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Congregational Development and Revitalization | WAIT Week 1: Waiting When God is Silent

WAIT Week 1: Waiting When God is Silent

Isaiah 64:1-9

In the book, “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay” Frank Partnoy references a study done by two researchers at the University of Toronto.  In the first part of the study students were told to focus on the center of a computer screen while colored boxes flashed on the outside corners of the screen.  After this, they were to read an instruction manual.  The second group also had colored boxes on the outside of the screen, but along with the colored boxes images of fast food logos were inserted.  They flashed so quickly that these students didn’t realize they were on the screen.  The second group on average read the instruction manual faster than the first group.  They concluded that images of fast food restaurants could influence the average person into being rushed or in a hurry.  


The researches then did the exact same test except this time they showed images of three photos from National Geographic Magazine instead of having them read the instruction manual.  They found that those who had seen images of fast food restaurants were less likely to be happy with the photos. He says one of the researches told him, ““There are ironic consequences to time-saving devices. Fast food might save us time. But it also leads us away from the activities we might enjoy during the time we save. It stops us from smelling the roses.”(Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay (p. 58)


Our culture is caught up in saving time so much so that we enjoy life less. The solution: WAIT!  Ironically we are beginning the period in the Christian year called Advent.  Waiting is a theme of Advent. Advent means “appearance.”  So just as the people in The Old Testament waited on the appearance of the messiah we too wait on Jesus’ second coming. We can also learn to wait in our lives now so that we can better experience all God wants for us.


Our Scripture speaks about waiting for God in the silence. The passage begins in chapter 63 in which Isaiah believes that God has abandoned Israel in their time of need.  Historically these two chapters can be referring to Israel’s time of exile or perhaps shortly after their return back to their homeland.  In chapter 63 he says that God has held back God's compassion from them and made them wonder from God’s ways.  In chapter 64 he continues that God has hidden God's face and remains silent.  


What makes God’s silence even more piercing is that Isaiah in fact knows that when God acts God can do amazing deeds like tear open the heavens and show off and show out.  In the past Isaiah has heard stories of God’s mighty deeds for Israel.  Now Isaiah cries out to God to act on their behalf and for God not to remember their sins and to look favorably on them.  


Isaiah and his contemporaries feel like they are calling out to God for help and only hearing silence.  My 8 year experienced this while we were on vacation this past summer.  I was at the pool with him and his nieces and I happened to be the only adult at the pool when Caleb decided to announce to me that he needed to go to the bathroom.  Normally at the pool there would be an outdoor bathroom, but this one was closed because the hotel was not quite finished being built.  The only bathroom was inside the hotel in the hotel lobby.  At that moment I had a choice to make.  Either make him hold it, go with him into the hotel, or let him go by himself.  After asking him several times if he knew how to get there I chose to let him make the journey alone.  After what seemed like 10 hours of him being gone and me being panicked he made his way back to the pool in tears.  When I asked him what happened he told me he took the elevator to the wrong floor and had to ask someone how to get to the lobby to find the bathrooms.  I have no idea how he ended up on the sixth floor, but I learned a valuable lesson.  Never let an 8 year old go to the bathroom alone.  


Think for a moment about Caleb wanting his daddy to come and rescue him, but his dad wasn’t there no matter how much he cried.  In that moment of feeling lost and alone Caleb can identify with all of us in our moments of feeling lost and we can all identify with the feeling of Isaiah as he cries out to God in our Scripture passages. 


In our fast paced world that has conditioned us to expect to get an answer to all our questions immediately and to have all our needs met in a moment, and have all our wants satisfied on demand, we struggle when God seems to be quiet.




To make matters worse we like Isaiah struggles with why God chooses to be silent in these moments because of who we know God to be.  If God has the power to act as Isaiah believes then why doesn't God choose to act.  Why the silent treatment?  It is clear that Isaiah believes this is related to their sinfulness.  Verses 6 hints that they have all become unclean and their iniquities like the wind have taken them away.  Here is the catch though.  Notice verse 7. “No one calls on your name; no one bothers to hold on to you, for you have hidden yourself from us.”  It is possible that Isaiah believes the issue is that God has hidden God’s face causing them to turn away from God.  Chapter 63 makes this idea more clear.  In verse 17 Isaiah writes, “Lord why do you make us wonder from your ways?"  It is as if God is the responsible party for Israel’s sin and desperate situation.  


If you are struggling with this idea of God causing their sin and ours by God’s hiding and silence then you are in good company.  It doesn't fit nicely in our theological box at all.  However to skirt past it could be a mistake.  Surely we have all had times when we have wanted to place blame for our current shortcomings and situations.  I know there have been times in my life where I have placed the blame squarely on God.  Before we begin to cast stones at such thinking perhaps it is important to note that these types of prayers to God may be the beginning place of our journey to experiencing the power of God.  I am convinced that God wants to hear our honest prayers of desperation.  There is power in those types of prayers.


Notice the end of verse 7.  “God has handed them over to their sin.”  While they may feel that God has hidden himself from them, the reality is that their sin has moved them to a place where they can no longer see God.  That is really how it works in all of lives.  When we feel like we have failed or don’t want to listen to God, it isn’t that God moves away from us and gives us the silent treatment.  It is that we move ourselves from God and we give God the silent treatment.  


Father and the Potter


In Isaiah 64:8 Isaiah is reminded and reminds us of two important images of God.  God is Father and God is the Potter.  I believe these two images are not accidental to what Isaiah is dealing with.  Isaiah is wrestling with why God seems to have abandoned them and is silent.  He is reminded that God hasn’t abandoned them and that God is still their Father.  No matter how far they run and how well they hide from God, God will always be their Father.  God will not abandon them and they are still God’s people and children.  


Not only will God not abandon them, God wants to mold them and shape them into the best people that they can be.  Unfortunately for us the best time to be molded and shaped is in the midst of our struggles.  It is in those times of uncertainty that God wants us to cling to God more than ever because we know life isn’t what we want it to be and we are more open and teachable.  The bad news may be that you are struggling and it seems like God is hidden and silent.  The good news is that God has you right where God wants you. God wants to mold us into the people God knows we can be.


Wait for it!!!


My eight year old has really struggled when I leave the house or go downstairs at night.  One night I asked him what he was so afraid of.  He told me that when he was lost in the hotel when we were on vacation he was afraid he would never see me again.  After I picked my heart up from the floor, I told him, “Daddy will always be your daddy.  I will always be in your life and when you walk down the stairs at night or in the morning I will be here waiting for you.”  I believe God is telling you and I the same things.  No matter how far we drift away, God is always there waiting on us to come down the stairs.

Read about WAIT Week 1: Waiting When God is Silent in this story from The Call

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