“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:3
We’ve all received the silent treatment from time to time. Sometimes it’s been an intentional snubbing on the part of a friend or family member because of something we’ve done that hurt or displeased them. Other times the silence has not been intentional or calculated. Perhaps we’ve done something hurtful. Perhaps our actions have justifiably earned for us the anger and displeasure of someone we love. And perhaps in the wake of the anger and hurt following the passing of our actions our loved ones have needed to withdraw so that they could heal or cool down in order to not add to the hurt and fuel even greater conflict than is already present.
Whatever the reason for the silence, I know this; that silence that follows the pain I’ve caused is some of the worst punishment I ever have to face.
Israel, in the wake of their worshiping the golden calf, experienced a period of time in which God began to withdraw himself from them.
It’s unclear whether or not he actually distanced himself. He does command Israel to leave Mt. Sinai and when they camp Moses pitched his tent at a distance from the people’s encampment and it would be to this tent that he would go when he wanted to meet with God. God’s presence would also come, in the form of a cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, and they met and talk to each other face to face.
It appears that during this time God’s distancing himself from them was more in the form of proposal followed by symbolic action than it was by any actual pulling away.
And God’s actions did have an affect upon the people. During this time the children of Israel were in mourning. God had called them a stiff-necked people and commanded them to remove their ornaments so that he would know what to do to them. Whenever Moses would go to the tent of meeting, that’s what they called the tent Moses pitched away from the camp to meet with God, all the people would stand in the entrance of their tents and worship God.
Sometimes our sinfulness causes us to take God’s presence for granted and it’s only as he pulls away from us that we return to seeking him. Friends, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn to seek God everyday. God can give us a constant hungering for more of him, more of his presence. Moses had it. And it appears Joshua had it because he never left the tent of meeting.
God wants us with all his heart. Even when we rebel against him and hurt him that never changes. Sometimes his silence is just another way of his calling out for us to come and find him.
Jeremiah 29:13 contains this promise, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”