“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb…
You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshipping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of the inheritance, as you now are.” – Deuteronomy 4:9-10, 15-20
A Thought for the Day
Silence can be unnerving, but it can also be restorative and restful. The difference often depends on expectations. When we approach a situation expecting and hoping for quiet, we embrace and enjoy the silence that comes. When we approach a situation expecting noise and clamour, the silence is unsettling and disturbing.
Here in Deuteronomy chapter 4 Moses is recounting one such experience of God that the nation of Israel had. He is speaking about the moment he met with God on Mt Sinai, when he “approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21) This encounter with God wasn’t one that took place in silence; there was thunder, a loud trumpet blast, and God himself spoke audibly. However, the people of God were used to “seeing” their God, in the pillar of fire/cloud and in a different sort of way with the idols of Egypt; but here the experience involved “no form of any kind”.
They were in unchartered territory, which is often what periods where God appears to be silent with us feel are like. Most of us don’t have consistent encounters with God in a pillar of fire, or a burning bush, or with his glory filling our lounge like a thick dark cloud. What many of us do have though, is an expectation that God will speak to us; through the Bible, directly into us, through friends, pictures, and nature. When we find ourselves in a situation where we are hoping, expecting, or even needing God to speak, silence can be really hard. And in that context, Moses’ words have a lot of value to us.
The first thing Moses challenges his people to do in these moments of silence where our expectations of how we are encountering God aren’t being met is to remember. It can be so easy to just slip into forgetting how faithful God has been to us and is, how much he loves us, and the ways that we have encountered him before. If you find yourself in a season of silence, whatever that looks like, take some time today to remember. As you pray for your five, remember the way that God has rescued you. As you pray for your five, ask God to help them remember all that he has done for them – whether they knew it was God or not.
The second thing Moses challenges his people to do in these moments of silence is to not rush to define God and make an idol of any shape or kind. Because that too is incredibly tempting when we walk through unchartered territories where we aren’t encountering God in the ways that we are used to. It can be so easy in these moments of darkness or silence to attribute God’s name to things that have helped us, and may have been used by God, but are not God himself. We need to be ok with the uncertainty. As you pray for your five, believe that God can work in them in ways that you have never seen or experienced yourself. As you pray for your five, ask God to be and appear as whatever he needs to in order to connect and rescue them.
Praying for your Five:
“Heavenly Father, thank you so much that we are never separated from you. No matter how silent or dark this moment is, we can have significantly grounded confidence that you are still here. Please give me the faith to continue to seek you on behalf of [say the names of your five], especially when it seems like you are no where in sight. Meet with them in the centre of their silence and darkness; give them an encounter with you that will change them and their lives forever. Amen.”
Praying Something Old
This prayer comes from St Teresa of Avila in the 16th century AD. Make it your prayer today and then pray it over your five as well.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Praying Something New
Set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off every hour. When the alarm goes off, sit in quiet for a few deep breaths and remind yourself that God is close, that he is there with you. Then simply ask for your five to know he is close too.