The Sound of Silence

Romans 3:19

 

Introduction:

  1. Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence
    1. Written by Paul Simon in 1964
      1. Number 1 song in several countries by January 1966
      2. Lyrics are very interesting, but their meaning is pretty much a mystery.
      3. They have no theological meaning at all – but silence in the Bible has tremendous theological significance!
    2. Romans 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God”
      1. Paul sums up his case that the law cannot protect anyone from God’s judgment of their own, personal sinfulness.
      2. Paul is saying that the law speaks to those under the law, and what does it say?
      3. It says, “You can’t keep the law.”
      4. Nobody lives a life of “righteousness” in comparison to the standards of God.
      5. When people understand this, their response is silence!
      6. There is nothing they can say!

 

  1. Job’s Silence Before God – Job 38:4-7
    1. Who Dares To Question The Lord
      1. When in our suffering we challenge the Lord like Job did, he works repentance in us so that we stand in silence, dumbfounded at his wisdom and power and astounded at his promise of grace.
      2. Job lived in the land of Uz in the Middle East many centuries before Jesus was born.
        1. The Lord blessed Job with seven sons and three daughters.
        2. He also gave Job great wealth in flocks and herds and many servants.
      3. One day that all changed.
        1. Job’s flocks and herds were all captured or destroyed.
        2. His servants were killed.
        3. And then all of Job’s children were killed when their house collapsed on them in a windstorm.
        4. Job tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground and said “21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
        5. Then Job 1:22 “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong”
      4. But Job’s troubles were not over.
        1. A devastating disease struck him.
        2. Painful sores covered his whole body and in his pain all he could do was scrape himself with broken pieces of pottery.
      5. Then his friends came, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
        1. They stared at Job in silence for seven days.
        2. Job 2:13 “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
        3. Finally Job spoke and said, “I wished that I had never been born.”
        4. Then Job’s friends began to speak and they pointed out that God acts justly.
      6. After they had spoken for a long time, Job began to challenge the Lord and asked “Why is this happening? Why must I suffer like this?”
        1. Then Job grew more defiant against God, accusing him of unfairness, demanding to know why and what sin he was guilty of!
      7. Job 38:1-3
        1. 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
        2. The Lord put Job in his place. He didn’t answer Job’s question “Why?”
        3. God’s then asks Job 77 questions that can be summarized in 3 questions:
          • “Can you explain My creation?” (38:1–38)
          • “Can you oversee My creation?” (38:39–39:30)
          • “Can you subdue My creation?” (40:6–41:34)

 

  1. Job’s first response = silence
    1. For 4 chapters, Job says nothing at all!
      1. Job is silent.
      2. Job stood silent, dumbfounded at God’s wisdom and power.
      3. Who should question the Lord? No one should ever question God’s actions because none of us understand His wisdom and power!
      4. We are just dust and ashes.
      5. When we see how ignorant and powerless we are, we are so shocked that our response is silence
    2. Yet, even though we know that He created all things, and that He is wise beyond anything we can imagine, we so often still want to challenge him!
      1. “Why God? Why is this happening to me? It’s not fair!”
      2. When God then shows us who He really is, He is showing us that we have no right to ask.
    3. Job had told his friends to cover their mouths (21:5), and others had covered their mouths when Job appeared (29:9).
      1. But now Job had to put his hand over his mouth lest he say something he shouldn’t say (Prov. 30:32; Rom. 3:19).
      2. Until we are silenced before God, He can’t do for us what needs to be done.
      3. As long as we defend ourselves and argue with God, He can’t work for us and in us to accomplish His plan through us.

 

  1. Job’s second response = service (Job 42:1–6)
    1. Job knew there was no way he could argue his case with God.
      1. Job humbled himself before the Lord and acknowledged His power and justice in executing His plans (v. 2).
      2. Then Job admitted that his words had been wrong and that he had spoken about things he didn’t understand (v. 3).
      3. He realized that whatever God does is right and man must accept it by faith.
      4. Until now, Job’s knowledge of God had been indirect and impersonal; but that was changed.
      5. Job had met God personally and seen himself to be but “dust and ashes” (v. 6; 2:8, 12; Gen. 18:27).
    2. “The door of repentance opens into the hall of joy,” said Charles Spurgeon; and it was true for Job.
      1. Then Job the sinner became Job the servant of God (Job 42:7–9).
      2. And then Job the servant became Job the intercessor as he began to pray for his friends.
      3. Once Job saw who God really is, it silenced his questioning and changed his life completely.
      4. By forgiving his friends and praying for them, Job brought back the blessing to his own life (v. 10).
    3. Job ended up with twice as much as he had before.
      1. He had twenty children, ten with God and ten in his home.
      2. He was once again a wealthy man as God gave Job twice as much as he had before.
      3. If the “double” formula also applied to Job’s age, then he must have been seventy when the story began (Ps. 90:10), and God allowed Job to live twice as many years (Job 42:16).
      4. To die “old and full of years” was the goal of every person.
      5. It means more than a long life; it means a rich and full life that ends well.

