When we ask questions of God and He answers us, those answers will be important. James says that God is ultimately looking for people who will do what He says: ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’ (James 1:22) This is a very simple but very profound truth.
Answers should lead us onwards. Every answer God gives us is important. Every truth laid out for us in Scripture has a relevance to our daily lives. None of it is irrelevant. Jesus said, ‘“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”’ (Matt 7:24-27) Every time God speaks to us, every time we hear the Shepherd’s voice, we need to obey.
What Do We Do With Silence?
What do we do with the times when the heavens seem silent and we don’t know what God is saying? Or when He says things we simply don’t understand and so we feel helpless? All of us have to accept that there are limits to our understanding, that there are some things which are beyond us. We can ask questions as long as we want, but we won’t always understand the answers.
When we are seeking God for an answer, His silence can feel like rejection, like He doesn’t care about us. David prays to God in Ps 35, telling God all about the people who are persecuting him, who are causing trouble for him. He says, ‘Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.’ (Ps 35:22) Asaph said, ‘O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.’ (Ps 83:1) We are often desperate for God to speak to us, but there can be times when answers seem to take a long time. Daniel experienced this. He understood from reading the book of Jeremiah that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years and so he began to pray to God about this, asking for God to forgive the sins of the people of Israel and fulfil this word. (Dan 9:2-3) He pleaded with God for mercy; He begged God to listen, to hear, to act. (Dan 9:17-19) But it seems it was some time before he received an answer from the angel Gabriel. Later, on another occasion, after three weeks of praying and fasting, he received a vision, and saw one whose ‘body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.’ (Dan 10:6) In the vision, he is told that ‘since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.’ (Dan 10:12-14) Daniel’s prayer was heard by God from the first day, but there was a spiritual battle in the heavenly realms which delayed his answer – a period when God must have seemed silent. We need to hold on when answers seem delayed and God doesn’t seem to be saying anything. It’s not because He doesn’t care. It’s not because He is weak. God will always speak to us at the right time, and we need to hold on in faith, quietening our hearts so that we can listen for the most gentle whisper from One who knows us by name.