Our Advent pilgrimage begins with silence.
For four centuries God was silent…no more prophets speaking His messages. Nothing. No new word from their God. No guidance. No direction. Nothing. SILENCE.
No doubt during this 400-year silence, between the words of Malachi and Gabriel’s proclamation, God’s people connected with David’s lament in Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The psalmist is describing what our ancient Christian fathers termed “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Such a season of silence typically refers to an individual person’s experience of God’s absence, His silence, when He appears to have withdrawn from a mature believer’s life so that deeper growth can occur. But this silence, this absence, this withdrawing was from an entire nation–the Jewish nation which God had set apart to be His people. It was time for them to learn intimacy with their Creator and soon Redeemer in a whole new way. Apparently it took at least 400 years to prepare their hearts.
First step of this pilgrimage into greater relationship: SILENCE.
Have you experienced God’s silence? Have you ever felt God must have decided to leave and forget you? Reread Psalm 13 above, noticing which phrases resonate most with your personal experience of God’s silence.
Now read it a third time in The Message paraphrase:
Long enough, God—
you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
have looked down their noses at me.
Take a good look at me, God, my God;
I want to look life in the eye,
So no enemy can get the best of me
or laugh when I fall on my face.
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers.
God’s people surely cried out these words to Him as they dwelt in captivity waiting for the promised Messiah who would free them. But if it had been 400 years, do you think you might lose hope and even forget? If God’s silence lasted even 14 years in your life, what would be the affect in your soul? Consolation? Desolation? Nearness? Abandonment? Hope? Discouragement? Despair?
Would you be willing, like David, to be completely honest before the Lover of your soul and pour out your true lament before Him? Would you be willing to wait however long God determined was necessary for your spiritual preparation, your deepening of soul, your heightening of hunger and thirst for the only One that satisfies?
Into the hovels of the poor,
Into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks:
“I’ve had enough; I’m on my way
To heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.” -Ps. 12:5 MSG
God said, “ENOUGH.”
God breaks the silence! The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is rich with God speaking once again to His people through the angel Gabriel: first to Zechariah the priest and then to the young virgin Mary. He brought GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY that would radically change the lives of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary.
I wonder how God might be bringing words pregnant with new meaning for your life today? What might God want to bring into this world through your trust and availability to Him?
It’s a question that, if we pose it to God in sincerity, can be course-changing for any pilgrim.