Noise pollution is a major health issue in almost all places and this plethora of sounds attracts our attention towards itself and distracts us from God. Lord Jesus’ command before praying to go into your closet and bolt the door points to locking out all such worries, desires and self dependence to be able to seek the LORD with wholehearted attention. It is only then that His voice can be discerned by us and then we can now Him and follow Him. The silence of solitude is essential for prayer and worship of our LORD who desires us know Him as a Father, a caring sand close enough relative who can be fully depended upon.
Identifying the noise – Apostle Paul informs about the source, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Firstly it is a spirit being; secondly it is a prince and not the king and finally it use the power of the air for its work. Air is full of micro-organisms used to spread disease and on the other hand all types of sound and ethereal waves travel through it. To further clarify we are told, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). So these are ‘cosmic powers’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil’ and operate from heavenly places dominating all forms of communication channels.
C.S.Lewis in his short book ‘Screw tape Letters’ tells how the senior demon instructs the junior trainee demon to use the distraction of noise to make us deaf to God’s voice and thus drive us away from Him. We are bombarded with all sorts of confusing, unwanted and undesirable information from every side all the time and escaping or ignoring it becomes difficult. Music, especially loud music blaring from giant speakers at ear splitting noise levels, is another source used by the devil. “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created,”(Ezekiel 28:13) is the design information about Satan, the ‘covering cherub’ who was closest to God and was probably the worship leader before the Divine throne. Now “God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33) and disorderly worship also will not be pleasing to Him and the sole aim of worship is to please God and not for enjoyment of man. Information about annual sales and other attractive things create confusion and distract us from ‘gazing into God’s heart’ in worship while being more concerned about cheap things than the most ‘valuable pearl’ of God’s knowledge.
Stillness of thought is getting away from all this with no pressures and no fear of offending someone. Talith, the Jewish prayer shawl, is a signal to others, ‘I am shutting you out – do not intrude’ for at this time I do not acknowledge anyone else but God. I am praying and worshipping my Creator under this canopy and this is my prayer closet. On the other hand, praying in public, about which the Savior warned us, creates a pressure – am I doing it right; are the words right; how long should it be? Important is to create stillness of being alone while being alone while carrying along all the noise in the head may not be the answer.
Why do we need solitude? – Prophet Elijah was instrumental in killing of 850 false prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth and was threatened by queen of Israel, Jezebel, forcing him to flee in fear. After reaching Mount Sinai, he settled down in a cave to be called out by God to stand to see Him pass by and then three signs of immense power were on display. First, a strong wind that shook the mountain and shattered the rocks; then an earthquake and finally a devastating fire, but God was not present in either of the three. And then there was a gentle breeze, a still small voice, and “Elijah covered his face with his mantle’ as a sign of reverence and God spoke in that gentle, noise free situation (1 Kings 19:2-14). God is love and He does not appear in frightening ways to scare and the Creator does not display His power to call people to Him. Thus we will never find God in chaos but in the stillness of our souls – peace and quiet – and in that comes my hope of meeting Him.
The Psalmist cries out “Only for God does my soul wait in silence, for from Him comes my hope” (Psalm 62:5) where Hebrew word ‘damam’ is translated as silence but it also means ‘to be still, quiet or to be struck dumb’. Hebrew words due to their structural design are meant to represent a thought through pictorial representation. ‘Damam’ is spelt as ‘dalth, Mem and Mem’ where ‘daleth’ is a doorway to the first ‘mem’ which is the revealed knowledge of God and to final ‘mem’ which is the hidden knowledge of God. Thus ‘damam’ or silence/being still is a doorway to the revealed and hidden knowledge of God for in silence we hear His voice and in that He shares deep knowledge of His Word – both hidden and revealed knowledge. It is this knowledge of God and His Word that assures our souls giving us security and hope while His plan for us gets fully activated.
Beyond the silence – The disciples were facing a severe storm threatening their lives while Lord Jesus was asleep in the boat. In answer to their cry of fear and despair He got up, “and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ’peace, be still’. And the wind ceased, and there was great calm” (Mark 4:39). The wind and the sea do not have ears yet He spoke to them – it is said this was for the benefit of the disciples. But the Greek word used is ‘siopa’ which means ‘be silent, quiet’ whereas the word for still is ‘pephimosis’ which is derived from ‘phimos’ meaning ‘to put on a muzzle to silence’. When both these words mean the same – silence – why did the Lord use two words to say the same thing?
