The Silence of God

The Silence of God

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28
Date: 07/31/2004 
The story of Jesus and a Canaanite woman who He apparently ignores, teaches us about the apparent silence of God. Jesus' ministry began with the Jews first, but then went to all the world. Sometimes the silence of God is to strengthen our faith.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

Do you mind if I begin asking you a very personal question? And I’d like to have a show of hands if you don’t feel it’s too personal of a question. How many of you have a cell phone? Hold your hands up. I want to see here. Have you ever had a call drop out on you while you were talking? Have you ever had the other party lose contact that you didn’t know it and you kept talking? Did you feel silly when you realized nobody was listening? I remember one time on an extremely passionate, oh; passionate is not the right word I suppose to use, but intense. Yeah, thanks, dear, I needed help, an intense conversation. I was making my case for something and I thought I did a very eloquent job and I paused to hear the response and they lost me before I even launched into my argument or whatever it was and I thought, “They weren’t even listening!” and it was so sad. You know every now and then advertisers come up with certain slogans that become sort of a part of the American language and somebody, matter of fact, someone told me it was a Seventh-day Adventist marketer that came up with the catch “Got Milk?” Obviously they’re not vegans. “Got Milk?” I mean, have we all heard that now? I mean it’s sort of become… and people at very humorous times will sometimes say, “Got Milk?” and just two words. Another example of one of those very clever slogans is the one of this Verizon phone guy that goes around and he says, what does he say? “Can you hear me now?” and you find yourself laughing whenever you hear yourself saying that because when you’re involved in public speaking I’m often fiddling around with my microphone, I’m saying, “Can you hear me now?” But really that is a question that people ask all the time, “Can you hear me now?” Maybe if I adjust the antenna, can you hear me now? How about if I stand over here? Is that better? Can you hear me now? Our message this morning is dealing with the subject of the silence of God. To really understand this we need to begin with a story that will really be the context or the catalyst for the other points that we’re going to bring out and one of those important things will be on the idea of the times when God is silent. Please turn in your Bibles, we’re going to read the whole story then we’ll back up, we’ll comment on it a little bit. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 15 and we’ll start with verse 21, and it’s dealing with this Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus. Matthew 15:21, “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.” Now pause and just give you a little background. Principally the ministry of Jesus was in the regions surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Not too long after John the Baptist was executed the Lord left that region and he went up to the northwest near the ocean in the mountains there up by the ocean he could overlook the cities, and they were known for their sin, of Tyre and Sidon. And you can hear many of the prophesies deal with those two places. And while he’s up there something interesting happens. It says, “And behold, a woman of Canaan…” Now if you read in Mark chapter 7, it calls her a Syro-Phoenician Greek woman and here it calls her a Canaanite. It’s all the same thing. What this is… Syria and Phoenicia, this woman evidently was one of the descendants of the original race that lived in the Promised Land and they had not completely expelled them at this point and so this is a Syro-Phoenician woman. She evidently speaks Greek which most of the disciples and the people in Israel spoke Greek as well as some Latin and Aramaic and Hebrew. So this woman who is everything but a Jew, she’s called a Canaanite, she’s called a Syrian, a Phoenician and a Greek, but she’s not a Jew. “Behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and she cried out to Him…” Some versions say “she cried after him,” meaning as he’s going down the road she’s following him and she’s crying after him. And she’s saying to him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” Now evidently she had heard something about Jesus. They all knew, anyone that lived anywhere near the Jewish territories knew that the Jews were looking for the Messiah who must be a Son of David. He was often called the Son of David. And she had heard maybe from someone in her region, maybe one of the Jews who lived up around Tyre and Sidon had gone down, had heard about the miracles of Jesus, word came back. She’s got a daughter who is severely plagued, vexed by the devil and she thinks Jesus is her only hope. She finds him. She follows him down the road pleading and says, “Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is severely demon-possessed,” severely vexed, “afflicted by an unclean spirit,” Mark says. She’s got a daughter and then in Mark it says “a young daughter” who is severely afflicted by the devil. And we don’t know if this was some combination of demonic possession, harassment with a physical malady but her daughter is in serious condition and this is the part that really troubles people and it will sort of be the springboard for a lot of what we’re going to say. “He answered her not a word.” He answered her not a word. It makes it sound very clear that he just totally ignored her. And the disciples may have been surprised by this because Jesus was always so patient and gracious with the crowd and virtually every other time in the Bible when anybody came to Jesus asking for help, he helped them; he responded. It seemed so out of character for Jesus. “He answered her not a word.” He keeps going down the road as though he does not hear her and so the disciples said to him, here are the church leaders, they said, “Look, she’s not going to settle for us telling her to go away, Lord. She wants you to help. You’re going to have to tell her to go away or she’ll never leave us