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THE STIGMA OF SILENCE

1 Kings 19:11-13

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord,
but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face
and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"




Sometimes, God speaks in thunder.

  • Job 37:2-5, "Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth."



Sometimes, God speaks to us through the teachings of others.

  • Ephesians 4:11-13, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"



Sometimes, God speaks with fire.

  • Exodus 3:2-6, "And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, 'I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.' When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, 'Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is Holy ground.'"



Sometimes, God speaks with such power that it's nearly impossible to explain it all.



Sometimes, God speaks in the wind.

  • Job 38:1-3 "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 'Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will answer you, and you shall answer Me.'"



Sometimes, God speaks with an earthquake.

  • Hebrews 12:25-26, "See that you do not refuse Him Who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him Who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him Who warns from heaven. At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'"



Sometimes, God speaks in a gentle whisper.

  • 1 Kings 19:12, "And after the fire came a gentle whisper."



And, sometimes, God is silent.



Have you experienced God speaking to you in thunder or lightning or in another strong, dynamic, undeniable way?

Or have you heard Him speak in such a tender whisper that you nearly had to hold your breath to hear it?

Have you been shaken as like with an earthquake by the clarity of God's answer to a question?

Have you waited in silence, wondering if God is really listening?



I don't know about you, but those first few self-imposed questions are those kinds of questions that, if asked in a Bible Study, I would eagerly lean forward in my seat and hope to hear someone answer, not daring to raise my own hand.

But, I'm pretty sure we can all relate to that last one.



When we are seeking God out for an answer, we often take God's silence for God not hearing us, or us not asking correctly, or maybe even some vicious cruelty in Him choosing not to answer.

But, what if silence IS God's answer?



I gave a scripture for each of those vivid ways that the Lord spoke at times throughout the Word but I didn't list any scripture references for "sometimes, God is silent".

I didn't list a scripture because I couldn't decide on which one, out of hundreds, to use.

We automatically assume that God's silence is not an answer.

What if we're wrong?

(Spoiler: We are wrong.)



So many people of the Bible went through seasons of silence during a preparation period.

How many years did Joseph scrub Potiphar's floors until he became his personal attendant? How many years was Joseph in prison before he oversaw the entire land of Egypt?

We don't really want to think that silence might be God's answer in the moment that we're seeking direction, because we tend to lack patience and we have come to expect a speedy response and solution.

God's not a toaster. He doesn't pop up the goods just because we put the bread in.



In Genesis,

Noah is told to build an ark. While we don't actually know how long it took him, we know that a project that size would take years and years. We know that Noah was over 500 when he was asked to build it because he fathered his children after the age of 500 (Gen 5:32). And we know he was around 600 years old (Gen 7:6) when he entered the completed ark. And we know that Shem (one of Noah's sons) fathered a child when he was 100 years old - 2 years after coming off the ark (Gen 11).

In ALL the time that the ark was being built, there is no reference to the Lord speaking to Noah. No words of encouragement, no further instructions, no "hurry up!" --- Nothing.

There's only one verse to fill in that gap of time.

Genesis 6:22 is all we're given and it says, "Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him."

That's it. It seems like there was only silence as Noah worked on what the Lord had instructed. Yet, he was obedient and the Lord was faithful to fulfill His plan.


In Joshua,

the people had to march around the walls of Jericho for 6 days in silence before they were finally released to make a sound. (Joshua 6)

Yet, they were obedient and the Lord was faithful to fulfill His plan.


In Job,

Wow.... yes... Job.

We don't know how long Job was afflicted. It's hard to tell if Job's reference to "months" (Job 7) is talking about the time already past or his outlook on the future. We know that his friends sat with him a week before talking. We know there was some epic dialogue and that definitely would account for at least some time. But, we don't know how long.

What we do know is that Job had no answers.

His friends were making up answers because they could only handle a week of silence.

Job fell into depression due to his agony.

Yet, he was obedient and the Lord was faithful to fulfill His plan.


