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SILENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, February 6, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).


Some people say, "I don't know if God really exists." Others say, "I know He doesn't exist." Still others say, "His existence depends on what you believe." But agnosticism, atheism and post-modernism are all answered in this text,

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Verse six says, "The heathen raged." If ever that were true, it is more so today. The word "raged" means "caused an uproar." Yes, that is true in Iraq. We see it every day in the newspapers and on television. Yes, militant Muslims rage and cause an uproar. But it is just as true here. You can be driving down the freeway and some heathen in an SUV will run up behind you and blink his lights on and off and roar around you cursing, as though you had committed the unpardonable sin for even daring to be driving in front of him.

It's very hard to find stillness today. There's always some stereo blasting, some TV groaning, some siren blaring, or dog howling. It seems like you can't get away from the noise. Yet our text says,

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Dr. A. W. Tozer said,

Our fathers had much to say about stillness, and by stillness they meant the absence of motion or the absence of noise or both. They felt that they must be still for at least a part of the day, or that day would be wasted. God can be known…best in the silence. So they held, and so the Sacred Scriptures declare. Inward assurance comes out of the stillness. We must be still to know (A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares, Christian Publications, 1970, p. 16).

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Let us think more deeply about the implications of that verse this morning.

I. First, it is difficult to be still.

The more mechanized the world becomes, the more difficult it is to be still. The more machines we have, the more noise we experience. The phone in my office has rung time and again as I began working on this sermon. Luther, Edwards, Wesley, and Spurgeon never had to deal with a ringing phone. It was far easier to be still in olden times. I wonder if that may be one of the reasons we have had no nation-shaking revival since 1859. Before the Industrial Revolution nearly every generation experienced revival. Could the noise of machines be partly to blame? I think so, for our text says,

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Though Tozer did not bring out that particular point about revival in his essay, I am sure he would have agreed with me on this. You have to be quiet to know God!

A sermon should not be quiet. I know that certain men would deal with this subject in quiet tones, thinking that the text calls for a preacher to be quiet. But it does no such thing! A preacher should speak up, and not give a quiet "homily." A preacher is supposed to give information from the Bible in a way that holds people's attention. He is supposed to "preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort" (II Timothy 4:2). He is supposed to preach like John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostle Paul. He is supposed to speak like Peter on the Day of Pentecost, when he "lifted up his voice" (Acts 2:14). No, our text is not speaking about preaching. It is speaking about knowing. If you want to know the God that the preacher is telling you about, then you have to be still.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

The person who is never still inwardly will never find the God that the preacher speaks about outwardly!

It is difficult to be still. You have to plan for it and make time for it. You can sit in a chair and hear hundreds of sermons without God ever entering into it at all, without God ever getting a grip on your soul! You have to plan on being still. You have to make time to be still - or God will never be able to speak to you inwardly.

Why do you think we go to the trouble of putting the outlines of the sermons in the bulletins, with the Scripture verses? We want you to go home and go over the outline in the bulletin, and think about it again.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Personally, I am against note-taking during a sermon. Why? Because people have a tendency to think that they understand something they hear if they write it down. Balderdash! Ask any college student. If you take careful notes in a college classroom it does not mean that you understand the material. You have got to go home and think about what you heard that day or you will flunk the test.

And yet, the analogy is imperfect. Yes, you should take notes in a classroom, because you have got to go over and over those notes to understand the class and repeat the answers on the exam.

But a sermon is somewhat different. It's not just information you are gathering and memorizing. It's an impression. I'm struggling for the right word. That's the best I can come up with - an impression. And you have go to and be quiet, and think over that impression, and then deal with it inwardly, or it will do you no good whatever.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

II. Second, it is necessary to be still.

Man is a creature of habit. What we learn becomes habitual. For instance, I have been driving cars for fifty-one years. At first I remember that I had to carefully think about each thing I did when I was driving. Now I drive "automatically." I don't have to consciously decide what to do. Driving has become habitual, as natural as walking (which is also difficult at first - but later becomes "easy" by habit).

But the danger is this - we all have religious "habits." No matter who you are, you have developed habits of thought about God, the Bible, and religion in general. No one can escape this, for "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). Every human being is blind toward God naturally, being born with a sin nature. You have ideas about God, but you do not know Him. The Bible makes this very clear when it says that you are

"Alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in [you], because of the blindness of [your] heart"
    (Ephesians 4:18).

