Sword of Silence
Seated around the table, books opened, we all laughed that uncomfortable snicker as we looked at the title of this chapter. Sword. Of. Silence. Maybe we already knew this sword would be one of the hardest to wield.
Turns out…we don’t wield it all. Yup. This is going to be hard!
The Sword of Silence is the sword left in its scabbard, in its sheath unused. Funny how for a whole study we’ve been training ourselves how to pick up the Sword, God’s Word, and USE it, only to discover that we also have to learn to discern when God calls to keep our hands off the hilt and remain silent. Oh my.
What does silence mean? What are those situations when silence is the appropriate response? Maybe when “I have no answer,” or “the battle is too big for me to handle so I’ll let God handle it.” Here’s a good one: “I have a response but I choose not to give it voice at this time.” In a nutshell, silence means we respond when God whispers, “Leave this one to me.” (Fencing Manual, p.157)
So the question that begs an answer – How do we know when to be silent? The answer, ironically, is that we have to be able to hear God and that means we have to be still, be quiet. We need to posture ourselves so He can be heard.
Our being still and silent (or our inability to do so) reveals if we have rule (or control) over our souls. (FM, p. 157)
When we allow our own careless words to put us in desperate circumstances, we need to be still and silent before God so we know what our next steps are.
When we are threatened by desperate circumstances not of our own making, we also need to be still and silent before God. He wants to speak to us in those moments, so let’s still ourselves to receive His Words.
Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be silent.” (ESV) That’s the promise we take to heart, that we claim when circumstances tempt us to react with our humanness.
Think about your normal reactions when you are suddenly in a frightening situation. Maybe you run or yell or fight back. Maybe you panic and lose all your senses…just freeze.
God wants us to turn to Him in those moments and seek His wisdom.
Lisa points out, though, that often “the battles we face are normally far subtler.” (FM, p. 158) Lies. Rumors. Gossip. Fear. But even in those situations, God’s promise stands true. In The Message the same Exodus 14:14 verse says, “God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouth shut.”
In the NIV the verse says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Which version of Exodus 14:14 speaks to you most and why?
Exodus 14:13 tells us to “stand firm” so we can watch God fight for us. So not only are we to be still and silent, but we’re called to stand our ground.
What does it mean to “stand firm”?
As our group talked through what “standing firm” might look like, someone brought to mind the scene in the move Blindside when Sandra Bullock’s “mom” character stood her ground while facing the drug lords on “their turf.” She didn’t let fear cause her to cower or back away. She didn’t over-react and start screaming, losing control. She calmly, yet firmly, stood her ground and got the answers she sought, let it be known a boundary had been set. A mighty vision of standing firm we might emulate.
Lisa alluded to the Pharaoh who led Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Over and over God called Moses to stand firm before this mighty king and demand freedom for the Hebrew slaves. And every time God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart, and freedom was not to be had…at least not until the final plague of death.
The Hebrews were free…until God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again, and the Hebrews found themselves trapped between an army and a great sea.
Why did God deliberately and repeatedly harden Pharaoh’s heart?
For His own glory! Think about it. There was NO OTHER answer for the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves than God’s intervention. No one could give credit to Pharaoh.
And by the time the Hebrews reached Jericho, the stories of their mighty God had reached the city and Jericho cowered in fear of Him.
The moral for us? The battles we face are much larger than we can fathom. Their influence much more far-reaching than we can imagine. Even the battles between families and nations can be opportunities “for a revelation of the one true God.” (FM, p. 160)
So how do we respond when the battle is personal?
Have rumors caused your reputation to be smeared? Has someone completely misrepresented you? Do you feel misunderstood?
How do you respond? God would say with silence.
Proverbs 26:20 (NLT) says, “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” We can all relate to fire. We know that to burn fire needs fuel; it has to be fed. Guess what? So do gossip and rumors. What are some ways to put out this fire?
We can’t forget that our tongues have the power of life and death, of healing and destruction (Proverbs 18:21). We have a choice how to respond when life gives us unfair circumstances.
There’s a story of David in 1 Samuel 25 that helps drive home the power of silence when we are treated unfairly. For all the years David was running and hiding from Saul, he finally found himself in another country, protecting the sheep and men of Nabal. It was a haven, but when David asked to be part of a festival, Nabal denied him the privilege.
There was nothing right or fair in Nabal’s response, and David wanted to lash out in anger. He had been dishonored in front of his men; his identity and birthright had been undermined. David ordered his men to take their swords. He wanted a fight.
“If your are not careful, listening to what other people say about you may cause you to forget who you are.” (FM, p. 162)
David needed some wisdom, and a sweet widow named Abigail would be the voice God would use to deliver it. And David listened. He was silent long enough to hear the words he needed to give him perspective and wisdom. David then put his sword back in its scabbard and chose silence before Nabal. Later, David was able to accept the crown of Israel with “no case of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause” (1 Samuel 25 29-30). His silence was the wise choice.
Lisa shares so much wisdom on this subject:
“You must constantly allow God’s Word to be the only framework that defines you.” (FM, p.162)
“Far too many have been bullied into conforming or compromising for the sake of being included.” (FM, p.163)
“You must know what you are anointed to do and not be distracted from your purpose.” (FM, p.163)
As great an example as David is, Jesus is the master of silence. He was never one to remain silent when words were called for, but in those instances when He let silence reign, He spoke the loudest! And in the end, He silently stood His ground —
He wasn’t still because there was nothing He could do. He was lifted up from the ground so that in Him, we could hold ours! (FM, p.165)
What might God want to fashion in your life through the element of silence? What battle needs to be won through your silence?
I’d love to close with Lisa’s words…words that are like a blessing. Then we’ll end in silence.
My friend, God will establish your house and watch over you as you go forth. You don’t have to figure out what needs to happen to those you perceive to be enemies. God has it all sorted out; rest in the knowledge that He alone is the righteous judge. It is time we move away from postures of self-protection. God fights for us as we fight on behalf of others. Take up a different kind of weapon — a sword called silence. (FM, pp.164-5)