Mystery Worship Series, week 3 — SILENCED
October 21, 2018
There’s a story about a little boy named Billy. Every day on the walk to school, Billy’s grandfather would stop at the neighborhood store for a newspaper and cup of coffee. As Grandpa approached the register, Billy would point to large bins filled with candies, gum, and other treats displayed. Each morning, Grandpa denied Billy’s request. After several weeks of watching Billy being denied, the cashier grew a heart of compassion toward Billy. This morning, would be his lucky day. When Grandpa and Billy approached the register, the cashier said, “Good morning Billy, today you can reach in and get the candies you desire with no cost.” Billy smiled with joy; his persistence had finally paid off. He went to pull out a candy, but snatched his hand back abruptly. He then grabbed Grandpa’s hand and shoved it into the large bin of confectionaries. Grandpa, in a fright, pulled out a fist filled with assorted sweets.
Billy giggled with glee. As they continued the walk to school, Grandpa asked, “Billy, why didn’t you pick out your candies? This was want you asked for every day.” Billy looked up to Grandpa with the sun glistening in his eye, “Yes, Grandpa, but your hands are much bigger than mine. My hands are too small to get all the candies I wanted.” Grandpa laughed at Billy’s wisdom. There are times in life that, as believers, we should embrace Billy’s kind of wisdom. God’s hands are much bigger, capable, and able to provide everything we need. Our hands, our thoughts, and our understanding are limited in comparison to God’s vast knowledge and powerful hands.
God finally responds to Job in a storm (Job 38:1-7; 34-41). God outlines the various ways God’s presence is manifest in all of creation. God shares the wisdom of how all things are divinely inspired and influenced, from the earth’s foundation (Job 38:4), to the boundaries of the sea and sky (Job 5-6), and through the ordering of the day and night (7). God, in God’s infinite wisdom, has structured the heavens and the earth, the water and the land, the day and the night, humanity and heavenly beings, and everything in between.
God responds to Job in a storm, true to biblical tradition, illustrating a divine appearance. This whirlwind, similar to other Old Testament texts, demonstrates God’s physical arrival in the midst of the elements. In Ezekiel 1:4, God is present in the windstorm with a flashing light. In Nahum 1:3, God’s power is in the storm and clouds. Zechariah experiences God in lightning as loud as a trumpet (9:14); and in 2 Kings 2:11, God appears in a chariot of fire. The term for God’s appearance in this matter is “theophany”, which is defined as, “a visible manifestation to humankind of God.”1
Job is now confronted by God; and where Job once had questions, concerns, and complaints, he is now silent. In previous accounts, Job is left with inquiries and thoughts of loneliness; but now God is actively present, face-to-face with Job. God’s presence is undeniable, meaningful, and profound. This appearance articulates the knowledge of God, not simply in a rhetorical sense, but in a theological sense. God’s knowledge throughout this passage is demonstrated by careful design, intentional plan, and divine activity. It is clear, in light of Job’s previous assumptions and misinterpretations, God is a master architect whose wisdom and resourcefulness cannot be matched or understood. We see in each verse that God measures, aligns, stretches, and builds. God lays foundations and constructs footings. We see an image of God that is meticulous about the details and precise in design for the cosmos, for the heavens, and even for humanity.
God’s hands are big enough to carve out creation, yet intimate enough to comfort us when we are weary. We may not be able to intellectually understand everything about God, but like Job, we can embrace silent moments to listen to and hear from God. How are we using silence in our spiritual practice? In what ways are we creating moments to listen and learn from God?
John Wesley defines the Christian practice of silent listening as a means of grace. “The means of grace are ways God works invisibly in disciples, hastening, strengthening; and confirming faith so that God's grace pervades in and through disciples.”2
Means of grace are found in works of piety, found in our “individual practices” of reading/meditating and studying Scripture, prayer and fasting, worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others. We also demonstrate works of piety in our corporate practices, such as sharing in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study.
When was the last time you were silenced by the magnitude of God?
It is refreshing to know that in spite of all Job experienced and all the pain he endured, he is not too proud to be silenced. Job is silenced by the images of morning stars and heavenly beings rejoicing in God’s glory. Job is silenced by God’s grace that is uniquely woven into the tapestry of all God’s creation. Job is silenced by God’s wisdom, knowledge, and love that is unexplainable and uncontainable. Job is silenced as God reveals the unlimited ability to be present in all things.
Series Writer: Rev. Nathalie Nelson Parker is the National Program Coordinator for for the National Network of Young Adults for SBC21. She recently graduated from Gammon Theology Seminary and is a provisional elder in the North Georgia ANnual Conference. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Rev. Leon F. Parker, III and their son.
1 “Theophany,” Oxford Dictionary (Oxford University Press)