He Was Silent, But He Was There

O God, do not remain quiet;
Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
Psalms 83:1

Why does God remain quiet at times?

God at times turns off the lights and disappears and remains silent so that the cockroaches of our world come out to be exposed. What an advantage He has on them when He flips on that light switch. God at other times remains silent to try our faith or to see who among us will step forward in His just cause.

I wish I had these reasons in mind last week when God became silent and my faith was tried. Like a bumbling fool I stumbled in the dark not knowing that my faith was being tried as metal is tried with fire.

I had made a thousand mile trip to pick up my son Sean in Livermore CA. The plan was to load the truck and leave the next morning by 5 am so I could make the 16 hour journey and be back to work on Tuesday. But, upon arrival my truck was beginning to make a slight rattling noise when I accelerated or applying stress to the engine. After loading the truck and test driving a bit more, I noticed the rattling getting much worse. This was not my imagination. I no longer trusted the vehicle. So what do you do in this case during the week of Christmas to resolve this problem?

I contacted my brother-in-law who owns an auto repair shop in AZ for advice. I sent him a recording of the noises. It seemed to both of us that this could be the engine bearings going out. Thus our nightmare began. There was no way we were going to leave early the next morning, so we unloaded the truck to make it ready for our next step whatever that might be.

We had some tough decisions to make. Do we take it to a repair shop for an engine rebuild or replacement? Or do we consider trading the whole truck in and buying another? Could we trust the new truck? Would I not become the salesman’s ideal customer who would drive his problem out of state never to be heard of again? Would he take advantage of me? Do we shop for a truck using Craig’s List? How can we shop if our truck may not have another short trip left in it? Do we even have time for this? Do we buy groceries first? And what about clothes, I only packed for a 2 day trip?

Darkness and despair quickly overcame me. I pleaded with God that night about how I did not want to do any of these things and simply wanted to be able to return home by Tuesday. I simply wanted life to return to normal and for me to get back to work. I was met with stone cold silence. All hope drained out of me. There was no faith left in me. My prayer was only leading me to more worry!

I wondered if I would lose my job if not home in time for work. Should I contact my wife to overnight my computer to me so I could at work out of this empty room? How long would I be here? Should my son cancel his cancelled rental agreement so we have a place to stay? Would the landlord refuse his request or exploit him in our dire circumstances? How do we explain our dilemma to a mechanic? The questions and the worries came over me like a flood. Deep into the night and exhausted I eventually fell into a restless sleep.

Sean and I woke early and we decided the first step had to be to confirm the exact nature of our problem. So he began to call auto repair shops as I did some research on the Internet. He was discovering that no shops were open as advertised online. So we began the morning where we left off the night before, adding to our growing list of troubles. Are all shops closed for the holidays? Is this not the worst time to break down? Eventually, Sean found an open shop and spoke with a mechanic. The prognosis he gave was not good. A rebuild with him would take about 3 months! The cost would be upwards to $7,000! Buying a reliable used truck I was discovering would be even more! I did not have $10,000 to give to this venture!

Like a stubborn ox I did not want to move forward, but the clock was ticking. We told the shop owner we would be on our way for him to examine our truck. As we stepped outside Sean’s room, his neighbor appeared from her door to tell us that she had a son-in-law that has a towing and auto repair place just a mile away. He had been in busy for 10 years and was very good. I looked at Sean and said, “Let’s go with a referral instead.” We immediately drove to his shop.

Jeff greeted us as I explained our situation. He crawled underneath the truck as I reproduced the sounds. After a minute or two he stood back up to explain it may not be the bearings but instead, may be the catalytic converter. He asked us to leave the truck with him so he could be sure. We did and began our hike home to await his findings. About 90 minutes later we received a call. It was the converter! With a great deal of excitement we made the journey back to his shop. I asked Jeff how much I owed and he said, “Nothing.” I said, “No. I’ll pay you for your time and knowledge.” He said, “I already tore up the paperwork; pay it forward.” I was astonished. I told him “I woke this morning with a headache. You are not only a mechanic, but you are a doctor because my headache is gone!” He laughed and I was deeply grateful. And I did pay it forward. (I gave a special friend a special gift as a result of this experience.)

If I had read and contemplated the meaning of Psalm 83:1, I would have gone into this problem looking for reasons to believe and trust God in His silence. I felt like a fool a few days after this experience knowing how weak my faith really was in Him. This exercise God put me through has strengthened my resolve to hold onto what I am learning about Him. He saw me through when I saw no hope. He was silent, but He was there. I was contemplating a drained bank account that took years to build up but I ended up not spending a penny.

Now, I ask God to forgive me for my little faith and for Him to help me be what He wants me to be. I now listen carefully to this admonition:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

Keep not thou silence, O God. Man is clamorous, be not thou speechless. He rails and reviles, wilt not thou reply? One word of thine can deliver thy people; therefore, O Lord, break thy quiet and let thy voice be heard.

Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. Here the appeal is to EL., the Mighty One. He is entreated to act and speak, because his nation suffers and is in great jeopardy. How entirely the psalmist looks to God; he asks not for “a leader bold and brave,” or for any form of human force, but casts his burden upon the Lord, being well assured that his eternal power and Godhead could meet every difficulty of the case.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Title. A Song or Psalm.” When the two words (Shir, Mizmor,) occur together, the meaning seems to be, a lyric poem appointed to be sung. — John Jebb.

