A commentary on the Psalms
When God Goes Quiet...
Friday, August 2, 2019
The truth of the matter is, though God’s children have free and open access to the Father, sometimes it seems as if we’re speaking up into the air and no one is listening. The Bible commands the people of God to “boldly approach the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).” Yet, there are times when we humbly present ourselves before God, plead our case to Him in meekness and dependency, and don’t seem to see or hear any response whatsoever. It can be confusing and frustrating. Why would God give such a command like in Hebrews 4:16, only to go silent on us when we seek Him in our time of need? The scriptures teach that God is good and will never leave us nor forsake us, yet there are these times when it seems that God is being mean, and has indeed departed. How do we reconcile the truth about who we know God is according to the scriptures, with the manner in which He deals with us when it seems He’s gone silent? Thankfully, the Bible has the answer.
Psalm 13 is a true testimony that shows all of God’s people have dealt with this issue at one time or another. Psalm 13 is a psalm written by King David, in which he desired to hear from the LORD, but was not getting anything from Him. The Bible teaches that David was a man after God’s own heart. He is listed as a man of exemplary faith. He is the man that God selected as His anointed king to be the branch of the Messiah and His throne. The scriptures show that David had an exceptional relationship with God. He often received divine protection. David was used to do great miracles by the hand of God. David received great provision. Perhaps more importantly, David was one of the best theologians in the Bible, having tremendous insight into the plans, purposes, and eternal promises of God. David knew things about God that seemed impossible to know at the time. David wrote things about God and His plans that people later in scripture marveled over. Still, Psalm 13 is definitive proof that there are times when it seems God is quiet and distant, no matter how our relationship is with Him otherwise.
The first two verses of the psalm kind of sum up the tone and purpose of David’s writing:
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [having] sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
David wrote, “how long, O LORD,” showing that David had obviously been inquiring of, and seeking God about this issue for quite some time. The Bible doesn’t explain the specific issue that David was dealing with, nor the time in which he had been seeking the LORD about it, but David had sought the LORD a lot already about this. David’s question shows a sense of frustration, of confusion, and of disappointment. It is likely that David hoped to receive a more immediate response from God, either to address the issue directly, or at least for wisdom and encouragement to endure the issue. Clearly, David hadn’t heard anything from God. David knew that God would never leave or forsake His people, yet felt like God had “forgotten” him. David felt like God was hiding His face. It’s as if David went to the throne of grace as commanded, hoping to find the comfort and salvation of the LORD, but when he got there, he found God’s throne vacant. How can that be?
Obviously, it is impossible for God to depart from His throne, leaving things out of His control. That doesn’t mean that God’s people don’t feel abandoned sometimes. Though we know God is faithful and never departs from His people, the time that He takes to respond directly to us can make it seem as if He’s hiding from us. We want responses and results, and we want them now. God doesn’t work on our timetables, and doesn’t work according to our methods of reason and logic. Though it seems as if His face is hidden, He is still omnipresent. He is still omniscient. He is still omnipotent. Our perception or awareness of God might change, but God doesn’t. Our concerns about our circumstances might change, but that concern doesn’t change God. God is immutable. He doesn’t change at all. The LORD is the same God that He was when He graciously called us to be His. We weren’t seeking Him, but He called us anyway, and did all the work that needed to be done to make us His. Consider David. David didn’t ask to be king of Israel, but was specially formed by God, called by God, and equipped by God. Just because David’s life appeared to change, doesn’t mean that God’s work in David’s life was ineffective, that His calling was cruel, or that His equipping was weak.
There is a lesson that David teaches through his despair. Notice that, since David sought the LORD unto no response (that he could discern), he sought to take counsel in his own soul. In other words, David was wrestling with his thoughts within him. He knew who God was, but inside his flesh was causing him to think God had changed. He knew that God would fulfill His promises in David, but felt like the circumstances were overwhelming and too much. David had truth and lies battling within him, and when David sought to leverage his inner strength to persevere, he found that his inner strength was weak. Though David had the truth in him, David wrote that God was hiding His face. Though David had the truth in him, David wrote that God had forgotten David. Part of David’s words are poetic in nature, showing the deepness of his despair; but also, the intensity of David’s words show that, for all the spirituality that David had within him, it wasn’t enough. In other words, David couldn’t just summon or conjure up the faith he needed to get through his situation with joy and hope. He needed God. He needed the LORD to provide that which he could not produce within himself.
