March 13, 2014

400 Years

There are times we can't hear God's voice because we've simply become too noisy, where we've filled our lives with so much activity and chaos (visual and auditory and other sensory cacophony) that we manage to drown out the still, small voice described by Elijah. But sometimes, I wonder if we don't hear from God to make his next conversation with us that much more profound, if God's silence is the equivalent of needing silence to hear music.

Think about it - the psalms echo with a yearning for God to speak in the midst of the angst of their authors. In the silence, the authors desperately want to hear God's voice again. Psalm 83 begins,
O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
The psalmist weeps for God to once again speak deliverance into the life of His chosen people, because His silence means death. Likewise, Psalm 109 begins,
My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

The scriptures contain story after story of people who plead to hear God speak, not when He is present and noticeable, but when He seems silent, distant. God exiled the people to Babylon, and upon their return they rebuild the city. And then God is silent for 400 years. That's a really, really long time. That's enough time for multiple civilizations to conquer Israel. Again. That's enough time for empires to rise and fall. 

But after 400 years of silence, the still, small Voice broke into our world again and told Zechariah that the elderly Elizabeth was going to have a baby, and that he'd pave the way for the Messiah. And far away in another town, an angel visited a teenager to tell her that, despite her virginity, she'd soon be pregnant, and that her son was to be named Jesus.

One who brings salvation.

You who yearn to hear God speak, you are in good company today. If God seems silent, don't try to clutter your life with noise to fill that void, but let yourself be still, expectant. Let what feels like absence grow, so that when God speaks again, you will know His voice. Let the silence birth in you a yearning for the Creator to speak into your life so that you will hear what He has to say.
But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.
Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it. While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
(the end of Psalm 109)

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