Silence... silence can be deafening! Most people don’t really like silence... at least not prolonged silence.
How many of you need “white noise” in order to sleep? Some people need a ceiling fan (or a box fan) humming - drowning out other sounds in order to sleep.
Or how many of us turn on a TV at home just to have some noise in the background?
The fact is... most of us can’t take total silence for very long.
John Cage was an eccentric and experimental composer of music. One of his most famous experimental compositions was a piece called 4’33”
For performances, the pianist would come-out onto the stage, sit down at the piano, open-up the score, and then start a stopwatch that ran for four minutes and 33 seconds.
The composition was 4 minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence. All that could be discerned was the ambient noise in the hall.
Silence can be deafening... it can be uncomfortable... and awkward.
Of course, our lives are so busy and hectic and loud at times... we find ourselves craving at least a few moments of silence.
We’ve often said that when our kids or grand-kids are making noise, everything’s okay. It’s when they get quiet that you have to start checking to see what’s going on, right?
Of course, the same thing can be said for spouses... or friends... or parents. When we start the “silent treatment” it’s usually an indicator that something’s not right.
So... we assume (at times) that the same can be true when it comes to our relationship with God. The Old Testament’s filled with instances where God’s silence is called into question:
*Isaiah 64:12, “O Lord... Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure?”
*Habakkuk 1:13, God... “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up [the righteous]?”
Just a couple of examples, among many, many others, for sure!
Of course, we sometimes ask the same thing. When God is seemingly silent... for an extended time... despite our prayers, and cries, and pleas... we begin to ask “where are you, God?” or “do you even care about me, Lord?”
And when we dwell on such questions for too long, we tend to take matters into our own hands.
Our scripture for today, from Genesis chapter 16, is the story of a woman who became impatient and frustrated because of God’s silence.
Sarai (who later was named Sarah) and her husband Abram (later named Abraham) were promised children... descendants as numerous as the stars, but at the age of 75 Sarai gave up... and made a rash decision that would cause problems in the future.
She told her husband to “take” their servant Hagar (as a wife, so-to-speak) so that maybe through her they could have a child - and God’s promise would be fulfilled.
Now... let’s stop right here for a moment, and acknowledge something. Sarai and Abram lived in a different time, and a different culture... with different norms and sensibilities. These words strike at pretty much everything we believe about families, and relationships, and what’s proper and right. We don’t do such things. I mean... if we’re having fertility problems we seek out medical help, but... wow! I don’t think anyone here today would consider such an action in our day and time... but...
Desperate people still do desperate things.
The moment we begin to believe that God is silent... we begin to think that He is not listening to us or He doesn’t care for us... so we make our own decisions that (if we’re not careful) can be “out of step” with the will of God for our lives.
We should always be careful not to make a desperate decisions because we’re desperate for an answer now.
Of course, the same Bible that speaks to God’s silence, speaks to our “waiting.”
Psalm 27:13-14 is a good example:
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”
Such moments of “waiting” have a greater purpose...
Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
As followers of Christ, it’s often moments of silence that can prove who, and Whose, we are... and what we really stand for.
Think about it for a minute: When your kids are not aware of your presence, do they act and talk the same way as when you are present? Sometimes we need to be in “observation mode” (so-to-speak) in order to gauge whether or not our kids and grand-kids are learning... and understanding what has been taught to them.
So surely, the Good News for us today... is that the same is true of our Father in heaven.
God’s perceived silence might just mean... He’s in “observation mode.” Maybe God, like the good, good Father that he is... is watching & waiting to see how we act... and how we respond... in light of what He has spoken to us about time and time (and time) again.
The fact of the matter is... God is never silent. Not in the way we perceive silence. Gods Word is always here. Gods power and presence and grace and love... are always with us.
Maybe we need to find enough silence, to hear.