When God Seems Silent
(H) A song, a psalm of Asaph. (1) God, do not (remain) silent. Do not be quiet. Do not be still, God, (2) for behold, your enemies are making an uproar. Those who hate you have reared their heads. (3) Against your people they lay crafty plans and conspire against your treasured ones. (4) They say, “Come, let us annihilate them as a nation so that the name of Israel is remembered no more,” (5) for they conspire together with one accord. Against you they make a covenant: (6) the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, (7) Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia along with the inhabitants of Tyre. (8) Also, Assyria has joined with them. They have become a support to the children of Lot. (Selah)
Four details in the opening verse immediately demonstrate the urgency of Asaph’s prayer. First, he twice invokes God’s name both at the beginning and at the end of the verse. Then, he uses three synonyms, “silent,” “quiet,” and “still,” in urging God to respond. Next, he employs two jussive (imperatival) verb forms which convey his sense of urgency. Finally, he uses three consecutive negatives to emphasize his crying out to God for immediate intervention (vs. 1).
In the following verses we observe another repetition, the word “conspire” used twice (vss. 3 & 5), to emphasize how Israel’s enemies, ten surrounding nations mentioned by name (in vss. 6-8), are plotting to destroy God’s chosen people. The very future of the covenant nation is at stake. Will God respond to the psalmist's urgent petitions?
I. Why God should act (1-3)
II. What our enemies threaten to do (4 & 5)
III. Who our enemies are (6-8)
When encircled by enemies who are determined to destroy us, we cry out to God for his protection and deliverance.
Many of us become agitated when we earnestly pray and fail to receive an answer from God, especially when our need is urgent and life-threatening. We then ask questions like, “If God hears our every prayer and has the ability to respond, why does he remain silent?” The psalmist’s cry for God to break his silence and answer the nation’s prayers for protection and deliverance from their enemies certainly looks like this kind of frustration.
The old cliché that God answers prayer with either “yes”, “no,” or “wait,” does not seem to help very much when our very survival seems to be at stake. In desperate moments we do not want to hear “no” or “wait” but a resounding “YES!” What can we do when our prayers seem to be hitting a glass ceiling? Here are a few suggestions:
- Remember how God has answered prayer previously. If he was faithful in the past, we can take heart in trusting that he will be just as faithful in our present situation.
- Rest in the promise of God’s Word that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He will not necessarily deliver us out of our fiery trials but promises to keep us safe through them. He has also promised never to take us beyond what we can bear.
- Rehearse what God is always seeking to accomplish in our lives through the trials we are enduring at present. Is he working to mature our faith? Is he teaching us patience? Is he treating us as a father who disciplines his children with love? Is there something we have failed to see or do to which we need to pay attention?
- Rely on God to come through at just the right time in just the right way and determine to wait patiently for him.
Some thirty years ago, Robert Ray wrote a choral anthem entitled, He's Never Failed Me Yet (©1982 Jenson Publications). It includes a pithy refrain that can encourage us as we wait on God today: “Trust and never doubt. / Jesus will surely bring you out. / He’s never failed me yet!”