“. . . . He will rest (shall be silent) in His love . . . .”b
I have heard people utter a peculiar expression in their prayer. At the time I did not understand the meaning. Freely translating from the Holland, the phrase referred to would be: O God, be silent in Thy love about our sins and trespasses! In later years I found the Biblical basis for all such praying. We read in the prophecy of Zephaniah a similar expression. We hear that God shall be silent in His love with respect to all His people.
Moreover, when we read the very words of Jesus Himself, we can see still clearer the beauty of so great salvation. . . . Jesus tells us that when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. And then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. . . .
And here is the point that I would like to stress: the Father at such time shall be silent in His love.
Of that silence I would speak.
It opens a field of thought that is wondrous beyond compare. The Father silent? It must be a great love that keeps Him from roaring all the day long even unto all eternity. Because our sins are many and they are very real. There are mountains of sin which have outraged the Father in His adorable virtues.
How is that possible? Even when we saw all those iniquities, we could not keep from crying and lamenting! How can the Lord God be silent with respect to them?
If you would somewhat understand this I would bid you to return with me through the ages and I will lead you to a little hill outside the gates of Jerusalem. It is anno Domini 33.
Yes, there is a great multitude on that hill. They all seem to be drawn to a very sorry spectacle. Three crosses on the place of the skull. The poor sufferers are the very center of a morbid attraction. The mob seems to have a wonderful time, mocking, laughing, sneering, taunting, deriding. Especially the central figure of the three crucified ones receives derision and contempt.
No, do not turn away from this awful spectacle. Do not turn away because millions of angels and the multitude of saints that no man can number shall be busy singing about that cross unto all eternity. A few years hence we will hear the voice of Paul. He will tell you of his most resolute determination. He will tell you that he has determined with himself to know nothing among the Jews and the Greeks than this central figure, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And if you insist on clearer demonstration, we would point you to the visions of the night that were given to the beloved apostle John. He saw the door of heaven ajar. And, lo and behold, in the midst of heaven there was a great throne and in the midst of the throne a Lamb standing as if slain. Yes, O, yes, the blood of Golgotha shall be the chief attraction in the heavenly paradise.
Look strongly now on that central figure there on Calvary’s hill. Note that He is silent. If He speaks at all, it is for other than Himself.
But we are getting weary. Early comers have told us that this awful spectacle had its beginning at nine o’clock in the morning and now it is well-nigh noon.
But, O God of eternal miracles! What means this strange phenomenon in nature? It’s getting dark. God Himself is blotting out the shining luminance of the great light of day. It’s getting very dark. It is the end of scoffers. It will not be long now and they will smite their breasts and wailingly they will hasten to return to the streets of Jerusalem.
It grows silent around the cross. Yes, silent and horrible. The soldiers and their centurion must stay. They are well trained in the iron discipline of Rome. They might tell you, if they so pleased, that in the darkness they heard the movement of tortured bodies during these three awful hours of darkness, and perhaps they heard the splash of drops of blood on arid soil. But for the rest, silence for three brooding hours.
But what nonsense do I speak: three hours? Three eternities rather. Those three hours on the place of of the skull are the hush of eternal desolation. We stammer when we speak. But speak we must. Come tell me, what think ye of the silent Christ? He found no words to utter. It was all so just, so divinely correct. During those three hours especially, there descended on Him all the burden of the wrath of God because of sin and guilt that properly belonged to the Church of God, or if you please, the sin and guilt of God’s world, the world of His everlasting goodpleasure. God, our God, loved that world so much that He took all the sin and guilt of that world and heaped it upon the defenseless head of His beloved Son. Seeing that guilt it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.
And that was divinely correct. Jesus, the Son of God, was made the head of the world of God’s election from all eternity. And He must take care of that world. So that when God in justice comes and demands all the righteousness of His law, Jesus has nothing to say. He is the scapegoat and enters the wilderness of hell because He loves the Father and those that Father gave Him. He is silent in His suffering.
How could Jesus answer the Father? His demands were just. God had said in Paradise: The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die! Man ate and man must die. Either himself or another must die for him. And here hangs the Mediator of the Church of God. Therefore Jesus has nothing to say. He is silent in the experience of eternal death on the accursed tree, silent in the hush of desolation.
And His silence is the very answer of love. He loves the Father in the stead of His sheep. You and I did not love Him and now Jesus loves God in our stead, that is, if we are the sheep of Christ.
God’s justice and righteousness were outraged and on this cross all such crookedness is made straight. But at the cost of His heart’s blood. Such, ray friends, is the Cross of Golgotha.
He suffered for many while suffering alone. He suffered as the Holy One while suffering for the enemies of His beloved Father. He suffered hell while His fitting place would be in the bosom of the Father. Will you ever be able to approach the understanding of such love?
And still we stand at the foot of the cross.
Such stillness is the stillness of untold agony. It is so overwhelming that even the hardened centuron of the legions of Rome is impressed. Later he will say: Truly this man was the Son of God!
