This you have seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.
There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). So it is with man, and with reverence it may be said, so it is with God. There is a sense in which God is never silent. In manifold ways his voice is ever sounding in our ears. But there are times when God may be said to be silent, even with regard to his own people. There is speech on the one side, but no answer on the other. This silence may be prolonged till it becomes distressingly painful. There is the sense of loss; there is the feeling of desertion; there is the dread of worse things to come-of the going down to the pit of darkness and despair (Psalm 23:4). Luther said, in his strong way, "O my God, punish me rather with pestilence, with all the terrible sicknesses on earth, with war, with anything, rather than thou be silent to me!" But though this silence is to be deprecated, yet it is ordained of God for good. It may come as -
I. JUST RETRIBUTION. The wicked do not seek after God. It is no wonder, therefore, if God should deal with them after their own ways (Proverbs 1:24 28; John 13:9). But even good men may become negligent - they may fall into sin and forget God. Therefore it may be necessary to let them see and learn the evil of departing from the living God (Psalm 94:10; Psalm 125:5; Jeremiah 2:19).
II. MERCIFUL WARNING. We must not judge of God by ourselves. We must not think that he is arbitrary or cold. If he is silent, it is for just cause. Remember how it was with Saul (1 Samuel 28:6). Well would it have been for him, if he had regarded the doings of God, and turned to him in repentance. But he hardened his heart. God warns us also. His silence should bring our sins to our remembrance. "Your sins," saith the prophet, "have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2; cf Hosea 5:15).
III. GRACIOUS DISCIPLINE. The end of the Lord is merciful. If he is silent, it may be:
1. To try our faith, Remember the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28).
2. To quicken our sense of dependence. God is Sovereign. He is under no obligation to us. If he hears, it is in mercy. We are too ready to think we have a claim upon him, and to resent his silence. We need to learn humility. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:8).
3. To enhance the value if the blessings we lack. The worth is known by the want. Memory of past joys makes us the more eager in seeking renewed tokens of love and good will. The light is sweet to the eyes, but it is sweeter if for a while withdrawn. Friendship is dear, but absence makes the heart grow fender. The love of God is the joy of the heart; but if clouds and darkness gather between us and God, the more earnestly do we cry for the restoration of his favour (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
4. To prepare us for higher manifestations God's love. We need to be brought low in order to be raised up. We need to be emptied of pride and self-righteousness to be filled with the fulness of God. If we ask and receive not, it is because we ask amiss. This we have to learn. We are led, therefore, to self-examination, to penitence, to confession. God has something better than we thought of in store for us. It may he something to do or to suffer for him. There is a "needs be" we should be made ready. Let us therefore trust, and not be afraid (Isaiah 54:7, 8). - W.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.