Monday, December 30, 2013

Do We Ever Stop Talking?

Let’s link three Bible passages that encourage shutting our mouths for a moment. Yes, it’s ironic, that here I am, talking, about being quiet. I’ve had to do some personal evaluation about whether I’m doing this to promote myself, or to share a helpful truth and I am willing to adopt myself. You will have to decide whether there is something of value here.

“so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;”
(Romans 3:19 NAS95)

Romans 3 is huge in the Bible storyline. The “man” project seems to have been a major failure. “Man-apart-from-God” just doesn’t work. And it’s not from a lack of trying. The specific issue taken to task in this passage is the destruction of self-justification. Man left to his own resources has co-opted the Law of God, that is, the expression of God’s moral character in legal form, and tried to use it as a tool to make himself righteous. It doesn’t work, and so, we should just stop talking about how good we or have become as measured by moral or religious standards, and be quiet before a God who is holy in ways that we have yet to understand. Just be quiet, and take in this God who is so good and gracious, and quit making your case for your own self. There is no justification for me based on myself. But there is a God who justifies.

“If you have been foolish in exalting yourself Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.”
(Proverbs 30:32–33 NAS95)

What is the opposite of ‘churning’? I though it might be ‘peace-making’, but then I (finally) noticed that the verses already tell me the answer: ‘put your hand on your mouth.’ Peacemaking sounds grand and glorious. Shutting up, not so much. The specific human behavior that causes so much trouble is the agitation self-promotion. So much striving, trying to get ahead. I do not believe that these verses from the wisdom literature of the Bible lead us to reject all goal-setting. There is such a thing as a holy dissatisfaction with the status quo. But the problem may lie in whether our self-adopted goals have to do with a self-promoting agenda. You know, God may have an agenda as well, - perhaps even a better one. And He may have a role for you to play. Take a deep breath. Take note of what God has given, and of what God may do. Ask how you might partner with God in his gracious work of changing lives, and be willing to wait. Give it a little silence, and a lot of closet prayer.

“Then Job answered the LORD and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.””
(Job 40:3–5 NAS95)

It is frightening to me to think of the path that Job travelled in order to get to this point. When stripped of all rewards and comforts, what is left? There could have been bitterness. But instead, there was a hard-wrought humility that was much more respectful of God, having lost all regard for the consumption of selfish humanity. It’s really not about me. It never is. Oh, that’s not how I often think, or act. But it’s the facts, - the truth. And, thankfully, Job experiences a new level of richness and satisfaction, when he is forced to stop talking for a time.

God is gracious enough to justify the ungodly. He is glorious enough to share His light with those that will seek His glory. He is good enough to bless those who see Him for who He is. We are conformed to these designations and roles best when we put our hands over our mouths for a moment.

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