THE SILENCE OF GOD (1)*
Silence is often more eloquent than speech. Everyone must respect the silence of grief or sympathy. Even Job’s friends wept at the sight of him, and sat seven days and seven nights without speaking to him, “for they saw that his grief was very great”. Their silent sympathy was more eloquent than any language. But it is yet more important to note what is said in Scripture concerning the silence of God. Sometimes the divine silence relates to God’s people, and sometimes to the ungodly.
In the Book of Psalms God says, “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence” (50.21). This suggests a forbearing silence on God’s part toward the unconverted; He bears patiently with man’s wickedness and forgetfulness of Himself; but He observes all, and notes everything down. “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.” The sins mostly referred to in the psalm are formalism and hypocrisy; and God tells us He takes no pleasure in ceremonies; He requires obedience. How this applies to the present times! Godly people are grieved at the signs of the times, and they pray with all earnestness, “Thy kingdom come.” Not only do formalism and hypocrisy rear their heads in religion, but there are creatures, calling themselves men, who openly defy the God of Heaven and even deny His existence. They talk about the dignity of man and deny total depravity; they disparage the work of Christ and “tread underfoot the Son of God.” God’s silence does not imply pardon, only respite. The day will come when that silence will be broken; when God will say with authority, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The description we have of God’s coming to break His silence is solemn. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50.3-5). Those who have not made this covenant by trusting the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, will have to answer for their words and deeds. When the books of the last day are opened, no witnesses will be needed. Men’s own consciences will stop their mouths. There will be no unbelief then. The Divine silence will be broken by the sound of the trumpet that rouses the dead from their graves.
Then there is silence of another sort: “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.” This life is but the pathway to heaven or hell. The expression applied to Judas Iscariot applies to all – “that he might go to his own place”. To some, heaven is their own place; to others hell is their own place. Each class
prefers the company of those who are travelling in the same direction as themselves, and will hereafter prefer the company of their own place. The redeemed will prefer the company of angels and just men made perfect, with whom the wicked would be miserable. The wicked hate God and His people on earth, and could not sing the song of the redeemed. People naturally prefer to associate with those with whom an interchange of thought and feeling is enjoyable; and how can those who have had no delight in God here, expect to delight in Him hereafter? When God breaks His silence it will be a sad awakening for them. An old divine says, “They that will have Satan for their host in transgression, shall afterwards be his guests in perdition.”
God is not silent to His own children by grace and adoption, except for a time and for some wise reason. There may occasionally be the appearance of silence towards them, when it is not so in fact. He always speaks to them by His Word, applied by His Spirit; and they feed on Him in this way by faith. The promises are all for them, as clearly addressed to them as a properly directed letter. While the Gospel is “hid to them that are lost”, it is not hid from the Lord’s people. Christ made this distinction very clear. He said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.”
As the ungodly do not value the Bible, it is silent to them; there are no words of comfort which they can take to themselves; the promises do not attract them. But to those who fear God and are His by faith in His Son, it is said with utmost plainness, “All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” On this ground the Psalmist and the Christian alike can say, “Thy comforts delight my soul.”
K. W. H. Howard
* Part (2) to follow.