Silence and Victory

“O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads” (Psalm 83:1-2).

There is something earth-shatteringly profound about this psalm. A mystery lies behind it that my mind can barely approach, let alone explain. Our favorite thing to do here at gospeldots is to show how the Scriptures point back to Jesus. The trouble I’m having with this psalm isn’t finding a way it points to Jesus; it’s picking one of the ways it does so.

The opening line is a prayer asking God not to remain silent in the face of his enemies. And yet that is precisely what Jesus did. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). God’s enemies are making “an uproar” (83:2), calling for blood, for the destruction of God and his people—for Jesus’s crucifixion—and yet “he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that [Pilate] was greatly amazed” (Matt. 27:14).

"O God, do not keep silence."

I can picture one of Jesus’s followers, standing alongside the via dolorosa, mouthing the first lines of this psalm. Perhaps it was one of the women who went to embalm Jesus a few days later, one that didn’t forsake him the night he was arrested. As she watches Jesus carrying the cross, she mouths this prayer, pleading that the Father not keep silence, speaking just loud enough for Jesus to hear. I can imagine Jesus, hearing this psalm on his followers’ lips, each word falling like a dagger in his soul. The prayer is a heavier burden on his shoulders than the cross at that moment, because he knows the answer. In the face of his people’s pleas that he rise up in the face of his enemies, he can only respond with silence. He can only respond with a prayer of his own, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Hearing this prayer stings all the more because just a few hours earlier he had prayed it himself: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). He had asked God the Father not to be silent, knowing that the uproar of his enemies would sound something like “Crucify him!” Yet, Jesus heard no reply from heaven. Jesus, the True Israel, succumbed to the schemes of his enemies, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” (Ps. 83:4). They sealed his tomb, expecting that was the last they’d hear of the Nazarene.

But it wasn’t. Three days later, he rose. God’s silence on Good Friday gave way to rejoicing Easter morning. Though Satan and his minions thought they’d won the final victory, God had the last word. Though God didn’t answer the beginning of this prayer, he answered the end of it: “Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth” (83:17-18).

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