Habakkuk 2:20
The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. "In striking contrast," says Dr. Henderson, "with the utter nihility of idols, Jehovah is here introduced, at the close of all the prophecy, as the invisible Lord of all, occupying his celestial temple, whence he is ever ready to interpose his omnipotence for the deliverance and protection of his people and the destruction of their enemies (comp. Isaiah 26:21). Such a God it becomes all to adore in solemn and profound silence (Psalm 76:8, 9; Zephaniah 1:7; Zechariah 2:13)." We take these words as suggesting three great subjects of thought.

I. THE UNIVERSE IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD. Men practically ignore this fact. To some the world is only as a great farm to produce food; to others, a great market in which commodities are to be exchanged in order to amass wealth; to others, a great chest containing precious ores which are to be reached by labour, unlocked and brought into the market; to others, a great ballroom in which to dance and play and revel in sensuous enjoyment. Only a few regard it as a temple. But few tread its soil with reverent steps, feeling that all is holy ground. What a temple it is! how vast in extent! how magnificent in architecture! how stirring are its national appeals!

II. THE TEMPLE IS FILLED WITH THE DIVINE PRESENCE. "The Lord is in his holy temple." He is in it, not merely as a king is in his kingdom or the worker in his works; but he is in it as the soul is in the body, the fountain of its life, the spring of its activities. Unlike the human architect, he did not build the house and leave it; unlike the author, he did not write his volume and leave his book to tell its own tale; unlike the artist, he did not leave his pictures or his sculpture to stand dead in the hall. He is in all, not as a mere influence, but as an absolute, almighty Personality. "Do not I fill the heaven and earth? saith the Lord."

III. HIS PRESENCE IN THE GREAT TEMPLE DEMANDS SILENCE. "Keep silence before him." It would seem as if the Divine nature revolted from bluster and noise. How serenely he moves in nature! As spring by universal life rises out of death without any noise, and as the myriad orbs of heaven roll with more than lightning velocity in asublime hush. How serenely he moves in Christ! He did not cause his voice to be heard in the streets. His presence, consciously realized, will generate in the soul feelings too deep, too tender for speech. Were the Eternal to be consciously felt by the race today, all the human sounds that fill the air and deaden the ears of men would be hushed into profound silence.

"Never with blast of trumpets
And the chariot wheels of fame
Do the servants and sons of the Highest
His oracles proclaim;

But when grandest truths are uttered,
And when holiest depths are stirred,
When our God himself draws nearest,
The still, small voice is heard.

He has sealed his own with silence:
His years that come and go,
Bringing still their mighty measures
Of glory and of woe -

Have you heard one note of triumph
Proclaim their course begun?
One voice or bell give tidings
When their ministry was done?" - D.T.

Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Habakkuk commends the power of .God, that the Israelites might proceed with alacrity in their religious course, knowing it to be a sufficient security to be under the protection of the only true God, and that they might not seek after the superstitions of the nations, nor be carried here and there, as it often happens, by vain desires. "Keep silence," then, he says, "let all the earth." He shows that though the Israelites might be far inferior to the Babylonians, and other nations, and be far unequal to them in strength, military art, forces, and in short, in all things of this kind, yet they would always be safe under the guardianship of God; for the Lord was able to control whatever power there might be in the world. We now see what the prophet had in view; for he does not here simply exhort all people to worship God, but shows that, though men may grow mad against Him, He yet can easily by His hand subjugate them; for after all the tumults made by kings and their people, the Lord can, by one breath of His mouth, dissipate all their attempts, however furious they may be. This, then, is the silence of which the prophet now speaks. But there is another kind of silence, and that is, when we willingly submit to God; for silence in this respect is nothing else but submission: and we submit to God, when we bring not our own inventions and imaginations, but suffer ourselves to be taught by His Word. We also submit to Him, when we murmur not against His power or His judgments, when we humble ourselves under His powerful hand, and do not fiercely resist Him, as those do who indulge their own lusts. This is indeed a voluntary submission: but the prophet here shows that there is power in God to lay prostrate the whole world, and to tread it under His feet, whenever it may please Him; so that the faithful have nothing to fear, for they know that their salvation is secured; for though the whole world were leagued against them, it yet cannot resist God.

( John Calvin.)

There is an eloquence that lives not in words. There is an appeal to the heart, ay, and to the reason too, in the language of silence. The child that wakes in the night and listens for a sound and hears none, realises loneliness, and vastness, and the sense of mystery, and cries out for fear. There is a voice in the silence of old associations, as we stand amid the relies of the past. There is a silence too amongst men that speaks most unmistakably, — the silence of deep feeling, whether of sorrow, or rage, or attention, or determination, when men have ceased to talk, because they feel words are out of place, and the time for work has come. The silence spoken of in the text is a silence created by a sense of the present majesty of God.

