Tuesday, February 20, 2007

God's Silence

God’s silence can be frustrating. Most of us, at some time, have sought His answers to pressing questions and heard a blaring silence in reply.

God appeared to Abram in a vision that confirmed the sure promises of God in Chapter 15 of Genesis. Chapter 17 is AT LEAST 14 years later. For those entire 17 years there is NO communication from God to Abram. Partly at least, because God was not sought.

After the vision in Chapter 15, Sarai got a creative idea for how Abram father a child, so that God’s promises could be accomplished. Abram, and Hagar went along with the plan. But note this…NOBODY sought input from God in all the plans, discussions, and actions leading up to the conception of Ishmael. Some have said that Abram’s failure was in trying to “serve God presumptuously, in the power of the flesh.” I disagree. I don’t think anyone EVER "serves God presumptuously, in the power of the flesh.” In the power of the flesh we ONLY serve ourselves. We just put it under the pretence of serving God. Abram’s failure was that he served his own interests under the guise of serving God, the fact that he never SOUGHT God is convincing proof of this. God did not speak to Abram at all in Chapter 16, that’s at least 14 years of silence. Fourteen years since God has spoken. God didn’t withdraw all his blessing. He was faithful to His covenant with Abram. He did withdraw the experience of His presence. Most of us understand the pain and emptiness that comes when we cannot sense His presence. May the cause never be, for us, that we failed to seek His guiding presence and pursued our own agendas under the guise of serving Him. In Chapter 17 God graciously appeared to Abram (God has spoken to Abram before, and appeared in a vision, but God has never “appeared” to Abram before this.) His first words, after 14 years of silence, were… “I am El-Shaddai, live your life in My presence and you will stay pure.” Don’t miss this point. After 13 years of silence, God’s first two statements are: 1)"I am El-Shaddai” (which means “God Almighty”) i.e. “I don’t need your help to keep my promises to you.” And 2) “Live your life in my presence, and you will stay pure.” God wants us to live pure lives but His method for accomplishing that, EVEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, is not legalism, performance, and sacrifice. The means to live a pure life is, “Life your life in His presence.” May we ever do so. To Abram’s great credit, he does “live in God’s presence” through the rest of this discussion with God and for the next several weeks or months (but unfortunately, no longer than that). He “wrestled” with God over having another son when he is 99 and Sarai is 90. He “wrestled” with God over blessing Ishmael. At the end of this chapter, we learn that Abram is obedient to God’s commands, which include circumcision for Abram, Ishmael, and every male in the household, including servants. I think it’s an important part of God’s plan that Isaac was to be conceived after circumcision. Ishmael, the human plan, was conceived before Abram was circumcised. It may be, that God had been silent waiting for the time for His promises to be more clearly revealed and completed.

Silence from God is always painful whether it's caused by His wise delay, or our failure to seek Him. Our prayer should be that His silence is always the result of His wise and loving delay and never the result of our self-serving failure to seek Him.

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