"Silence in Great Affliction"
"I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou didst it." Psalm 39:9
There will be a day when the whole world shall be dumb before the Face of the great Judge. Paul speaks of this in Romans 3:19. All their lives they had spoken volubly against the Lord and against His anointed Son. But at the end of days and history there will be one great silence. They see Him Whom they pierced. They see the open books: and are silent.
And here is also the great difference between him who fears God and him who does not fear Him.
My text reveals the wondrous wisdom of the child of God. He is in great affliction but is dumb. He does not charge God foolishly. He lies prostrate but does not open his mouth. And the reason is this: he knows that God was the doer of all his woe.
No one knows the occasion of the great sorrow of David at this juncture of his life. But we do know that his affliction was great. His sorrow was stirred; his heart was hot within him; the fire burned in the inner man; God's stroke was upon him; he speaks of the blow of God's hand.
God rebuked David, and as a consequence his beauty was consumed like a moth. He even speaks of "going hence and being no more."
So it is very evident that a very great affliction was David's portion.
But David knows God, and that makes all the difference. He knows that all he suffered by the blow of God's hand is good, adorably good!
And there you have the victory of faith!
We have a song in the Netherlands which is often sung in the assembly of the saints. It is this:
In de grootste smarten
Blijven onze harten
In den Heer gerust.
In the greatest sorrows
Our hearts remain at peace with the Lord.
And that is the victory of faith.
In a sense it is expressive of our whole life upon this earth. We live in the midst of death. From every direction we are assailed with sorrows and miseries. Even the strength of our days is labor and sorrow, and we fly away.
That is not so clear when we are young, vibrant, strong, and youthful. Then life seems rosy, beautiful, and promising.
But it is all vanity.
It is rather usual that the children bury their father and their mother. Then we shed a tear or two, and the departed remain a beautiful memory. And we continue our journey to eternity, until our children lay us away in the grave.
But sometimes the Lord interrupts this usual procedure. And the heart of father and mother slowly breaks when they stare in the open grave where their offspring will rest until the day of the resurrection.
Then the husband or wife with little children weep their hot tears in unspeakable grief. Honestly, I do not know: I cannot fathom such grief, never having tasted it. But that such grief must be enormous is plain from superficial observation.
And God does these things with reason.
We do not know the reason why David was sorely afflicted.
Many questions and answers are given. Some say, Absalom; others venture to guess that Saul was the cause. Either of the two could have been the reason why David is stunned and suffering.
So also many questions and answers are given when we are smitten to the ground by the blow of God's hand.
Accidents? Carelessness? Neglect? Stupidity? Indifference?
Another category of questions are asked, all of them beginning with a terrible word: WHY? And such questions are really directed to the God of heaven and earth.
I call this terrible, and well I might.
All such questions are always sin. It does not behoove us so to question God's conduct. All His ways are majesty. No matter what He does, it is beautiful, just, and praise-worthy. When something awful happens to you, never venture to question the Almighty.
Another series of observations are made, all of them beginning with the "If only I had or had not done this or that, then this awful thing would not have happened."
I know, I know, we do not mean it, but those observations destroy the very idea of the Immutable Counsel of God! And our text is the only correct antidote against the futile and vain speeches we make in the midst of our calamities.
It happened! It may have been because we were careless, stupid, indifferent, downright sinful, or neglectful, but listen to this: when all is said and done, it was God! He supervises all things and events, and there is no evil in the city, but the terrible Godhead decreed it. Look at David! When he sat down in all his heartbreaking misery, he said: "Thou didst it!"
That is the only answer, always. And there is no exception.
That is the only answer even in the midst of all manner of mistakes we made, all kinds of blunders committed, all kinds of accidents, neglect, stupidity, evil, sin, etc.
Behind, with, and in the human or devilish factors there looms the gigantic stature of the great Jehovah-God!
Listen to Amos, the voice of God: "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?"
And, please, come with me to a very holy place. It is A.D. 33, and we find ourselves at the Place of the Skull. Jesus is hanging in great darkness on the accursed tree.
I would like to ask all of you sufferers: Is there a sorrow in the world like unto His sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Him in the day of His wrath?
And all of you grow silent. No one would dare even to liken his sorrow to the sorrow of the Man of Sorrows.
And who did it?
Oh, there are Judas, the apostles who were all offended in Him; there are Annas, Caiaphas, the chief priests, and elders, the people of Israel, the Gentiles, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers. They all crucified Him.
Are you interested to hear who REALLY did it? Then listen to this: "For of a truth against Thy Holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, FOR TO DO WHATSOEVER THY HAND AND THY COUNSEL DETERMINED BEFORE TO BE DONE!" (Acts 4:27-28).
Is it not beautiful?
Why, even the very devils cannot stir, except by God's hand and counsel.
Sometime ago I quoted a Dutch Psalm. I will do so again:
Geen ding geschiedt er ooit gewisser,
Dan 't hoog bevel van 's Heeren mond:
Zijn Godd'lijk almacht spreekt, en 't is er,
Zijn wil gebiedt, en 't wordt terstond.
Schoon de heid'nen samen
List op list beramen,
God verbreekt hun raad;
Schoon de mogendheden
Snood' ontwerpen smeden,
Hij belacht haar haat.
This is so wonderful that I will translate it for you:
No thing happens ever surer
Than the high command of God's counsel.
His Divine Almightiness speaks: and it is there!
His will commands: and it happens at once!
Though the heathens together
Plot their crafts:
God breaks their counsel.
Though the great powers
Hatch their base designs
He mocks their hatred!
All of this is so impossible to believe for natural man!
We speak of an unlucky break; somebody made a dreadful mistake; how dumb can you be? And more of the same.
But here is the real reason why accidents, etc. happen: God did it!
When the young and vibrant die, and lie there so still, then say: Thou, O God, didst it!
No, do not say to me: you minimize the human factor and human responsibility. I certainly do not. They have their place, but be sure and give them their rightful place, even as God does it.
Shimei cursed David. David said: God hath said unto him: Curse David. But Solomon executed him, and God shall give him his rightful due.
I have reference to the final answer. I have in mind the answer which will soothe the heart, and heal your wounds. I have in mind God. Give Him His rightful due. He is so worthy of it.
When He says through and by and in all our human failings, mistakes, sins, neglect, and what more we can enumerate: "My child, your time of life has ended, your days are numbered, your place in My heaven is ready: Come to My bosom!" then say: "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, for Thou didst it!"
And that is not all
The text is negative. And it includes the positive.
When Jesus said: He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out, He meant more than just those negative words. He means with those words: When you come unto Me I will receive you, I will fold you in My arms and I will make you experience that you are very welcome with Me!
And so also here.
We have plenty of Biblical examples.
When Job stood in his front room there were ten caskets. In one day he buried his ten children.
Among mere men is there an example where you could expect more heartbreak and more rueful speeches than here?
But listen to him: "The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord!"
That is the sweet victory of faith!
I wrote this because a very young mother among us fell asleep in Jesus. And she took with her a seven months' child.
It's a sad story, but also a heavenly beautiful story. God said: My dear child, your place in heaven is ready! Come up higher! And take the little one with you. You may now begin to be merry!