A Psalm in Silence
Psalm 83 is written amidst deep distress. Verses 6-8 present a scene in which the surrounding nations have hemmed Israel in, conspiring against her. The psalmist fears their attack and the devastation that would follow. Thus the psalm begins with a plea, “O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!”
Reflecting on the anguish of Psalm 83, D.P. Myers writes, “I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I felt the same way. With a major problem pressing down upon me, I looked around to friends and companions but found no real respite from my troubles. My sleep, which is often a familiar escape, became troubled as the pressure caused me to wake, realizing I had no safe place to go for sanctuary. I think this is why Asaph begins Psalm 83 with a plea that God does not stay silent. For at this time, the people looked at their present circumstances and saw their promised land crumbling and being dismantled piece by piece, they looked to their past and saw the depravity that had taken hold of their land, and they looked to their future and all they could find was silence. They…longed to hear God’s voice once again. They longed…to be held safely in the arms of one who has everything under control.”
Have you ever found yourself in a similar predicament? Have you ever cried out to God in desperation but found, in return, silence?
In such silence it feels like our soul is suffocating. But perhaps our experience of silence is not as much an indicator of God’s absence as it is an opportunity for God’s teaching.
In an article entitled “All the Right Moves” in Fast Company (May 1999), chess master Bruce Pandolfini shared, “My lessons consist of a lot of silence. I listen to other teachers, and they’re always talking…. I let my students think. If I do ask a question [‘why are you making that move?’] and I don’t get the right answer, I’ll rephrase the question—and wait. I never give the answer. Most of us really don’t appreciate the power of silence. Some of the most effective communication—between student and teacher, between master players—takes place during silent periods.”
Perhaps some of the richest communication between God and us takes place when it seems to us that God is silent. Indeed, verse 9 suggests that while the psalmist struggled with the silence of God, his mind recalled how God used Gideon and just 300 soldiers with trumpets and torches to rout the armies of the Midianites and Amalekites who had been “along the valley as thick as locusts” (Judges 7) and how God used Deborah to achieve victory over the army of Sisera and Jabin (Judges 4). The psalmist’s soul begins to settle into the confidence that the God who protected them in the past will continue to protect them. Thus, the psalm, that begins in despondency over God’s silence, concludes with confidence: “Let them know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”
I loved this blog, Tom. What a right on challenge to allow silence to provide think time and remembering time. How helpful to not show up with all the answers. It doesn’t work anyhow!! Therese
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