, "Well, I have prayed and
prayed. Waited and waited. But no answer." My simple question quite often is,
"Have you waited in silence?" Since the Lord's reply quite often comes in a
still, small voice (I Kings 19), our silence many times is necessary to
understand the communication from the Lord. While He has no problems
transmitting the communication, my receiver is sadly out of tune quite often to
understand what it is that I should do in my life.
When silence is successfully and properly maintained at the acceptable and
suitable time, then it is that we are truly waiting upon the Lord. This does not
imply that we do nothing while in silence, but our silence should be marked by a
quiet willingness to receive the answer, whatever is may be even if that answer
is "No." By keeping silence before Him - thereby waiting upon Him - we find the
most happy benefit of renewing our strength. This renewal of strength many times
comes in the knowledge and answer of what it is that we ought to do. Nothing is
more unsettling to the constitution of these old frames than a restless mind
that does not know the right path to pursue at the time. Peace beyond measure is
enjoyed when an impression of the correct path is revealed. This knowledge
grants strength of mind and body that no matter the path or journey, we will
gladly and cheerfully take it. Some of these decisions may be difficult life
changes, hard course corrections, or even daily alterations of habit. However,
knowing that that the Lord would have us do those things yields renewed strength
to go through them.
Notice that the prophet shows the proper place for speaking again. While we
speak with God through prayer and give diligence in silence, quietness is not
always the course for the time. Sometimes we should move and other times be
still. Sometimes we should speak and other times keep silent. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
After we have kept silence before God and renewed our strength, then it is that
we speak again. This speaking should be done in a twofold manner.
First and foremost, our speaking should be done with thanksgiving to God for all
of His benefits to us. He is merciful to answer our prayers and hear our
petitions before Him. His mercy extends further to answering those requests and
supplications, for which our silence should give place. When knowing what the
Lord would have us do, what should be our first and immediate thought? When
asking for direction and guidance, what should be our initial speech when
receiving those things? The first and initial should always be thanksgiving to
God for the direction, guidance, and impression in life. Without those things,
our wanderings would be aimless and unfruitful. With those things, we can sow in
the right place and right way and reap great spiritual blessings in this life.
The second reason this speech should be done is exhibited by the last phrase of
our verse "come together to judgment." This judgment is proper discernment that
we are in the right way. We cannot come there on our own, but we must come there
"together" with our Lord. That means that we are alongside Him. Our steps must
travel sweetly together. This means that one cannot justly claim to be following
the Lord's direction when his steps walk contrary to Scripture. The Lord never
contradicts or violates His own purposes and moral laws. However, coming to
judgment together with the Lord also means that we understand that this is the
right way to go. Not only so, but we can conclude and prove that we are going
about it in the right way. The Lord does not call us to towards the right
conclusion in the wrong way. Rather, His inclination and answer to our pleadings
directs the right way in the right manner.
Therefore, our judgment that we come together unto is that "this is the way,
walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21) To come to this judgment (perception or
observation), we must necessarily wait upon the Lord. To do so, we must
necessarily keep silent before Him and listen for and to His reply. Then we take
the strength that He renews to fervently and rigorously follow after His
guidance. Our hearts should burn with the Godly passion to fulfill what He has
said do, for the judgment we come to with Him shows that indeed He has directed.
We should therefore follow. Maybe the minister needs guidance on what to preach.
Maybe the hearers need guidance for important life decisions. Maybe the paths at
work, in the community, or otherwise seem filled and headed for gloomy disaster.
In these cases and more, may we wait upon Him - silently and listening - to
discover what it is He would have us do, and then be found heartily doing that
which He has called us to do. (Colossians 3:23)