Sounds like: khah-rash
Silence has an interesting reputation. We often say silence is good! But it is also noted that not speaking up is bad. We should be silent and listen for the voice of God, but once we hear it we should not be silent about it. It’s all very confusing. Should we shut up? Should we yell out?
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1&7… There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-…A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent [la-chashot] and a time to speak.
A Time to Be Silent
Sometimes in all our loudness we just have to be silent and let God do the fighting for us. Moses, just before he stretched his hand over the Red Sea, said this:
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of YHWH, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. YHWH will fight for you, and you have only to be silent [t’charish’un].”
There are times when we need to be silent in God’s presence. We need to stop trying to control the situation and let God be our Salvation!
It is interesting that many translations take the word charash and translated it as “hold your peace”… or more commonly known as “shut up”!
In the book of Job, Job is given unsound advice from his so-called friends. But Job recognized it for what it was… lies:
Job to his “friends”: “Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God. But you smear with lies; you are all worthless physicians. O that you would be completely (silently) [ha-charesh] silent [t’charish’un], and that it would become your wisdom!”
The King James version, along with many others, translated the last line as, “O that ye would altogether hold your peace and it should be your wisdom.”
Although this gets the gist across, the Hebrew language likes to boldly make a point by repeating words. To be silently silent [ha-charesh t’charish’un] hits the nail on the head… equivalent to our modern day, “shut up!”
A Time to Speak out (stop the silence)
On the flip side, we are also called to speak out when the timing calls for it.
Queen Esther was implored by her Uncle Mordecai to address her husband, the Persian king, and make him aware of Haman’s plan to kill the Jewish people:
Mordecai to Esther: “Don’t think to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent [silently silent [ha-charesh ta’charishi]] now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows if you haven’t come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
To address the king without being summoned was potentially punishable by death. It was a very risky step, but with Mordecai’s encouragement Esther knew she could not remain silent:
Then Esther asked them to answer Mordecai, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I and my maidens will also fast the same way. Then I will go in to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
And as the story goes, we know that Esther did address the king. She did not stay silent (Esther 7) and she saved the Hebrew people from extinction.
The horrific story of the rape of Tamar, on the other hand, is a time when Tamar remained silent, although she shouldn’t have. Her brother Amnon raped her, and her other brother Absalom, wanting to personally take revenge, told her to stay silent about it.
In no way should we blame Tamar for remaining silent, her brother’s actions essentially destroyed the family, but her silence (which was ordered by her brother) helped no one, especially herself. We read that in her silence she “remained desolate” (2 Samuel 13:20). Tamar is a lasting testament to any woman who has been violated: they should always use their voice and speak out against what has happened to them. There should be no shame attached to being a victim. This is a time to speak. Not a time to be silent.
Do not let your prayers go silent
Of all the silence perhaps the worst would be to let our prayers to YHWH go silent. Prayer is our lifeline! We should be in constantly communication with our Creator:
1 Samuel 7:7-9
When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, their rulers marched up toward Israel. And when the Israelites learned of this, they feared the Philistines and said to Samuel, “Do not stop [Do not be silent in [ta-charesh]] crying out to YHWH our God for us, so that He will deliver us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to YHWH. He cried out to YHWH on behalf of Israel, and YHWH answered him.
We need to cry out to God for help. We also need to confess our short-comings to YHWH. When we keep silent about our sin, burying it within us, we wither:
When I kept silent [h’charesh’ti] about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to YHWH”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
In prayer we need to cry out to God, we need to confess to God, and we need to praise God. In these things we should never be silent:
As He [Jesus] rode along, the people spread their cloaks on the road. And as He approached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully in a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
“I tell you,” He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”
Do Not be Silent, YHWH
We should never be silent in our prayers, and those prayers may include questioning God. It is okay to ask God why He is silent. Where is His voice? Why does He not take action?
Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favour. Why do You look with favour on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent [ta-charish] when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
While Habakkuk cries out to YHWH and asks “Why”, the Pslamist instead pleads with YHWH that He not be silent:
“To You, O YHWH, I call; be not deaf [te-cherash] to me, O my rock. For if You remain silent [te-ch’shay], I will be like those descending to the Pit.
Hear my cry for mercy when I call to You for help, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.”
“Hear my prayer, YHWH, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent [te-cherash] at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers.”
“O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent [te-cherash] and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves.”
When God stops being Silent
God most certainly heard those pleading prayers. In Isaiah He addressed His silence:
YHWH: “I have kept silent for a long time, I have kept still and restrained Myself.
Now like a woman in labor I will groan, I will both gasp and pant.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills and wither all their vegetation;
I will make the rivers into coastlands and dry up the ponds.
I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains.
These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.
They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame, who trust in idols,
who say to molten images, “You are our gods.”
Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see.
Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send?
Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of the YHWH?
You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;
Your ears are open, but none hears.”
Sometimes the blind “see” things with greater focus. Sometimes when you are deaf to all the meaningless noise around you, you hear God’s voice crystal clear. This is the blind servant and the deaf messenger… they are focused purely on YHWH, seeing and hearing exactly what He wants them too. In the silence they hear everything!
Yeshua (Jesus) often called on the noisy to be silent:
Suddenly a man with an unclean spirit cried out in the synagogue: “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
But Jesus rebuked the spirit. “Be silent!” He said. “Come out of him!” At this, the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and came out with a loud shriek.
Yeshua also silenced nature:
Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”
Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!” He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm.
“Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?”
Overwhelmed with fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Not only did Yeshua silence nature and spiritual beings, he also silenced humans:
So they watched Him [Yeshua] closely and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. They were hoping to catch Him in His words in order to hand Him over to the rule and authority of the governor. “Teacher,” they inquired, “we know that You speak and teach correctly. You show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they answered.
So Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
And they were unable to trap Him in His words before the people; and amazed at His answer, they fell silent.
They wanted to “catch Him in his words”, but it was His words that captured, and silenced, them.
There are many examples in the Tanakh where YHWH revealed His awesomeness and silenced the people. In the Book of Micah YHWH promised to show His wonders like He did when He rescued the Hebrew nation from the Pharaoh of Egypt:
As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show My wonders.
Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their might.
They will put their hands over their mouths, and their ears will become deaf (be silenced) [te-ch’rashnah].
By covering their mouths they will stop speaking and hearing noise. They will become silent and they will “see” and be ashamed. The nations will be silenced in their awe! And although that will be a tough pill to swallow, really it will free them. To really see the wonders of God will, in essence, blow them away and they will fully understand YHWH’s power and overwhelming love.
God is here. He is alive in this world, and although it feels as if He’s been silent for far too long, it is perhaps us that has been blind to what is going on around us, and deaf to God working among us. We need to stop listening to the noise and allow God to silence us with His love:
YHWH your God is among you; He is mighty to save!
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will silence you [ya-charish] with His love;
He will rejoice over you with singing.
Next week: heart