This sermon was inspired By a chapter of the same title in David Asscherick’s book “God in Pain” I read that a few months ago, and shelved the idea of a sermon of that topic for future refference, when I was asked to preach a few weeks ago, I really had to speed up my preparations!
So, if you are interested in reading or if you would like to preach it yourself, like anything I share on here, please feel free to tear it to pieces and use whatever you like, praise God there is no copyright on the Gospel! 😉
We have all experienced silence is one way or another, silence can be good, it can be peaceful, like when you are in nature enjoying the stillness, but it can also be a very bad thing, a friend or spouse giving you the “Silent Treatment” but still worse is the silence of omnipotence in your life.
This presupposes two things, 1:that you believe, as I do, in the one true God, the creator of all things who has a particular interest and love for his creation and 2: You seek to commune or connect with him on a day by day, minute by minute basis.
When this is what your life looks like, and you are earnestly seeking him each day, you grow expectant of His presence and guiding influence, so when you then experience the silence of God it is all the more vexing to you, I know for me the spiritual pain can nearly get as far as the physical realm.
This has been a source and reason of Christians departing their faith for millennia, as they could not find a satisfactory answer as to why God was being silent.
I know what that is like and I am sure you do too, you fall to your knees desiring God to speak to you, instead it seems that you have the wrong phone number and your prayers never make it to their destination, instead, it feels as though they impact on the ceiling and fall to the ground.
This is the point of my message today, while I do not claim to have all the answers or all the knowledge in the universe, I wish to present to you an argument which is not only plausible, but scripturally supported, in order to answer the question “Why is God Silent?”
This is of Great importance if we want to be able to say with Paul “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
To do this we will be looking at three vignette’s and asking three questions
- When is God Silent
- Why is He silent
- How does He break the silence
John The Baptist
Firstly, it is important that we know what John’s calling was, so we can find the measure of his success, turn with me to the book of John, Chapter 1, starting in verse 6
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
We can clearly see the message he was championing over in Matthew 3:1-3
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“ The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘ Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight.’”
However the part of John’s life we are interested in today is at the end of his ministry.
WHEN was God silent in John’s life? lets read about it in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6, and starting in verse 17
17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18 Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
19 Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
21 Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. 22 And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
24 So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?”
And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!”
25 Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
So, when was God Silent? While John was Proclaiming the message, he had rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, he was well-known as a prophet throughout Israel, his popularity overshadowing even the rulers and priests of the land, but was still cast in a dank and dirty cell, when his ministry could have been taking off.
Why was He Silent? The ‘When’ question naturally leads us to the ‘why’ question, would you not question the reasoning behind this train of events? the greatest of prophets, now imprisoned by the worst of men? and on top of that the all-powerful ‘Lion of Judah’ for whom John prepared the way, of whom he bore witness, the only one who could redeem the children of Israel, CHOSE not to free him, but to let him firstly rot in a cell where he no doubt faced more trials in a day than you and I would see in a year, and as if that was not enough to question Jesus about, He left him in there until Herod, the pompous people pleaser himself, made a less-than-intelligent promise to his step-daughter after she danced for him, that she could have whatever she wanted, up to half the kingdom! this lapse of rational thought and the fact he was bereft of character and moral fibre lead to the beheading of John, and “because of those who sat” (peer pressure) he fulfilled her request.
It seems to be a rather large mistake on all counts, but since we know that Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I would posit this cause. John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”John had fulfilled his ministry as the forerunner of Christ, there was no longer a need for his ministry, many would say, wouldn’t it have made more sense for John to unite in ministry with Jesus? I don’t believe so, not that i believe John and jesus would have had differences or power struggles but their followers would not cleave together whilst there were two leaders, did God want John to be killed? certainly not, but he used this act of Satan and accomplished a divine purpose.
If you think their ministries could have co-existed i would refer you to Jesus own actions, out or love for John, Jesus typically did not minister in the same geographic area, they both knew Jesus ministry deprecated John’s so, rather than “setting up shop across the road” which would have paved the way for rivalry and discord between the two groups of disciples, Jesus chose to withdraw and minister in Galilee, only returning when John’s ministry had drawn to a close (DoA p.181)
But WHY was God Silent on this matter, on this question hangs the purpose of this sermon, there must be a deeper cause, and I believe there is, but that will be made clearer for us as we delve further into this topic
How was the Silence Broken? In his disheveled imprisoned state, he tried to make sense of his plight, something that is unfair we can still typically see the logic woven through it, but how much harder is it to bear suffering that carries no insignia of logic.
