The Silent Sabbath

April 14, 2001
by James T. Hurd

Revelation 7:14-8:4 – Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. (NIV)

As a young child growing up in Northern Ontario, trips south to Toronto were infrequent and special. One of the most memorable included a visit to the Ontario Science Centre, which, as I recall, had at that time a room known as the "Silent Room". One entered, by means of a twisted corridor designed to block sounds, a very dark chamber whose walls were padded with sound-absorbing material. One was invited to stand or sit in the middle until one's ears tingled with silence. One could "feel" the quiet.

In our modern world, with the incessant squawking, beeping, and ringing of computers, cell 'phones, pagers, and countless other devices demanding our attention, one wonders what silence is. The medical people tell us that we will grow deaf as we grow old — in part from the noise of our snowblowers in the quiet of winter, and the lawnmowers in the quiet of summer.

From the earliest years of the Christian church, disciples of Christ marked the day between Good Friday and Easter as the silent day. The Sabbath had always been a day designed for rest and quiet; the Sabbath Day immediately following the day of Jesus' death gave His followers much more reason for quietness. Jesus has risen, and we celebrate the Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week as the Lord's Day, and it is a day filled with praise and preaching as well as prayer. Yet it does us good on this the silent Saturday to come apart awhile to shut out the noises and the voices, and to listen in silence.

It is worth our while to ponder that, in John's vision (which I do not pretend to understand), he "sees" the prayers of the saints after he "hears" the silence in heaven. In his telling, both follow his vision of those washed white and pure in the blood of the Lamb. As we ponder the sacrifice of Jesus' blood for our redemption and our sanctification, let us seek silence, and let us let the silence move us to offer our prayers of thanksgiving as incense before the throne of God.

Prayer: Father in heaven, help us today to find silence, and to take time to be silent. In the silence, touch us afresh with the wonder and the power of the blood shed for our redemption. Enable us to move from silence to prayer. Remind us that You hold the Spirit-directed prayers of Your people to be holy and precious. May the prayers arising from our silence mingle with the voices of the angels in Your courts above. In Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

James T. Hurd <jthurd@sympatico.ca>
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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