Sunday, September 17, 2023

The silence of God

 When I think about my relationship with our heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am aware that there have been a small number of times in my life when I strongly hoped for a clear, audible, communication, from God. Even when I have not looked for spoken answers, I have occasionally spoken my prayers out loud in times of yearning. But mostly, when I am praying alone, my prayers are silent, within my mind and heart. In all of those instances, I have not heard an audible voice or reply. And the silence that I experienced, I mostly interpreted as "don't alter course". What I mean is, I was probably looking for a door to open, or permission to change my life to an easier direction, when life was getting hard, which I assume, we are all tempted to do. For example, when do we leave a job, a church, a place of residence, a marriage? The last example is a little different, and I probably should not have included it, as there is clear teaching on marriage in the bible. 

Strange as it may sound, I was naturally the sort of child that needed permission to move. And still I do not like changing my course without clear direction or permission. God obviously knows this about me. 

Wouldn't it be amazing if God simply "broke his silence" every now and then, to add certainty to our difficult decisions?

But my experience, and probably everyone else with faith, is that God is mostly silent in terms of the miraculous, heavenly, audible speech that we may sometimes dream we might receive.

But God does speak to us in many other ways.

We should not be surprised at his "silence".

Rarely, in the Bible, do we see examples of God speaking an audible word. He spoke with Adam "Where are you", to Cain "Where is your brother?", to Abraham, when he received his promise. To Moses in the burning bush, and to Samuel "Samuel". And all the prophets had direct messages in one form or other, that allowed them to record "Thus sayeth the Lord".

But how many of these encounters were from God himself? Some of these events are later described as the Angel of the Lord. In other words, messengers representing God. This causes someone like myself to wonder was it God himself or an angel. For example when Jacob wrestled with God.

In the new testament, it was the angel Gabriel that visited Mary. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, received a number of guiding dreams, and he responded to them.

We know from Acts chapter 2 and Joel, that God pours out his Spirit and gives his servants dreams and visions.

And I have experience at least 3 vivid unforgettable dreams and one instance of my earthly fathers voice calling me by name and waking me up (as he often did), though on this occasion he was miles away in hospital. (It was the day my father died, and once I woke to his voice calling me, I knew that this was from the Lord, and that this was the day of his departure).

 The holiness of God is also worth considering. He is truly unapproachable and ineffable. Yet he is not far from any one of us! (Acts 17:27)

But the point I would like to get to is that our Lord Jesus himself experienced God the Father's audible voice only twice; at his baptism, and at the transfiguration. He did not hear his Father's voice in the desert during his fast, in the garden when he wrestled with the cup before him, or on the cross when he cried out "My God, my God why have you forsaken me".

The obvious parallel is that we should likewise also not expect to hear the audible voice of the Father, even in our darkest hours. But what Jesus never let go of, is the word of God, which was in his mind and heart, and which he quoted often, both for himself and for his hearers.

And like our Lord Jesus, we have this word, and we are blessed to read and dwell in that word.

 And on Sundays, when we meet together, the word is read publicly and the word is expounded by members of our church. Surely this is a time when God ministers to us and speaks to us inwardly through his Spirit. By faith we know that God hears us, our prayers are a gift for us and others, God acts to bring good  to us in every situation, especially the painful ones. Faith is not weakened by silence, and accepts the outcome of every situation. We do not put God to the test, and we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, which, in my understanding, is the Bible.

Romans 1:20 (NIV) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) —God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.



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