A Time To Be Silent

"But the people were silent and did not answer because Hezekiah had told them not to speak." Isaiah 36:21 NLT

"You know what your problem is? You don't know when to shut up and when to speak up."

I heard the quote from an actor on television but couldn't help but think of a woman I once knew. When her name appeared on my smart phone's screen, I sometimes cringed-especially if I was in a hurry. She tended to ramble. Sometimes I never knew why she called. When my wife would ask, I often said, "I'm not really sure." Telling her I was eating or had company meant nothing.

Nor was my friend easy to have a conversation with. Sometimes I would call her with news or to ask a question. As soon as I would share what I called to tell her, she would launch into a story about someone else who may have had a similar issue as mine. She simply had never learned the art of being silent.

King Hezekiah was ruling in the southern kingdom of a divided Israeli nation. When an Assyrian representative invited the people to surrender to his forces, they remained quiet. The king had told them it was a time for silence.

I admit there have been many times when I've not done much better than my friend. I've rambled on, interrupted, or jumped in in the middle of someone else's story.

I have learned many words usually lead to trouble. The rest of the introductory quote went something like this: "That makes you a fool." When I talk more than I should, I'll say something I shouldn't. Perhaps I'll share a tidbit of gossip. I may let an unkind remark slip. At the very least, talking when I should be listening means I'll share something that doesn't have to be shared. There is much in any situation that is better left unsaid.

When I'm never silent, it also keeps me from listening. I continually remind myself that God gave me two ears for a reason. Unfortunately, my tongue seems to get in the way more than it should. The people on the wall listened to Hezekiah, but I don't always do such a good job of listening to God and others. One thing's for sure: talking and listening are mutually exclusive.

There are times when silence is truly golden. Ask God for wisdom to know when your times of silence are.

Martin Wiles Hodges, South Carolina, USA

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