Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
- Simon and Garfunkel, 1966 From the Album, Sounds of Silence
For over four hundred years, the Jews waited in silence for God to speak to them again. For over four hundred years, all they had were the words of the prophets and leaders like Moses to give them comfort and direction. For over four hundred years, they wondered where their God had gone. Sound familiar? Have you ever turned to God only to hear nothing but silence from Him?
The first thing I notice in this chapter of Matthew is that between the end of the Old Testament writings and the New Testament writings spans four hundred years of silence, until suddenly, God proves He was working in the silence all along on His plan to redeem humankind.
An angel appears first to a young girl and then to her fiancé with astonishing news of a special baby. But His first words to these individuals are: Do NOT be afraid; the same words He says to us over 365 times in Scripture: One reminder for each day of the year. How many times in my life have I turned to God only to be met with a lengthy silence, and then to be told when that silence is finally broken: Have no fear; Be brave? As He explains His silence, I can see He has been faithfully working all along on the issue I initially took to Him. He has not really been silent; He has been working and my job is to trust that He has not abandoned me, as I fear, during those times.
The second lesson I find in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel is that God will provide a way I haven’t thought of if I obey Him. Joseph believed he had only two options when it came to Mary’s unexpected pregnancy: 1) to disgrace Mary publicly, or 2) to break the engagement quietly. How often do I look at a situation and believe my options are limited? God spoke to Joseph in a dream and offered a way he had never thought of – to take Mary as his wife. AND HE OBEYED. When God finally explains what He has been working on, how readily do I obey Him?
The third lesson I find comes from the lengthy genealogy of Jesus. Familiarity with the Old Testament reveals the Messiah’s family tree consisted of liars, scoundrels, prostitutes, con men, and other unsavory individuals. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for holiness and godliness, which proves that God uses all kinds of people to fulfill His purposes. We may not always understand how this is possible – but the evidence is clear as Paul would write later: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT). Even the worst of the worst can be called according to the purpose of God and used for His glory. Perhaps I should refrain from judging others while I wear the blinders of limited vision as to how the Almighty is working. Perhaps I should just trust that no one is beyond His ability to use them even if they are not the godliest of examples to follow. After all, my thoughts and ways are not His.
So, the challenge becomes will I trust He is working, even in the silences? When He does provide me with a way I haven’t thought of – will I obey Him? And who am I to judge who God chooses to use for His purpose? I see with limited vision. He sees beyond the horizons with perfect clarity. That knowledge needs to be enough for me.