Confucius once said, “Silence is a true friend who never betrays.” Well Confucius, I don’t buy it.
Silence has never been my forte. I’m someone who doesn’t embrace the silence well. I like music playing in the background of most things I do: when I get ready for work, when I write or when I drive. I even prefer some Norah Jones while I’m trying to sleep. Truth is, whether it’s music, TV or just someone else talking I prefer noise of some kind at all times.
If you’re honest, you would probably agree that silence isn’t always your favorite either. You may appreciate it more than I do (which wouldn’t be hard), but there are times when silence gets old, and even frustrates you (this isn’t a bad thing). Not getting what we want can get old real fast, and can even cause doubt and resentment. If there is a source of something we need that is keeping silent, then that resentment and doubt is projected onto that source. We find ourselves frustrated with our phones for taking too long. Why? Because we want what we want now. It’s 2015… Waiting is overrated.
I don’t think any people group has ever known more about waiting through silence like the ancient Israelites. The Israelites are God’s chosen people. God told them that He would send a Messiah to them to redeem them as a nation. For thousands of years God promised this, and this promise gave them hope.
Then something really interesting happens. This God, who has kept pretty open and consistent communication happening, falls silent. After the last verse of the Old Testament is written, God closes the curtain and falls silent. 400 years without a single word. It didn’t matter how often they prayed. It didn’t matter how good they were. They received nothing. No prophecy. No teaching. Nothing.
I remember hearing a sermon about this back in 2013. Jeff Henderson preached at Newspring Church a sermon called “When God is Silent.” His point was that just because God is silent, doesn’t mean He is doing nothing. He said that we should never confuse God’s silence with God’s absence.
But why not? How can we sit by and trust the silence? The silence doesn’t seem to be very profitable for us. The silence isn’t welcoming. The silence doesn’t bring peace. The silence doesn’t make sense. Why would a loving God do that to Israel? Why would God make us sit in the silence?
That 400 years was used by God to set the stage for Jesus. It’s like a play. Between Act 1 and Act 2, there is an intermission. Now, while you spend that time using the restroom, stretching your legs and grabbing some coffee, the stagehands spend that time rearranging the set. They are frivolously moving and setting props to make Act 2 happen. Intermission isn’t just for you and the actors to have a break. There is purpose for intermission beyond that.
Jeff Henderson breaks down a few things that God did in the silence to set the stage for Christ. First, he gave the world a common language, which was Koine Greek (the language the New Testament was written in). Through Alexander the Great, possibly the world’s greatest military leader, God made sure that there was a common language before Jesus came, so the word could travel faster.
Second, there was an improved transportation system. This happened in a time when Rome was the world’s power, and Roman peace had been established. This peace set the stage for improved trade between nations. The increase of trade required better trade routes, so Rome made that happen. So not only can the message of Christ travel faster, but now it can travel further.
So in this 400 years of silence, God did some things that made Jesus’s coming possible. While I cannot point to a verse to prove this (due to the silence), God set the world stage so, at just the right time, Jesus could come and be the Savior that the world needed. Did it make sense to the Israelites? Probably not. Did they get frustrated? Most likely. But the plan was perfect.
What does that mean to us today? Most likely, you have lived in a silent season in your life. In those times, it seems really hard to trust God’s plan. Maybe we don’t see why a loving God would do that to us. I think we are viewing it wrong. Instead of asking why God would do that TO us, maybe we should ask what God is using the silence to do FOR us. The silence doesn’t mean God gave up on us, or that God doesn’t love us. He is just setting the stage in our lives, so, at just the right time, He can step in and carry us through this difficult season. I think our job in the silence is just to trust that the silence is for a purpose. I mean, the Bible tells us to, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).
As hard as this is for us, I think we need to embrace the silence. Don’t mistake the silence for God’s absence. Keep praying, keep seeking God, and keep growing. God promised in James 4:8 that if we draw near to Him, He’ll return that and draw near to us. Allow Him to set the stage in your life, and know that He is working. To quote a sermon I heard last year, “The outcome is God’s responsibility. Obedience is yours.”
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6 ESV