There’s an important page in your Bible that, if you are like most people, goes completely unread. Chances are, you are like most Christians who rip past this page without a moment’s thought. In fact, in all of the Bible this page might be described by some as the most irrelevant, unnecessary, useless page between its soft leather covers. Virtually no one earmarks it, thumbnails it, highlights it, or contemplates what it represents in God’s grand scheme. Yet I’ve found this page to be one of the most important reminders to me that God is always sovereignly at work, performing his will in the world and in my life. Before I tell you where to find this page in your Bible, allow me to share a story.
Craig was an up and coming political star, somewhat controversial, but completely dedicated to his mission. He passionately wanted to represent righteousness in the political system but often found himself frustrated. We were on the phone one day, discussing his latest machinations with his political party and race for power when he pulled a big question out of his hat that was probably the most important question he’d ever asked me.
“Tom, why don’t I hear God speak?”
“What do you mean Craig?” I asked.
“When I go to church I hear about God speaking to so-and-so, or impressing someone with something. It’s like it’s normal for God to speak to someone. But to be honest, I’ve never heard God speak to me. I want him to speak to me. But he doesn’t and I don’t know why.”
Very quickly I silently prayed for wisdom then decided to answer Craig’s question with a question of my own. “How much time to you spend reading the scriptures?”
Craig hesitated for a moment. It was the kind of hesitation that was an answer in itself. “Uh, well, things are so busy I haven’t really had a lot of time to read the Bible. There’s just so much to do.”
“Craig,” I said, “If you’re not listening to what God’s already said in his word, why would he have anything else to say to you?”
There was a long moment of silence on the other end followed by, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Since that conversation so many years ago Craig poured himself into God’s word, making himself a student of its precious pages. The more he paid attention to what God said, the more God had to say to him.
There are times in our lives when God is virtually silent. In my experience God is usually silent for two reasons. First, God is silent because we aren’t giving attention to his word. We often fill our time with things to do, entertainment, and other relationships, but we relegate God’s word to a corner bookshelf. This is nothing less than a form of idolatry. Like God’s rebuke of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 6:10 we “cannot listen,” because when it comes to the scriptures we “take no pleasure in it.” When we keep God on the bookshelf rather than at the table we find that even what we may already know from the scriptures can ellude us. To my friend Craig, God seemed far away. But once he began to apply himself to the scriptures things changed. Not only did he become a student of the scriptures, God began giving him influence with his peers that he had never before enjoyed.
The second reason for God’s silence comes when God is at work. There are times when we are listening to the Lord, keeping Christ at the table instead of the bookshelf, and yet it seems that God is not speaking to us. The heavens seem shut and God is silent. We wonder if we’ve done something wrong, if God has rejected us, or if there is unconfessed sin in our lives. Israel faced a time like this when God was silent. It was a period of 400 years represented by that single empty page in your Bible between the Old and New Testaments.
During this silent period of Israeli history no prophet walked the land. But remarkable things happened that prepared the way for Christ. The Roman Empire was being built. Instead of abandoning God for idolatry once again Israel responded by deepening its religious commitment. A group of dedicated Jews formed the Pharisaical order, dedicating themselves to God’s law (the Pharisees didn’t start out as bad guys). Israel finally abandoned the idol worship that had plagued them from Moses to the Exile. The temple of God was being restored. And the family line of David quietly lived their lives, passing on their dedication to God until it finally reach a young virgin willing to carry the Christ. God was silent during that 400 year period, but he was at work, laying the foundations of kingdoms and roads that would carry Christ to the ends of the earth. He would finally speak again through his Son.
So why is God silent with you? Is it because your ears are tuned elsewhere or because he is at work, preparing you and those around you for the next horizon he will take you?
When you spend time giving attention to God’s word, take a little extra time with that empty page between the Testaments. Contemplate the history it represents and what God was doing to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus. Let God’s silence speak to you.
Originally posted on January 20, 2009.