You are hereFinding God in the Silence

Finding God in the Silence

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By Virgil - Posted on 18 November 2005

When we speak with people about Covenant Eschatology, we often are blasted with a number of questions that we can usually answer quite easily; but one question comes up often, and it is not its difficulty, but its implications that concern our audience: If Christ returned in A.D. 70, why is the silence so loud?While I personally do not need a tangible and obvious manifestation of God’s presence, many believers do. So it becomes difficult for God’s spiritual or invisible presence to be manifested in people’s lives. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. When the world experiences disasters for example, many "experts" come out of the woodwork claiming not only that God is not here, but that God’s absence from the world is the cause of these disasters.

When hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Pat Robertson claimed that God sent the hurricane to put a stop to the evils taking place in New Orleans. Robertson made many other outlandish claims and threats. He also threatened the city of Orlando with "earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor" if they continue to fly rainbow flags on city lamp posts on Disney World’s gay day. I could give many examples of these outrageous claims by prominent evangelical leaders. So if Robertson is wrong in his claims, where is God then? Why is God silent, and how do we reconcile this perceived silence with Preterism?

In the book of 1 Kings, we see some very important events developing. In chapter 17, a man named Elijah who was a prophet, predicts draught and famine for the idolatrous people of Israel. The antithesis of the story is important: God dispatches Elijah to tell Ahab to stop worshiping idols; and Elijah offers a demonstration of God’s power and might: an instant "fire of the Lord" toasting the sacrifice which Baal’s prophets failed to ignite. Elijah’s prayer is especially powerful: "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." (1 Kings 18:36-37)

It seems to me that the purpose of Elijah’s prayer was to manifest "the Lord was God" and to turn the heart of Israel back again. And his prayer was answered because "When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." (Verse 39)

What is even more fascinating is what happens after Baal’s prophets were killed by Elijah. Ahab takes off in his chariot and tells Jezebel what Elijah has done. Jezebel swears to kill Elijah in response, and Elijah runs away in fear.

To me, the point of the account is not as much about how God delivers his people from trouble; we all know God does help us when we ask and that he is our help and comfort in time of trouble. The story does have a higher meaning in my opinion. In his attempt to save his own life from Jezebel, Elijah’s heart is drenched in despair and fear. He even asks God to kill him: "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." (1 Kings 19:4)

Hiding in the wilderness, Elijah slept under a juniper tree. He brought no food and provisions with him, but the angel of God miraculously provided food for him for the long journey to Horeb, the mountain of God, a journey which took forty days and forty nights. When we juxtapose the length of his trip to God’s mountain, and the whole series of events with the first century transition period (A.D. 30 to A.D. 70), we see a striking coincidence. The Church of Christ, received the Holy Spirit to equip her with what was necessary for the forty-year trip to the New Jerusalem, the city of God. This also parallels the forty-year trip made by Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, guided by the pillar of smoke and fed miraculously by God.

We do not know what Elijah was expecting to find when he arrived at Horeb. Perhaps Elijah was expecting the same fire and power Elijah’s unusual request tells us that he was perhaps disappointed: "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:10).

It almost seems like God is putting Elijah to a test, instructing him to stand on the mountain, being presented with several manifestations of nature. First, there is a strong wind coming, so strong that the rocks of the mountain were breaking apart. But God was not in the strong wind. Next, an earthquake takes place, but God was not in the earthquake. After that, a fire, but God was not in the fire either. Lastly, Elijah hears the sound of a gentle breeze and recognizes God’s presence in it. Only then God asks him "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:13) God was not in the storm, the earthquake or the fire. God was in the silence! In fact, Elijah's recognition of that fact prompted God to speak with him!

This is a powerful and not-so-random lesson to those of us willing to turn every rock looking for evidence of God’s presence. While we should recognize the need for tangible evidences, we should always be aware of what God is; or better said how God is. There was a time of wonders and marvels happening through the Holy Spirit; there was a time of earthquakes, winds and fires that destroyed Jerusalem in the first century. Subsequently there is a time of peace and silence and comfort in the post-A.D. 70 world. Silence comforted Elijah. Silence comforts everyone coming out of strong storms, earthquakes and fires.