alone. She’s crying after us.” They said, “Lord, send her away, for she cries out after us.” Tell her to leave us alone. I mean, after all, she’s not a Jew. We don’t need to waste any time and energy and miracle power on her. And Jesus said something that bothers us even more. He turns to this woman in the says, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Well, I thought the gospel said “whosoever will.” Was Jesus only sent to save the last sheet of the house of Israel? “Then she came and worshiped Him…” Now most of us if you know you say, “Look, Lord, please help me.” And he says, “No, I cannot help you because you’re not part of the club. You’re not one of our members. I’ve only been given a mandate to exclusively help a certain race of people and you’re not the right race.” Well you’d be a little offended by that and you’d go away, but she took that as an opportunity. She doesn’t get discouraged but she takes that as an open door. And she says, “True, Lord.” “Then she worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’” I’m in verse 25. “Lord, help me!” she’s pleading. “But He answered and said, ‘It is not good…’” it’s not appropriate, it’s not meet “to take the children’s bread” their food “and throw it to the dogs.” Whoo! Now if I wasn’t discouraged after his first response that would have been it for me. For I mean you know we’ve only got a little bit of dignity and even though we may be desperate if somebody says, “Look I’m not taking what belongs to God’s children and giving it to the dogs.” And what’s implied is “dogs like you”. Isn’t that understood? This doesn’t sound like the same Jesus we read about everywhere else. Why did he do that? “It’s not good to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Ah, she still doesn’t give up and she says, “True, Lord.” She’s not even arguing and saying, “Well, that was rude, but I’m going to still plead.” She says, “That may be. It is true. Maybe we are unclean, but even the dogs…” and the word she uses here is the puppies, “…even the little dogs get the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” And Jesus at that point, he takes a hundred and eighty degree turn and he says, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And the good news is the story ends by saying “her daughter was healed that very hour” because of her persistence and prayer she got what she was asking for. Now we want to back up and we’re going to look at that story from a vantage point of what does it mean… Well, first of all, I think we better understand what’s happening here in the story and then we’ll talk a little more about the silence of God. There is a teaching that is clear in the New Testament that is often misunderstood. The ministry of Jesus was intended to go first primarily to the Jewish people. You can read, if you look in for instance Matthew chapter ten verse five and six, Jesus told the twelve apostles when he sent them out, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles.” Wait I thought Jesus said go to all the world. Yes, that was afterward. But during his ministry part of their training he told them not to go in the way of the gentiles. “Do not enter even into the city of the Samaritans.” But I thought the apostles later went into Samaria. When Jesus ascended in Acts chapter one he said, “Preach in all the world beginning in Judea, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outermost parts of the risk.” But not yet. There was a sequence to the way the Lord did things. He said, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, do not enter into the city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost chief of the house of Israel.” Now the Lord tells us that he had some of his sheep that were lost and his ministry was to begin with them. Later it would transfer to another group. Let me give you some more examples. Romans 1:16, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” notice “for the Jew first.” Now wait, he says “everyone” but there’s a sequence. Who first? “…the Jew first and also for the Greek.” That would include this woman in our story. Why is the Lord doing things that way? John 4:22, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “You worship you do not know what…” In other words, let me modernize that; you don’t even know what you worship. “…we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Am I starting to make a case here? Luke 24:47, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Now let me see if I can modernize this point. Why was the Lord being exclusive? First of all, the whole purpose of the gospel coming through the Jews is that they were to be the forefront of proclaiming the message to the world. Why did the Lord do it that way? Because they had the scriptures they had a better concept of God than any of the pagans. To teach a Jew about Jesus is a much shorter leap than it was to take a Canaanite pagan who believed in many gods and try and teach them about the messiah coming. Let me modernize this. When I do evangelism and I preach our message, and we have an exclusive message for this age. It’s a special message; exclusive may not be the right word. It is a lot easier for me to preach that message to people who already have a Christian background and help them to embrace the entire gospel than those who are coming from just a total pagan background. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s less of a step for them to go from at least being raised with some comprehension of the Bible and the principles of Christianity and the concept of there being one true God and to make that little step to understanding the full gospel than to go from Hinduism or Buddhism or you know some of these monotheistic religions of the world and transfer them to Christianity. It’s a lot of retraining in the mind. For the Jews to accept Jesus made sense. You know when a chicken lays an egg or just about any creature that chick is inside within the egg and part of that egg develops into the chick and part of that egg is the food for the chick while it’s in the egg. Jesus came from the Jewish nation and that same nation where he was hatched, forgive the analogy, was to also be the springboard, it was to have the stored calories, to send him throughout the world. Make my case a little further: when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost and 3000 were baptized what religion were they? Jews. “There were dwelling in Jerusalem at that time Jews devout men from out of every nation under heaven.” Jews had come from all over the world. For Peter and the apostles in the upper room to preach to those Jews in one evangelistic meeting they had a baptism. Now can we typically do that in our society? Can you take the average pagan on the streets in North America and make a Bible believing Christian out of them in one meeting and baptize them or is there a little more training involved? Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them…” more teaching involved. But the Jews already had those basics. They only really needed to understand who the messiah was. That’s why the Philip could baptize the Ethiopian in one Bible study. He was coming from Jerusalem reading the Bible. He already had that background. And so it began with the Jews. He was first to preach to them. You remember in Daniel chapter nine the 490 year prophecy, “70 weeks are determined for thy people.” The gospel was to go first to the Jews. Three and a half years Jesus taught the Jews in person, three and a half years through the apostles. Now so when Christ said, “I am not sent to the gentiles but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” his ministry the primary focus of his ministry was to be to that group. It seems a little harsh that he would say, “It’s not appropriate to take the children’s food and give it to dogs.” It still makes us cringe, shudder to picture Jesus saying that. Let me share something with you that I think may help in all your future Bible study, catch this, a lot is lost in the Bible because you are not hearing how something is said instead of just what is said. Have you noticed before that you read something and it will sound completely different when you hear a person say it a certain way? A mother can say, “Get over here right now.” And she can get a whole different response than if she says, “Get over here right now!” If you wrote it down it sounds the same either way. It’s spelled exactly the same, but was it different? Or you can have Jesus say, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” with tears in his voice. Or “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” And I sometimes listen to Bible tapes or I’ll hear other preachers take the words of the apostles or Jesus and they’ll say them in a way I know Jesus never said it. What they said is accurate, but the way they say it changes everything. The inflection of the voice, the expression on the face, the Bible doesn’t always give us that, does it? And I think there was something about Jesus’ face and the tone of his voice that invited her to continue asking. I don’t think he drove her away, “Get away from me, you dog!” and it wasn’t like that. I think there was almost like a reluctance, a sadness in the way he said it that invited her to continue pleading so keep that in mind. You know I hear these preachers, they take the place where Jesus goes to the temple and he chases out the money changers and they’ve got him screaming at the top of his lungs and completely out of control. I don’t think it was like that. And when Jesus tells the elements during the storm at the sea to “peace, be still” you know the way that reads in the original language is he simply says, “shalom.” Jesus doesn’t have to scream and anything to get anything done not like some of us parents. He can speak and it happens. He’s God. Do you think when God created the world he had to shout, “Let there be light!” Does God have to do it that way because the light has got to be woke up? And so how the Lord says something makes a big difference, and if you could have been there and seen the look on Jesus’ face and heard the tone of his voice it would change the whole story for you; it would make a big difference. The other point is you need to transfer yourself back to that day and age. Everyone who knew the Jews knew that the Jews viewed all people in two categories. There were the clean in the unclean. You were either a gentile or you were a Jew. What’s a gentile? Anything that’s not a Jew. And they were the chosen and everyone else was not chosen and everyone knew that. In the Jewish categorization of animals how many categories were there? Two. Clean and unclean. You couldn’t say this was almost clean. Sort of like pregnancy, you’re either pregnant or you’re not pregnant. You’re not halfway pregnant. I mean it’s just something that’s all the way or not at all. And so when Jesus said, “It is not appropriate to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs” that was terminology they all understood. Keep in mind when we say “to the dogs,” Jesus said, Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” He’s talking about wasting your time on people who are determined to be unclean. You’re wasting your time. In Psalm 22:16, “For dogs have surrounded Me,” Jesus said, speaking about, this is a messianic prophecy of when he’s on the cross. “Dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked…” Philippines three, Paul said, “Beware of dogs, evil workers…” Now how many of you have pet dogs? About the same number that have cell phones, right? We’ve got three dogs. We like dogs. Dogs are nice. They’re smart if you’ve got a good dog. I don’t want a pit bull. We’ve got Labradors. They’re the opposite of pit bulls. They will lick you to death. But the… oh I know some pit bull lovers are going to come up to me later. I know what I hear it. Leave me alone. Revelation 22:15, “But the outside,” speaking of those who are in the kingdom and outside the kingdom, “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” So the dogs, when he says that, it was talking about the gentiles, those who did not know God. Do you remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? Luke chapter 19, and it tells us that, oh, I’m sorry. Luke chapter 16, verse 19. The only comfort that Lazarus has is the dogs come and lick his sores. I know that sounds awful, but the only comfort that the lost had that were not with the rich man was from the dogs meaning the gentiles. And so this