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When God Doesn't Listen - 2009-10-11

When God Doesn't Listen - 2009-10-11

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Published by John Partridge
What do we do when God isn't listening? What do we do when our prayers seem to just bounce off the sky and fall at our feet?
What do we do when God isn't listening? What do we do when our prayers seem to just bounce off the sky and fall at our feet?

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Published by: John Partridge on Oct 11, 2009
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“When God Doesn’t Listen”
October 11, 2009
Hebrews 4:12-16Job 23:1-9, 16-17
What do we do when God isn’t listening?It has happened to me a number of times and it was not a lot of fun. In fact, I’m pretty certain that it has probably happened to you even though you may not have had a name for it. There have been a number of times in the past few years when I was confident that God was going to do something amazing. I was surethat God was going to bring miraculous healing to someone who was in the hospital, or was going to dosomething that would trigger a time of fantastic growth in the church, or that God would heal somedamaged relationship. But that isn’t always what happened. Sometimes when I prayed, the people Ithought God would heal, died. Sometimes when I thought God was doing something in the church, I wasmistaken. Sometimes broken relations didn’t get better. Even worse, there were periods of time that Icouldn’t tell if God was listening to me at all. There have been times when heaven seemed to be closedand my prayers just bounced back to me. In Deuteronomy 28:23 this is described as a time when the sky ismade of bronze. In Job 37:18 this condition is described as when the skies are “
hard as a mirror of cast bronze.
What should we do when it feels like God isn’t listening? This morning, let’s return again to thestory of Job and see if we can learn from his experience. (
Job 23:1-9, 16-17)
1
Then Job replied:
2
"Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.
3
If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!
4
I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.
5
I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say.
Would he oppose me with great power? No, he would not press charges against me.
There an upright man could present his case before him, and I would be delivered forever from my judge.
8
"But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
 Job cannot find God no matter where he looks despite the fact that that Job is aware that God is at work.Job is a godly man. Job is a man who is accustomed to speaking with God and who is accustomed to atleast feeling as if there is someone there. The feeling that God isn’t present, or listening, or respondingobviously bothers Job… 
16 
God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.
17 
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.
1
 
God’s absence and the absence of what Job has experienced as God’s presence terrifies Job because thisloss, the loss of his closest companion, may well strike closer to home, closer to his feelings of stabilitythan even the loss of his children. Job’s point is that even when his world was shaken, even when the rock that symbolized his foundation seemed to be missing, still Job refused to be silent, he refused to give upand stop praying and crying out to God. Job describes God’s lack of presence as “
the thick darkness that covers my face.”
God’s lack of responsiveness felt like darkness was covering Job’s face and suffocatinghim. Still, he persisted in prayer.Job’s feelings are not unique. At various times others in scripture have felt the same thing. In
Psalm 22:1-15,
the psalm writer, likely David, cries out to heaven because he does not see any indication that God ishearing or answering his prayers…
1
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the wordsof my groaning?
2
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
3
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
4
In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5
They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8
"He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." 
9
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in youeven at my mother's breast.
10
From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13
Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in thedust of death.
David describes his fear and torment and says that all his strength has dried up like the water in the dust of the desert. A part of David’s lament, a part of his cry of sadness, is that he remembers the history of his2
 
 people Israel. David remembers that his fathers and grandfathers called out to God and God heard andanswered and so, in addition to his pain he is wondering, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And yet… DespiteDavid’s fear and despite the emptiness that he feels because God is not answering, even so he continues to pray, as evidenced by the prayer that we are reading. In both of these examples, the people who aresuffering this loss are crushed and feel lost, confused, powerless and next to death. It can be a terribleordeal, but what we can learn from Job and David is that these times are temporary. As hard as they are,they will pass, and, even when we are in the middle of them we cannot, nor should we ever, give up. Wecannot, nor should we ever stop praying.In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes the power of the word of God and while he does, he also revealsa part of the answer to today’s mystery…
(Hebrews 4:12-16)
12
 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even todividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
13
 Nothing inall creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him towhom we must give account. 
14
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15
 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize withour weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
16 
 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace tohelp us in our time of need.
Paul says that the gospel message and all of the words of God, including the Old Testament, are livingdocuments. Unlike the works of Aristotle or Plato or ancient Roman historians, the writings of scripturehave endured and have maintained the power to change lives. As interesting and educational as thewritings of other ancient people may be, I don’t recall anyone ever saying that the history of Caesar Augustus or the writings of Plato’s philosophy radically changed their lives and rescued them from adestructive lifestyle. As much logic and truth as one might expect to fined in the writings of Aristotle, people are not often convicted of their guilt and break down into tears while reading it. These thingshappen to people all over the world, in a multitude of languages, wherever people read the words of God inscripture.Building on that idea, Paul says that while the words of God carry an amazing power, greater still is the power of the creator God. Paul says
13
 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight”
and that eventhe things that we try to keep covered up and secret are exposed to his view so that there will be no secretswhen we stand before him for judgment. This is the next piece of the answer to today’s mystery. Even onthose days when heaven seems like brass so that our prayers are bouncing off, even when it seems as if God is not listening, we know with a sure and certain confidence that God hears every word and iscounting every tear that falls.Even better, Paul goes on to remind us that Jesus Christ is the one who is our High Priest, the one whostands before the great throne of heaven and intercedes for us, representing us to God. Paul says that because we know that Jesus stands before God
on our behalf 
, we are able to hold firmly to our faith. Wedo not have a legalistic lawyer that represents us, and who quotes rules and regulations. We do not have anaccountant who represents us who keeps a strict accounting of every mistake that we’ve ever made.Instead, we have the Son of God himself, the one who came to earth and who lived among us, as one of us,who knows what it is to be human, who knows what it
feels
like to be human. To go a step further, weremember the lesson from last week that because of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, we have become brothers and sisters of Jesus. Jesus understands us; he understands our weaknesses and our 3

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