THE SILENCE OF GOD (2)*
There is a silence, or an apparent silence of God in some of His providential dealings with one and another of His people. They seem so mysterious that to the eye of sense God’s moral government of the world is strangely uneven. The wicked are often rich and prosperous, and the feet of some have well-nigh slipped from the observation of this fact. Sometimes God seems to hide Himself; and when this is the case God’s people feel it acutely. They may be in deep trial. Everything and everybody may seem to be against them. It may be that utter ruin stares them in the face, with debts and untold difficulties facing them. Or wearying days and years of illness may be theirs, till they are ready to say, “All thy waves, and thy billows are gone over me.”
In these things there may be an appearance of silence on God’s part. But He is observing all and doing all. He is sitting as the Refiner who will purge away the dross. When God is fitting His servants to honour Him, this appearance of silence in answer to their appeals is often the most bitter part of their sufferings. David felt this when he said, “Be not silent unto me; lest if thou be silent unto me, I become like them that go down into the pit.” The words show him to have been on the verge of despair. The child grieves for the Father’s apparent silence, and pleads for it to be broken. But feeble faith trusts on, though it may not understand; and at last it experiences the truth of God’s word, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”
When Christians pray that God will enable them to honour Him, they may bring down heavy sorrows in answer, so that they may glorify Him “in the fires”; but they may be sure of the Lord’s strength to uphold them, so that they shall one day say with David, “The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped.”
The Israelites were helpless beggars when they were in the wilderness. They had no bread to eat, except what was sent from heaven every morning; they had no water, except as it flowed out of the rock; yet the Lord was with them, and was not really silent to them although He allowed them to be in this condition. They had their enemies on every side, but the Lord fought for them. Though God’s providential dealings are often dark and mysterious, they are all wise and good. Sometimes Scripture itself throws a little light on them, as in the case of Jacob and Joseph. Jacob’s trials pressed heavily on him; it is no wonder that he was despondent. Old wounds were torn open, and the reported death of Joseph was probably accompanied by suspicion that he might have been murdered by his brothers. Jacob’s spirit was sorely grieved when he said, “I will go
down into the grave unto my son mourning.” God, at that time, must have appeared utterly silent to him, but His wisdom shines through all that interesting history. Every event in it, even the minutest, was ordered by God, as is the case with all His own people. Not that God made Joseph’s brethren envious, but He laid hold of their sin, and made it the instrument of bringing about His own purpose.
Famine in our day is attributed by the world to second causes, to blight, or weather conditions, or other things; but the Holy Spirit sets things down to the true cause. “He called for a famine upon the land. He brake the whole staff of bread.” Joseph’s being sent down to Egypt was of God. “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant.” Joseph himself acknowledged that all was God’s doing. He said to his brethren, “So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” They did not mean it so, nor did Satan. But Joseph doubtless felt God’s apparent silence, for we read that “until the time that His word came, the word of the Lord tried
The bitter and wearying persecution undergone by David for
seven years at the hands of Saul, must have made him feel that God was silent toward him. He was desolate and friendless, and in fact shut up to God. Had it not been for his troubles, how many of the psalms, which have been such a treasury to the church of God for centuries, might never have been written! He said, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” But after all He acknowledged the wisdom of God in all His dealings. In the same Psalm David exclaims, “As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried; He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.” Let us not forget that “all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth”: not some only. The Lord Jesus told Peter, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” Many dark providences will hereafter be cleared up, and all will be seen to have been mercy and truth.
But while there is sometimes an appearance of silence on God’s part to His people, they should not be silent to Him. Prayer and praise, not murmuring, should constantly ascend to Him. He says Â•’Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me:” whilst Paul bids us to “pray without ceasing.” Praise, too, is never out of place. The Lord’s people, though sore troubled, can always look back to their deliverance from Egypt, and forward to their promised inheritance; whilst faith bids them to ‘tarry the Lord’s leisure,” and to rest on His word. It is in the night of dark providences that the Lord often sends comfort to the soul. Those who do His bidding will not lack His help. Paul and Silas sang praises in prison at midnight. They were about the Lord’s work, and in the place to which He had sent them, and He gave them songs in the night. K. W. H. Howard
*Continued from Vol. 11, p. 29.