was a term that they understood. One more thing was happening here. Jesus did not send her away. The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Send her way.” Jesus was testing his disciples and the woman. He was testing her faith and he was testing their love. She was following after him and instead of them saying, “Lord, why don’t you help her?” they said, “Lord, said her away.” How often that… here you get the church… remember the people were hungry and the disciples said, “Send them away. They’re hungry. It’s not our problem. It’s their problem.” The mothers came with their children and the disciples said, “Send them away. He’s too busy for this.” And always on every other occasion Jesus said, “Don’t send them away. You feed them. Let me bless the children.” So he’s testing the disciples to see, have you learned anything yet? And this woman who has a need that they know that Jesus can take care of, instead of saying, “Lord, help her,” and pleading, interceding in her behalf they say, “Lord, she’s a Gentile. Just tell her to be gone.” And so he answers her the way the religious leaders of his day would have done it. He wanted them to hear how they sounded. It’s not nice to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs. That woman’s faith just kept getting stronger with every barrier and so she persists, says, “Yes, but even the dogs get the crumbs.” What a clever argument. When you have, when you are praying for someone you love you can become very eloquent. And then Jesus answered her prayer. You know this is not the only time that Christ answered a prayer of a gentile. You of course know that he preached to the Samaritan woman, and then there’s that story of the Centurion. You can read about that in Matthew as well. In Matthew 8:5, “Now when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him,” this is a Roman centurion. He’s not a Jew. He’s a gentile through and through. “… pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I’ll come and heal him.’” Now see he wasn’t excluding the gentiles. “‘I’ll come and heal him.’ The centurion said, ‘Lord, I'm not worthy that You should come under my roof.’” You see it’s interesting this lady said “I’m not worthy” also. One of the advantages that the pagans had over God’s people is they realized they were unworthy. Sometimes we think because we’re in the church we’re worthy. We’re not worthy. No more than they are. None of us are worthy. I don’t want what I deserve. Do you want what you deserve? Do you know what we deserve? Penalty for sin is death. He said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to this servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ And when Jesus heard this, he marveled, and he said to those who followed him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, no, not even in Israel! And he said many will come from the east and the west, and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’” In other words, the time will come when these dogs, these unclean, these gentiles they’re going to be in the kingdom. “‘But the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ He said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; as you have believed, let it be done to you.’ And his servant was healed that very hour.” Similar thing. The gentile comes except he heals the centurion’s servant. Now you know what else is interesting about this, there are only two times in the Bible that Jesus commends somebody for great faith. I mean so often he tells the apostles, “Oh ye of little faith. Where is your faith? When the Son of Man comes will he find faith?” This is what he’s always saying to the church people. The two times he commends faith they’re both nonmembers. Is that interesting? He told this woman, “Great is your faith. Be it unto you according to your faith.” He tells the Roman centurion, “I’ve not seen faith like this not even in Israel.” Do you know what that tells me? This is very, very important. Sometimes we have confused saving faith with doctrinal understanding. The Bible says the two characteristics of God’s people: they keep the commandments of God and they have the faith of Jesus, the faith of Jesus. And as an evangelist I would be tempted to say during evangelistic meetings, “The faith of Jesus is an understanding of law and grace. The faith of Jesus is understanding your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The faith of Jesus…” and go through the different doctrines and say, “This is the faith that Jesus had,” and make it a doctrinal issue, but the fact is that two people that Christ commended for having the greatest faith had the least doctrinal understanding. They weren’t even members, but their faith was the faith he commended. They put no limits on God’s powers. The centurion said, “You don’t even need to come. I believe you can speak the word and that will be enough. I’ve got that kind of faith.” And Jesus commended that. And he says to this woman, “Your persistence in the face of my silence in even, in even the face of being felt excluded, great faith.” That’s the kind of faith that the Lord commends. That’s saving faith. Can you see why this is an important story? It wasn’t their doctrinal understanding and you know how important I think that is because the Bible tells us that “you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I think doctrinal understanding is important. That’s why we’re all here today, but let’s not confuse doctrinal understanding for saving faith because remember this, friends, the devil understands the pure truth much better than we do and it’s not going to save him. The devil understands prophetic interpretation and the theology of Jesus better than you and I do. That’s why he’s always… before the devil can fight the truth he needs to know what it is. He’s always fighting and opposing and creating counterfeits because he knows what the truth is. So just knowing true doctrine is not saving faith. The two people that Jesus commended for this great faith they didn’t even, were not even church members. Now getting back to the core of this message, “He answered her not a word.” We don’t know how long she followed him and how long she said, “Lord, heal my daughter!” She cried after him. It went on a