Perhaps the problem is not with God’s presence being too inconspicuous. Perhaps the problem is with us failing to see God in the silence.

trkrpret's picture

Hey Virg, it's been a long time since i've been able to get on line. I only have a few minutes today and read this article.
Being on the road is a strange life and believe it or not I havent had much time to study. When I do have time it seems my head is not in the right place but a couple of weeks ago, I re-read and was pondering this very passage. It was a random act really, not siginificant at the time but today I heard Gods voice.

I just wanted to say thanks for posting. It's been a blessing. Give my best to your family.
Julie
aka:pretgirl :)

DayStar1's picture

Virgil, Has God been silent? I don't think so! God still uses acts of nature to get our attention. The trouble is with our western scientific mind-set we fail to see Him as the God of nature. There is possibly some truth in what Robinson says.

Clifton Depreast

Virgil's picture

Perhaps you don't think God has been "silent" - many people do. And can I ask how you know that God uses acts of nature to get our attention? Attention to do what?

DayStar1's picture

The OT is full of examples. The flood; the plagues upon Egypt; 3 yr drought upon Israel at the time of Ahab; earthquake swallowed up those who built the calfs idol in the wilderness; the Bible talks about earthquakes, hail, floods. Jesus indicates that there would be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, floods, earthquakes, am I to assume all these would cease after AD 70? I dare not make such an assumption. Zech. 14: 16-21 talks about the withholding of rain upon those countries that do not worship the Lord and this is during the Kingdom Era---our time. Will the Lord not punish those who persecute His Children?

Clifton Depreast

EWMI's picture

There are several kinds of articles that Preterists seems to enjoy writing. But few ever really get to this issue. Virgil, I applaud you for opening this area to your readers.

Virgil's picture

Al, as Preterists it is especially hard to deal with this issue when we talk to folks like you who have a charismatic background and do not subscribe to a cessationist view.

davo's picture

Virgil, by your opening lines I was uncertain whether you were having a gentle nudge at Calvinistic "sovereignty", or perhaps repeated objections to Preterism, i.e., post Parousia "silence!!", or perhaps a prod at charismaniacs and pesticostals etc; yet judging from your comment above to Al I would guess you had the latter in mind as you wrote in your article:

Virgil: While I personally do not need a tangible and obvious manifestation of God’s presence, many believers do.

There may be a number of ways of reading that: 1] many believers are in need of a literal touch of God health-wise – you are not. 2] many believers need their faith verified by some sign/s – you do not, etc. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure, if ever it was that you were to "experience" a tangible touch of God it would, no doubt, indelibly influence the way you see things. That however would not necessitate a hankering after the "miraculous" as some seem to cling to, but it would increase your appreciation of such divine workings well beyond the Parousia.

I see little justification for understanding "maturation" in terms of cessation, but rather continuation i.e., the maintenance of fullness.

Just my 2 bob's worth.

davo

Virgil's picture

Davo, I am sure some Calvinist here will see this as just another "attack" on Calvinism. It wasn't intended as such...in fact Calvinism wasn't even on my mind at all. I am simply dealing with the issue of "silence" raised by so many Preterists and Partials. And since you did bring up Calvinism, perhaps Calvinism does explain the silence better. I mean if God already pre-ordained everything ahead of time, what's the point of His involvement today?

davo's picture

Virgil: I mean if God already pre-ordained everything ahead of time, what's the point of His involvement today?

Yeah well that's true, but most Calvinists here simply dismiss that as a "hyper" calvinistic logic, yet without ever actually dealing with it - as it IS the logical conclusion of their position, hyper, hypo or whatever.

davo

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Your article introduced several valid and interesting points, Virgil. I would sum up by saying that Christians of the New Covenant "world" (the New Heavens and Earth) are spiritually advanced (or "evolved") beyond the tangible, experience-oriented faith of the early saints. Those of us who have responded to the Truth by faith and have been inwardly transformed by it, rely upon that Truth as our spiritual anchor, rather than empirically verifiable data and phenomena "manifesting" the reality we know by faith.

Thus it is that those who require more obvious, experiential, miraculous verification of their faith on a daily basis are likely not ready for New Covenant spirituality. That being said, however, one Christian couple I know mentioned that when they were first "born again", it seemed like God answered every prayer of theirs, catering to every small need, thereby validating their experience in their spiritual infancy. But as they grew in the faith, those prayers were not always answered nearly as obviously or regularly. Mature believers are expected to take increasing responsibility for their own needs, just like mature adults.

