While I’m letting a particular ‘word’ marinate and root into the soil of my heart before I share it with you, I thought I’d blog a series of posts on the attributes that are foreign to the nature of God, to remind us just Who it is we’re dealing with and Who deals with us.
Again, it’s clearly evident to us all what makes our God bigger and better than any god known to man. He’s without rival, yes; He’s unique in wisdom, absolutely; He’s present with us in every moment, indubitably so; and He’s unchanging in His disposition (loyal love) to His own – oh, hallelujah, yes.
Sometimes to trace who – or what – He is NOT can be just as reassuring to a pilgrim as those assets we already hold dear. A few days ago I offered the first “God is not…” attribution (God Is Not Nervous) and today’s offering welcomes another encouraging negative.
Just to reiterate, not long ago I asked the Lord to share His heart on the matter of how we may best be prepared for what is ahead. My heart cradled a single word in response and I knew I needed to pass it along to those I am in community with, both on this platform and in my personal connections in life.
Consequently, I felt it expedient to lead up to it (i.e., the word on my heart) in this manner because the nature of what I’m sensing may be the initial soundings of a time when Paul prophesied many would begin to fall away from the faith.
If that is so, then I know it will be a troublesome time for the saints who will begin to feel abandoned by a perceived uninterested or vengeful God. The feel-good homilies we’ve dieted on will be hard-pressed to satisfy the grave concerns that will grow like a brush fire among the ranks. Everything in our logic will scream that God is a bad Parent and He has left us to the miserable devices of the evil one.
To that end, I’m obliged to parlay these fears with a second “God Is Not…” attribution that, hopefully, will do its work to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
- GOD IS NOT NERVOUS
GOD IS NOT SILENT
I remember meeting with some brothers and sisters from various faith communities at a notorious abortion mill in downtown Atlanta a few years ago. We reconnoitered in the early morning, hearing from a spokesperson our purpose and strategy for such an assembly. We were told the events of that morning were not considered a protest, but rather a prayer initiative, and a silent one at that. Each of us were given a swatch of red tape to place over our mouths and told we were “identifying with the silence of the pre-born who have no voice to defend themselves.”
Next we moved out in a single file line – all twenty or twenty-five of us with mouths taped – beneath an overcast sky, and proceeded to do a “Joshua March” around the block where the facility was located. Six times around, then, on the seventh, we stopped and spread out in front of the abortion clinic, facing it, and silently crying and praying for God to defend the unborn and rescue more from harm. Cars drove by but were unacknowledged; a few honked, presumably knowing our objective and offering their counterproductive klaxon support, but the silence of our little army prevailed.
Not a word was exchanged on that curbside but there was powerful rhetoric nonetheless, and in only days, we heard the mill was out of business. Praise be to God.
A silent assembly.
A monumental result.
There was a time when Jesus was silent when justice was demanded. He came, the gospeler records, to seek and rescue those who were in peril, but on this occasion, He stood pat. Of the two gospels that feature the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (her family tree was pure Canaanite), only Matthew adds the drama that Jesus was silent in her moment of severest anguish.
This lady – this mother – came to Jesus with a truly pathetic need: her daughter – her sweet baby girl (Mark uses the endearing “little daughter“) – is RIGHT THEN BEING TORMENTED BY A DEMON (present tense, passive voice). She’s run out of hope, help and answers. So she runs up to Jesus on behalf of her defenseless little girl and cries
And Jesus just stands there. Immobile. Silent.
The disciples sure didn’t want to be involved in this Gentile drama. They didn’t want to be in this country anyway. These people were the enemies of Israel, they killed their ancestors, enslaved them, and, horror or horrors, sacrificed their children to their fiery gods. This woman was just reaping the whirlwind. Served her right. C’mon Jesus, let’s get out of this godforsaken town!
And still, Jesus just stood there, silent and unmoving (not unmoved!). Quiet as a shut-up church.
We can speculate and try to soften the motive of Jesus’ silence to this distraught mother as much as we dare, but there’s no getting around it: Jesus must be true to His mission. He tells her straight up she wasn’t on His to-do list for the day.
Allow me to give the sequence of how this convo played out so you can better experience the pathos:
- Mother says ‘help, my daughter’s being demonized!’
- Jesus is silent
- Mother appeals to disciples
- They express their discomfort to Jesus
- He turns and tells mother ‘there’s nothing for you today’
- Mother isn’t deterred; falls at His feet and cries for mercy
- He tells her she’d be taking mercy meant only for His people
- Mother knows He has mercy enough and asks for even some small miracle for her little girl
- Jesus explodes in joy and gladly rewards her faith
- Daughter is instantly and comprehensively healed
Was He really reticent? Absolutely not.
Was He just messing with her? No way.
Was He just making of her an illustration? I’m pretty certain that was not our Lord’s motive.
Then what? Why the silence? Why the perceived hesitation?
Here’s what I think.
Before I answer, I want to bracket here an event in the future that might offer a little insight to our puzzle. In the Revelations of John, chapter eight, we are told that prior to Jesus’ opening of the seventh seal there is a full half-hour of stilled and absolute silence in Heaven. It’s as if all Heaven draws a collective breath when it realizes Jesus is about to do something of which – when He does – will bring about the full and final plan of His Story from All Eternity to a quick and surefire end.
There was silence just before the monumental shift.
Back to our gospel story. This is the only trip Jesus makes into the Gentile region during His years of ministry. We know He never did anything unless the Father showed Him what to do. There was no arbitrariness to His mission, including this very encounter.
Jesus – through the Father’s will – intended to heal this mother’s daughter from the outset. No, He wasn’t playing games with her, but, instead, He was silent because He was about to change the “game” and show His men that the gospel was for the world – even wicked Canaanites. And this woman followed the script beautifully! She didn’t know there was a script, but she played her part while the disciples struggled with theirs. This very conversation was for His men’s benefit. The Savior wanted them to see that children of Abraham – evidenced by such faith, not pedigree – could be found among the most paganly primitive peoples.
So…how does this attribute serve as encouragement for the sobering word the Lord has laid on my heart for His followers in 2015? Only this: do not ever translate God’s silence as aloofness or indifference. Like Jesus and this Canaanite woman, God will use silence to highlight the fact that He’s about to change the atmosphere and make all things new.
Just like that sad little abortion mill in Atlanta. From the moment we gathered, taped over our mouths and marched, it was already over for them. Silence was indeed golden.