Shh image of finger to lips

This Christian walk is amazingly simple, but it shouldn’t be described as easy. Grant me a moment before launching objections; no doubt, we tend to make it very complicated, but Jesus himself, who could have explained God’s directions with the greatest complexity, actually stated our marching orders very simply: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If loving God, obeying Him, and treating others according to the Golden Rule are at the foundation, then the endless “What do I do ______?” questions are put to rest. Of course, this is if we are able to hear Him perfectly, love Him perfectly, obey Him perfectly. Easy, right? Well…

So, it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s downright hard. Distractions. Idols. Worries. Outright attacks. No earthly age is immune to these. With all that God has said, done, and revealed to me, I still struggle. I don’t always hear Him clearly. I don’t always love Him or others perfectly. Yet I know He speaks. What would it have been like, then, to live in a time of utter silence from heaven?

Scripture records (or implies) three silent eras: “pre-Exodus,” “pre-Kingdom,” and “pre-Messiah.”

PRE-EXODUS

The account of Joseph in the last chapters of Genesis is action-packed, with a brief note about the patriarch’s passing. Then the action picks up in Exodus with the Israelites in the final days of their slavery before deliverance. If we’re not careful, we may miss how much time is passed, but are reminded in Exodus 12:40, right as the Israelites are packing up to leave: they have been in Egypt for 430 years! There is a four-century gap between the first two books of the Bible, in which the people go about their daily lives, but there is not a peep about a word from God. Think about what has happened in the past century alone, not to mention the three prior to that. For context, our own nation is less than 240 years old. Four hundred thirty years is somewhere in the neighborhood of six lifetimes. Entire generations lived and died in God’s silence.

PRE-KINGDOM

In Israel’s young history, as the era of the Judges was, within a generation, about to give way to the age of the Kingdom(s), Israel’s final judge, Samuel, was born. The period of the judges was marked by the chronic apostasy, oppression, and outcry of the nation, upon which God would provide a deliverer. Yet the people would fall away once again, over and over. Being one of those periods of distance from God, we read of Samuel’s birth and his mother’s sacrifice: in her gratitude to God for her son, she gave her son in service to Him at the temple (1 Samuel 1-2). Chapter 3 tells of the calling of Samuel, and begins with these telling words: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” It is because of this that God called to Samuel three times before he and Eli the priest recognized who was speaking.

PRE-MESSIAH

After the two Israelite kingdoms (Israel in the north and Judah in the south) fall apart, the remaining descendants of Jacob are sent into exile in Babylon. The Old Testament account carries us all the way to their return to the Israelite land, and the process of rebuilding the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. The Messiah is promised, and God’s coming Kingdom, through the prophecies of men such as Isaiah. And then… the people wait. The gap between the Old and New Testaments is another 400 years.

Was God truly “silent” in those years? I don’t know. But it seems that if He wasn’t completely silent, He was pretty quiet. Yet He continued to work on His plan of salvation. Is God silent today? No. I am convinced of His speaking to me, to us, by so many means it might make our heads spin. And yet, I still struggle sometimes with this walk. How dumb do I feel when I consider what faithfulness is required in ages of virtual silence. Yes, on the one hand, I am merely human. But, I must heed the example of those who under extraordinary circumstances were pillars of faith. And you know, that’s why, in reality, this walk is amazingly… simple.

FOR THOUGHT

What do you think: easy or hard? Are “simple” and “easy” different? How? How has God spoken to you recently?

FOR FURTHER READING

Richard Foster‘s Freedom of Simplicity: a powerful classic that encourages us to focus on the essentials of Gospel living in order to navigate our complicated world without complicating our lives.

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