 

  1. The Silence of the Kings on the Earth – Isaiah 52:15
    1. Startled at the Servant’s message

So will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. Isaiah 52:15

 

  1. The people who were astonished by the Servant’s humiliation and exaltation will shut their mouths in guilt when they hear and see who He really is!
    1. Paul interprets this proclamation as the preaching of the gospel to the Gentile nations (Romans 15:20–21).
    2. “So that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God” (3:19).
  2. What these kings hear is what it proclaimed about the servant in Isaiah 53.
    1. Isaiah 53 is one of the most clear prophecies of who Jesus really is in all the Old Testament.
    2. Jesus literally and specifically fulfills all of the prophecies in Isaiah 53 which was written 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem.
  3. When people hear the gospel message it is not that “Christ died.”
    1. The gospel message is that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
    2. You and I are as guilty of Christ’s death as Annas, Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pilate.
  4. That is why people are so astonished that they go silent when they truly understand the message of the gospel:
    1. This Man whom they condemned has declared that they are condemned unless they turn from sin and trust Him.
    2. People cannot rejoice in the good news of salvation until they first face the bad news of their condemnation for not believing in the Son of God.
    3. John 3:17-19 “17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
  5. Jesus did not suffer and die because He was guilty but because we were guilty.
    1. This fact shuts people’s mouths and they are silent!
    2. How do you feel when you dwell on the fact that Christ died for your sins?
    3. Does it not silence you in wonder at the love and grace of God for you?

 

  • The Silence in Heaven – Revelation 8:1
    1. The Lamb of God on the Throne
      1. As the apostle John writes about his vision of God’s throne room, he describes the Lamb on the throne who is handed a scroll with seven seals (Revelation 6).
        1. The Lamb proceeds to break open the seals one by one.
        2. After each seal is opened, a judgment occurs on earth.
        3. Then, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1).
        4. After the half hour of silence, the seven trumpet judgments begin (Revelation 8:6—9:21; 11:15–19).
      2. Why is there silence in heaven for half an hour in Revelation 8:1?
        1. The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is the only person worthy to open the scroll’s seven seals (Revelation 5:1–5).
        2. All judgment has been entrusted to the Son (John 5:22).
        3. The first six seals unleash unprecedented judgment on the earth during the tribulation period.
      3. The sixth seal causes people from every part of society to hide in caves and call to the surrounding mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:16–17).
        1. Revelation 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals.
        2. During this time, an innumerable throng of people are before the throne of God, loudly proclaiming in chorus, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).
      4. Then in Revelation 8:1 Jesus breaks the seventh seal. John says that, after this seal was broken, “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”
        1. This silence immediately follows the loud and jubilant songs of heavenly worship in chapter 7.
        2. From that to absolute, sudden silence will be incredibly dramatic.
        3. There is something about the seventh seal that stops every mouth and silences all of heaven.
        4. Dr J Vernon McGee says “the silence marks the transition from grace to judgment”

 

  1. Reasons for the Silence in Heaven

Scripture does not specify the reasons for the silence in heaven for that half an hour. But here are some possibilities:

