In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Three times in Job 13 you find the word “hold.” Job is at his wit’s end. This is the end of the first of three cycles of speeches among the four men. Job demands, “O that ye would altogether hold your peace! And it should be your wisdom” (Job 13:5). Later he pleads, “Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, And let come on me what will” (Job 13:13). Is Job giving up?
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). This statement is as much defiant frustration as it is Job’s reliant focus. He expects to represent his case before God. How can the Infinite Being possibly unleash this much terror on such an insignificant creature (Job 13:21)? If Job were to not voice his defense he would “give up the ghost” (Job 13:19).
However, the silence which he can’t shake is the brassy silence of the heavens. The One he wishes to hear from has remained silent. Silence is not golden, especially when the One you most desperately wish to hear does not speak. Here is the question every one of us struggles with just like Job did: Does God’s silence mean He’s absent?
Charles Spurgeon said, “Many…owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” There is no greater life than our Savior as He hung on the cross. Did he hear any resounding answer after He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)? The heavens were essentially silent. This, Jesus bore to validate the statement he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows your pain. He too has been there.
King David had his share of trouble on this earth. Like us, some were self-inflicted. Retrospectively, I search my life and wonder how would it have been if I had not stepped on so many of the landmines of life. I always admired David for his life of praise. Despite his troubles, he always turned to the Lord and gave Him the praise due.
When I read through the Psalms, I am convicted of my lack of praise. I try to increase my praise, but the troubles of life and the cares of the world seem to interfere. The problem is the focus, or the lack thereof. When the hounds are clawing at the door, I am crawling to the Lord in prayer and praise. But where are we, when the seas of solitude surround us? When all is calm, does God find us praising Him? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us are in the same boat. We must strive to praise God more each day for the great and wonderful things He does (Ps. 86:10)! Let praise be the first thing on our mind when we awake.
Years ago, my pastor delivered a wonderful message about praising God and I committed to praising Him more. The next morning, while I was driving to work, the Arizona sunrise was awesome. The sun was blood red, the sky was afire and the desert floor appeared as if I were surrounded by an ocean. I broke out in a praise-fest. Out loud, I lifted the floors of Heaven with praise and thanksgiving. Making a joyful noise (far from what you would call angelic) I sang to God. My mind was focused fully on God. But then the world tugged me back out of the praise session when I realized I was going about 85 mph in a 55 zone! My heart started to beat with panic. I braked and looked around for an officer on this lonely highway. I could see it now. A highway patrolman giving me a ticket for praising God in a reckless manner! Truly God would love for us to be that focused on Him; minus the recklessness.
One of my biggest concerns is when I enter into the presence of God one of my shortcomings will be lack of praising God in this life; in this, I stand guilty. But, all of us are guilty to varying degrees. The Bible says in 1Th.5:17 Pray without ceasing. If one would study the model of prayer in Luke 11:2-4 (commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer) you would find the format for prayer. First and foremost, is acknowledging that God is our “Father” and that He is far and above us. The next verse is, “hallowed” be Thy name. That is praise! Praise and prayer are not always about asking. So if we continually praise God throughout our day we are following 1 Th. 5:17 by praying (praising) without ceasing. There are days I wish I would have gotten a ticket. I could use it as evidence when I face God. Lord thank you for fingers to type this letter… Let us resolve to praise Him; Who alone is worthy.
“Things I’ve Learned from my Children.”
A mother once recorded, “I’ve learned that a king size water bed has enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house four inches deep. I’ve learned that a three-year-old’s voice is louder than two hundred adults in a crowded restaurant. I’ve learned that double-paned windows are not strong enough to stop a baseball that has been hit by a ceiling fan. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke and lots of it. Playdough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence. Superglue is forever. No matter how much Jell-O you put in the swimming pool, you can’t walk on the water. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.”