little while but there was that silence there and I believe that some of the great faith that she demonstrated was because she did not give up even when she was saying, “Do you hear me now? Do you hear me now?” She kept asking. Silence can evoke a persistence in prayer, and God is asking us to have persistence when we pray. Elijah prayed the first time, one time fire comes down. Then he prays for the rain. It doesn’t come after the first prayer or the second prayer or the third prayer, but he has to pray seven times before the rain comes. Why? Did it take the Lord that long to create to the evaporation or to find a cloud somewhere and send it his way? God is not hindered by any of those things. Every time we pray persistently when it seems the heavens are stainless steel above us it strengthens our faith. Sometimes the silence of God is there to strengthen our faith. Sometimes the silence of God, and let’s talk about what those, wait, let me, show of hands again. How many of you have experienced the silence of God; you’re wondering where he is, why he’s not answering and you begin to even hear the devil whisper doubts about his existence because it seems like the volume is gone, there is no sound. What causes the silence of God? Well, sometimes God’s voice is silenced by sin. I want to start here, but I certainly don’t want to end here. But it is a fact that sometimes it’s because of our behavior we turn the volume down. Let me give you some scripture. Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor is His ear heavy, that He cannot hear.” What’s the problem? “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so He will not hear.” God can be silenced by our own sins. Some more examples: Proverbs 1:27-29, “When your terror,” and he’s talking about the wicked here. “When your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer…” Sounds like what happened with this woman. It says, “He answered not a word.” Here it’s because of their wickedness. “I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and they did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Sometimes we can, by our rejecting of God, turn off the volume. Proverbs 28:9, “He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer will be an abomination.” If God speaks to us and we continually say, “I don’t want to hear it. Leave me alone.” That voice can get quiet where we don’t hear it anymore and it sounds like God has gone silent on us. I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I know that in some marriages… One reason I won’t is my wife might raise her hand. Anyone ever give the silent treatment or you ever get the silent treatment? Put your hand down. Well, there’s different ways we communicate and you know in some relationships when there’s tension in the relationship because of the personality types of the man and the woman they both get real quiet. There’s almost no communication. Then sometimes you’ve got one who wants to talk things through and one who’s the quiet type or just wants to process quietly on their own and one follows the other around the house trying to get into the discussion mode. And what’s really bad is when you get the two people that like to talk it out. That’s when you get yelling matches. They hyper-communicate. But sometimes when there is frustration in a relationship we get the silent treatment and it’s because there is some hurt there and it could be because we feel like there’s been some rejection or some lack of attention and so we say, “I’m going to get your attention by silence.” It’s sort of a… oh, it’s a tactic that’s used to try to get attention, the silent treatment. I’m not saying the Lord does that, but I think sometimes God may allow us to experience silence after we’ve had that relationship with him to wake us up because we’re not listening. Some examples of that would be King Saul. It’s a very sad example in the Bible but it’s clear enough. Saul was originally chosen by God, good king, a humble man. The Bible says he stood a head and shoulders above everybody else. But as he because king with some of the prestige and honor and victories in his early reign he began to embrace pride and think, “You know I’m going to do things my own way. After all, I’m king.” And he stopped listening to Samuel the prophet and he stopped listening to the Lord and he just started doing things his own way, started to abuse his office and the Bible tells us, notice, I Samuel 14:37, and Saul got into a pickle and he “asked counsel of God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?’ But He did not answer him that day.” Every other time God had answered him in one way or another. Later instead of repenting, when he noticed, you see, it says he didn’t answer him “that day.” God did speak to him some more. God gave him the silent treatment that day to say, “Saul, you’re heading the wrong way. If you want to continue to hear my voice and have me lead you as king then you need to listen in the other areas.” But he didn’t and so finally it reached the point where the ultimate silent treatment is when you commit the unpardonable sin. You blaspheme the Holy Spirit because isn’t that how God speaks to us? And it says that “Saul inquired of the Lord and the Lord did not answer him either by dream or by Urum or by Thumum or by prophets. I Samuel 28:15. Finally Saul goes to a witch. He wants to bad to hear somebody to break that silence he doesn’t care if it’s the devil and so he goes to a witch. And Saul answers, and he says to this apparition, “God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams.” That was one of the hardest things for him. Now I get phone calls every now and then from people who are very stressed that they’ve grieved away the Holy Spirit and committed the unpardonable sin and they say, “I don’t hear the voice of the Lord anymore.” Don’t wait until you’ve got the Philistine army chasing you down before you have the revelation or the realization that God’s voice is going quiet. If you notice that heaven is quiet then seek after God and humble yourself. There’s hope. When Jesus did not answer this woman right away she persisted in prayer and he answered her. She humbled herself and said, “It’s true. I am unworthy. Maybe I am a dog.” But he