  1. The silence in heaven may be a sign of deep respect and awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth.
    1. Just as earthly courtrooms demand silence when the judge is presiding, so does the heavenly courtroom.
    2. The Judge rises and the Day of the Lord is here!
    3. Zephaniah 1:7 “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near”
    4. Habakkuk 2:20 “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him”.
  2. The half-hour silence in heaven may be because of what has just been revealed.
    1. Jesus Christ has just broken the seventh seal and the scroll of God’s judgment is fully revealed for the first time.
    2. Now all heaven can see God’s plan to judge the wickedness of the earth, destroy the kingdom of the beast, and set things right.
    3. All heaven remains silent as God’s righteousness is on full display against the evil of the world.
  3. The silence in heaven may be due to the severity of the actions the Lord God is about to take.
    1. With the scroll fully open, heaven can now see the trumpet judgments (in the next verse, seven nearby angels are handed seven trumpets of judgment, Revelation 8:2) and the bowl judgments (which the seventh trumpet introduces).
    2. These judgments are more terrible than anything the world will have ever seen (Mark 13:19–20).
    3. The final catastrophes are about to come upon the earth, and everyone is silent and they see what is about to happen.
    4. Zechariah 2:13 “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling”
  4. The silence in heaven is clearly the calm before the storm—the storm of final judgment coming upon the earth.
    1. With the opening of the seventh seal comes the climax of the Day of the Lord.
    2. The Day of the Lord has finally come!
    3. Are you ready for that? Be silent and think about it for a few minutes.

 

  1. The Silence of Jesus Before His Accusers – Luke 23:8-12
    1. The Silent Lamb Prophecy Fulfilled – Isaiah 53:7
      1. Isaiah 53:7 – He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
        1. In this passage, the Servant is compared to a lamb, which is one of the frequent symbols of the Savior in Scripture.
        2. A lamb died for each Jewish household at Passover, and the Servant died for His people.
        3. Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
        4. Twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb.”

 

  1. Before the Herod and the Priests – Luke 23:8-10

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.

  1. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time to speak and a time to keep silent.
    1. This makes sense but why was Jesus silent at this time?
    2. Jesus didn’t even defend himself (Luke 23:9).
    3. The accusations of the priests appeared to have defeated the silence of Jesus.
    4. But nothing could be further from the truth.
  2. The silence of Jesus makes us remember how he prophesied that the Son of Man must suffer and die for our salvation.
    1. Luke 9:21-22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
  3. The silence of Jesus reminds us of God’s Word of Isaiah 53:7—that the Messiah had to be a silent lamb.
    1. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isa. 53:7)
  4. The silence of Christ is leading to his crucifixion and is the power of God for our forgiveness, justification, and redemption.
    1. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
    2. The silence of Christ was his Word triumphing for you and for me.
    3. Jesus’ silence here is leading to the cross and the grave and the resurrection that saved us from our sins!
    4. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
    5. Because Jesus said not a word in order to fulfill God’s Word, by faith you and I are taken from death to life, from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ.
    6. So the silence of Jesus before His accusers was his powerful love that makes you and me his own.

 

  1. All that was heard was the sound of silence.

And what a sound it was. He said nothing. Why didn’t he answer?!

  1. Jesus knew that their accusations were unjust and untrue and that they were not truly seeking the truth.
  2. Jesus could have easily defended his innocence but chose not to.
    1. Jesus came to suffer and die for us at the hands of these people.
    2. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
    3. His silence not only fulfilled this prophesy, it also proved that he was the King who suffered for his people. His silence may have led to his death, but also to his victory.

 

  1. A Time for Silence – Ecclesiastes
    1. What Silence Does for Us
      1. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:… a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
        1. God Called Adam and Eve and they were silent – because of their sin.
        2. But now God calls us and wants us to speak to others about Him and what He has done for us!
      2. How do we respond to our sin? Do we launch into a line of useless defences and excuses?
        1. Or do we stay silent before God, acting like we have done nothing wrong when the right response is our confession before a God who absolutely knows us?
        2. “If anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the father in our defence- Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1 NIV)
        3. If we confess our sin and trust in God now, we will be able to stand silently before a holy God without fear, knowing that the punishment we deserved was taken on by Jesus.
          • When Satan, our Accuser, presents the evidence of our sin, then our Defender, King Jesus, will give that defense for us as he shows his nail pierced hands and feet to the Father.
          • What an amazing day that will be!
        4. An amazing thought to remember: Jesus stood silent at his own trial, but will defend me at mine
      3. The spiritual implications of silence are many, spanning the entire Bible beginning with creation, and extending all the way into Revelation.
        1. God has met his people in silent moments (1 Kings 19:12, 1 Samuel 3:3-4), encourages the practice of silence so that we can hear Him speak to our hearts (Psalm 62:1, Ecclesiastes 3:7).
        2. Jesus even retreated to find silence for Himself so that He could be with the Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).
        3. Without silence, we struggle to know God, to know ourselves, and to know who God created us to be.
        4. When our minds are constantly filled with outside stimuli, it becomes impossible to make space for the lessons that silence can teach us about God, about ourselves, and about his work in the world each day.