But, oh, what means that terrible cry? From the center of the scene, just above our heads, we hear a cry that is heartrending, piercing, unearthly, terrible. Yes that cry came a long way off. It came from out of the bottomless bottom of eternal hell, death and damnation. Be very still now: Jesus has tasted the experience of the curse of God. He is made a curse for His sheep. That cry tells us that Jesus is far away from Home. Jesus was used to the blessedness of heaven from all eternity and now the Son must experience in the human soul and the human body forsakeness such as no creature shall ever be called upon to bear. Say it in the hush of wonder: all the waves and all the billows of God’s wrath with eternal intensity have come in upon His soul. Be very still and marvel: that cry is the expression of the love of the Son crying to the heart of Father. He is so far from home that He dare no longer say: Father! He cries: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
And heaven is silent too. I sometimes wonder what the angels of God have thought in that strange hour. In Bethlehem the night grew into day in the song of heavenly glory. Now the day became night and the cry is the depth of despair, such as no creature can fathom. No, we do not wonder that the mob, the wicked scoffers, hastened away, smiting their breast. It is not easy to look upon hellish torture in the person of the shepherd of God.
Heaven is silent and God is silent too.
But there are the thoughts of the Almighty. And praise be to God, we know them. He has revealed them unto us.
Here they are: Why I have forsaken Thee, My Son? Thou knowest. Thou wert with Me ere the world was. Thou knowest that we would reveal all the loveliness and the beauty of the Godhead. Thou wert with Me when We as the Triune God counselled to show ourselves to the millions of men and the angels to be created. . . . That world would travel the way of sin and grace. And throughout all the fearful history Thy cross would shine as the lode-star for the church of ours. They would slowly on, O so slowly, begin to see the beauty of holiness in the womb of the morning. They would see that cross and that agony as the manifestation of the love of God. We would preach Thee, My dying Son, as the way to the heart of God!
Later on we would explain the wonders of our mercy and goodness and truth and glory. We would teach the elect church of all the ages that we had taken all the sin and guilt upon ourselves and that in Thee, My Son, all righteousness should be fulfilled. Therefore, Thou art now travelling the road of eternal sorrows. Thy name is Man of sorrows so that the joy of God may be won for all Thy sheep. WHY HAVE I FORSAKEN THEE, MY SON? It is that our glory may be revealed in the vessels of honor afore prepared unto glory, a glory such as this sorry world has never seen.
Yes, now I can understand why my elders prayed: Be silent in love, O God, with regard to all my sins! It is because Jesus paid the price in His blood and was forsaken of God.
Isaiah has seen that cross from afar. And seeing he testified: He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth. Let us put it this way: He was silent and hushed in desolation so that you, my brother in Christ, might sing unto all eternity.
Jesus said: Come, ye blessed of the Father, inherit the Kingdom. And God was silent in His love. He leads us through Jesus to the Home of God.
And the wicked that refuse to believe in that silent and suffering and dying Christ? The song of Hannah in the days of Samuel tells the fearful story. When the wicked come before God in the judgment day, He shall surely not be silent to them. Here you have God’s own words to that effect: These things hast thou done and I kept silence, but I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forsake God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver!
For that reason Hannah sang in her song of victory: “The wicked shall be silent in darkness.”
O, for a long time, almost 6,000 years now, the godless have spoken hard speeches against Jesus and the God of Israel. But then God will come and will not silent be. Can he, the unregenerate man, imagine what the speech of God will be like on the judgment day?
All those that refused to have Jesus be King over them shall be silent in darkness. Paul has told us: in that day the mouth of every one shall be stopped ad the world shall become guilty before God.
I have spoken to you of different kinds of silence but there is still more.
The judgment of the righteous and avenging God when the 7th seal is broken shall be so great that there will be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. It will be the silence of wonder. It is because His works of judgment and equity are adorable wisdom and worshipful glory.
It is well, therefore, that we also grow silent in meditation and think upon God. Remember Him in all your days and in the watches of the night. It is the most wonderful exercise for the soul and the heart of man.
And the more you see the silent God in His love, the silent Christ in His agony, the silent heavens in adorable worship, the more you will be silent in admiration. My soul in silence waits for God; My Saviour He has proved!
But you will not be silent for long.
I can now readily understand the poet who shouted upon a thousand hills: O Church of our God, sing His praises! For with you and in you He dwells! O sing hallelujah’s before Him, whose glory all praises excels!
For a while that Church must travel in the desert of sin and suffering where all the streams are dry. But when Jesus comes upon the clouds of heaven He shall save you from the desert and the waste and the wilderness of this dispensation. He shall show you the beckoning beauty of the New Jerusalem with its wonderful streets of gold. And there the angels of God will come flying to give you the harps of God’s symphony. That harp will remain eternally in tune with God’s heartbeat of love and His eternal glory.
And when your wondering eyes has grasped the heavenly scene and your ear the melody of heaven, then the fingers of your eternal body will caress the strings for the strains of a song that will make heaven musical forever!
Sing in anticipation, beloved!
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion! For great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee!
Song, O sing of my Redeemer!
Sing, O Church of God, for all things are for you, since God and His Christ are for you.
Sing for the accusing law is silent: Christ fulfilled it.
Sing, for the accuser of the brethren is silent in darkness. The false prophet, the old dragon, the wicked world, will never plague you again. They all taste the sorrows of Satan. There is the hush of desolation forever! Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new!
And they did begin to be merry. Merriment before the face of God.
Sometimes it seems I hear their beauteous strains.