Wholly Living

When God is Silent

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six when Hagar bore him Ishmael….

…When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”

—Genesis 16:15-16; 17:1–5


If we carefully read the transitional lines between the last portion of Genesis chapter 16, and the beginning of chapter 17, we will discover that there was a 13–year period in which God seemed to be silent; He appeared absent from Abram’s life.

The truth is that God never was completely absent. In fact, He used those years to teach Abram the cost of trying to live his life without God.

What appears to have brought such silence to their relationship? Abram had been a man of obedience and gratitude (see sidebar), but then his priority and commitment to God shifted. Abram had his first son, Ishmael. However, the circumstances of his birth destined him to live a difficult life outside the line of covenantal descendants God had promised Abram.

Is God absent?

Today, are you struggling with what seems to be God’s absence from your life? Most of us have had such periods in our relationship with God. What or who is the “Ishmael” in your life or ministry that prevents you from experiencing God’s presence? What preoccupies your heart these days? What is turning you away from an intimate relationship with Him?

As one commentary by Ray Stedman points out, we cannot deny that “when God has allowed you to have your own way, the results have been most distressing. You were permitted to go your own headstrong way in order that you might learn the folly of acting apart from God. One of the most frightening things about life with God is this fact: that, if you insist upon having your own way, He will often let you have it, till you are sorry you asked for it.”

The most important thing to consider in this passage is to sense God’s mind and His approach to Abram. During the silent period, God patiently waited for Abram to return to Him with a whole heart. God then gave Abram a fresh invitation to restore their relationship.

Instead of judging or punishing Abram, the Lord raised the most urgent spiritual matter in Abram’s journey—to daily walk with God. It meant God required Abram to pursue a continual movement toward the life of holiness based on a willful and obedient relationship with Him.

A new relationship

Our God, who renamed Abram “Abraham,” wants us to hear His command, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless.” He wants us to reaffirm that we need Him more than anything else in this world. 

If we accept this blessing of assurance by simple faith, we will change our hearts and our life’s journey. God also wants to give us a new identity as He did Abraham.

Our new identity in our daily walk with God should be measured by how we will fulfill His commands. Humbly walk in holy anticipation of His presence in your life. Freely step toward Jesus Christ, our Savior. He already knows your burdens. He wants to take your cross—no matter how long you have carried it. Receive His restoring grace.

by Major Young Sung Kim

Abraham’s gratitude

Genesis 16:15–16 portrays Abram as an immigrant who, at age 75, heard God’s call and went to the land “he would later receive as his inheritance…even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

At that time, Abram was relatively unknown and the head of a small tribe. When God called him, Abram accepted His divine intervention and obediently and courageously followed the call.

One reason for Abram’s obedience was his deep awareness of God’s grace. At this point in Abram’s life, it seems that without a doubt, his decision to follow God was based on a heart of unselfish obedience and gratitude for every blessing he received and experienced in life rather than being motivated by personal ambition.

Abram, who God renamed “Abraham,” demonstrated a heartfelt attitude of gratitude to God that is an essential aspect in an authentic spiritual walk.

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