Lord Jesus and the disciples spoke Aramaic and here the two words are ‘shela’ meaning to cease and ‘zegar’ meaning calm down. But in both cases it does not look like a rebuke. The Greek word for rebuke is ‘epitimesen’ meaning rebuke, admonish or warn. But then what was the Lord warning the storm about? Aramaic Bible gives a different picture where the word used is ‘kea’ meaning to take charge or to overrule, thus implying that He took charge over the storm. So when the Lord said to the disciples “You of little faith”, He was actually telling them, “Why do you forget – Who is in charge here”? And then He warned the storm – ‘shut up and be quiet’ – I had a long day, let Me sleep – “and there was great calm” for the Son of God was, is and will always be in charge.
The message to the disciples was not a demonstration of His power but to remind them – when in a storm, remember who is in control. And then surrender to Him and ask Him to take charge of our situations and He will still the storms that are heading your way to terrorize and destroy you. Just before the final command He again emphasized the same point, “I have the authority over everything in heaven and on earth. Therefore you go and make disciples”. And then the assurance, “I will be with you to the end of the age” to see you through the storms and help you in obeying My commands (Matthew 28:18-20). In effect, Lord Jesus’ message is clear – I empower you; use My authority and take charge and if you still fear, let Me “lead you to still waters” (Psalm 23:2-3).
Are we empowered? – In Nazareth Lord Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith” and then He sent the disciples in twos “and gave them authority over evil spirits”. While operating in this God given authority, “they drove out many demons, anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:6-13). After creating everything God checked what He had done and was pleased with it and then ‘He rested on the seventh day” and declared it holy (Genesis 2:2). The message to mankind was – I have done everything, use my authority that I have entrusted to you and live. The Son of God finished His work on the cross openly declaring “It is finished” and then rested before ascending to heaven to be seated ‘at the right hand of God’ (Mark 16:19). The message from the Garden of Golgotha is again essentially the same as it was in the Garden of Eden for He has empowered us with the same authority while asking us to take charge and ‘overcome’ and then to receive many gifts that He has for us (Revelation 2 & 3).
How do we learn to be still? – God’s command is categorical, “Be still and know that I am God, My name shall be exalted in all the nations” (Psalm 46:10). He is more important than every other thing in life and His name must be exalted for that is what we pray always “Hallowed be Your name”. King Sennacherib of Asyria invaded Jerusalem with his large army and Hezekiah, King of Judah, cried out to the LORD and in answer an angel of the LORD killed 1,85,000 enemy warriors in one night forcing them to withdraw (2 Kings 19:35). Again the same King Hezekiah was sick and Prophet Isaiah brought the word of God about his death and command to settle his house in order. Hezekiah cried out to the LORD and God immediately extended his life by fifteen years (2 Kings 20:1-6).
The ‘man of God’s heart’, King David, and his followers suffered a major setback when the Amalekites attacked Ziklag, their base camp, burnt it down and took their wives and children captive. Putting the blame for their suffering, the people started talking about stoning David to death. In this turmoil King David managed to create that stillness of the soul to enquire of the LORD about his plan to chase the Amalekites and with God’s assurance they not only destroyed the enemy but retrieved their family members with a large amount of wealth (1 Samuel 30:1-8). Fully aware of His impending death on the cross, Lord Jesus reached out to God in Gethsemane Park while the disciples slept due to fatigue. It was more important for the Son to be with the Father before facing such turmoil and in this stillness of the soul and angel came from heaven to strengthen Him (Luke 22_42-43).
To enter into a state of blessedness, three essential ingredients are necessary in a person’s life – first, he does not walk in step with the wicked; second, he does not stand in their company (to learn their ways) and finally does not sit with them to lure others into their trap. His delight is in the law of the LORD and in stillness he meditates on His word day and night to receive the ultimate blessing of being planted, not a wild bush, by God in abundance (Psalm 1:1-3). God becomes a Shepherd of such a man to lead him on to peaceful existence ‘besides still waters’ where there is no turmoil (Psalm 23).
We have a choice – whether to be still and seek Him every day or try to light our own torches in darkness and suffer endlessly for those who kindle a fire of their own and walk in its light shall lie down in torment (Isaiah 50:11). In the noise of grief and turmoil our only source of relief is God who cares for us. Why not seek Him in times of abundance also for then He will strengthen us to face the trouble that may come our way and be our strength and shield. Enter into that ‘personal prayer closet’ while shutting out all the noise to hear only His voice and look unto Him alone!