Is God ever silent? Scripture tells us that God has revealed Himself in three ways – His creation, His Word, and His Son. The reason that we know God and follow Him today is because He has spoken to us in these ways. And yet, there are times in our lives where it seemingly becomes difficult to hear him speak. There are times in our lives in which God seems silent, as if He has stopped talking to us altogether. Perhaps we feel this most when we are in the depths of despair, in the middle of the worst kind of situation, a situation we never imagined we would be in. During these times, we might call out to God, crying His name, and it seems that all we get back are crickets. Or these times come in seasons of spiritual drought, when we are running on empty, desperately needing to be filled, but day-after-day the emptiness continues.
In these times of our lives, is God really silent? Has he stopped talking to us completely, or have we simply stopped listening to him? There have been times in history in which it seems as if the former is true. The 400-year-period between the Old Testament and New Testament is commonly referred to as “The Silent Period” because we have no record of God speaking during that time. If God had spoken through His prophets or through visions, surely it would be recorded in the pages of our Bibles.
There is also another period in which God seemed silent – the lesser known period between Moses and the Judges. We know that God spoke directly to Moses as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). But after Moses dies, Joshua largely relies on the written word of God as his guide. While Deborah, one of the Judges, is listed as a prophetess, and another unnamed prophet makes a short appearance, it would appear that God ceased speaking directly to his people. 1 Samuel 3:1 confirms this: “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”
If we can look back at these periods in history in which God gives His people the silent treatment, doesn’t it stand to reason that He does the same at times to us personally today? I think that all Christians would agree that there are moments in our lives, perhaps even in the most difficult moments, that it seems like God stops speaking to us. This weekend, we are going to look at the Old Testament story of Samuel, consider how God spoke directly to this young boy, and then look at the reality that God never stops speaking to us, even if we at times feel that He has.
There are several reasons for why it may seem like God is silent. First and foremost, you cannot expect to hear God’s voice if you do not yet belong to God. Jesus said, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:47). The first step to hearing God is by accepting the One He sent, Jesus Christ. Secondly, you may not be hearing God because you are not spending time in His Word and in prayer. God’s primary means of communicating to His people is through the Bible and through His Holy Spirit in prayer. If you are neglecting these and looking for some miraculous vision or sign, then you will not find it. Third, you are not an active part of the Body of Christ, the Church. The same Holy Spirit that lives in me also lives in every other Christian. God’s Spirit is most active when the Church is active. You and I are called to be a part of this body because God will sometimes communicate His will for you through other Christians who are living by the Spirit. Finally, perhaps you don’t hear God because there is unconfessed sin in your life. Sin always causes separation. Before we knew Christ, we were eterna separated from God. But even after we are saved, unrepented sin causes us to feel like God has removed Himself from us when the reality is that we have chosen something above Him. This causes us to feel like God is distant when He is always there, waiting for us to turn back to Him.
God calls us to complete and total dependence upon Him. There are times when God allows us to feel like He isn’t there so that we are driven back to that reality and we begin to work through these areas as we are enabled by His Holy Spirit. And as we turn back to Him, we will begin to hear Him just as young Samuel, lying down in the temple of God, heard Him. What Samuel learned, and what we learn, is that every time God speaks, He has a purpose. God is not in the business of small talk and chitter chatter. He always speaks with intentionality, revealing His purpose for our lives and our next steps as we align our lives to His will.
When God called Samuel by name, He revealed that Samuel was to be His prophet. He told Samuel what He was about to do, and Samuel’s job was to communicate that message to God’s people even when the news was not good. Just like Samuel, our job is to respond to God when He speaks by saying “Yes.” Saying “no” to God is one of the quickest ways stop hearing His voice. The more we say no, the easier it becomes until we drown out God’s voice altogether. On the other hand, as we say “yes” to Him, He continues to guide each step of our obedience, communicating to us along the way.
God has called you by name, just as He called Samuel by name. I hope this weekend you will say yes to being together for worship and hearing what He has to say through His Word. We have a lot to unpack together. Join us at 5:30 PM on Saturday and 10:30 AM on Sunday.