God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8
Pastor Vicky MootsKingman, Kansas
Ecc. 3:7c: “A time to keep silence, and a time too speak.” Perhaps you have heard it said that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body, but that is not actually true. It was mistakenly considered to be very strong because of its endurance. It never tires out no matter how much work it does.
Spiritually, however, it is extremely powerful and has more strength than a wild animal, as we discover in James 3:7-8: “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
Man cannot tame the tongue, but God can. We see an example of this in Luke chapter one where the angel Gabriel announced to the priest that he and his elderly wife, who were childless, were going to have a son, and that his name was to be called “John” (John the Baptist).
He doubted this and asked for a sign, to which the angel replied in Luke 1:20, “…behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed…”
So, Zacharias’ “time to keep silence” lasted 9 months, until the baby was born, and he wrote, “His name is John.” Verse 64 exclaims, “And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.” It was now his “time to speak…” If only we all were as eager to speak God’s praises as he was!
The first time that keeping silence was mentioned in the Bible is recorded in the book of Job, which is considered to be the oldest of all the books in the Bible. Job 2:11 tells us that three of Job’s friends came to mourn with him and to comfort him after the sudden loss of all that he owned, the loss of his health and the loss of his entire family, except for his wife. Verse 13 states, “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” Their time of silence contained more wisdom than all of the eloquent words that they spoke to Job after those first seven days contained in the next 34 chapters. We can learn a lesson from Job’s comforters and that is to refrain from using a lot of words to comfort those who are grieving. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.
James gives us some good advice in his epistle, in James 1:19, concerning our tongue that will keep us out of trouble if we will heed it: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” However, we find that keeping silent is extremely difficult to do. Children must be taught how to keep quiet, which is equally true for adults. Paul recognized the difficulty of this task and gave us some homework to do regarding keeping silent, in I Thess. 4:11: “…study to be quiet, and to do your own business.” I think we all need to work a little harder on that assignment!
David must have struggled somewhat with the difficulty of keeping silent, for he stated in his prayer in Ps. 141:3, “Set a watch [guard], O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” He was actually asking the Lord to stand guard in front of the door of his mouth and to not let any words escape that should be held prisoner.
The Lord knew that we also would need someone to stand guard before our mouth and has sent us the Holy Spirit to be our “Paraclete” (one called alongside to help).
In I Samuel chapter one we read of Hannah’s time of silence. She was barren for many years and yearned to have a son. In desperation, one day when praying in the temple, v. 10 states, “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord and wept sore.” In vs. 12-13 we read, “And it came to pass as she continued praying before the Lord…she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.” Eli, the priest, who was watching her, lips, thought she was drunk, but the Lord heard her heart, for her spirit communed with God, and she became the mother of Samuel, the prophet.
When we are so burdened, that we are unable to put our prayer into words, the Holy Spirit, who guards our lips, is also able to intercede and to speak for us according to God’s will, as Paul declares in Rom. 8:26-27: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession…for the saints according to the will of God.”
In conclusion, Jesus also experienced “a time to keep silence.” He spoke many words during His ministry, but He did not speak in His own self-defense to refute the false accusations against Him. His time of silence was so important that it was prophesied in Isa. 53:7: “…he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, an as a seep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
This was fulfilled at the time of His trial when he was brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, who asked Jesus, saying, “Answerest thou nothing? But he held his peace, and answered nothing…” (Mark 14:60-61). Then Jesus was brought before Pilate for judgment, and we read, “And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing…” (Mark 15:3-5).
Jesus remained silent and willingly suffered defamation in order to accomplish God’s will. He allowed Himself, by His silence, to become condemned to death so that He could bear our sins upon the cross and we could be set free.