7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
(Mosiah 14:7, Isaiah 53:7)
When the priests of King Noah asked Abinadi to explain a scripture passage—Isaiah 52:7-10—they may have been testing his ability to talk intelligently about a complicated text. But as I have written previously, I think this particular text also represented something else: a contrast between their own pleasant words and Abinadi’s blunt warnings. Isaiah had seemed to praise people who bring “good tidings” and to emphasize that the gospel causes people to sing together joyfully. The implication was that Abinadi’s disagreeable message was inconsistent with the gospel of happiness which they taught.
As part of his rebuttal, Abinadi quoted the Ten Commandments, reminding them that God has always challenged us to live high standards of moral conduct. He then recited Isaiah 53 in its entirety, which describes a servant of the Lord who would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah tells us that, at a critical moment in this person’s life, he would be completely silent. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.” No pleasant message from this servant of the Lord, and no challenging one either. Just silence.
At the end of Jesus’s life, after suffering incomprehensible pain on our behalf in the Garden of Gethsemane, after being mocked and smitten in the high priest’s house, and after being questioned by Pontius Pilate, He was brought before Herod Antipas, the same leader who had ordered the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-12). According to Luke, Herod was excited about the opportunity to interrogate the Savior “because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him” (Luke 23:8). But he was disappointed. Although he questioned Jesus “in many words,” the Savior “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9).
Some of the messages we get from servants of God are easy to listen to. Some are more difficult. And at times, the servants of God may say nothing at all. In some situations, words are inadequate and unnecessary, and silence is the most effective response. On another occasion, the Savior taught a group of misbehaving men by crouching and writing on the ground with his finger “as though he heard them not” (John 8:6). Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
Today, I will remember the disciplined communication of the Savior. I will keep in mind that, on some occasions, silence is the most effective response, and I will avoid the temptation to react hastily when faced with a difficult situation.