Just a few thoughts from my quarter anyway.

JM

Virgil's picture

While I agree that we are perhaps more "evolved" in our Christianity (I don't know if that's the right word to describe the state), I also see the need for the experiential. I wrote an article a while back on the need for experiential. It's ok to theorize theology and talk about all this good theoretical stuff, but sometimes we forget that Adam and Eve were created to hang out with God and talk to him. Whatever that means, I don't know, but I doubt it's the silence we see today. Eastern Christianity is breaking the silence with icons, candles and imagery, much like the Scripture. Preterism tends to alltogether ignore the experiential and call those seeking it "lesser Chrisitans." That ain't right either. :)

Parker's picture

Virgil:
Perhaps the problem is not with God’s presence being too inconspicuous. Perhaps the problem is with us failing to see God in the silence.

Parker:
This is not an easy subject you bring up, Virgil.

I can hear the atheists now: "God is 'silent' and 'too inconspicuous' because god is a fantasy of weak minded people. Is God described in the bible as 'silent' and 'too inconspicuous'"?

So goes the reasoning of atheists and agnostics, and the silence is difficult to defend against. The observation and experience of God as described in bible times is not the observation and experience of him now. The atheists have an answer for why that is: it's because God isn't real, they say. As for the Deists, they said the reason for the silence is that God wound up the creation and then let it run by natural causes alone. This conclusion was based on observation and experience.

For many, the quest to be a Christian today consists largely in determining whether belief in a too inconspicuous, silent god is justifiable. Christian apologists (and preterists) say the justification for belief is based on observing ancient claims and ancient history. While that case can be made, the "silence" of god today can too loud to ignore.

Virgil's picture

Parker, I just finished answering a comment from John and pointed out my earlier article on the experiential. Preterism is too often dealing with theoretical stuff only, ignoring the experiential. I also pointed out how the Eastern Church addresses the experiential with icons for example, while Western Christianity looks on those seeking the experiential as lesser believers. There needs to be a balance somewhere. Theory alone doesn't get anyone closer to God..nor does experience alone. I am attempting to reconcile the two by pointing out that the silence IS the experiential, confirming what Preterism has always claimed.

Erick's picture

Great article Virgil... a blessing to read, and ponder. God is not trying to compete with all the noise and all the talking heads out there, he speaks to those who are listening with the ears of faith. The name of the Lord be praised.
-Erick

Virgil's picture

Erick, silence is quite important, you are right. It's a lot easier to find God in silence rather than the contemporary music-making-machines we find in many churches today. Maybe the ascetic monks looking for God in their silent monasteries are onto something afterall.

MichaelB's picture

Virgil wrote:
When hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Pat Robertson claimed that God sent the hurricane to put a stop to the evils taking place in New Orleans. Robertson made many other outlandish claims and threats. He also threatened the city of Orlando with "earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor" if they continue to fly rainbow flags on city lamp posts on Disney World’s gay day.

Virgil - do you think that disasters happen that are not part of God's plan?

I agree that Pat Robertson shouldnt make those claims. He doesn't control God. But are we now saying that God does not determine the number of days of our lives and and so on...???

Whats your opinion?

Orthodox's picture

Hello SSF,

Scriptural support-where?

SuperSoulFighter's picture

That's MY view, Michael. God is not "in control" of all of humanity and every event on this planet in the way that people have been led to believe. Nor is He truly "omniscient" where mankind is concerned. He never has been. And I have solid Scriptural support for these views.

JM

Virgil's picture

Mike, my article had nothing to do with God's plans and the number of days in our lives...you totally missed the point of this article.

the_prophet_whiteboy's picture

Virgil. Why not answer the question ? It was "in" the article.

: )

vinster's picture

Awesome Virgil!!!

The Premillennial-Dispensationalist view, for the past 150 years or more has forced the church to take a "Seeing Is Believing" view of God's presence. Is that living by faith?? I think not!!

It just goes to show, that if Christ were to return soon ;^) then he would say the same thing that He said in Luke 18:8 - "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith upon the earth?"

In HIs Eternal Kingdom, Vinster

Virgil's picture

Thanks vinnie, you are right. Jesus made it clear that seeing Him in person was a great thing, but believing without seeing would require even more faith. My point is that we can still see and hear today; maybe we are looking and listening for the wrong things :)

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