I. THE PRESENCE OF GOD. He has Himself declared His omnipresence. He condescended to dwell in the tabernacle and the temple. In the newer dispensation there were manifest declarations that God is among His worshippers of a truth. It is no relic of a bygone superstition to assert that God is in the midst of us. At the present day, with altered circumstances externally, are we to suppose the reality is changed? Because the temple gave way to the riverside or the catacombs, and they in turn to the Basilica and the Church, are we to think that God has failed His people or broken His covenant? Are we to imagine that God does not now draw near to hear the prayer addressed to Him, or that, while He is present everywhere else, He excludes Himself from those sanctuaries where His people specially desire His presence? We are here for a festival of parochial choirs. But in whose honour is that festival? Our own or God's?

II. THE WORK OF MUSIC. Regard it as an influence. Which of us is altogether insensible to it? And as a means of expression. The influence of music must lead on to something further. If we feel it in any degree, we are bound to make it our own, and employ it till we realise something of the worth of music as a means of expression. When Mendelssohn, as a boy, had seen anything very beautiful, if he was asked to describe it, he would say, "Oh, I can't speak it, I will play it to you," and would then sit down and draw out of the instrument tones that expressed the deep impression which the beautiful had made on him. We are not all so. Still we all have some such power in some degree.

III. WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH SILENCE? A great deal. For all great works great preparation is needed. For the true preparation of the music of the sanctuary, silence is necessary. The music we have been speaking of is the music of worship, and the music of hearts. Silence is the attitude of listening and attention. What is necessary in God's house is silent reverence. And it is the condition of real work, — of most work with the hand, of all real work with the head. The silence of preparation is like a dam across a stream. In the silence of thought, in the silence of humility, in the silence of reverence, in the silence of deep feelings, in the silence of earnest determination, we prepare an offering of prayer and praise, which wells forth, not from the noisy utterance of our lips, without influence and without expression, but a strong deep flood from the heart itself, which flows, and will flow on and on for ever, which has God for its object, our own deepest interest for its subject, our whole life for its channel, and eternity for its end.

(G. C. Harris.)

This prophetic book was written in troublous times.

I. THE ATTITUDE OF GOD TOWARDS THE EARTH IN THE GREAT CRISIS OF ITS HISTORY. Some think by Jehovah's temple the prophet means the Church; others the universe; others heaven; others the temple at Jerusalem. We understand our text to speak of heaven as the temple of the Lord.

1. The fact that the Lord is in His temple speaks to us of the hiding of His purposes. To us, in this lower world, God's face is often veiled. Our vision is not keen enough to pierce the mysteries of that temple into which He withdraws Himself.

2. Indicates the interest which He takes in human affairs. Though the Lord is hidden, He is not unobservant. It is our consolation to know that our Heavenly Father, though unseen, is all-seeing and all-pervading. And if God care for the most insignificant individual, must He not care much more when the fate of nations hangs in the balance

3. Intimates His infinite repose in spite of all external changes. No disquiet can be felt by the Almighty.

4. He is ready to interfere effectively at the proper moment. As a rule, He conceals His designs, until the time comes for action.

II. THE FITTING ATTITUDE OF MAN TOWARDS GOD IN EVENTFUL TIMES. "Let all the earth keep silence before Him." There should be —

1. The silence of humiliation.

2. The silence of adoration.

3. The silence of submission.

4. The silence of expectation.

5. The silence of quiet resolution — the resolution to follow implicitly the guidance of providence, and, at whatever cost, to do our duty to our country, the world, and to God.

Addison professes to have been wonderfully delighted with a masterpiece of music, when in the very tumult and ferment of their harmony all the voices and instruments have stopped short on a sudden, and after a little pause recovered themselves again as it were, and renewed the concert in all its parts. "Methought this short interval of silence has had more music in it than any one same space of time before or after it." And he goes on to cite from Homer and from Virgil two instances of silence, "which have something in them as sublime as any of the speeches in their whole works."

(Francis Jacox.)

What is silence? You often use the word, but are you sure that you always use it correctly? or that you are able to discriminate between the literal and the metaphorical use of the word? Strictly speaking silence is the suspension of articulate speech, though by a metaphor we transfer the term to a cessation of any sound whatever. Thus, we read of the hushed silence which, in tropical countries, precedes the shock of the earthquake; and we have all been awed by the silence which fills up the intervals between the peals in the thunderstorm. But in these instances the word silence, which strictly means the pause of articulate speech, is not used in its primary and literal sense, but figuratively or metaphorically. The Psalmist calls the human voice "man's glory"; and so it is, as sharing with the possession of reason "the glory " of distinguishing between man himself and the coasts that perish. And our Lord warns us against the vain and idle use of this great gift, by the solemn declaration that "by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned"; and again, that "for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." But if the faculty of speech be thus wonderful and sacred, and if a responsibility thus strict and awful attach to its right employment, must not something of the like sacredness, something of the like responsibility, belong also to that correlative power — the power of silence?

