Posted by: stpowen | February 6, 2014

Is God Silent?

Hebrews 1:1-2. ‘God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the worlds……’

Matthew 24:355. “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will never pass away.”

Last week I attended a concert held in my local parish church, and I heard a short choral work entitled, ‘I Believe…’ by a modern American composer called Mark Miller. My daughter was singing the solo Soprano part. The work is a setting of some words found scrawled in a cellar in Cologne, Germany and believed to have been written by a Jew hiding from the Nazis. The words are:

‘I believe in the sun, even when I can’t see it.
I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.’

The music is very powerful, the more so when one contemplates the circumstances in which the words were written. Several of the audience were clearly moved by it. It is indeed moving to think of this man or woman writing such a declaration of faith, clinging to his beliefs and to his God in a situation where he must have known that his friends, relatives and co-religionists were being packed off to miserable deaths in concentration camps, and that he himself was very likely to share the same fate. Many would have been tempted to take the advice of Job’s wife and ‘Curse God and die’ (Job 2:9).

It is not therefore my intention to criticize this person. No one who has not been in a similar situation has the right to do that. What I want to do is to consider if God is ever silent, and to suggest that the last part of the song would be better worded, ‘I believe in God even when I don’t hear Him.’

I think that almost every Christian will agree that the perception of God varies from time to time. Sometimes praise, prayer and worship just well out of us and God seems so near that we could almost touch Him. At other times, God seems distressingly distant; our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, and we have to force ourselves to praise Him with any semblance of enthusiasm. Perhaps we say with Job, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him; that I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4). But this is all about us speaking to God; because we find it hard to hear Him, does it mean that He is not speaking to us?

How does God speak to men and women? There is certainly a spiritual or numinous way in which God may speak to His child and assure us of His love: ‘The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ (Rom. 8:16), but our perception of this may vary from time to time. Because God may sometimes be silent in this respect, it does not mean that He is silent altogether.

God speaks to all men, believers and unbelievers through creation. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world’ (Psalm 19:1-4). The wonder, variety and complexity of the world, the order and elegance of the laws of science and of nature should be quite sufficient to convince anyone but a fool that it could not have arisen by chance. Creation also tells us something of God’s character: His wisdom, might and power; also His concern and compassion for all He has made (Job 37:6ff; Matt. 5:45). But it does not tell us of what He requires of mankind, of His particular love for His people, nor of His plans for them. Of these He speaks in a different way.

It is through His word that God speaks- constantly and authoritatively. That word speaks to every condition of man: in joy or sadness, fear or confidence, plenty or destitution. What might it have told this poor Jew, cowering in his cellar?

First of all, Deut. 28:15ff and Lev. 26:14ff would tell him that there is scarcely anything that has happened to the Jewish people which has not been prophesied in the word of God. The early chapters of Genesis would tell him that the world that God created was perfect, and that death, misery and disaster have come into the world because of sin. However, Romans 8:18ff tells us that He has a plan for this poor fallen planet. That its great convulsions, whether natural or manmade, are not its death-throws, but actually birth-pangs which will eventually lead us into something more wonderful than we can imagine (vs. 38-39).

Let our Jew continue to read and he will find out from Luke 20:16-19 that God’s people are subject to betrayal, hatred and murder, even perhaps from their own families. That is a reality right now in many countries where Moslems are coming to Christ. Yet in the way that really matters- in our eternal salvation- not a hair can be lost from our heads. Our eternal destiny is absolutely secure.

Let him read on and discover that down the ages some of God’s children, ‘faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated’ (Heb. 11:36-37). Let him meditate upon Psalm 37:25. ‘I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’ God allows His children to walk some very dark paths, yet just as the High Priest of Israel bore the names of the 12 tribes over his heart (Exod. 28:29), so God keeps His people as the apple of His eye (Psalm 121).

Finally, let him consider Isaiah 50:10. ‘Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.’ If any verse speaks to the condition of this man it is this one. He was in a dark place in the darkest of times. He had every natural reason to despair. Yet in the darkness he put his trust in God. I cannot prove it, but I think it extremely likely that God was with him in that cellar, that He revealed His Son to him, and that though he may have lost his earthly life in the most brutal of circumstances, yet he is now with His Saviour and every tear has been wiped from his eyes.

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