Psalm 62:12-2, 5-7
October 15, 2023
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
There are events in global history and our personal lives that mark a lasting change to the life we’ve known. Some are exciting events for which we praise God, such as the first day on a much-awaited job, a wedding, the birth of a child, the purchase of a home or moving to a new place to begin a new chapter of life. But there are also those events which bring hardship and a forced change that can send us reeling and rock the foundation of our faith in God and relationship with Jesus (if we let it): the loss of a job, an illness, the death of a loved one, the end of a friendship, a natural disaster; or a global event such as a terrorist attack, a pandemic or a war such as erupted in Israel just over a week ago.
King David was greatly aware that events could take a toll on a person or a whole community, endangering their relationship with God. (Not from God’s side, but from our side.) And it is in that kind of context that David wrote the Psalm we are focusing on this morning. In verses 3 & 4 David writes, How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence? Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.
How does King David cope? He awaits God in silence. Silence!
Daniel Gross writes in “This is Your Brain on Silence”: “One icy night in March 2010, 100 marketing experts piled into the Sea Horse Restaurant in Helsinki. They had the modest goal of making a remote and medium-sized country a world-famous tourist destination. The problem was that Finland was known as a rather quiet country. The Country Brand Delegation had been looking for a national brand that would make some noise.
“The experts puzzled over the various strengths of their nation. Here was a country with exceptional teachers, an abundance of wild berries and mushrooms, and a vibrant cultural capital the size of Nashville, Tennessee. These things fell a bit short of a compelling national identity. Someone proposed that perhaps quiet wasn’t such a bad thing. That got them thinking.
“A few months later, the delegation issued a slick ‘Country Brand Report.’ It highlighted a host of marketable themes, (but) one key theme was brand new: silence. As the report explained, modern society often seems intolerably loud and busy. ‘Silence is a resource,’ it said. It could be marketed just like clean water or berries. ‘In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.’
“People already do. In a loud world, silence sells. Noise-canceling headphones retail for hundreds of dollars; the cost of some weeklong silent meditation courses can run into the thousands. Finland saw that it was possible to quite literally make something out of nothing.
“The next year, the Finnish Tourist Board released a series of photographs of lone figures in the wilderness, with the caption ‘Silence, Please.’ Eva Kiviranta, who manages social media for VisitFinland.com, explains ‘We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing.’”
Some of us may be uncomfortable with silence, while others of us yearn for it and wish we could find it, and still others of us have discovered the gift of silence but don’t always know what to do with it. And for those of us that relish silence, we need to do a health-check on our silence because there is more to a healthy silence than just being silent.
Our challenge from our scripture today is to make our silence a good one, as the Finnish Tourist Board did for Finland, one which enriches our relationship with God, strengthens our faith, and focuses our approach to facing challenges in life. It is placing our silence, in God’s hands, not controlling it in ours.
- King David writes, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
One U.S. Marines ad pictures a sword, and beneath it the words: “Earned, never given.” If you want to become a Marine, be prepared to earn that name through sacrifice, hardship, and training. If you get it, you deserve it.
But if you want to become a Christian, you must have the exact opposite attitude, for the message of the gospel is: “Given, never earned.” You cannot save your own soul, and God will not save anyone who tries to earn their salvation, but only those who will humbly receive it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. If you get it as a gift of grace, you absolutely did not deserve it.
To make the waiting in silence with God a good thing, we must humbly come before God — letting go of what we think ‘our accomplishments’ are and of ‘how good’ we think we have been. We must free ourselves from being self-preoccupied, driven to make an impression, and determined to accomplish our destiny — and allow God to be God. We need to let our goal-setting take a break, our schedule-controlled living take a vacation, our to-do lists be set aside, our phones be left off, our binge watching to be placed on pause, our social media to go without ‘likes’ for just a bit.
Yielding to God is a vital step to engaging in good silence.
- King David goes on to write, “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”
Things may be crumbling down around us, and events may attempt to shake and weaken our foundation; but that need not diminish our faith in God. To make our silent waiting on God a good thing, we need to stand firm in our belief that God is our rock, our fortress that can not be shaken. If God can part the waters for the Hebrew people to make it to freedom, protect three men in a burning furnace, and raise Jesus from the dead, God can and will act in our lives (sometimes in unexplainable ways) for our good.
Entrusting our lives to God’s care is also vital for good silence.
- King David goes on to write, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.”
Keith Hartsell was with a friend a few years ago here in California, and, as they were driving around the busy streets of L.A., he noticed that his friend’s cell phone was locked with an unusual password—pro nobis. Keith asked him what pro nobis meant and why he chose that for a password. He told Keith it was Latin and it meant “For Us”. He then suddenly started choking up. Keith thought, “Why would those two Latin words cause so much emotion?”
The friend composed himself and then explained, that after walking through deep personal pain, true healing came when he learned that God is “for us”. Keith’s friend said that after his parents’ divorce, a season when he assumed that God didn’t care or that God had given up on him, he finally found hope through those two simple words. When he decided to believe that God was pro nobis, that God had even sent Christ to die for him, he could then decide to lay down his life for others.
Placing our hope in God girds up our waiting in silence and opens our souls to receive the gift that God is for us.
Waiting in silence for God may be dramatic for some; but if you are like me, you will usually not experience anything particularly dramatic while you wait. That is not to say that you won’t have special defining moments from the Lord that are powerful, vivid, clear or dramatic — they just won’t be an everyday experience. Moses didn’t see a burning bush every day!
For most people, there is a kind of “ordinariness” to waiting for Lord that is powerful in and of itself.
It is in silence — that is, the good silence of which King David writes — that we yield to God, entrust our lives to God’s care, and place our hope in the God who is “For Us”. The outcome is this: we more readily live our lives in full assurance of faith, knowing we are not alone! God is always with us! Thanks be to God!!