In Exodus 33 we hear Moses’s impassioned desire to know God, “Please, show me your glory.” Moses hungers to experience the glory of God and God graciously responds, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But....you cannot see my face…. Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (emphasis added)
Extraordinary! This must have been a breathtaking, illuminating experience of divine revelation and intimate relationship that would indelibly mark the rest of Moses’s life. And yet, we who are New Covenant believers have an even better privilege, clearer perspective, and fuller experience: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ….the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (Jn 1:14, 16-18)
Moses saw a passing glimpse of God’s glory; a mere moment to behold the Glory. But, through the Word-made-flesh we can linger...stare...gaze into God’s grace and truth. Moses saw a partial display of glory--”you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” But, in Jesus, God’s only Son, we see the fullness of God’s glory. As Paul wrote, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). There is no diminishing of Divine glory in Jesus--”he has made him known.”
Surely, “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” What a glory! What a privilege!
There are times that we are struck by the weight of words--heard or read. But, there are also times when silence speaks loudly. The silence I have in mind is the absence of certain elements or patterns of speech. Sometimes, we may be (even unconsciously) impacted by what we don’t hear someone saying. In other words, a person’s character and influence (at least in part) can be known and felt by things we continually don’t hear them saying. For, sometimes, silence speaks.
We may hear an invitation to confide in someone because we do not hear them gossip, slander, demean, or wrongfully criticize another.
We might learn gratitude and graciousness from a friend by the absence of complaint, grumbling, and constant comparisons.
We can hear a brother’s purity and propriety by the silence of anything crass, vulgar, or obscene.
We can listen to a sister’s reverence for God by the absence of careless words and coarse, disrespectful references to God.
The Lord Jesus was no stranger to speaking by silence. His silent pause with the self-righteous Pharisees and the absence of condemning rhetoric with the woman caught in adultery heralds his wisdom, patience, and gentleness (John 8:1-11). On trial, his silence before the false accusers declared his faith in the Father (1 Peter 2:22-23). And, on the cross his silence among the mockers and scoffers proclaimed his love as our Substitute and Savior (Isaiah 53:1-7; Matt 27:27-30, 35-44).
If we listen carefully, we can hear silence speaking.
So, what will you not say today that will sound like Jesus and prove helpful to someone else?
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.