So, you go on and on in "the blindness of [your] heart," habitually thinking the wrong things about God.

"The world by wisdom knew not God" (I Corinthians 1:21).

The people of this world cannot know God through their own wisdom. The atheist will go on being an atheist. The agnostic will go on being an agnostic. The Buddhist will go on being a Buddhist. The Catholic will go on being a Catholic. The decisionist evangelical will go on being a decisionist evangelical. The unconverted Baptist will go on being an unconverted Baptist. Man is a creature of ingrained habit. And nothing is stronger than ingrained religious habit, for

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God"
    (I Corinthians 2:14).

The only way out of this ingrained religious rut is for a power outside of you to "jog" you out of your habitual thoughts about religion. Your whole view of religion must be turned inside out, and upside down. I don't care if you've been going to church for twenty years, and have read the Bible from cover to cover, if you are unconverted, your "religious beliefs" must be turned inside out and upside down by a power outside of yourself.

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

Now, how does that occur? Well, first, you must experience something of our text,

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

The words "Be still" are from a Hebrew word that means "cease, leave, let go, be still" (Strong). "Cease" your own thoughts. "Leave" your own thoughts. "Let go" of your own thoughts.

"Be still,and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Stop your chattering, even the chattering in your brain. Cease from it - or you cannot know God!

Several years ago my wife and I had the privilege of going to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. We had to go far out in the desert, in the Sinai Peninsula. We went in a bus with a dozen other American tourists. None of the others were evangelical Christians. They chattered and smoked and drank all the way. My wife and I sat silently as they talked on and on and on. Then the bus finally reached the foot of Mount Sinai and we stopped for the night. The man who drove the bus put up a big tent for us to sleep in before we got up early the next day to climb the mountain. When the tent was up we ate dinner. The sun was nearly down when we finished. Then those people started smoking and drinking and laughing and talking again. I walked away from them into the growing darkness. You have heard me tell about this before, because it was such a remarkable experience. I walked away from that crowd - and suddenly I was intensely aware of the silence. The noise from those people was sucked up by the desert. I can't describe it any other way. The noise of their drunken chatter was literally sucked up in the utter silence of that vast, dry desert place. And then there was God. I can't describe it any other way - and then there was God. I ran and got my wife. I took her by the hand and said, "Don't talk." We walked hand-in-hand into the silence, into the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was so silent you could hear your own heart beating. And in that silence you could feel God.

I feel the presence of God right now, as I write this sermon. He is here in the room with me. I left my study for a few hours, but I have returned. It is after midnight now. The phone has stopped ringing. Everyone is in bed. I am alone in my study. A dog is barking softly in the distance. Now the dog stops. Our home is shrouded in silence. I can hear the sound of my pen writing these words on the paper. And God is here. Not so clearly as He was that evening at Mount Sinai, but enough for me to sense His presence, to know for sure that He is with me tonight, enough for me to make those words my own,

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

How can there be any doubt when you are still and listen? How can there be any other god or spirit - when you are still and listen?

"When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

I have felt God in quietness by the sea shore. I have felt God in the quietness of the Sinai desert. I have felt God in the quietness of my study after midnight. And I have felt the presence of God on two special occasions during real revival, when a great quietness came down on those churches which, though they were filled with people, became so quiet that you could hear a woman softly sobbing in one corner of the auditorium, while people were so touched that they could not utter a single word, but only stand in awe.

My mind goes back again to that night in the desert, in the north of Africa, at Mount Sinai. My wife and I stood silently in God's presence for about twenty minutes, until the sun went down and it was dark. We turned silently back to the tent. The people were still chattering. I know it's redundant to keep saying the word "chattering" - but it's the very best word to describe their idle chit chat. We did not join in for, like Moses, we felt that we had been on "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). We felt like Jacob when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place" (Genesis 28:16). We went directly from God's presence to bed - and we slept soundly. The people were still chattering as we drifted off to sleep.  They chattered all the way up the mountain the next day. When we stood on the top of the mountain, at the very place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, they were still smoking and chattering. 

