Turn that down!
What’d you say?
TURN DOWN THE NOISE!
There, that’s better.
Have you noticed how much noise is out there? As a human race, we can’t seem to stand silence. It’s as if we fear that by being still we would risk an introspection too hard to bear.
This is cultural white noise.
An incessant drumbeat of shallow, angry, narcissistic banalities. We’re more divided as a nation than at any time since the Civil War and technology has made it easier and faster to simply talk past each other.
Nobody listens. Eager for a platform and their 15 minutes of fame, everybody talks.
We’re drowning in a foaming sea of cacophony; “a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds”.
It’s his temperament – and his temper – that leads our new president to angrily tweet all hours of the day and night. He craves the limelight, which one would expect of a reality celebrity. There are dozens of others, just none as good.
In this, President Trump most resembles Theodore Roosevelt, of whom daughter Alice once remarked:
“Father would be the bride at every wedding – and the corpse at every funeral”.
The president has aroused an opposite – though hardly equal – reaction, adding to this deafening dissonance. It’s sheer idiocy that leads people with nothing else to do into the streets to chant, shout and throw rocks.
It’s been daily since the election.
In his prophetic poem, The Second Coming, WB Yeats wrote that “the falcon cannot hear the falconer” …
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world …”
For the Christian, this world is too much with us. We can’t escape it, we can’t leave it; we’re left to cope with it. We too are creatures of our times.
You and I must embrace the silence. We must find a sacred solitude in the midst of carnal contentions. That’s not easy but nothing great ever is.
When Elijah the prophet fled the wicked queen Jezebel in fear for his life, he came to Mount Sinai – the mountain of God. There he hid in a cave, despaired of living and telling God to take him. The triumph of another mountain, Carmel, seemed a distant memory.
Elijah was discouraged.
“I have had enough, Lord” (I Kings 19: 4, NLT).
God invited Elijah to go outside the cave and stand. When God passed by, a mighty windstorm tore loose the rocks and howled in violent terror.
“But the Lord was not in the wind” (I Kings 19: 11, KJV).
Then a fearsome rumbling earthquake shook the mountain, reverberating through the valley below.
“But the Lord was not in the earthquake” (verse 11).
Then a blazing fire ignited the rugged mountainside threatening to consume all before it and Elijah hid his face from the scorching heat.
“But the Lord was not in the fire” (verse 12).
Then, after these violent noisy cataclysms of the natural order passed, order returned. Tranquility descended. Stillness gripped the mountain of God.
And then God spoke. He did not howl in his vengeance. He did not thunder in his holiness. He did not burn in his righteous indignation.
God spoke in “a still small voice” (verse 12, KJV).
It “was the sound of a gentle whisper” (NLT).
In that stillness, that quietness, that solitude upon the mountain of God, without any more distraction or disturbance, Elijah then heard the voice of his Lord speak to him.
It wasn’t the voice of contention. Or eruption. It wasn’t the voice of angry recriminations, nor was it the voice of anxiety or fear or dismay or uncertainty.
It was a still voice.
It was a gentle voice.
It was a small voice.
Elijah had to concentrate or he might have missed it. He had to listen with his ear. More than this he had to listen with his mind. Most of all, Elijah had to listen with his heart – pure, undiluted, sincere listening.
You and I must do this or we will miss God’s voice.
We’ll hear the mega-church celebrities seeking the cameras, the talking heads, bobbing, weaving and speculating; we’ll hear the politicians debating and angling.
We’ll even hear the devil accusing, pestering and nagging.
We’ll hear the wind, the quakes and the fire.
But we won’t hear God’s still, small voice. We won’t hear his gentle whisper to our heart.
Not until we are still.
“Be still,” he commands us, “and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
“We run hurriedly into the presence of God,” wrote nineteenth century pastor FB Meyer, “leave our card as on a morning call, then plunge into the eager rush of life”.
In prayer, we talk to God. We seldom give him a chance to reply.
Then we’re gone.
CS Lewis identified the dilemma of our human frailty – and the challenge in meeting it:
“All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in … Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
How hard for me to do. How important that I do it.
God help us to find the time and the place for silence.
Then – and only then – will we hear our Master’s voice.