David wrestled with this situation daily, for however long he did. Clearly, the situation stemmed from his enemies. Once again, David had people going after him, trying to take him down in an effort to foil the plans of God for Israel. At this point in David’s life, it seemed like his enemies might actually succeed. David knew that he was called to be the king of Israel, but there were people who opposed that, and it seemed like they might get their way. Why was God not answering David to deal with it? David knew that there were certain things God wanted to do in his life in order to establish the throne of Israel, but there were people that legitimately threatened that plan. Why would God not provide answers to things that seemed so critical?
David felt like the enemy was gaining ground and having success. It seemed to David that the enemy was actually making progress against the eternal and spiritual plans of God for His people. Why would God do such a thing? David wanted to know. David desperately wanted to know God’s plan. He knew God had a plan. He knew God had a purpose. David simply couldn’t discern the meaning of his circumstances to see how they would resolve unto the fulfillment of God’s plans and purposes. David wanted more information. He wanted more revelation. He wanted more assurance. David was so desperate to hear from God, to gain encouragement by the revelation of His Word, that he felt he would die without it. This isn’t just a dramatic exaggeration, but a testament to the intensity of David’s faith, and relationship with God. The Word of God was the oxygen that David breathed to stay alive. It was the basis of his hope and confidence. Though David was far from perfect, he was so dependent on the Word and Promises of God in his life, that being in a season of “silence” made it seem like he was drowning and he might die.
It might seem cruel to us, but God knows how to draw us unto Himself. Consider this: Would David have been so dependent on the LORD if he didn’t have circumstances that constantly threatened him so severely? Would David have cherished God’s Word so much if God’s Word didn’t work miracles? Don’t miracles require people to undergo circumstances that are beyond human capacity and reason?
The truth is, David knew who God was, which was why he resolved Psalm 13 the way he did, well before God actually dealt with the situation on David’s behalf. David knew God was merciful, and so before God displayed mercy, David found solace in the character of God, remembering who He is. David knew that God was the Savior. Before God actually administrated his salvation, David rejoiced in the LORD knowing that salvation is of God’s nature. David cried out to God so emphatically because he didn’t like to see his enemies gloat. David loved God so much, that he didn’t like to see the enemy feel as if they were overcoming His purposes and promises. David felt like his enemies were getting a kick out of his grief. David felt like his enemies were rejoicing over their progress, as if they were overcoming God and His purposes. David hated that, and rightly so. A true lover of God can’t stand to see the holy and righteous God mocked by the wicked. David hated that his circumstances were reason for the enemy to rejoice. David didn’t want to be delivered from his troubles just because they were hard. David wanted to be delivered – and delivered now – so that the enemy could be silenced. David wanted a swift response from God so that God couldn’t be mocked by the wicked, on account of the pitiful condition of His people.
This is why David was able to rejoice BEFORE God brought the mercy and salvation he was seeking. Though he had sought the LORD for a long time, David was sure of deliverance because it is consistent with God’s character and nature to provide mercy and salvation. David said that God had dealt “bountifully” with him in the past. The word “bountifully” is a word often translated into “reward” in the scriptures. In other words, David had received rewards in the past from God on the basis of mercy and grace, why would God stop now? The word “bountifully” is a word often translated “weaned,” referring to the nourishing of an infant child. In other words, God had nourished David as His own child in the past, taking care of him as one of His own. Why would God stop now? Is it consistent with the nature of God to stop being merciful and gracious for no reason? Is it consistent with the nature of God to stop nourishing and providing for His children? Though David had thought that God was hiding and had gone silent, he rejoiced in anticipation of God’s deliverance because he knew who God was, and leveraged the truths that God revealed in the past to provide hope, assurance, and confidence concerning the future.