Now, I ask you, are you a chatterer, or are you a person who from time to time stops talking, stops thinking words, stops reasoning - and simply basks in the presence of God? If you have never had this experience, I pity you. No wonder you have so many doubts and theories. Your very mind will not stop chattering away long enough to be still, long enough to experience what our text is speaking of:

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Dr. Tozer said,

I repeat: Experience is conscious awareness. This kind of confirmation and witness was taught and treasured by the great souls of the ages. Conscious awareness of the presence of God! I defy any theologian or teacher to take that away from the believing church of Jesus Christ! (A. W. Tozer, Men Who Met God, Christian Publications, 1986 reprint, p. 12).

But you must be very still to recognize Him when He comes.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

This is why every Christian should have a quiet time alone each day - away from the noise of the world, away from the chatter of his own brain - a quiet time, perhaps after daily Bible reading, when you are through praying, when you can simply stand or sit in the presence of God for a few moments. It will be well worth the time spent. In those quiet moments the river of life will flow into your soul. And you will walk through the hustle and bustle of the world like a man transformed, like Jacob who said,

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not"
    (Genesis 28:16).

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

I'm not telling you to practice Buddhist meditation or experience a Hindu trance. I'm talking about meditating on the God of the Scriptures. The world is full of demons and Satan himself sometimes appears as an angel of light. But you will not be tricked by him if you look for the God of Scripture to come to you. He will not let the honest seeker be disappointed or defrauded by any other spirit. This promise is given word-for-word twice in the Bible.

"If thou seek him, he will be found of thee" (I Chronicles 28:9).

"If ye seek him, he will be found of you" (II Chronicles 15:2).

When God gives a promise once, we can trust Him to do what He promised. But this promise is given twice in the Bible. Therefore we have double assurance that it is true. But there is a condition connected to this promise. It isn't for everyone, because not everyone will meet the condition. And the condition is seeking Him. God does not reveal Himself to those that refuse to seek Him.

"If ye seek him, he will be found of you" (II Chronicles 15:2).

Do I need to counsel you to avoid the rattle and noise found in many so-called "praise services" of our day? The sort of thing that is so popular just now on certain "big" religious TV shows hardly tends to drive people to solitary prayer or silent adoration.

I believe in singing loudly and preaching loudly, but the message of our singing and preaching should drive people to seek God inwardly. If you seek God inwardly you will find yourself confronted by your own proud heart on the one hand, and your sins on the other. You will find that your Adamic nature and your actual sins block you from God. You will try to find God, but you will discover that

"your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you" (Isaiah 59:2).

In this condition, seeking God but sensing that you are separated from Him by sin, you will hopefully see the need for Jesus.

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

Your struggle to find peace with God will end when you come to Christ, who made full payment for your sin on the Cross. It was Jesus who said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

When you come to Christ, your sin is pardoned by His death and cleansed by His Blood.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

When you have peace with God through Jesus, you will be able to enjoy God's presence.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Let us stand and sing the last hymn on the song sheet.

Great God, when I approach Thy throne, And all Thy glory see;
This is my stay, and this alone, That Jesus died for me.

How can a soul condemned to die Escape the just decree?
A vile, unworthy wretch am I, But Jesus died for me.

Burdened with sin's oppressive chain, Oh, how can I get free?
No peace can all my efforts gain, But Jesus died for me.

My course I could not safely steer, Through life's tempestuous sea,
Did not this truth relieve my fear, That Jesus died for me.

And, Lord, when I behold Thy face, This must be all my plea -
Save me by Thy almighty grace, For Jesus died for me.
    ("Jesus Died For Me" by William Hiley Bathurst, 1796-1877;
        sung to the tune of "When All Thy Mercies, O My God")

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Psalm 46:1-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith

"Be Still, My Soul" (by Katharina von Schlegel, 1697-1768).

THE OUTLINE OF

SILENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

I.   It is difficult to be still, II Timothy 4:2; Acts 2:14.

II.  It is necessary to be still, Romans 5:19; Ephesians 4:18;
I Corinthians 1:21; 2:14; John 3:7; Psalm 27:8;
Exodus 3:5; Genesis 28:16; I Chronicles 28:9;
II Chronicles 15:2; Isaiah 59:2; I Timothy 2:5;
Matthew 11:28; Romans 5:1.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."