I imagine that in that dark place, satan would have been casting all manner of temptation at this righteous man, everything from “you are a failure, you are in here because you didn’t preach well enough, if you were really the second Elijah, why were you not able to call down fire from heaven? that would have vindicated God and saved you!” or, “You were wrong all along this is not the Messiah, you have just been wasting everyone’s time, and now you are in jail, he is just out there stealing all your followers, leading them to perdition, and it is YOUR fault, you should have taken the opportunity to be your own man a long time ago”
Can you hear the same hiss of the enemy speaking to people today? when you are experiencing the silence of God, does satan reach his sympathetic but binding arm around you and say “You don’t deserve this, you are a good person, take it easy for a while, you don’t have to be his witness, he doesn’t love you, you don’t owe him anything” or maybe the one that he uses on me more often than not, the accuser “this would not be happening if your were reading your Bible enough, you know if you got your morning devotions just right, all this pain would stop, but you just keep disappointing God so just forget it”
Can anyone here relate?
John could too, you are in great company because the greatest of prophets, who had just a little earlier in John 1:29 proclaimed “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” now in Matthew 11:2-3(NASB) we read:
2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Behold the Lamb of God! – Should I be looking for someone else?
Friends this is the effect of Satan’s attack, it is made all the more potent by the silence of God, that is why we must learn to overcome whilst under this heavy silence.
Let us see how God breaks the silence for John, continuing in Matthew 11:4;
4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Jesus answered the question by revealing what? His Divine character. This is What Sustained John in the final chapter of his life when as a young man in his thirties he was beheaded, Jesus gave him possibly not what he wanted but he gave him what he needed, the assurance that Jesus was the Messiah and although John may not have fully understood it, the plan of salvation was running perfectly.
The Next Biblical vignette we are going to inspect is the Story of Job. Job is considered by many scholars to be the oldest book of the Bible, we know this thanks to it’s content, literary style and cultural references. the nearest time frame would have the Job living in patriarchal, pre-mosaic times. lets see how Job is introduced to us in Job 1:1
1 There was a man in the land of Uz (located in northern Arabia), whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
If you had a mention in the Bible, surely this is a title you would like to hold, Job is a great example for us, even if a little overused at times, this is unfortunate because the lessons we can learn from Job are so fresh, challenging and of timeless importance. so lets take a fresh look at Job in light of our three questions.
When was God Silent in the Life of this Patriarch? what was the immediate landscape just before the silence set in… Job 1:1
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. 2And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointedday, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.
So we see a man whom God has blessed, we see a man who loves his children, and has their salvation as a top priority, he had a vivid early morning devotional life he was a righteous man, wearing the patriarchal mantle humbling himself before God. What else do we know?
Well in Chapter 4 Eliphaz states the following referring to Job;
3 Surely you have instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands. 4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees;
So not only did he care for his family, he helped others, he had a Heart firstly for God, and then a Heart for the people. this is the immediate context of Job’s life before God fell silent.
Why was he Silent
Well unlike any other occurrence in history that I know of, the book of Job peels back the veil allowing us to see the workings of spiritual forces, let us read the report in Job 1:6
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
So! we have a heavenly council, note that satan was not one of them, but he “came among them” when the LORD questions him, he identifies himself as earth’s representative. there would have been a hush over the crowd, all the host waiting to see how God was going to deal with this situation, in this moment while the ‘sons of God’ are trying to ignore the elephant in the room that pregnant pause is broken by God.
