The Sound of God’s Silence

There’s an old expression that says, “actions speak louder than words.” That’s certainly true. Sometimes silence can speak loudly too. A couple of years ago I was in the running for a pastoral position at a church. I had gotten several interviews and was pretty sure I was a finalist. Just like that, they stopped communicating with me. I was disappointed in how they handled it, but I got the message: I was out. These days, that’s called being “ghosted.” Sometimes God can respond to us with silence, but He’s not being rude. Take the episode in Luke where John the Baptist, in Herod’s prison, is questioning whether Jesus is the Messiah. So, he sends some of his followers to ask Jesus:

John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Luke 7:18-22

Jesus is quoting prophecies about Himself from Isaiah, the last line comes from Isaiah 61:1. There is little doubt that John knew what the next line in the verse said and the message Jesus was sending by not including it: He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Isaiah is prophesying that Jesus will free all from the captivity of sin. But what if Jesus chose to omit it because of what the imagery might mean to John? We could call that shouting by omission. I always felt that John raised the question as an indirect way of asking “So, are you going to get me out of here, or what?” The back half of Isaiah 61:1, which I was pointed to recently in a devotional, may validate my theory.

Jesus declares that His miracles are identifying Him as the Messiah Isaiah prophesied. And Jesus will free captives from the darkness of sin. But it’s plausible to believe John heard that Jesus was telling him that he would not be leaving Herod’s prison alive. We don’t know how John reacted to the response. But we have ample evidence that he knew his role was very limited and that he was to become lesser, and Jesus was to become greater.

We all have had prayers and questions to Jesus answered with silence. Sometimes He wants us to wait while He prepares us or the circumstances (or both) for our next step. Sometimes He’s making us wait to build our faith and character. And sometimes, silence itself is the final answer. And sometimes, like John, it’s not the answer we want to hear. Romans 8:28 tells us: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

John knew the purpose to which he’d been called. When we seek to know God’s purpose for us, He will show us in His time. Answers along the way may not be what we want. But we know, whether it’s here or eternity, it will turn out for our good. In our case, God used silence to tell us He wasn’t calling us to serve at a certain church. Months later, He blessed us with a ministry right here in Green Bay. Let that reassurance surround you when you are hearing the sound of God’s silence.

This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI.

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