finally answered her. Don’t give up. King Herod. You remember when Jesus came before Herod the king. Jesus talked to Pilate. Why did he talk to Pilate but he didn’t talk to Herod. Herod at least was, he had some religious background. He had some Jewish blood in his veins. Jesus wouldn’t say anything to Herod. Why? Well, you remember King Herod had John the Baptist as his personal preacher. Knowing that he was an innocent man he still put him in prison because his wife was hounding him. He knew it was the wrong thing to do. Then he would have John sort of like a court jester when he wanted to be entertained he’d bring John up to preach to him. He used to trouble him and he’d put him back in prison instead of letting him go. Knowing that he was doing the wrong thing that he was an innocent man, a prophet of God, but he wouldn’t listen to him. he told him he shouldn’t have Herodious as his, first of all she was the wrong wife. It didn’t matter what the history was. But also she had been his brother’s wife and instead of taking care of that he put Herodious ahead of God and finally she got rid of John. And when Herod went through with her plot and had John the Baptist beheaded now he hears that Jesus is in town and Pilate sends Jesus over to Herod because he said, “He’s from your district of Galilee.” Herod wants to see some miracle from Jesus. Luke 23:8, “Now when Herod saw Jesus he was exceedingly glad.” Oh, good. Maybe I’ll see him turn water into wine. “For he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard of the many things about Him.” Herod wanted to be entertained by the prophets of God instead of converted by them. Some people still go to church for those reasons, the find it entertaining. “He hoped to see some miracle done by him. Then he questioned Him with many words,” but catch this, “but He” Jesus “answered him nothing.” Not a word. Why? “He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer is an abomination.” And you know why else? Jesus said, Luke 10:16, same book, Jesus said to his disciples, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me.” And when Herod rejected John, the message of God through John, Jesus said, “I have no miracles for you because if the preaching of John the Baptist wasn’t good enough for you nothing I’m going to say is going to make any difference.” He had grieved away the Holy Spirit. Some people think, “I don’t want to hear the preacher, Lord, you speak to me in person.” And Jesus said, “If you won’t hear those that I send, you won’t hear me.” That’s something for us to think about. “If an angel came, something entertaining like that, then I’d listen.” Jesus said nothing to Herod. He got the silent treatment. But it happens other ways. Sometimes God is silent and it’s not because we’ve done anything wrong, it’s because he’s maybe trying to strengthen our faith. You have of course in the Bible, let’s talk about John the Baptist again from another perspective. Not only did God not listen to Herod because of what he did to John, but John got the silent treatment. Have you ever thought about this? John the Baptist who was the friend of the bridegroom, who proclaimed the coming of Jesus and announced, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He’s later imprisoned by Herod and we don’t know but he may have been in prison for months, probably for months and Jesus’ ministry is continuing to expand and to swell and John’s main purpose in life was to go before the Lord as a voice in the wilderness and prepare people for Jesus. He’s even his cousin. We all know that, right? Now John is in prison and as his disciples would come and visit him, it tells us that they would come, he talked to them and he’d ask what Jesus was doing and he’d say, “Did he have any message for me? Did he send you any word? Is there any news, any message?” No, there was no message, no letter, nothing. And you know that must have troubled him and I think part of that weighed on his soul when he sent the disciples back and he said, John sent his disciples back to Jesus I mean with a question, “Are you the one? Why would you leave me here? I mean, all the miracles you’re performing, I mean, I was expecting you maybe to sit on the throne, to do something and take the throne of David and of course set me free,” but there was nothing. And instead the messengers came back with a message from Jesus, and he said, “You go tell John I’m healing the sick and you’ve seen it with your own eyes. I’m casting out devils, I’m healing the lepers, raising the dead, the blind have their sight restored again, don’t be offended. Do not be discouraged. Blessed is he who is not offended in me.” And they brought that message back and John recognized the prophesies in Isaiah that foretold exactly what Jesus was doing and he was satisfied to accept the silence of God. That was the only message he got, but that must have been tough on him. or what about Martha and Mary? You know I’ve had people approach me before and they’ve said, “Gee, Doug, are you aware that the gospel of John wasn’t written by John? It was written by Lazarus.” Have you ever heard this before? The gospel of John wasn’t written by John. This is a doctrine floating around, it’s not new, it was written by Lazarus. You know where that comes from? John never really says he’s the author. He refers to himself, how does John refer to himself in this gospel? “The one whom Jesus loved, the one whom Jesus loved.” Well, you know the Bible tells us that Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus while he was up in Galilee and they were in Bethany and they said, “The one whom you love is sick. Come and heal him.” He stayed in their home. There is no other family on earth that he was closer to than this family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, this trio of siblings. And they sent a messenger and the messenger came back and they said, “Well, what does he say?” “We told him.” “What did he say?” “He didn’t say anything.” “Is he coming?” “We don’t know. We just gave him the message.” And two days go by and three days go by and four days go by at this point he’s dead and that silence must have really been a challenge from… <> it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten you.

