When God speaks, we know for sure what he wants and what he is doing. When God is silent we are left with a mystery. How do we know what God wants if we don’t hear him directly?
After the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, Old Testament writings take on a different character. Beginning with the book of Ezra in 537 BC, and ending with Malachi in 430 BC there are very few references to the Word of the Lord. What changed? Why did God stop speaking? And is he speaking today?
When a prophet writes, “Thus Says the Lord, the God of Israel,.” it means that God actually spoke to him and this is called ‘open vision’.
1 Samuel 3:1 King James Version (KJV)
3 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
Proverbs 29:18 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
18 Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]—blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.
Between 430 BC and the birth of Christ in 4 BC, there is a long period during which God did not speak. Then the New Testament takes up the theme of God speaking to man again through his Son Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1-2 New International Version (NIV)
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
Stepping out in faith
The return of the exiles from Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple and walls of Jerusalem are detailed in Ezra and Nehemiah. God never spoke to Ezra or Nehemiah. Their efforts and successes in establishing a Judaic presence in Jerusalem, despite adversity bear witness to how men of God can accomplish God’s will by stepping out in faith.
Ezra and Nehemiah were descendants of Idolaters and recipients of the curse due to the broken covenant described in Jeremiah. As a result, their knowledge of God must have been distorted by their upbringing and education. They did not have the benefit of 2400 years of history and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So I would say their faith was crippled (or stunted).
God Meets us where we are.
God knows our frailties. He is constantly working with us to build us up in faith and devotion. If this weren’t so, no one would have a chance with God.
God still honors our meager efforts to fulfill his will. This is called ‘grace’. There are several references to how God through his Messiah condescends to the lowly and continues to encourage us.
Isaiah 42:1-3 New International Version (NIV)
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
To the law and to the testimony
In the absence of a direct word from the Lord, we are left with what he has already said in his word. Ezra used a passage in Jeremiah and the writings of Moses to realize that it was time to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. I am sure God wanted the temple rebuilt. Without a temple and the religious infrastructure, the prophecy of the coming of the messiah could not have been fulfilled. Here we find that God is silent and yet he still gets things done.
Here is the argument to study the Bible and get to know God personally. God speaks through his word. His Holy Spirit works on your consciousness to bring you to an understanding of who he is and what he wants. God also wants us to grow in faith. If he were constantly talking to us we would have no need for faith.
Isaiah 8:20 King James Version (KJV)
20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Our Christian walk is similar to the developmental stages of a human person. We begin as babies with little understanding and no potty training. As we grow we find that we need to make a decision that will change the course of our lives. This is a crossroad.
It is times like this when we desperately want a word from the Lord. God is a gentleman and won’t force you to decide a certain way. He honors your free will. So now you know why God does not speak at certain times. He wants you to freely choose the path that he is leading you toward.