************ Sermon on Habakkuk 2:20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 14, 2001
I How to Worship God
A I attended Promise Keepers conventions three times. I attended and spoke at more than one young people convention. One thing that struck me about these events was the exuberance of worship. There was noise, lots of joyful noise. Of course, the psalmist does tell us to make a joyful noise before the Lord and to come before Him with music and song (Ps 65, 95 ...).
This evening we are reminded that there is also another component of true worship. Worship is not just to be song and music and noise. It is also to be silence.
(Ps 46:10) "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
(Hab 2:20) "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
Think of Elijah for a moment. Within hours of enjoying his greatest triumph, the prophet Elijah experienced his most overwhelming defeat. He prayed and fire came down from heaven. He commanded and the prophets and priests of Baal were killed. He prayed again and torrential rains ended three and one-half years of drought (which started when he prayed that the heavens would hold back their rain). Then a evil queen's threats sent him into hiding, completely discouraged and disheartened.
Hiding in a mountain cave, Elijah waited to hear God speak to him. Before God spoke, Elijah experienced a wind so violent that it shattered great rocks. The wind was followed by an earthquake that threatened to destroy his hiding place. The earthquake was followed by a raging fire.
If Almighty God was speaking it makes sense, doesn't it, to see and hear Him in the wind, earthquake, and fire. But the Bible says, "the Lord was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire" (1 Kings 19:12).
The sounds of the wind, earthquake, and fire stunned his ears, but those noises did not speak to Elijah's spirit. Nature's symphony struck no chord in his heart.
After the fire there was a still small voice, a gentle whisper. Elijah heard it and that was the Lord. Elijah heard because he was quiet enough to listen.
B We miss God's voice because we listen with our mouths open, because we talk too much. The mouth is often overworked, with food going in and words coming out. The mouth keeps many people busy all their waking hours. The Creator gave us two ears and one mouth because listening is far more important than speaking. None of us should talk unless we have first listened. God says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). And our text for this evening says, "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
We are not comfortable with silence. That is why when someone calls for a time of silent prayer, the prayer seldom lasts for more than a few seconds.
But when it comes to the worship of God, when it comes to listening to God, there is room for silence. That is the point of our text.
Title: Joyful Noise, Blessed Quiet
Having learned to make the joyful noise, let us also practice the blessed quiet.
-- Paul Anderson in Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 2.
A "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." What is meant by silence? What does it mean to be silent before the Lord? We can identify a number of different meanings.
First of all, it means reverence. It means an awesome or respectful silence. When it comes to worship, that reverence is to be found in the outward appearance.
Do we show reverence for Almighty God, do you think, when we sit in church with a scowl on our face? Do we show reverence when we slouch through the prayers and sermon? Do we show reverence when we mumble our way through the songs and responsive readings? Do we show reverence when we come to church in anything less than our best clothes? Do we show reverence when we worship without zeal and passion, when we worship in a listless, lethargic, sluggish fashion? The psalmist tells us about his worship. He says, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker" (Ps 95:6). Outwardly, he is coming before the Lord with reverence. He is showing the right kind of silence when he worships the Lord.
This reverence, this worshipful silence, that we are talking about, is not to be found just in the outward appearance; it is also to be found in the heart. You see, the Lord never goes for just an outward show. In other words, what we show outwardly also needs to be found inwardly. In our heart, in our inner being, in our mind and spirit, the Lord wants to find a worshipful attitude.
This especially means an attitude of submission. We need to submit ourselves to God and His will. We need to fall before Him in obedience. I think of what Micah asks: "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?" In other words, how should I worship God? His answer:
(Micah 6:8) He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.The psalmist asks the same question as Micah: "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" His answer:
(Ps 15:2-3) He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart (3) and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,In other words, when we worship God, we need an attitude of quiet and humble submission. That is what our text means by silence.
B "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." What is meant by silence? What does it mean to be silent before the Lord?
The second thing it means is a listening spirit. Like Elijah, we cannot listen to the Lord, we cannot hear the Lord, unless we are silent.
Title: Improve on the Silence!
A man once visited a small costal town in Maine. He tried to start a conversation with the townspeople, but couldn't get anyone to respond. Finally, he asked whether there was a law against talking in the town. "Not exactly a law," one man said after a long pause. "But we have an understanding not to speak unless it improves on the silence."
Our society usually does not prefer such silence. With a filibuster, a congressman can block a bill's passage with the endless sound of his voice. Radio and TV hosts score high ratings by screaming opinions at guests and audiences. The successful media types are not the ones with the best insights; rather, it is those who shout the loudest. The most successful rock groups are also the ones who can make the loudest noise.
Christians, however, recognize the value of peace and quiet. We know we, like Elijah, cannot listen to the Lord unless we are silent.
There are different kinds of listening:
There is the listening of criticism. I heard of a man who took a notebook to church with him. Nothing wrong with that – lots of people take notes in church. But this man recorded only the mistakes.
There is the listening of resentment. Discipline a child and he may listen with resentment. Let your boss reprimand you and you may listen with resentment.
