The Silence of God


Don’t you love it when God makes things so clear that you have no doubt what He is saying to you?  Direction is sure.  We all love it when as we say, “There is the handwriting on the wall.”  Although I might point out that the only time in Scripture I remember Him doing that was when some heavy duty judgment was about to fall!

Yet how many times do we pray and seek God and still don’t really have a definite sense of what He is saying?  We know the Word says, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.”  It also says, “I will guide you with my eye.”

So the voice of God.  What does it sound like?  Well, we know about the still, small voice.  Ever wondered  about the intensity of the Psalms of David as he spoke about God’s voice? David truly was a friend of God who had wrestled with God over his frequent silence and David could write about the untamable voice of God that comes in ways we haven’t imagined before.

Psalms 29

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

The God of glory thunders;

The Lord is over many waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,

Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes them also skip like a calf,

Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.

8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth,

And strips the forests bare;

And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”

And strips the forests bare;

And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”

The scripture often says IF we will hear His voice and we could go on and on.

I know that we are to learn the principles of the Word and gain guidance from those.  But what I am asking today is not so much how do we hear God through His voice, but how do we hear God through His silence? If we are truly in a relationship with God, what does His silence mean to us?  If I parallel that to what silence means in my other earthly relationships, perhaps it will help me in a backwards sort of way.  Let’s try:

If you are my friend, (and scripture says that God wants to be our friend), what does it mean when I talk to you and you are silent?

It could mean you are busy but that doesn’t work with God because He is never too busy to speak to us.

It could mean you are angry with me or frustrated at me or trying to manipulate me.  Well, God is angry and frustrated sometimes.  Does He try to manipulate us?  No, He can put the pressure on and does, but He doesn’t manipulate us in ungodly ways as we often try to manipulate others.

Silence could mean you did not hear me or did not hear my heart in what I said.  Well, that option is out with God.   He always hears us and knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.

Silence could mean that you don’t want to have a relationship with me anymore.  That scenario doesn’t compute with God either.

Silence could mean you don’t know how to respond to me yet.   That one’s out since God knows all.

And I could go on and on.  But the point is, “What does God’s silence mean?”

I’m not trying to give you all the answers, but perhaps we could find some of them.

If I think of times in my life when I felt God was silent when I really desired to hear from Him, I realize that…

*He was speaking and I didn’t recognize the ways He was speaking.

*He was speaking and I wasn’t attune enough to His voice.

*He was waiting to speak for some reason.

Hmmm, waiting to speak.  A lot of us are not very good at that.  We so want to say our portion so badly that we are not really even listening to the other person because we are already processing what we want to say because we feel it is so important or so relevant or so clarifying or whatever.

If I speak to you and you don’t respond, I will probably begin to wonder why.  Oftentimes, I will decide it is because of something that is wrong in me and become very self-focused.  But what if in God’s silence we really began to look at Him and try to understand why He is being silent?

Yes, it could be because of our sin or because of our busyness or because of our … you fill in the blank.

But what does the silence of God say about God?

Consider the following…

Maybe, just maybe, God is at peace.  He is not worried about rushing to answer just because we are rushing to find out.  He has a master plan.  The threads of our lives’ tapestry are in His hands, and He is patiently choosing the colors and designs and working toward a goal.

God was silent when Jesus was on the cross and even Jesus felt forsaken by His Father’s silence. Jesus in his humanity was in pain, torment, agony, overcome by the darkness of our sin, sad beyond belief at his friends’ betrayal of him.  You know, we so focus on Jesus as totally God and we are comfortable with that.  I think we are much less comfortable with Jesus as man.  Think of Jesus as man on the cross.

“God!  Where are You, and why are you not rescuing me?”  Yes, Jesus knew the answer, but in his humanity he felt abandoned! Ever been there?  The pain –  emotional, physical, mental, spiritual pain that Jesus endured –  He endured in the silence of His Father.  He couldn’t feel His Father’s touch; He couldn’t see His Father’s face; He couldn’t hear His Father’s voice; He couldn’t taste the goodness of His Father; He couldn’t smell the fragrance of His Father’s presence.

Was God there?

Was He?

Oh, yes.  But it is good for us to ask.  To be comfortable enough with God to put Him to the test – to ask hard questions – to not have to have 379 excuses that comfort us  for God’s lack of response.

Again, we find God is not really concerned for our comfort most of the time.  He is concerned about our wholeness and that often comes piece by piece as we struggle with God.

Was Jacob whole after he wrestled with God?  He was more whole than he had ever been before, yet he was forever maimed and blessed at the same time.  I don’t really like God’s ways sometimes, do you?  Oh, they are great for Jacob, but I don’t like them for me.  And we come to the reality that God is not so neat and explainable as we would love for Him to be.  He is offensive – downright offensive at times.

And I find that when I say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him”, I don’t even know what I am saying.  Maybe it should be, “Though He slay me, I will be constantly questioning Him and wrestling with Him and eventually after I am so tired from wrestling, after I stink from the sweat of the fight, after I am exhausted from the length of the struggle, after I have screamed until I can’t speak about His confusing ways, I will give up and trust Him because I have no answers in myself.”

The silence of God.  Is there purpose in it?  Oh, yeah.  Do I always know it?  Not very often.  Can I accept it?  (Don’t play holy on me – you know you hate it too!) I don’t accept it very well, but eventually I hear in the silence.  And the answers resonate in my soul and I know, “God, once again, you really did know what you were doing.

Once again, you speak so loudly in your silence that I hear.”

And I become a more faithful friend.  One who doesn’t run away when my friend doesn’t agree with me.  One who accepts my friend’s correction.  One who is willing to change and willing to shut up long enough to hear my friend.  One who places more value on my friend that on myself.

Wasn’t that what Jesus was doing?  “He laid down his life for his friends.” 

A friend of God.  Do you want that enough to walk through the seasons of His silence?  Or will you bail out of the struggle and settle for shallowness in your relationship?

There is safety in the struggle.  Yes, we will come away maimed forever, but we will smell of God because we have been close enough to touch Him, see Him, smell Him, hear Him, and taste the goodness of His silence.

You know, in the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testament, some people lost all their hunger to hear from God and others grew so hungry that they could recognize Jesus, the living voice of God, and be willing to accept what God was saying even though it challenged all they had known before.  Which group would you find yourself in today?

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