The Age of Silence

Certainly the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret plan to His servants the prophets.  Amos 3:7  NASB

Unless – But Amos must have been mistaken, don’t you think?  Maybe what he said was true when the Lord actually appointed prophets for Israel, but today, well, today we live in a world of spiritual silence.  Oh, there are plenty of religious voices to be heard.  Five times a day if you follow an imam.  Three times if you’re orthodox.  Sundays for most others.  But those are religious voices.  We don’t hear God’s words thundering through a man possessed by His spirit.  Why?  Did God decide we should make it on our own?

There are severe consequences for this absence.

“The world where God’s face is hidden is experienced by human beings as a world of chance. . .  accidents that were meant to happen.”[1]

“The hazard offered by the future is a function of God’s withdrawal, face hidden, into silence.”[2]

You and I probably know what this is like.  I don’t mean we understand it.  That’s a cognitive reflection on divine silence.  I mean we oidamen.  The verb is oída.  It’s not the same as gathering information.

oída: “from the same root as eídon, “to see, “ is a perfect tense with a present meaning, signifying, primarily, “to have seen or perceived”; hence, “to know, to have knowledge of,” whether absolutely, as in divine knowledge,…or in the case of human “knowledge,” to know from observation, … The differences between ginosko and oída demand consideration: (a) ginosko, frequently suggests inception or progress in “knowledge,” while oída suggests fullness of “knowledge,”…(b) while ginosko frequently implies an active relation between the one who “knows” and the person or thing “known” … oída expresses the fact that the object has simply come within the scope of the “knower’s “ perception;…[3]

The bitter truth is that we feel the absence of the divine.  We have an intuitive sense of being alone.  We have plenty of words, plenty of prayers, plenty of rituals and rites and festivals and . . . but God’s overwhelming seduction is gone.  We are truly people without a prophet.  And it’s probably entirely our fault.

“God did not depart of His own volition; He was expelled, God is in exile.”

The world is random, the world is chaos, the world is a stranger because we kicked out the Creator and He took His plans with Him.  We’re left to our own devices to make sense of this place, and we aren’t equipped for the job.  We have excuses, but they don’t relieve the emptiness.  Scratch the surface and sorrow oozes out.

“More grave than Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit was his hiding from God after he had eaten it.  ‘Where art thou?’  Where is man? Is the first question that occurs in the Bible.  It is man’s alibi that is our problem.  It is man who hides, who flees, who has an alibi.  God is less rare than we think; when we long for Him, His distance crumbles away.”[4]

“The direct effect of His hiding is the hardening of the conscience: man hears but does not understand, sees but does not perceive—his heart fat, his ears, heavy.  Our task is to open our souls to Him, to let Him again enter our deeds.”[5]

And I sincerely hope you noticed that Heschel does not say, as we have so often heard, “let Him enter our hearts.”  That’s not possible these days because our hearts are choked with religion.  No, let us let Him enter our deeds, apart from the theological constructions that do nothing more than provide rationalizations why we can’t find Him.  We don’t need more study.

“It is easier to study than to pray.  It is harder to become a God-fearing person than a scholar.  The evil spirit permits learning.”[6]

Topical Index:  silence, exile, absence, unless, oída, know, Amos 3:7

[1] Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious, p. 128.

[2] Ibid., p. 130.


[4] Abraham Heschel, Man Is Not Alone, p. 153.

[5] Ibid., p. 154.

[6] Abraham Heschel, A Passion for Truth, p. 56.

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Richard Bridgan

“In a stricken hour comes the word of the prophet. There is tension between God and man. What does the word say? What does the prophet feel? The prophet is not only a censurer and accuser, but also a defender and consoler. Indeed, the attitude he takes to the tension that obtains between God and the people is characterized by a dichotomy. In the presence of God he takes the part of the people. In the presence of the people he takes the part of God.” A J Heschel, Thunder in the Soul

Richard Bridgan

“God’s role is not spectatorship but involvement. He and man meet mysteriously in the human deed.” Ibid.