There is the listening of superiority. This is a haughty listening which thinks, "He can teach me nothing. I am certainly more qualified than he!"
There is the listening of indifference. This type of listening may not be callous, it may simply be careless. This is what happens when I am reading or working at the computer and I don't hear a word that is said to me.
There is the listening of the man who listens only because, for the moment, he cannot get the chance to speak. He is the poorest listener of all.
The only listening that is worthwhile is that which hears and learns, and that is the only way to listen to God. When we worship, the Lord wants us to be quiet and listen to Him.
Topic: QuietnessNoise has just as bad an effect on spiritual life. The person who is surrounded with noise cannot hear the voice of God. It is impossible for those who are alway noisy to have true peace of mind, peace of heart, and peace of soul! This is why God has said, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10). And, "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
Scientists report that noise has a definite effect on our working efficiency. Noise increases the pulse, quickens the blood pressure, and upsets the normal rhythm of the heart.
Respecting silence does not mean we should never sing, shout, or make a joyful noise. The Bible certainly encourages us to do these things as well. But there are times in worship when silence is golden. There are times in worship when you just cannot improve on the silence.
C "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." What is meant by silence? What does it mean to be silent before the Lord?
The third thing it means is meditation. We need a quiet time with God in which we shut out the noise of the world. In a busy and noisy world, we should seize any opportunity to "be silent" before the Lord. At work or at home, in joy or in sorrow, close your door to be alone with Him.
I know I have mentioned this before, and undoubtedly I will mention this again, but in our home visits the elders and I have discovered that too many of our members and families don't have a "quiet time," a devotion time, anymore. Part of the reason is that people allow themselves to be too busy. Another reason is that some might have wrong priorities. And still another reason is that our surroundings are simply too noisy for a quiet time with God. One writer puts it this way:
Title: Seeking God without Distractions
Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which he can be found. Christians should have quiet homes. Throw out television, if necessary--not everybody, but those who take this sort of thing seriously. Radios are useless. Stay away from the movies ...
-- Thomas Merton, Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 3.
We need to have times of silence in church, in worship, as well. In church, meditate on God's riches at every given opportunity: before the service begins and after it ends, when the offering is being taken, while the bread and wine are being passed out for the Lord's Supper, during the songs, and in the prayers. Did you think these all were times to read the bulletin, to file your nails, to talk to your neighbor, to day-dream? These are all designed as times to meditate on God and His riches!
Have you ever wondered why a pigeon walks so funny? According to an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press, a pigeon walks the way it does so it can see where it's going. Because it can't adjust its focus as it moves, the pigeon actually has to bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. This is the way it walks: step forward, stop, head up; step forward, stop, head up. Don't laugh -- that's how it goes!
In our spiritual walk with the Lord we have the same problem as the pigeon. We have a hard time seeing while we're moving. We also need to stop between steps – to refocus on where we are in relation to the world and the will of God. That's not to say we have to stop and pray and meditate about every little decision in life. But certainly our walk with the Lord needs to have built into it a pattern of "stops," which enable us to see more clearly before moving on.
A "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
This text not only tells us about the need for silence, but it also tells us the reason. The reason is that "the LORD is in his holy temple."
The "holy temple" that our text speaks of has two meanings. It means the church and it means heaven.
First of all, it means the church. When we gather for worship as a church we must have the silence our text speaks of – we must have a reverent submission, a listening spirit, and meditation – because we are meeting with the Lord.
God is present wherever two or three are gathered together in His Name. This means this is holy ground. Moses knew what that meant. When he saw the burning bush, he knew he was in the holy and awesome presence of God. So he took off his shoes. Using the words of our text, we would have to say he was silent before the Lord.
Often, God's people forget this. They forget that when they come to church they come to meet with God. Some people come to be entertained. Some people come to criticize. Some people come to have their needs met. Some people come out of habit. But first and foremost we come to meet with God.
"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." The Lord is here. He is here with us this evening. So let us be silent before Him.
B The "holy temple" that our text speaks of also means heaven. The Lord is in heaven. This means that His is kingdom, power, and glory. This means He has a throne and dominion forever and ever. This means He is the eternal one. This means He is the Almighty. This means He is a God of justice and might. This means He knows all things and sees all things. This means He is the fount of wisdom and truth. He is the LORD, the God Who loves us in Jesus Christ.
Imagine that you were going to meet the President, or someone equally important and famous. The office of President demands respect. Most ordinary people become tongue-tied in such situations.
We need to remember that when we worship, we come before the face of the God Who is in heaven. We come into the presence of Almighty God. And, before this God we can only have an awesome or respectful silence. We are to come before Him with reverence. For He is a great mighty God. By one breath of His mouth He can change the plans of nations and kings; by one breath of His mouth He can waste cities and armies, no matter how great they may be; by one breath of His mouth He can put an end to all the rebellion and sin of men. Before such greatness we can only be silent; before such greatness we can only have a reverent submission, a listening spirit, and meditation.
"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."
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