Public Domain (with exceptions)1
Unto You will I cry, O Lord my rock;
be not silent to me:
lest, if You be silent to me,
I become like them that go down into the pit.
—Psalm 28:1 kjv—
Have you not gone oftentimes to the post office or waited anxiously for the postman, and failed to get the letter you anticipated? Your heart could not quit its sighing for hours. Perhaps this has lengthened out into weeks, till hope dropped exhausted, and the heart grew dazed and dead. Unexpected, undesired silence is awful. We can bear many other grievances better than silence where we expected speech. “She would not speak to me!” My! How the very thought wrenches the heart strings! How the very feet drag along the way, and the hands forget their skill2—so quickly does the physical respond to the spiritual.
The cold lips in the casket cannot speak. They would if they could, and there is comfort in that; but when the lips are full of life, and will not speak, the cross is heavier. Enforced silence is one thing, and willful silence quite another. There is a kind of silence which is in the natural order of events, or the order of circumstances; and also that kind of silence which has in it the “Never, never.” There is silence with no hope in it, and silence where hope is not dead; but in all there is heartache. Your heart hurts when your friend neglects to write. It hurts when there is chance for conversation and your friend manifests a don’t-care spirit.
But what is this silence? Why can’t your spirit go on independently and not care? Yes, why not? No one can either live or die alone. God made us so that we cannot live without each other here. Companionship is a necessity of life. We must have it in some relationship. Solitary confinement is worse than ordinary death. Why we need it so much may not appear plain to us. But that all seek it and feel the need for it is the common verdict of our humanity. “It is not good for man to be alone” [Genesis 2:18]. “As iron sharpens iron, so does the countenance of a man his fellow” [Proverbs 27:17]. We are born into society, and begin life in dependence on others. We cannot isolate ourselves. We must have neighbors. No calamity greater could come to us than that all our fellows should be enemies. Should we come to a place where we lose hope in humanity, or rather lose faith in all our friends and acquaintances, we are near our worst in this world. Our estimate of ourselves is then overwrought and unreliable.
Higher than human fellowship is divine companionship. Probably we were created as we are, as concerning human fellowship, in order that we might understand our need of the society of the Infinite. We can hardly know there is a God without wanting some personal relationship with Him. To think that He could be, yet have no care for us, is to turn us back into atheism. If He is, and is God, and He has created us, then He must care for us. He must want to be on good terms with us and to hear from us. So we must want to hear from Him. If He could write, we would expect Him to write us a letter. So He has! If He can speak to mortals at all, we want Him to speak to us. If He is companionable, we want that kind of companionship. So we do not wonder that the Psalmist said, “Be not silent to me.” He wanted an audience with God. Have you not often been there? Have you not often prayed the Psalmist’s prayer, and longed to hear from God? You have said to yourself a thousand times, “Why do I not hear? Why does not God speak? Why does He not answer my cry and regard my tears?” Let me make a few suggestions.
- We should not think that He pays no regard to us. He does see. He does care. If He “suffers not a sparrow to fall to the ground” [Matthew 10:29,31] without caring for it, if He clothes the grass of the field, or rather so gorgeously clothes the field with grass and bedecks it with flowers [Matthew 6:28-30], will He not care for us? Are we not better than grass and sparrows? We wrong Him by saying even to ourselves, “God does not hear.” Not even in thought must the idea be tolerated. If so insignificant a thing as the falling of a hair from the head is noted by Him,3 how much more our cries and tears!
- God has a care for us which lies beyond our comprehension. We can neither see nor understand all He is doing for us. In fact our range of observation is very small, and even in its circumference how little we know. During sleep, in breathing, in the pulsation of the heart, in the silent process of the assimilation of food and its distribution, what do we know? In the realm of our spirit-being, how little are we able to know even by name? In sunlight and darkness, cold and heat, pleasant days or cyclones, the circuit of the seasons, is He not caring, and that far beyond the narrow margin of our thinking? How, then, can we dare say God does not care when we cannot behold the [unseen] world of His providential administration? Let us be silent lest we charge God foolishly.
- “Why, then, does He not talk to me?” What if He did, and you did not recognize Him? He talked to the young Samuel and he did not know it was God, but thought the voice was the voice of Eli. May we not be as dull of comprehension as was Samuel [1 Samuel 3:1-10]? May it not be that all these years we have been hearing voices and receiving impulses, and never once thought that the voice was the voice of God? If sin has dulled our spiritual perceptions as the Bible reveals them, may it not be possible that God has been trying to talk to us all these years, and we did not recognize the voice as His? He must want to talk to us. He must be laboring all the time to get our ear. He desires our companionship. He wants us for His own.
- “Why does He not answer my questions?” He may have already done so in the personal letter He has written. The Bible is full of answers to about all the questions that can be asked pertaining to the soul’s salvation and well-being, both in this world and that which is to come. If the answer is in His Word, then He does not need to answer again. He expects you to find it there.
- God has spoken in the Bible and in the created world about you, and He has spoken in your own heart. In these He has said more things than than you have yet answered. You need not wait for Him to speak. He is waiting on you. It is your time. He has no need to continue the conversation till you make Him an answer. Open His book and speak to Him. Look up to the stars, where He has declared His glory [Psalm 19:1ff] and respond to His voice. Look in your own heart and hear Him now saying to your conscience, “This is the way—walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
- It is evident God must have some booked prayers (that is, prayers the answers to which are reserved for the future). That they are not yet answered is no sign that they will not be. You may not yet be ready for the answer of your prayer. Often the heart far outruns its own date, and pushes out into coming years and claims what experience has not yet come in sight of. Every time your heart prays, “Thy kingdom come,” [Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2] the heart runs away ahead of the travel of the world. How many times have you prayed, “And finally save us high up in heaven”?4 Here also you asked God to do something you did not really expect Him to do now. It was your heart running into the years to come and asking for that which could not be now. It is a booked prayer. God is silent for a good reason. Be not impatient with Him.
- As it is in the field of caring, so it is in the field of answering prayer. We cannot see all the answers He is conferring. Many of the answers to prayers are outside of our recognition. He is doing a great many things that we do not know about. Then may He not be answering many prayers we do not know about? He is answering in His own way, though, and not ours, by any means. Is there not often a great want toward God in our heart that we cannot put into words at all? Is not this prayer of the choicest kind? Does not God regard it? Does He not answer it? If we cannot put the want into words, it being only a kind of indescribable longing for God, and toward God, is He not answering?
Suppose, then, we take all that comes from God and take it as the best for us, as sent by His wisdom; will we not be compelled to take part on the Praise Committee and be engaged on the Hallelujah chorus more than the mourners’ bench?
- The text itself is public domain. It was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2012, 2021 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid’s works. ↩
- The allusion is to Psalm 137:5. Brother Reid doesn’t share his Bible-verse references in this article, so we have inserted them in bracketed text throughout. ↩
- Matthew 10:31. One may be forgiven for thinking that Bro. Reid had a twinkle in his eye when he wrote about hair, since because of premature balding (along with his personal preferences) his photos always show him with a long “comb-over.” ↩
- This prayer phrase, not uncommon in the 19th century, is of uncertain origin. ↩