I. THE SILENCE OF WORSHIP, OF AWE AND REVERENCE. "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him." When we come up to the house of prayer, to meet Christ upon the mercy-seat, — to hear His voice speaking to us in the read and spoken word, — to receive Him into our very souls in the Sacrament of His broken body and shed blood, we are bound to observe the silence of awe and reverence. Except when we open our lips to join in prayer or praise to God, our attitude within these hallowed walls should be that of silence, of those who are impressed with the sanctity of the place, and who know and feel that the Almighty God is indeed in their midst. Yes; and it would be well, could we put more of this holy silence into all our religious acts. Our religion shares too much in the faults of the age in which we live. It is too public, too outspoken, conducted too much as a business; and so the inner and contemplative element is too much lost sight of. "Commune with thine own heart, and in thy chamber, and be still"; this is the direction of the Psalmist, and it is a direction to which we shall do well to give heed in this busy, noisy, bustling generation. Do not suppose that it is only the clergy, or persons of retired life, or those who have given themselves up to the attainment of a higher sanctity, who must court the silence of prayer and meditation. It is even yet more necessary for you whose lives are spent amid the busy competition of trade, or professional enterprise, or manual labour, — whose thoughts from early morning till late night are almost uninterruptedly engrossed with the cares and riches and business of this life, — it is absolutely necessary for you if, while living in the world, you would live with God and for God, that you make a point each day of withdrawing yourselves, if it be but for a quarter of an hour, from the outer world, and retiring into yourselves, to meditate on your own spiritual state, and on God's great love and goodness towards you. Devotion is possible even in the busiest life. Never plead worldly business as an excuse for irreligion, or for deficient fervour in religion. On the contrary, worldly business will be a great help to your religion if only you recollect that, in order to make it such, you must ever cultivate — educate that inner life of the soul which naturally aspires after God. And how will you cultivate and educate it? You can only do it by diligent seeking, and faithful use each day of a period of silence, — silence for prayer, for penitence, for communion with the Unseen and the Eternal.

II. THE SILENCE OF PREPARATION. Every great achievement, whether in the moral or the intellectual world, has been in a sense like Solomon's temple, — it has risen noiselessly, silently, without sound of axe or hammer. Therefore is that great primary act in religion — the conviction of sin — invariably preceded by deep and solemn silence, while the sinner stands before God self-accused and self-condemned. Therefore, also, is silence ever present at all the more solemn passages of our life. Sorrow — real, genuine sorrow — is ever silent. A cry! — a tear! — what relief would these be, — but they must not intrude into the sacred ground of sorrow, — the sorrow of the just-bereaved widow or orphan. And so, too, sympathy with sorrow is ever silent. Idle words, or still idler tears, — these are for false comforters, like those that troubled the patriarch Job: the true sympathy is the sympathy of a look, — of the presence of silence, not of uttered consolation.

III. But I must name that last silence, — a silence that we must all experience, and for which, by silence, we must prepare now — THE SILENCE OF DEATH. What exactly the silence of death is, none but the dying can know. When that silence comes upon us, and come upon us it must, with a certainty to which no other future certainty bears the slightest resemblance, may it find us experienced in silence. May we have sought it, may we have profited by it, may we have practised it, while it was still ours to choose or to refuse. May we have known what it was, day by day, to be many times alone with that God who must then be alone with us, to judge or else to save.

(C. H. Collier, M. A.)

We all speak too much, and make too much noise. Every one has felt irritated sometimes, when in thoughtful mood he could not escape from people's voices. A panorama of the Alps from a Swiss mountain-top may be spoiled even by the cries of "Wunder-schon!" No one can worship rightly, no one can even hear the call to worship, who does not often feel that he must be silent. This is the religious aspect of the modern demand for more leisure time. And one of the things we most of all need to learn and teach, is how to use the leisure that we are demanding, so that our "silences may be blessed with sweet thoughts." For worship, there are three main uses of silence —

1. To get rid of evil voices that speak within us. Passion, selfishness, self-assertion, lust, fear, are voices that cry within the souls of most men more than they know. Their cries mingle with the other noises of life, and so escape notice. But when the soul is hushed for worship it can distinguish any such voice, will feel its wrongness, and be at pains to silence it. There are many thoughts we dare not allow when we realise ourselves in God's holy temple. The silence which discovers and banishes these is a means of moral victory.

2. To let the "still small voices" be heard within. Often busy people feel that there are many things in their mind and heart which they can only half express, even to themselves. Wordsworth describes these in his Ode on Immortality. The reason why these are so inexpressible is often our want of silence rather than our spiritual incapacity. There are some scientific instruments so fine that to do their work they must be set at night in a quiet country-house far from traffic. The mind and heart and conscience are such instruments. All that is best in us of thought and feeling exceeds speech. When we try to speak out all that we want to say, we know how true it is that "language is a means of concealing thought." But in reverent silence, thought and love and the sense of right and wrong, in finer shades than language can match, may be drawn out, and the soul attain a richer and fuller being in this temple of God than elsewhere.

3. To know God. For there is more to be had than the quickening of human nature to its fullest life. There is a Presence in the world; one whose thought we share, whose love we feel, and whose voice speaks in conscience. That which the finest spirits prize most in silence and loneliness is the real companionship they reveal. We Know ourselves alone, yet not alone, for the Father is with us. The holy temple is the place of revelation and communion for its silent worshippers.

(John Kelman, M. A.).

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