What we call God’s “silence” is sometimes a consequence of selective hearing. King Saul’s situation at the end of his life is unique and extreme, but it illustrates a point about hearing the voice of God.
After a series of disobedient acts, Saul languished in spiritual silence. Philistines attacked him and God held His tongue. Desperate for guidance and encouragement, Saul enlisted the help of a medium.
When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly. When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. (1 Sam. 28:5-6, 15-17)
Nothing changed, Samuel spoke the same truth to Saul that he had heard and ignored before. Now it was too late. How did Saul reach such a hopeless condition and what can we learn from his mistakes? Saul, whose name means “to ask (of God),” lacked sincerity; he was only receptive to certain answers. Three reasons might apply:
- We usually hear the voice of God in a place of inner intimacy with Him. Whenever Saul was distracted, seeking the next step toward stardom, God’s presence meant little to him and His voice fell silent. Impatiently, Saul developed the habit of acting anyway, justifying his self-willed actions as necessary and prudent.
- Perhaps Saul was clutching his crown so tightly that he couldn’t let go when God wanted it passed to David. If people, possessions, or positions take such an important place in our lives that we cannot release them, how will we ever hear God tell us to loosen our grip? The first principle of hearing the voice of God is to approach Him with no personal agenda.
- Every part of our lives must be surrendered to God. If we overvalue who we are right now, it becomes hard to hear His call for transformation. If we struggle with low self-esteem, God’s words of encouragement are muted.
God can say nothing to a person who is unable to hear an exhortation to change, let go, or simply rest in Him. God is concise; He speaks essential things. If we are not inclined to respond to His words, He will not fill the silence to make us feel spiritual. But if we search for Him heart and soul, He will answer.1
If you would like to receive these posts by e-mail, please sign up (we will not spam, or share your information).
- Deut. 4:29 [↩]