Mortals Be Silent

“What profit is an idol

when its maker has shaped it,

a metal image, a teacher of lies?

For its maker trusts in his own creation

when he makes speechless idols!

Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;

to a silent stone, Arise!

Can this teach?

Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,

and there is no breath at all in it.

But the LORD is in his holy temple;

let all the earth keep silence before him.”


Habakkuk 2:18-20


Ours is an age that demands every moment to be filled, with something. Even as I

pause to pen (ok type) this my mind races. I have allowed myself to be conditioned/

programmed to steady diet of external stimuli. There is little place for silence and

contemplative time in a ‘Type A’ personality.


The ancients created ‘idols’ as the crutch for their uneasiness, something on which to

project their fears and through which to seek some sort of deliverance from what

afflicted them. All in a futile effort to seek control. The children of Israel clamored for

what turned out to be the golden calf when Moses had been less than 30 days on the

mountain of God, later they demanded a king, much to the dismay of Samuel who

clearly warned of the attendant consequences of taxation and conscription. Even

when Jesus came declaring the kingdom of God they willfully misinterpreted. (But

that’s another story). We are not a lot different, thinking we are beyond superstitions or

religion, that ‘opiate of the masses’ per Karl Marx. But it is sham mask.


Exposed for what it truly is, Habakkuk unmasked this over 2600 years ago. Whether we

call it an idol giving it names like Dagon, Baal or Moloch, or Zeus, or Poseidon or Gaia,

or call it pursuit of the ‘good life’ be it sexual license, mind numbing cell phone use,

inappropriate medications, sports or the causes du jour, we are in constant pursuit of

something to keep us occupied, even music or talk radio, it is as if we constantly cry

“O Lord please don’t let me be alone with my thoughts!” It can be a scary place. I

need the opiate of external activity (no matter how mindless).


"But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him."

This is a clear exhortation (if not outright command) in holy writ! It is almost like the

prophet saying “shut up already you will not receive true blessing without giving God

space to be pondered, to he held in reverence and to minister to our souls”. From such


an invited opening he can and will pour into our souls. We get into a posture to receive

spiritual healing.


[Right now I know about needing to be in the posture to receive healing. My broken

ankle reminds me I cannot continue on ‘as usual’. I must slow down. The pain is too

great to try to do otherwise.] Part of the impetus to this writing for me, and perhaps

you gracious reader, is to see the value in externally imposed circumstances and make

faithful spiritual application. From externally imposed situations God may well grant an

internal channel for blessing, if I/we will listen.


One of the early hymns of the Christian faith leads forth from meditation on this (and

other) scriptures. Originally written in Greek perhaps in the 5th century if comes to us

today preserved in a paraphrase rendered by Gerard Moultrie in 1864, and is sung to,

Picardy, a sonorous minor key melody. (The melody fits the lyrics, drawing us to a

place we might otherwise miss). It is a meditation surrounding the most solemn

remembrance of our Lord commemorated in the Lord’s Supper.


1 Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ, our God, to earth descending,
comes our homage to command.

2 King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human likeness,
in the body and the blood
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heav’nly food.

3 Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way
as the Light from Light, descending
from the realms of endless day,
comes the pow’rs of hell to vanquish
as the darkness clears away.

4 At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleliua, Lord most high!”

Reflecting on these words I see so many other scriptural references, I am reminded

that I stand in a long line, and on the shoulders, of so many faithful ones who have

intoned these words both as praise to God and exhortation to each other over the

centuries. May I/we learn and seek those silent times!


Hebrews 12:28 – "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be
shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence
and awe.."
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