Don’t we all long for a bit of peace and quiet? I know I do, when people are clamouring all around me, or if I have a headache or if I have been busy and just want a few minutes to recoup and recover before the next thing. We dream of lounging on beaches of white sand beside aquamarine seas holding a long cool drink, hat tipped over our eyes and the only sound the susurration (love that word) of the waves against the shore.
I don’t often think of silence in regard to God. I know in Revelation there’s a great silence for half an hour at one point. But that suggests to me that silence is the exception rather than the norm. I always think of worship being vocal, or praise being loud and I assume when I see the hand of God moving I am going to rejoice and give thanks. So this verse in Exodus gave me pause.
The Eternal will fight on your behalf while you watch in silence.
There are lots of verses that talk about God silencing His enemies but Moses is speaking to the Israelites and, although they were a complaining and grumbling lot, I don’t think they were not considered His enemies here. So as I sat to write I was pondering it, what it might mean, what I could learn.
I thought of the Children of Israel gathered on the edge of the sea, despairing because Pharoah’s army was coming. Pharoah, their oppressor for so many years. Their master, their owner, the one with the power of life and death. Moses is listening to God amid their clamour and I wonder if he longed for a moment of silence to be sure he heard properly, but he trusted God to continue in the mighty deliverance He’d begun in Egypt.
‘Watch in silence’ Moses commanded them: don’t speak, don’t ask, don’t doubt, don’t gloat, don’t worry; just watch and see what God will do. And God moved. He moved sovereignly. He moved in His time and plan. It says the cloud moved to the rear and kept the Egyptians away all night. Then, after that, Moses raised his staff and the sea parted and the Israelites crossed on dry ground. Then the cloud must have moved to allow the pursuit and destruction of Pharoah’s horses and riders. So if I understand that properly they were all night on the shore before they crossed over. All night between the pillar of cloud and the sea. I wonder were they quiet all night? I wonder if there was a hushed expectancy as they finally kept silent and trusted.
15 Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,
Eternal One: In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.
There is a time to ask, to be vocal to press into God and intercede and pray without ceasing. There’s a time to be thankful, to spill over with thankfulness and a time to rejoice. But I think there is also a time to stand and watch as God fights for us. A time to believe what He has promised and watch for it. A time not just to be still in action but still in words. It’s rarely easy and I suspect it’s a skill that takes honing through years of practice trusting God but I also suspect it is a blessed place where we can see God’s hand and know it is nothing to do with us and all about Him.