Growing up my sister and I weren’t allowed to say “shut up”. In fact, I, along with numerous other students, had to write an essay in my mother’s class for using those forbidden words. My mom’s opinion was that the words “shut up” were neither nice nor necessary, so we didn’t need to say it. Like so many other things in life, she was probably right.
Nowadays, when I do hear someone use the formally outlawed phrase, its usually at the point of exasperation. We encourage another to stop talking because we are no longer interested in what they have to say. We want them to stop so that we can start. More often than not the purpose of telling someone to be silent is to allow us to express our opinion or present our philosophy. Rarely do we tell another to be quiet because its what’s best for them.
This, however, is exactly what God instructs us to do. He tells us to be silent before His presence (Zechariah 2:13) and the reason for the admonishment isn’t because He’s in a hard-fought battle with us for supremacy, it’s because He wants us to more fully appreciate His presence. We are silent because words can not express His majesty. We are silent because even our questions would do an injustice to His wisdom. We are silent because what He was to say is pure and we should be waiting patiently for Him to speak. We are instructed to be quiet for our good, not His. He knows that its only when our mouths are closed that our other senses will be more in-tuned to recognize His holiness.
Zechariah commands the people to be quiet because God is rising from His holy dwelling. God, in other words, is getting ready to act. And when that happens, no words are necessary.
Silence promotes the presence of God, prevents many harsh
and proud words, and suppresses many dangers in the way of
ridiculing or harshly judging our neighbors… If you are
faithful in keeping silence when it is not necessary to speak,
God will preserve you from evil when it is right for you to
… Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)