DO YOU really desire peace? Then you might want to take the following advice: be silent, let it alone, cease, conceal, hold your tongue, say not a word, quiet yourself, wait (before speaking), keep quiet, and be still.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Truly, it sounds like one of the most difficult things in the world to do! After all, don’t we need to state our opinions, let everyone know our feelings, make our point known, get ourselves heard, not hold anything back, demand respect, and make sure everyone thinks we know what’s going on? (As in: don’t let anyone else around us know we’re clueless on an issue.) After all, our precious self-esteem is at stake!
Not surprisingly, zipping our lips shut and biting our tongue are some of the ways we’ll find in Scripture to nip the argument in the bud, let peace reign, and move on. Sometimes it means looking foolish; sometimes it means demurring to someone else and not making sure your point—and misgivings and arguments against something or someone—are known. Sometimes it means backing down and stuffing your pride.
Most of the time it’s the best way to go. If peace is your goal.
Let’s look at one of the places in Scripture where this occurs.
First, Genesis 24:21. Here we see a servant of Abraham traveling to a faraway place in order to locate a bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Abraham has defined the perfect woman as one coming from his father’s family, which he has not seen or heard from in years.
The servant’s a nervous wreck, wondering if he’s going to be successful or return empty-handed. How’s he going to know which girl is the one? He does the only thing he knows how to do. He prays. And he prays very specifically. In verses 12 – 14:
“And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. Then he said, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
Well, before the guy even ends his prayer, a beautiful young woman named Rebekah moseys over to the well, drops in her pitcher, fills it up and then comes back up from the well. The servant can’t contain his excitement. He runs over to her and politely asks for a drink from her pitcher. She gladly gives him a drink, and then does exactly what the servant had prayed would be a distinguishing response—she says she will draw water for his camels (he’s got ten of them) until they have finished drinking too. So, back and forth she goes to the well to fill and empty and fill and empty so his ten camels can be satisfied. That’s an awful lot of water hauling! National Geographic on line says that a thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes. I don’t know how big her pitcher was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a thirty-gallon one. I have difficulty hauling around a loaded five-gallon water container to turn upside down on my water dispenser.
Just for fun, let’s do some math on this one. (No groaning!) Let’s say she had a three-gallon pitcher and the camels were bone dry. At National Geo’s calculations, she made ten trips to the well for each camel for a total of 100 trips. If it took each camel 13 minutes to slurp that water, then it could have taken her 130 minutes, or a little over two hours to water all of them, if she was running back and forth between camel and well and didn’t stop to take a rest! She’s a pretty awesome woman, this Rebekah, to take care of a stranger like that. Giving, selfless, generous. And she was definitely no weakling!
Well, can you imagine how excited this guy is? His heart is probably pounding away in his chest, and he can barely breathe. He might have to restrain himself from jumping up and down with glee as he watches her go back and forth and back and forth for two hours, just to care for his camels!
He’s probably dying to say something. But he doesn’t. The passage says he ”wondered at her,” and “remained silent so as to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.” After what she did, no wonder he wondered!
I like the way Eugene Peterson says it in The Message: “The man watched, silent. Was this God’s answer? Had GOD made his trip a success or not?”
This guy might have sat and waited for two hours before opening his mouth and blurting out two more questions, and giving her some priceless jewelry for her efforts. When he breathlessly asks whose daughter she is and does her family have room for him to stay at their house, and she tells him and adds that they have plenty of room, he knows that God has indeed answered his prayers. And he does the only proper thing—he immediately bows down and worships God. He gives a verbal thank offering on the spot.
When Rebekah finds out who sent this guy, she takes off running to her father’s house to tell him who’s in town. But the servant doesn’t divulge his primary purpose until he’s safely settled in at her family’s home, and before they sit down to a big meal.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Timing is everything”? Well, this is a great example of it.
Can you imagine what Rebekah’s response might have been if the servant had blurted out what his intensions were right at the beginning? “Hey, Rebekah, one of your dad’s relatives, named Abraham, sent me to look for a wife for his son, Isaac, from his family and guess what? I prayed, and you’re the one!” What do you think any self-respecting young woman would do? I can only imagine. And that leads me to a personal example.
When I was a college undergraduate and working as a student athletic trainer in the athletic training room, a good looking blonde soccer player (who I barely knew) walked in, asking to have his turf toe taped for practice. His regular team trainer was out-of-town, and I was filling in, so I offered to tape it. He handed me his stash of adhesive tape and hopped on the taping bench. We casually chatted while I taped, and then I gave him back his leftover tape (Club sports guarded their equipment carefully since they weren’t afforded the unlimited budgets of the bigger sports, like football and ice hockey) and sent him off to practice. We’d had a nice chat.
But it’s what this soccer player didn’t say (and kept to himself) that could have caused a stir and ended our conversation. He knew when to keep silent and hold his tongue.
While I taped his toe, an amazing thought sprang into his mind: “This woman is going to be the mother of my children!” His thought came out-of-the-blue and ended up being prophetic. This blonde, former All-American soccer player and I will celebrate 34 years of marriage this year, and, yes, I am the mother his children.
But can you imagine what I might have said or done if he had blurted out what popped into his head? I might have laughed him off, thought he was merely flirting, or from that point on thought he should be avoided at all costs. Who knows? But I doubt I would have believed him or considered him a prophet to be regarded.
My future husband was a wise man, even at the tender age of eighteen. Sometimes it’s best to keep your lips glued shut and, instead, ponder something in your heart.
When has it been beneficial for you, and others, that you chose not to speak? When was it detrimental to you, or others, when you didn’t use caution and keep silent?
What’s a take-away from today’s study? Put a premium on your words, and decide whether speaking them is really worth it. How can you practice keeping silent this week?
I’ll be back next week with more examples of keeping the peace.
May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).
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