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
God Knew why satan was there, and unfortunately for satan, God knows the end from the beginning, so God offered his prize servant for reproof, satan plans on going for the kill, but the Lord then presents the rules of engagement to the fallen Cherub;
12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Satan was intent on showing God to be the tyrant, misrepresenting his character to all the universe, and this was his big chance, Satan knew how to fight dirty and he was planning to play every card he had. The only Problem, the one thing standing in his way, was the devotion and true discipleship of Job, for it to be a true test and Microcosm of the great controversy, God could not forewarn Job as he did Peter in Luke 22:31 when he said
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
Praise God that he has given us the book of job, the book of Job functions in the same way as Jesus words in this passage. giving us hope amid the silence, that is why understanding his silence is so important!
To put it succinctly you could say, the silence of God was necessary. It was a strategic victory in the Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan.
How did he break the silence
After God gave Satan the authority to destroy job’s family and possessions, that was not enough, so for full vindication God permitted satan’s crooked and evil finger to be reached out against Job himself, wracking his body with illness and pain, leaving him only with his tenuous grasp on life itself.
It was in this posture that God Broke the silence, when the battle was over, the microcosm was complete, the character of God vindicated by the unswerving trust of Job, although he questioned, he did not curse God as satan boasted he would. God could now reveal his character to Job in Chapter 38:1
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
3 Now prepare yourself like a man, I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 “ Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
He then goes on for several chapters expounding himself to Job, so God Broke the silence by the revelation of his character.
For our final perspective on this mysterious silence, we will be looking to the centerpoint of the Gospel, Jesus himself. In 1Peter 2:21 we are told
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
From what better teacher can we learn, the art of silent suffering than the suffering servant, the Author and finisher of our faith, the sweetest name to emanate from the lips of mankind, Jesus.
When was God Silent
What was the immediate context in the ministry of Jesus?, how did the public feel about him? well let’s travel to just a few days before the last supper, Matthew 21:6-
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him[d] on them.8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “ Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Was he popular? Yes. Did they think him a prophet? Yes. had his influence superseded John the Baptist? Yes, well he must have been the most influential man in the land as his popularity was above that of the rulers, he could have easily built himself a kingdom with the devout crowd which followed him! his ministry never looked so good. The disciples would have been just waiting for him to announce his plan to enthrone himself as king, BUT! his kingdom was not of this world, they had no idea of the heartbreak awaiting them by the end of the week.
The surrounding landscape placed Jesus at the peak of his ministry and influence.
The Silence of God befell Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, on that dark night, the sin of the world began to crush upon his soul as he labored for salvation of you and I. lets read about it in Matthew 26:36
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
If Jesus was not experiencing the silence of God, he would have had no need to pray the second and the third time, Never Before had the Father and Son been separated, and it was this tearing, or ripping apart that made the silence so painful, divinity felt more pain on that day than any created being could ever understand
This culminated in the Cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. we are going to sing about that in a minute… this is where the silence of God gave way to the silence of the grave, Jesus is the only being throughout eternity who endured the true silence of God unto death, He could not perceive the Fathers presence, the silence was deafening, he cried out “My God My God! why have you forsaken me!”
Why was he Silent
Why Was God Silent? when even his own Son was in Torment! why was God silent? it was because he loved you, and because he loved me, if he had rescued Jesus in that moment the plan of salvation would be incomplete, the good news of the Gospel would be null and void, the silence was necessary for salvation
The Cross is your Guarantee the Silence in YOUR life will. be. broken.
How did he break the silence
Personally for Jesus, the Silence was broken by God, Raising him from the Dead on that blessed Resurrection morning… But there is another layer to breaking the silence, we have established that the silence is always broken by the revelation of God’s character, for the watching universe, we are told by the pen of inspiration that on the Cross, Christ was the Gospel, he came to once and for all, reveal the infinitely holy character of God, never again to be twisted and misrepresented by the enemy of souls, as he breathed his last on the cross the silence which sin had caused between God and man was broken forevermore!
In conclusion, divine silence will rest upon you, it is entirely likely that it will happen at a seemingly illogical time, right when you are at the height of your usefulness and ministry potential,
But when it does, remember, that the reason is always based in your salvation and the vindication of God, we cannot see the end from the beginning so we must trust the one who can.
Finally, even when the silence is so heavy you feel it will grind you to powder, do like Jesus did, never cease praying, and know that the silence will soon be broken by the Almighty hand of God as he reveals his character through your life.
Let us Have a moment of silent prayer.