Finally the ultimate silent treatment is what Jesus experienced. You could say he took our silent treatment. See, one of the reasons that silence can be… Now first of all, let me just say this, silence isn’t all bad. Matter of fact I like an element of quiet. There is a song Simon and Garfunkel did years ago called “The Sound of Silence”. I remember I have a friend that whenever I try and start singing he’d say, “Doug, I wonder if you can sing a special favorite for me.” I’d say, “Yeah, what is it?” He’d say, “Doug, can you sing On a Hill Far Away?” and then he’d snicker and what he meant was he wanted me to sing on a hill far away. But then he’d say, “Doug, maybe you could sing In the Garden Alone.” And then his other favorite one, he’d say, “Doug, do you know The Sound of Silence?” But silence can be good. It is, have you ever met those people that just always like noise in the background? Some people are social creatures and they always like that auditory stimuli and they’ve always their radios going or the TV is going in the background and they like that noise. I can’t concentrate sometimes when there’s too much noise around me. I like to hear quiet. Does that, does it makes sense hearing quiet? Can you hear quiet? Yes, you can hear quiet, can’t you? All right everybody be real quiet. Are you breathing? How many stopped breathing when I said that? I did because if you want to be really quiet you can’t even breathe, can you? It’s not all that bad, is it? You know, silence sometimes is okay, but when you’re with someone for a long time and there’s quiet you wonder if there’s something wrong with the relationship. Now when Jesus suffered for our sins he experienced the ultimate silent treatment. Now what is the lost, what do the lost receive? Eternal separation from God, the ultimate silent treatment. Jesus experienced that beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane. That was extremely painful for him because for every other point, every other moment in his eternal existence, think about this, how long did Jesus exist before the Garden of Gethsemane? “From everlasting to everlasting.” He’d always been there. Think about this now. God had been there. John 11:42, Jesus said, speaking in his prayer to the Father, “I know You always hear Me…” Up until that point the Father always heard him. Now he prays in the garden three times, “Father, not my will but thy will be done.” Was there any answer? Anyone getting anything you found in your Bible? It’s in all four gospels, I believe. Silence, there was no other way. And then when Jesus goes to the cross and the cries out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” That silence, you know the heavens grew dark to veil the presence of Jesus, almost to insulate him. They have built these isolation chambers that people use for meditating. Any of you heard about this? I think they cost about $1,500.00 last time I heard. It’s a fiberglass room because we’re living in a world was so much noise. (This wasn’t in my notes or I would have done it earlier in the sermon, but I just thought about it.) They have these fiberglass rooms and you lay in it and they fill it with a warm saltwater so you float. It’s supposed to be the ultimate silence and it’s two or three layers of insulation, fiberglass, and this poly plastic. It takes all outside noise out. You step inside, there’s the silent fans that keep the circulation going inside, you get in this room and you float in this semi saltwater that’s warm so you have no sensation of feeling anything around your body and you put these earplugs in and it is absolutely quiet. All you can hear is your own heartbeat and they say it’s the ultimate experience of meditation. People that stay in there for awhile, they start getting edgy because we’re so used to noise all the time. Think about what Jesus went through when that communion was broken with the Father that had always been there. It’s like people who live by you know a busy airport, take them out and drop them in the desert on a still day, it makes them nervous they’re so used to the noise in the background. Jesus had always been in communion with the Father and it’s gone. He experienced that ultimate silence for us, but you know what? He had the faith of the centurion and the woman and Job and Joseph and Elijah and others because even though the Father was silent when Jesus got baptized the Father said, “This is my beloved Son.” On the mount of transfiguration he said “This is my Son.” He spoke from heaven. But now there’s silence when he says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He took that separation for you and me, but finally at the end the proof that he had faith in spite of the silence is when he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” I am going to trust you even though you’re not answering me a word. Sometimes we need to just get a hold by faith on God’s promises and say, “I’m not hearing from him. I don’t why it seems like I’m forsaken, but I’m going to trust him.” I’ve been in the hospital at the bedside, I remember visiting a saint a few years ago who was dying and in a lot of pain and she said, “Pastor Doug, I don’t understand what’s happening. All I can do, the only comfort I find is saying I’m just going to trust Him. I’m committing myself into His hands. I’m just going to trust Him.” And that’s something you can claim. You know I made a little change. For a closing hymn I had picked 184. I don’t think it will throw our talented people if I pick something different, 569 “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, hear my humble cry.” I thought that’d be appropriate talking about believing that God hears when he’s passing by. Jesus went through that region of Tyre and Sidon and that woman pressed after him and would not let go for faith. When we are confident that we’re walking in God’s will then even though he may be silent we can have faith that he’s there and he’s going to listen. Amen? Let’s stand and let’s sing this together, friends. And you may be going through a period of silence and I want you to be encouraged that God has not forsaken you. Let’s sing, what did I say? 569