Maybe this mother could relate to the phrase found four times in the book of Judges, “The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel” (Judges 2:14, 20; 3:8; 10:7). It comes as no surprise when you read through the flawed leaders and fickle people. Judges is a complicated book because you aren’t certain how to classify the personalities. During childhood, the stories we cut our teeth on train us that there is a good side and a bad side. The good side is always good and the bad side is definitively bad. However, Judges debunks the theory and actually shows us the raw material God uses to accomplish His will. You want to classify Barak as a hero, but he wanted Deborah to hold his hand. You want to think Jephthah is a self-made man, but he was a leader of outlaws and offers his own daughter on the altar in order to fulfill an unnecessary and rash vow. Gideon may seem meek and noble especially when he refuses to be crowned king. “And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). However, look out later when he takes the spoils of war and makes a golden ephod which the people went “a whoring after it” (Judges 8:27).
The power of Biblical stories is what at first is a picture becomes a mirror. What begins as a story becomes a biographical sketch. “There is none good but one, that is, God,” but, as for the rest of us, we are like the fickle people and flawed leaders (Mark 10:18). After reading today’s passage, it is time for a helpful reminder, “Charity suffereth long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). We all need God’s longsuffering. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
So, today, give thanks for the Lord’s longsuffering and remember the grain of human frailty runs in us all.
My youth pastor taught many memorable lessons when we were growing up in the youth program at my church. One of the most startling was a sermon on dating. He taught us one of the qualifications to take a young lady on a date was protection. “If something tragic were to happen on the date,” he said, “you had better be ready to die protecting her!” Dating ratcheted up a few levels of seriousness after that statement. Then you read Genesis 26 where Isaac, following in his father’s footsteps, tells a lie about his wife. “She is my sister,” he said (Genesis 26:7). The wise king Abimelech happens to see Isaac flirting with “his sister,” Rebekah. He questions Isaac, “Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister” (Genesis 26:9)? Isaac’s pitiful response, “Lest I die for her” (Genesis 28:9).
Read throughout these chapters and you will find self-centered people everywhere. We naturally focus on our needs. We think we are the Cat’s Meow, A-1, out of this world, first class, like wow, top-drawer, sensational…and the other 318 million people in our country. We are surrounded by a bunch of people who naturally love themselves. Isn’t it interesting, when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write a letter to Ephesus, he chooses to define the quality of a husband’s love for his wife as “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The story is told about a little boy named Timothy. His sister was suffering from an ailment which Timothy once had but overcame. Her only chance for survival would be a blood transfusion from her brother, who shared her blood type. “Would you give your blood to help save your sister?” the doctor asked Timothy, leaning over close to the young boy’s face. At first, Timothy hesitated. His chin began to quiver as he fought back tears. Then with a solemn strength, he forced a smile. “Yes, I’ll do it,” he said. Timothy watched the blood flow out of his arm and into the tubes. Quiet for most of the procedure, he finally asked, “Doctor, when do I die?” That’s when the doctor realized Timothy thought to give his blood for his sister meant he would have to give all his blood. Timothy was willingly offering the greatest sacrifice out of love for his sister.
If you are saved, then you know of this sacrificial love and you are called to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ephesians 5:2). Isaac didn’t win the “Best Husband Trophy.” Before we are too hard on him, take some time to reflect on every drop of God’s love poured out for you on the cross.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Probably one of the least favorite events that happen to us is to be woken out of a deep sleep, particularly if it is in a very loud and sudden way. As part of my job, I have to be a part of an on-call rotation and about once every few months I will get a call in the middle of the night. Everyone can probably relate to the “who am I”/”where am I” thoughts that initially go through my head while I try to gather my wits enough to answer the phone.
Our reading this morning brings us to a passage that challenges us to “Wake Up!” Romans 13:11 reads, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.”
Paul is reminding these believers that because their (final) salvation was nearer now than when they believed, they needed to wake up or “snap out” of their current situation and mindset. Paul goes on to explain what they needed to address in their lives. Verse 12 states they needed to, “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
This stark reminder is also very relevant to us today as well. All too often we allow sins to creep into our lives, sins that sneak in with an “I’m not that bad” label to them. Whether it be anger, bitterness, dishonesty or jealousy, these and other sins can easily take up residence in our hearts if we aren’t careful.
Paul’s admonition is to not sleepwalk through the Christian life but to instead get serious about the things of God. Whether we are young or old and even if Christ should tarry, our lives will be over in a “vapor” as James reminds us and we need to be vigilant about making sure our lives are count for Him. Perhaps there is an area of your life that you need to “wake up” about?