Monday, May 1, 2023

 God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8

Part 16

Pastor Vicky Moots
Kingman, Kansas

Ecc. 3:7c: “…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”  Jesus remained silent at the time of His trial, but He did not remain silent on the cross.  Even though it was physically difficult for Him to speak while enduring the suffering of the crucifixion, it is recorded in the Gospels that He spoke seven specific things before He died.  It was now His time to speak.”

First, He asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34); second, He assured the repentant thief who was hanging next to Him that he would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43); third, He committed the care of His mother to the beloved disciple, John (John 19:26-27); fourth, He cried out in despair, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); fifth, He stated, “I thirst” (John 19:28); sixth, He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30); and His seventh and final cry was to dismiss His spirit into His Father’s hands (Luke 23:46).

Each of these things which Jesus spoke were important, but I would like to specifically discuss the sixth one: “It is finished,” for it is the victor’s cry.  Because of Jesus’ “time to keep silence,” He was condemned to die.  But because of His death on the cross, the work of redemption was accomplished.  It was finished, completed, once for all.  The Lamb of God that was able to take away the sin of the world had to be slain, but that was not defeat.  It was victory because He rose triumphant from the grave: the Victor over death itself.

It is now our “time to speak.”  The angel at the empty tomb told the women, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said…go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead…” (Matt. 28:6-7).

Just prior to ascending into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples, and the other believers with them, to preach the Gospel, and He promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower them, and us, to be witnesses of His resurrection, not only in Jerusalem but unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Ten days later, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, and 3,000 people were saved.  The good news began to spread even farther after the lame man at the temple gate was healed through the ministry of Peter and John.

But then the persecution began.  The religious leaders were “grieved that they (Peter and John) taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2), so they arrested and questioned them.  At this point they tried to silence them by threatening them: “and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20).  Isn’t that what witnesses are supposed to do: to speak what they have seen and heard? We are to do the same, as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses, and not to keep silent.

We read of further attempts to silence the early apostles in Acts 5:18-21, which states that they “laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.  But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.  And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.”

They could not be silent, for it was their “time to speak”, as they had been commanded by God.  When they were discovered teaching in the temple, the high priest asked them, “Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? …Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:28-29).  Then they were beaten and commanded again not so speak in the name of Jesus before they were released.  But they did not keep silent, for v. 42 declares, “…they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” 

Neither did Paul and Silas keep silent when they were beaten and cast into the inner prison and placed in stocks for preaching the gospel.  Acts 16:25 tells us, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”  You would think that midnight would be a time to keep silent! But it was their “time to speak,” and they could not be silenced.

In the midst of our darkest night and our deepest trial, when there seems to be no way out, and we are imprisoned by doubt and fear, we need to lift our voices to God in praise and not allow Satan to silence us.  In addition, in these last days, we are living in a time of deep spiritual darkness, and midnight is fast approaching.  Now is not the time to keep silent, for the spiritual prisoners in bondage all around us need to hear us singing and praying and praising God so that they can be set free.

We have been called to be witnesses to speak “the truth, nothing but the truth.”  Satan is, through various means, including the pandemic, still trying to silence the voices of ministers and other Christians at this present time, even here in America, just as he did 2,000 years ago.  Last summer, the governor of California instituted a policy banning singing or chanting in church since it might spread the virus, and yet large crowds of protesters were allowed to shout and chant while marching in the streets.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that persecution won’t come to Christians in America.

Satan knows that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and he is using fear to close churches and to close the mouths of believers in order to try and prevent the Word of God from being spoken.  We need to pray in the same manner as did the early apostles, in Acts 4:29, when they were under persecution: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.”  Then we, too, will have the holy boldness to do as God commanded in Isa. 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet…” for now is our “time to speak.”