In Luke,

There's a lot of focus on Zacharias unbelief of the angel's news - resulting in his inability to speak for the duration of Elizabeth's pregnancy, but we often also miss out on the fact that Elizabeth also kept herself "hidden". (Luke 1:24)

Months of silence during an incredible time.

Yet, they were obedient and the Lord was faithful to fulfill His plan.




In our society, we are bombarded with noise, expectations of "microwave experiences" and an abundance of both right and wrong answers to any questions we can think up.

Silence is not just against the norm - but its presence is often a curious oddity.

And an actual appreciation of silence is less common than a positive diagnosis from a WedMD.





Let's pull from Elijah's story. I think that it's good to rewind and see where Elijah was just before the Lord called him out in that cave.

Backing up to 1 Kings 18 - Elijah called a meeting between 450 prophets of Baal, a rebellious kingdom and himself. He met them on Mount Carmel, accompanied with sacrifices to be made to the Lord. He challenged the Prophets to call on their god to defend himself and, after their god could produce nothing, Elijah called upon Jehovah and the Lord went above and beyond what Elijah had proposed in the challenge.

After that and after the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel and prayed, bent to the ground, with his face between his knees. There had been a long-lasting drought in the land and Elijah prayed and proclaimed rain on the land. The Lord God fulfilled that also. If that wasn't enough, as the king went off in his chariot, Elijah pulled up his cloak and ran ahead of the king's chariots.

So - Elijah had just been a part of something incredible and had seen the Lord honoring his prayers mightily and distinctly, that could not be explained off in any other way.

Jezebel, king Ahab's wife, got angry though, and threatened Elijah's life. He got scared. And he ran.

After all he had just seen God do, he ran.

He ran and hid and we find him here in the cave.

He had already seen God in the fire and the rain and the speed of his feet, but it had been a good, long time since Elijah had been still enough to hear a whisper.

Before Elijah was given that still small voice, he endured silence. Because, I believe, that's where God started working. Elijah ended up in that cave but that was after 40 days and 40 nights of journey, on top of him running from Jezreel to Beersheba, which was about 100 miles. Elijah had to get alone and get through the silence because that's when he became still enough to hear the whisper. Even though he was still fighting fear, he was open to the gentleness of a whisper.

Elijah wasn't obedient but the Lord was still faithful to fulfill His plan.




We have to be okay with God not answering us in huge, stormy gails or a pillar of fire guiding our every step or manna falling from heaven or a choir of angels singing in the sky.

Give stillness to the stigma of silence.




HOMEWORK:

Plan to get away this week. 5 minutes or 5 hours or any mix of it.

Find a quiet place and actually allot time to dedicate to listening for a still, small voice.

Seek Him out in a different way this week.

Engage the silence with calmness, understanding that God DOES have a plan, He isn't forgetting about you, and that He never fails to be faithful.



PRAYER

"Lord God, You are high above all things. You created me and everyone else and the things of this world. You are my strength when I'm weary and You are the peace in my storm.

I get impatient so often. I want answers to each problem right when I encounter it. I want something to automatically heal every area where I'm hurting. I want instructions on where to put my foot for the next step because I often think I'm ready before You say I'm ready.

Forgive me for being so impatient. Forgive me for thinking I know a quicker solution that would be better than what You have planned. Forgive me for the times I jump ahead of You by not listening or blocking You out.

I love You, Lord, and I desire to please You. I want to be used but, often times, I don't wait for the preparation You desire to do in my life.

Help me to calm my spirit when I am scared. Help me to remember the many ways that You have provided all things for me in the past and how You have always been ready to direct me in Your timing.

I will try to be still before You this week and slow my racing mind and aching heart down - so that I can listen for a small voice so that You can use me for big things. Help me to believe in better things when I feel like giving up. I know that You have a better plan for my life than I do. And I trust You, Lord.

Amen."




❤️ Sarah Jane


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