Silent Before Him

"But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20).

In some churches, this text is often quoted or sung at the beginning of the worship as if it meant that people must be "quiet in church." But being "quiet in church" just is not the point of this verse at all. In the context, Habakkuk contrasts the dumb wooden idols created by men with the true God who sits on His throne. His point is that God, the Creator, is in His holy temple, the place from which He speaks; His creatures must therefore shut up and listen to Him! Men do not have the authority to command, nor do the idols that they have created. God is the One - the only One - who speaks with authority; He is the only One who has the right to command, and we (His creatures) must listen to and obey His voice.

You see, the point of this text is not related to our demeanor in church services. It has to do with God’s authority - to which men must quietly submit. Man must not rebel against God, nor must he try to speak for God. What man must do is humbly listen to and obey the voice of God - and that’s all.

When you see this as the real point of the verse, you will see that it relates a lesson that modern religious men need to hear.

This, and many other Scriptures, makes it clear that we cannot have God’s approval unless we’re willing to be quiet while He speaks. Jesus, for example, taught that we must submit to the authority of God in order to reach heaven; He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Note that it is the Father’s will that must be done, not my will or your will or the will of some dumb idol. And, according to the New Testament, we cannot know God’s will without His revealing it to us, which He has done in the written Word (1 Cor. 2:11-13). The written Word, then, because it accurately relates God’s will to us, becomes that which must be obeyed. And without obeying His will we cannot have His approval.

And so, when we start trying to figure out how to acceptably serve God, we must have His Word on it. When we start doing things that we do not have His permission to do, then we are not being silent before Him.  

And right here is where most people in our religious world today get in trouble: They do not want to be silent before the Lord. They will not shut up long enough to hear what God wants, because they’re too busy inventing their own way of serving Him. Hundreds upon hundreds of examples could be given of how man has added to and subtracted from what God has said, and all of them prove that men are not listening to God. When will modern men learn that our additions to and subtractions from His Word are all our own creations, and are therefore no better than the idols carved by the ancient pagans? These inventions will not bring us closer to God; they will only serve to separate us further.

Indeed, God "is in His holy temple." And if we would be wise creatures, we had better be quiet and listen to Him. We are His creation; therefore "let all the earth be silent before Him".