What should I do when God is silent?
Finding an Octavo
1620 was a memorable year for Brazil. This is the year it officially became a Portuguese colony. To the utmost delight of the colonists, the first diamonds were discovered at the river Jequitinhonha, in the tropical region of Arraial do Tijuco about a hundred years later.
We can all imagine how these Portuguese took all the necessary measures to protect their newfound wealth. The region became inaccessible to the public, with armed guards everywhere!
Since free labour would prevent unnecessary profit cuts to pay salaries, ships brought slaves from Africa, destined to work in the diamond mines. Any slave caught stealing would be beaten in public, they would be branded by a red hot iron, and they would be imprisoned. After all, these diamonds belonged to the Portuguese royalty!
These slaves were not, however, completely without hope. If a slave found a diamond, he would stand up, clap his hands and hold the precious stone between his thumb and forefinger. The supervisor would show up and place the stone in a pan half-filled with water, suspended from a rafter. If the precious stone was an “octavo”, a diamond weighing 17.5 carats, a garland of flowers would be placed on the head of the slave, and he would be marched in a procession to the administrative office where he would be given a new set of clothes, as well as his freedom. From that time on, if he so wished, he would have the opportunity to work in the diamond mine for a salary.
We can imagine that this hope drove these poor slaves to never to give up. And so they slaved away, day after day, hoping that one day they would find an “octavo” and be truly free!
In previous devotionals, we have discussed why some of our prayer requests seem to remain unanswered. We have discovered that such moments gave us opportunities to truly experience God, for He will never, ever forsake us. We must also realize that more times than not, we become so fixated on our problems that we are not ready to hear from God. In such moments, the best thing we can do is ask God directly why His answer is not forthcoming. After all, He has the solution of our problem, and He is eager to share with us the reason of the delay.
Let’s take, for example, when Jesus heard the news that Lazarus was very sick. He did not go directly to heal his friend. In fact Lazarus died before Jesus came. When confronted, Jesus gave the real reason for the delay: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” (John 11:14-15, NIV2)
Now comes the real temptation: Will we let ourselves become discouraged? Or will we persist in our plight to receive an answer?
Remember the parable of Jesus? An acquaintance woke up his neighbor in the middle of the night, requesting three loaves of bread because someone from out-of-town showed up and needed food.
Can you imagine being in that scenario? The first thing we would likely do is to complain. Who in their right mind would ever dream of waking someone up in the middle of the night, no matter how legitimate the reason might be. Are you crazy?
The second thing we would do is produce a number of really juicy excuses why we are unable to help this acquaintance, friend or not friend (See Luke 11:7)!
How could this acquaintance have any hope of obtaining these three loaves of bread? Going to someone else would procure the same kind of reaction!
Jesus tells us not to worry, as: “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:8, NIV2)
The message here is to never, ever give up. God will answer us, if we don’t give up. After all if we give up on our quest, it means it wasn’t that important to us at all!
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10, NIV2)
How do we get our answer?
By asking, by seeking and especially by never giving up!
This message is all over the New Testament. In another occasion Jesus illustrated the same principle with an unjust judge who cared only about himself. The positive response was obtained, however, not because of the unjust judge, but because of the persistence of the person’s request: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1, NIV2)
Giving up is our response to the evil one who loves to discourage us every step of the way. Persistence is the response of someone who has hope. These poor slaves in Brazil, who never gave up, had hope deep down in their hearts, and this hope certainly made a difference in how they lived!
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19-20, NIV2)
“Excuse me, what am I supposed to do with this diamond I just discovered? It seems to be an octavo!”