Through the Bible in a Year: Psalm 50, 53, 60, 75
1The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth... 3 Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. 19“You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. 21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. Psalm 50:1, 3, 19-21
The topic of God’s silence comes up pretty frequently in Bible study. A few weeks ago in our Bible reading plan, we read that when Samuel was first called, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).
Several Psalms beg God to not be silent: In Psalm 28, David implores God, “be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.” We see similar pleas in Psalm 35:22, 83:1, and 109:1.
We often call the period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New the “four hundred years of silence,” because there were no writing prophets during this time in Israel’s history.
But in Psalm 50, Asaph makes it clear that God is not silent!
He speaks and summons the earth in verse 1.
He is a devouring fire and a mighty tempest in verse 3.
So why does God seem to go quiet so often? If God does not keep silent, why are there so many long stretches where it doesn’t seem like He is saying anything? Why, for example, when Saul inquired of the Lord in 1 Samuel 28, “the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets” (verse 6)?
Asaph gives us the answer in verses 16-21 of Psalm 50:
16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? 17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. 18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. 19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. 21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.
When we come to God expecting Him to look the other way or wink indulgently at our sin, He doesn’t respond (verses 17-19).
When we come to Him expecting Him to agree with us when we speak against our brother or slander someone else made in His image, God will steadfastly keep His mouth shut (verse 20).
When we approach Him as though He is “altogether like us,” God has no obligation to speak (verse 21).
Beloved, this may be a dry, desert season for you. You may be going through the motions of attending church, bringing your tithes, reading the Bible, and prayer, but it seems mechanical. You don’t feel like you are really hearing from God.
Let Psalm 50 call you to reflection and repentance. Our God speaks. He does not keep silence. But remember that while He is personal and intimate, He is also holy and transcendent. So don’t approach Him with your gossip or your petty grievances. Don’t expect Him to speak truth if your own tongue is framing deceit. And don’t approach Him as though He is one like yourself. Because He is not.
Thanks be to God, He is not!