100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Is God Silent?

I woke up one morning with a start. It was a Monday and my alarm hadn’t gone off! I grabbed for my phone so I could check the time… I was already half an hour late for work! I rushed through getting ready for work, raced to the car and headed off. As I was driving I thought to myself, “You know, you could have woken me, God! You could have sent birds to chirp at the window or caused some other loud noise. If my wife were awake, she would have shaken me, exclaiming ‘Get up! You’ll be late for work!’ How much more do you love me than her, but you just sat there and watched me sleeping! What kind of love is that!?” Of course, even as I was thinking it, I knew that I was only playing out a drama in my mind, and I knew that the ranting character in my head would soon figure out why God remains silent when, humanly speaking, a loving person would intervene in the situation.

The answer to that question did not come quickly. But I think that over time, as I have come to know God’s Word deeper, this behaviour of God's kind of makes sense. As I was reading Ezekiel recently, a certain phrase stood out for me…

Then he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.'" (Ezekiel 8:12)

And then again…

Then he said to me, "The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, 'The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see.' (Ezekiel 9:9)

What God wants to do with us, according to Scripture, is to reveal the true nature of our hearts. Outward appearances can be deceitful, even to our own selves. We need our outward appearance to be a reflection of our true selves. God aims to bring that true self within us to the surface, and this is one way in which He does it. A person may do good while others are watching, but when no one is watching they will do whatever they like. But a truly good person does good even when no one is watching. And so God feigns not to be watching. He is often "out of sight, out of mind", in order that He might reveal to us our true natures. He, of course, knows our true natures, but for our sake, so that we might see it, He brings that true nature of ours to the surface.

When Moses led the people through the wilderness, God tested them time after time. It is explained in Deuteronomy…

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

If God had treated them lavishly it would have been easy for them to maintain an outward appearance of love and devotion, without truly discovering what they were really like. But when we’re not comfortable and things don’t magically turn out well for us, and when birds don’t gather outside our window to wake us when our alarms have failed - then we are more likely to let our true selves come out… the one that says “I don’t even need God! What has He done for me lately!?” And we freely demonstrate our contempt for other people, and our lust for certain others, and the pride we have in ourselves… We favour whom we wish and despise whom we wish, “because there is no God, as far as I can tell, who could care less anyway.” But there is a God, and leading you to think this way has been His intention, because now it is revealed to you what is truly in your heart. One who knows God does not think this way, but knows that even through the toughest of life’s trials, God has not forsaken them. In the wilderness, as Moses led the people, God showed them more miracles than He has ever done, at least until the time of Christ. Yet even then they felt abandoned by Him and, as a result, manifested their sinful hearts and turned to idols. Consider the words of the people at the foot Sinai, as God was meeting with Moses amid a cloud of thunder and lightning. Even in the presence of all this, we read of them…

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." (Exodus 32:1)

And of course, by asking for other gods, and in saying that Moses has deserted them, they most surely imply that the God of Moses has deserted them. We see this over and over throughout the wilderness wanderings, and in various places throughout Scripture, like when King Saul was told to wait for the prophet Samuel to make a sacrifice before going into battle, but Samuel delayed. This was to reveal what kind of a king Saul was, for just as Saul had made his own sacrifice in order to get on with things, Samuel emerged saying…

... "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you." (1 Samuel 13:13-14)

In other words, this was to show that Saul was not a man after God’s own heart, by contrast with David who was chosen in his stead. Samuel’s delay and, in a sense, God’s apparent lack of presence, revealed the true heart of Saul.

And surely this is not a difficult thing to grasp? How much greater is the love of one for another when it is not reciprocated? Like a man who cares for his wife who is in a coma, believing that one day she will awake. And how much more loved will she feel at that time, knowing that her husband has been by her side for so long despite the hardships, emotional and otherwise. And of course I’m not saying that God does not reciprocate our love… it’s not as though we have no experience of it now. But the true intimacy of God is undeniably withheld from us at this time. We cannot, at this time, embrace Him and speak with Him face to face. This is our great longing. We wait for it to be fulfilled, as God promises it will be. But presently, what kind of person are we? Are we one who waits patiently for that day, or one who simply believes that God is dead and we should just make the most of what we have left?

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. (Psalms 25:3)