Silent Stones

In my continuing journey through the Old Testament this year, I have recently helped Solomon complete construction of the temple. It was hard work. All those measurements and instructions. Those chapters in 1 Kings read more like instructions for assembling IKEA furniture than sacred scripture. But like the inlaid filigree on those temple lamp stands, there are beautiful little truths embedded in those passages.  

Yesterday, I read about the process Solomon used for sourcing stones for the project. Eighty thousand stonecutters chiseled stones from the Lebanon hills before 70,000 carriers delivered them to the construction site in Jerusalem. And then The Message paraphrase includes this line: 

The stone blocks for the building of The Temple were all dressed at the quarry so that the building site itself was reverently quiet—no noise from hammers and chisels and other iron tools.

If you’ve ever done any carpentry or masonry, you know it’s really convenient to have a saw on-site where you can make adjustments to measurements and angles. It must have been terribly inefficient and frustrating for the builders to do all of the cutting and chiseling miles away from the actual construction site. But Solomon went to those lengths to show reverence for the task. Apparently, as far back as the first kings of Israel, people have understood that noise and reverence don’t mix.  

Why is that? Is all quiet sacred? Or is it that sacred things are quiet? Why do we whisper in the presence of death? Why are we struck dumb in the face of canyon-rim beauty? And what does that mean for us, in America, 3,000 years after Solomon? 

Several months ago, a team of pastors from out of town visited the church where I work to consult about ideas and best practices. They worshiped with us on Sunday and sat in on our meetings on Monday. One of them — the worship pastor — said that the thing that stuck out the most to him was the range of volume in our worship. He noticed that there was everything from shouting and drumming to stillness and silence.  

In a culture where everyone is shouting, where attention is our scarcest resource, quiet stands out. It grabs our attention more than the loudest bellows, and it calls us to something deep, hushed, rested, reverent. 

Where are you seeking quiet? When, in your schedule of meetings, deadlines, friends and family commitments, are you taking pains to build a soul in reverent stillness — a temple for God’s name to reside?