The world, Paul tells us, knows what’s coming. Romans 1 not only highlights the universal guilt of all men, but, ironically, defines that guilt as the denial of what we know. We know that there is a God and that we fail to meet His standard. We know, in short, that we are in trouble. But, we seek to suppress that truth in unrighteousness. The lexical background of the Greek word translated as suppress suggests something like a heavy metal spring that we try to hold down as long as we can. I believe, however, that we get closer to the spirit of our sin if we see ourselves, as God is speaking to us, running about with our fingers in our ears shouting, “La, la, la, la, la; I can’t hear you!”
Consider how unbelievers in the West tend to live their lives. They may not have their fingers in their ears, but they likely have their ear-buds in their ears. They surround themselves constantly with noise. At work, they have talk radio on. In the car, they play music. When they get home, they turn on the television and become distracted with their eyes as well as their ears. They hyper-schedule their days, moving from one thing that demands their attention to another, their smart-phones buzzing and beeping their daily orders.
We who have been redeemed by His grace, however, live much differently, don’t we? We don’t need the constant noise of pop culture to drown out our own thoughts. We are busy speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We are meditating day and night on the glory, the richness, and the beauty of the Word of God. We, who have already received the pearl of great price, who have been promised eternal blessing and the drying of every tear, want nothing more than an opportunity for silence so that we can enter into the fullness of the gospel of our Lord. We want quiet that we might contemplate the peace. We seek out our prayer closets that we might give thanks.
Wait. Is that what we do? Is that how we live? Or are we instead mirror images of our neighbors? We might, if we are pious, order our pop culture from the PG side of the menu. We might carve out twenty minutes of quiet for prayer and contemplation. But we are still consumed with consuming pop culture, with surrounding ourselves with noise, and for much the same reason We don’t, in the West, take the time to think because we don’t want to face not just the hard lesson of life under the sun—life is short and then we die—but also the much harder lesson of life lived under the Son—life is short, then we die, and hell lasts forever.
Now, to be sure, we know that we will not suffer for all eternity. That is our neighbor’s fear, not our own. The fears that plague us are much more tame. We worry about our retirement accounts. We worry about our job security. We worry about the economy and the Middle East. We worry about our reputations, what people say and think about us. We worry so much that we worry about what we’ll worry about when we get to heaven.
The heathen know from creation itself that their Creator will bring judgment down on them. We, on the other hand, have been given a book. This book tells us about His grace. It tells us about all that is ours in Christ, that everything that He brings into our lives is for our good and His glory. It tells us on every page that He loves us with an everlasting love and that nothing can thwart His will. This means we should be at peace. We should set aside our worries. We should remove our fingers from our ears that we might hear the music of the rolling spheres magnifying His name. We should no longer cry out, “La, la, la, la; I can’t hear you!” but, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”
What we need, as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, is to be still and know that He is God. We don’t need to turn up the volume of His revelation but turn off the noise. We don’t need Him to make bigger promises. We need eyes to see what He has already promised. We don’t need better, cleaner noise than the heathen. We need silence.
When we stop; when we take a deep breath; when we rest; when we put to death our vain desires, vain imaginings, and vain distractions; when, in fact, we not only quit the rat race but finish the race He has set before us; and when we draw our last breaths we will hear with perfect clarity what He has been saying to us from the moment we were reborn: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then we’ll hear heavenly choirs of angels promising, “And He shall reign forever and ever.” Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.