A fishing buddy of mine observed, “Shallow streams make the most noise,” a delightful turn on the old adage, “Still waters run deep.” He meant, of course, that people who make the most noise tend to have little of substance to say.
The flip side of that problem is that we don’t listen well either. I’m reminded of the line in the old Simon and Garfunkel song “Sounds of Silence” about folks hearing without listening. Oh, they hear the words, but they fail to silence their own thoughts and truly listen. It would be good if we all learned to be silent and still.
There is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7). Good silence is a listening silence, a humble silence. It leads to right hearing, right understanding, and right speaking. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,” the proverb says, “but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5). It takes a lot of hard listening to get all the way to the bottom.
And while we listen to others, we should also be listening to God and hearing what He has to say. I think of Jesus, scribbling with His finger in the dust while the Pharisees railed on the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11). What was He doing? May I suggest that He could have been simply listening for His Father’s voice and asking, “What shall we say to this crowd and this dear woman?” His response is still being heard around the world.
Father, today may Your Spirit remind us to seek the quiet so that we may listen first to Your voice and then understand the hearts of others. Teach us when to speak and when to be quiet.
Well-timed silence can be more eloquent than words.
One of the major themes in Proverbs is our speech (Prov. 10:19-21; 15:1-4,23,28; 16:24,27-28; 18:7-8; 21:23). In Proverbs 10 Solomon contrasts the wise and the foolish person, noting it is our speech that reveals which one we really are (vv. 11,18-21). Those who are righteous and wise are restrained and judicious in their words and sometimes choose silence as the best response. If we keep silent, we will never say the wrong thing (v. 19), and we will even be thought to be wise (17:28). Jesus said that our words come from our heart and reveal whether we are good or evil. He warned that one day we shall give an account for the words we have spoken (Matt. 12:35-36).