Pass me not, O gentle Savior, Hear my humble cry; While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by. Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry, While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

There is a specific goal in this message I’m after. I asked you earlier in the message if you’ve ever felt before that God has been silent and maybe unresponsive. You may be going through one of those periods where you’re experiencing the silence of God. You might be going through some medical or physical trial and you feel like God isn’t listening. Maybe you’ve been praying for the salvation of someone you love dearly and it’s been the same prayer for years and you wonder does he hear me? It might be some crisis or situation in your life and you’ve been praying about it and it seems to go on and nothing is resolved, then this message is for you. Learn from that woman where Jesus said, “Great is your faith.” Why was her faith so great? Because even in spite of his silence she did not let go. God wants you to hang on, trust that he still loves you and sometimes that silent treatment is to strengthen your faith. Then again there may be some of you here the volume is growing faint because you’re not listening and you want him to turn it up, then you need to come and say, “Lord, I’m willing to listen now.” As we sing verse three if the Lord has spoken to your heart or you want to bring one of these requests to him in a tangible way, come and we’ll have special prayer for you. Verse three.

Trusting the only in Thy merit, Would I seek Thy face; Heal my wounded, broken spirit, Save me by Thy grace. Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry, While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

I wanted to save the last verse here for a general invitation. Some of you have heard the Lord speaking to you to say, come and accept him. You’ve never accepted Jesus and the plan of salvation. You’ve never said, “Lord, I want you to be my savior, my Lord, to forgive my sins. I want to choose today to follow you.” While he’s calling on others don’t let him pass you by. That woman wasn’t going to wait for Jesus to come by on another occasion. She said, “He’s here now. I’m not letting go until he answers my prayer.” Did he answer it? Did he answer the prayer for the centurion who believed? And he will answer yours. Come, if you have heard him calling and you’ve not responded. Verse four.

Thou the spring of all my comfort, More than life for me; Whom have I on earth beside Thee? Whom in heaven but Thee? Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry, While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

In just a moment we’re going to pray and I don’t know what the various reasons might be some of you have responded this morning. It might be something just between you and the Lord. If you are perhaps accepting the Lord for the first time or you have some special need for counseling then we’d like for you to visit with our elders. They’ll have tags. They’ll either be in the front or in the lobby, and if you’re accepting Christ for the first time please allow us to get your name and information so we can contact you and get you into some Bible studies. Let’s pray.

Father in heaven, thank you for the message of Jesus. At times it seems his voice is strange and we don’t understand the response or the silence, but we’re taking the promises in your word and we’re developing a bundle and casting them at your feet and saying, Lord, we’re not going to let go. And while we may not be worthy, we can still trust that you will accept our desperate plea as our greatest eloquence. Sometimes, Lord, it seems that the heavens are sealed and we’re in this insulation chamber and we’re asking the question, can you hear me now? Help us to remember, Lord, that you are there, that you have the very best reception in the world, but sometimes we just need to hang on by faith. Whatever the struggles are that these dear people are going through and the times when it seems that heaven is silent I pray that we’ll remember that you are there, that you hear every prayer. And then, Lord, I pray that you’ll be with us and help us be willing to listen to you. Sometimes we give you the silent treatment. I pray, Lord, that you’ll hear our prayers going heavenward. I ask, Lord, that you be in a special way with those whose faith is maybe just hanging by a thread now because of that silence and restore it and strengthen that. And those who are coming to you for the first time help them find acceptance. Bless us now through this week and I pray we’ll remember you’re always listening. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. You may be seated.



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