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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Sound of Silence | Habakkuk Series

This is part four of our study series on Habakkuk. What does the Bible tell us about this prophet and his relationship with the Lord and what that might tell us about ours? Each study includes a short reflection for personal or use with others.

‘The LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.’

Habakkuk 2:20

In chapter 2, Habakkuk hears God pronouncing a series of woes: against noisy, hasty, destructive human societies; against those who are busy commercially, heaping up what is not their own and living on credit; against those who plunder other nations, destroying human lives, and the very earth itself; against those who protect themselves by all means, leaving others in danger and misery; against those who abuse alcohol and drag others down with them; against those who cheapen love and sex; against those who worship false gods.

But the Lord is still in his holy temple and he calls for silence – for the whole earth to stop and listen to the silence that should bring reflection and repentance. The silence that forces humans to see themselves in the light of God’s gracious rule and to understand the truth long enough to drop onto their knees before the Lord God Almighty.

For some of us, only our holidays take us away from diaries, snatched breakfasts, lunch at the computer, meetings, earphones, music, and all the bustle of transport, city streets, TV, text alerts, and the ringing of mobiles. Yet a rhythm of bustle and silence is built into the fabric of creation. God made it – that must have been a noisy time – and then he rested and looked at what he had done.

Perhaps we should turn that one day in seven into one hour a day, or one weekend a month, and give ourselves and those round us an opportunity to be still and quiet, and to turn our fragmented attention spans to the Lord in his holy temple, or we too may be dragged down into the woes of our noisy, hyperactive and sometimes violent world.

In the words of American Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92), who advovated listening out for ‘the still small voice of calm’:

“O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess”
The beauty of Thy peace.

For Further Reflection

  • Some people find the idea of God as a ‘judge’ repellent. Why might this be the case, especially when there are so many appeals for ‘justice’ to be done?
  • In what ways would 2:14 (the earth will be filled with the Lord’s glory) and 2:20 (the Lord is in his temple) respond to Habakkuk’s questions and concerns? In what ways, as New Testament Christians, may we continue to draw strength and confidence from those references to God’s ‘glory’ and his ‘temple’?


Margaret Killingray