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Jamie Johnson
5 February 2012

When God is Silent

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on February 5, 2012.

Depending on your personality, you may like a lot of activity or you may like calm and quiet. Many in our culture find total silence uncomfortable. I recall one time at a church in a Sunday school class years ago when a missionary came from abroad to speak. All in the class seemed attentive and seemed to listen to him. After some time, the missionary stopped and was in tears, saying he missed the country from where he came. He missed the quiet. He said that Americans did not know how to be still. I stopped and listened and I could hear feet scraping on the floor, pages and papers shuffling, people shifting in seats, though all seemed focused on the speaker. The missionary had a good point, though. We as a culture are uncomfortable with silence for the most part. Still, Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 7 (NASB) states "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven...A time to be silent and a time to speak."

Discomfort with silence is more pronounced spiritually. Sometimes God is silent or even seems inactive and we don't like it. Do you ever wonder why you don't hear God speaking, why He is silent or seems inactive? God is doing things in the interim during the silence. Even in the very end, in Revelation 8:1, there is silence in Heaven, but it will be immediately followed by plagues and preceded by the events of Revelation 1-7. The silence in Revelation will occur in the context of an active and eventful time. The book of Job has 42 chapters and God is silent after the first couple chapters and does not speak again until the last few chapters. However, the book of Job is in our Bible because God uses the book to speak to us.

Think about a time when you have heard God - I'm not talking audibly - but perhaps from Scripture or from the Holy Spirit via circumstance or a believer. And then think about how God was silent before hearing from Him again. What is the longest amount of time of silence you've experienced? For some it may seem just a little while, or perhaps years, and for other it may seem that God has been silent the majority of their lives. At most that would be 80 to 100 years. How about 400 years? One of the primary ways God speaks to us is through His Word - the Bible. In your Bible, there may be only a couple of pages, if any, between the Old Testament book of Malachi and the New Testament book of Matthew. In history, however, this time of "silence" lasted about 400 years and was hardly silent in its significant events. The diaspora - the dispersing of the Jewish people - accelerated. God's Word had prophesied the diaspora and during these four centuries between the Old and New Testaments, the work of the diaspora was not only occurring, but accelerating. During these centuries, the events and history would have great impact on the New Testament world. And finally at the end of this period, the events of the New Testament began. What was the event? It was the center event of history - God coming to earth Incarnate as Jesus Christ in the form of a baby in a manger. From Genesis all the way up to this point, God's Word spoke of Him, prepared for Him, pointed to Him. God did not just drop off the line. He was still involved. Even today He is still involved even when He seems silent, even when He is silent.

Isaiah 53:7 prophesies and Acts 8:32 echoes how Jesus went as a sheep before her shearers is silent as He eventually faced the Cross. Though silent, He made a statement and was proceeding towards the greatest work. What work did He do? What did He do for you on the cross? He died for your sins - past, present, and future. Then what? He was buried and rose again. Do you trust that? It is a blessing that we can read the fullness of His work on the cross.

Yet, we still struggle with trusting Him day by day during these times in the smaller details we cannot read about. Why is that? Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." What does it mean to "be still"? Some translations read, "Cease striving" (NASB) or "Let go, relax" (NASB footnote). We need to trust Him. Even when He is silent, we need to trust Him and what He is doing and what even the silence teaches us.

Imagine there is a hurting person. And imagine a crowd comes around that person and yells at him and accuses him and blames him. They are loud. They speak. Then imagine someone walking through the crowd calmly and quietly and reaching out and embracing the person and loving him. What would be the strongest statement in that situation? Wouldn't it be the silent and calming embrace? Sometimes the strongest statement is silence. Sometimes, God does indeed use it.

In looking back at when God is silent (or looking forward as in Revelation when God is silent), we can see that whether in Scripture or in our personal lives, He is at work and the circumstances He sovereignly orchestrates can speak to us and teach us with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation, the silence in Heaven will be preparation for a plague. Between the Testaments, the silence was further fulfillment of prophecy and preparation for the arrival of Jesus!

In thinking of preparation, I think of two verses about watching and being ready. Matthew 24:42 (NASB) states, "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming" and Mark 13:35 says similarly. Are you watching? Are you ready? Are you prepared?

In times of silence where you wonder what God is saying, consider this: we have His Word and He still speaks! 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB) states "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." When God is silent, He is still there. He is still Sovereign. He is still teaching.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (NASB) says, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." Aren't you thankful that God is patient with you? I am thankful He is patient with me. Those verses indicate that God is patient and merciful and allows time for repentance. Maybe he's waiting for you! Maybe you are experiencing a time of silence with God. Maybe He is teaching you. Maybe you think about being ready and prepared and are wondering how. Do you know how to be prepared? The good news is that the work has already been completed. God came as Jesus Christ to live among mankind as a man Himself. He took our sins to the cross and died. He was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. Romans 10:9-10 (NASB) says that "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Maybe for some God has seemed or has been silent for awhile, but maybe today He is calling you to Himself.


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