Joyful Noise

I have been enjoying reading a book titled “Unanswered” by Jeremiah Johnston who is a professor at HBU and who started a ministry called Christian Thinkers Society. If you listen to most scientists, they will tell you that a thinking Christian is an oxymoron like giant shrimp or military intelligence. You are familiar with the way that people throw slurs around these days. One of my favorite challenges God has given to us is for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, MIND and strength. Jeremiah Johnston’s book is about his journey through enduring God’s silence. For Jeremiah and his wife Audrey, their struggle was the desire to have children and for five (5) years they struggled with God’s silence with this desire of their heart.

In their search to understand why God was silent, they discovered a number of things about God’s silence to believers. First of all, the Bible contains a number of stories of key individuals who had to endure God’s silence. Abram and Sarai heard from God when Abram was 75 and God promised them offspring, and then they didn’t hear anything else from Him on this subject for 25 years. Imagine being 100 years old and hearing that you are going to be a daddy! Abram did what any of us would probably do – he laughed in God’s face. To show him that God has a sense of humor; God had them name him Isaac – which in the original language meant “laughter”. Every time Abram or Sarai called their son’s name they were reminded of the surprise, joy, incredulity, the absolute insanity of that message from God that at the age of 100 they would have a child. Nonetheless, God was faithful to His word.

We read how Joseph did nothing wrong, but his brothers despised him and his special status with his father, so they sold him into slavery. Joseph didn’t deserve it, but after serving Potiphar his master faithfully, he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. He didn’t deserve bad treatment in prison, but he was bound with chains which probably left their mark on him. He did good things for others, but was not rewarded. He gave God the glory, but seemingly, he was forgotten. God left him in prison until he moved into Pharaoh’s house. Then after all those years of silence, God’s plan became apparent. God didn’t want him in Israel – a famine was coming and God needed Joseph in a place where he could save his people. God didn’t need Joseph at Potiphar’s house, so He let Joseph go to prison where he would help one of Pharaoh’s key assistants. God spoke through Joseph so that Pharaoh would bring Joseph into his palace and put him in a position to save his people and in the process fulfill his own life and the promise that God had made to Abram generations before – that his descendants would be like the sand on the seashore or like the stars that fill the night sky.

Jeremiah Johnston says that this silence that we experience is Biblical – it happened to many of God’s key people. It is common – it happens a lot. It is personal – a challenge designed for each one who must endure. And finally, it isn’t always a bad thing. Abraham is the father of nations, Joseph did save his people. Moses led probably 2.5 million Israelites into the wilderness – descendants of Israel’s clan of 71 or so who moved from Canaan to Egypt in order to survive the drought. All of us benefited from God’s silence of 450 years after the Old Testament prophets last spoke – His next Word was about the imminent coming of His Son. A thousand years before Jesus came, David, a man after God’s own heart struggled with God’s silence and he wrote about it in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You may recall that Jesus spoke those very words from the cross when our sins were laid on Him. At that moment – the only moment in eternity when He was separated from His Father, and it felt like abandonment. After the silence, there was the grave and then after the grave – there was the resurrection.

God never wastes a good trial in our lives. Hang on to God’s Word – turn your attention to Him – when you can’t see His hand moving, trust His heart. When you can’t seem to get your prayer of faith answered, persevere and endure and in the end you will find that God will likely use the silence as a time of remembrance for you as you look back and see what God did through it all.

Karl Mangurm