Title. This Psalm, according to the title, was composed by Asaph. In accordance with this, we read, in 1 Chron 20:14, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jehasiel, of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. This Jehasiel is probably the author of the Psalm.

Our Psalm is a true picture of the state of feeling which prevailed throughout the people during the danger under Jehoshaphat. According to the history of Chronicles, they praised God at that time, in the midst of their danger, with loud voice, 2 Chron 20:19; and here in the title, which is an appendage to that of Ps 48, the Psalm is called a song of praise; and it is such in reality, although it bears the form of a prayer, — a song of triumph sung before the victory, — no contest, no doubt, the distress is simply committed to God.

The mention of the Amalekites among the enemies of Israel, in Ps 83:7, renders it impossible to come down to times later than that of Jehoshaphat. The last remains of the Amalekites were, according to 1 Chron 4:43, rooted out by the Simeonites, under Hezekiah. From that time they disappear altogether from history. Ewald’s assertion that Amalek stands here “only as a name of infamy applied to parties well known at the time,” is to be considered as a miserable shift. The Psalm must have been composed previous to the extension of the empire of the Assyrians over Western Asia. For the Assyrians named last, in the eighth verse, appear here in the very extraordinary character of an ally of the sons of Lot. — E. W. Hengstenberg.

Keep not thou silence, O God. In Scripture there are three reasons why the Lord keeps silence when his people are in danger, and sits still when there is most need to give help and assistance.

1. One is, the Lord doth it to try their faith, as we clearly see, Matt 8:24, where it is said that our Lord Christ was asleep: There arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. We read more fully in Mark 4 and Luke 8, he left them, when the ship was covered with waves, and they were rowing for their lives, their Lord was asleep the while, and he said to them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that you have no faith? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Truly, the Lord will not suffer his people to be overwhelmed, that is certain, but he will suffer them to come very near, that the waves cover them, and fear and horror shall cover their souls, and all to try their faith. …

2. I find another reason in Isa 59, and that is, the Lord doth keep silence in the midst of the troubles of his people, to try men’s uprightness of heart. For if God should always appear for his cause, God and his cause should have many favourites and friends; but sometimes God leaves his cause, and leaves his people, and leaves his gospel, and his ordinances to the wide world, to see who will plead for it and stick to it…

3. There is a third reason: God, as it were, keeps silence in the midst of the greatest troubles, that he may, as it were, gather the wicked into one faggot, into one bundle, that they may be destroyed together. There is a great deal of ado to “gather the saints” in this world; and truly there is some ado to gather the wicked. So God withdraws himself from his people, yet he hath a hook within their hearts, he holds them up secretly by his Spirit, that they shall not leave him; yet the world shall not see but that God hath quite left them, and all their ordinances and his gospel and everything; and there the wicked come together and insult, whereby God may come upon them at once, and destroy them, as we find ten nations in the Psalm. And so in Genesis God stirs up the nations against Abraham and his posterity, and there are ten nations that God promised to cut off before Abraham at once, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Canaanites, etc. So God heaps them together, and burns them like stubble. Those that burn stubble have rakes, and they gather it to heaps, and then they fire it. This is the way of God’s keeping silence among his people, and sitting still in the midst of their miseries, thus God gathers their enemies in heaps as stubble, that he may burn them together. — Gualter (Walter) Cradock, in Divine Drops.” 1650.

Keep not thou silence, etc. The Hebrew words have great emphasis, and express the main causes of silence — closing the mouth, deafness of the ears, and a tranquility maintained to such an extent as to reject all disquietude. The first clause, let not thy mouth be closed, and thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, immovably, properly denotes, from the inherent force of the word whose root means to fix to and compact firmly, what is fastened with lime or daubed with plaster…

The second clause, be not thou deaf, properly pertains to the ears, as Mic 7:16, Their ears shall be deaf. The third, be not still, suggests the course of the thoughts of the mind when it is brought to a state of clear tranquility, all cares and commotions being laid aside. The word (Heb.) is properly to settle, to settle down, as when the disturbed dregs of liquor settle down and seek the bottom, whence it is applied to the mind when freed from a great fermentation of cares and the sediments of anxieties and bitterness, a mind serene, clear, and refined…

Let us now see what the poet had in mind when he poured out these prayers, or what he wished to indicate. He hinted, that the people were reduced to these earnest entreaties, because unless God should speedily bring help to them, it might seem that Jehovah, the God of Israel, is like the false gods, a sort of deity, either mute, or deaf, or at his ease. — Hermann Venema.

Is the Lord silent? Then be not thou silent; but cry unto him till he breaks the silence. — Starke, in Lange’s Bibelwerk.

The reference to tumult in the following verse gives force to the earnest appeal in this. Amidst all the tumult of gathering foes, he earnestly calls on God to break his silence, and to speak to them in wrath. — W. Wilson.

HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER

The long silence of God, the reasons for it, and our reasons for desiring him to end it.