And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it…”
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That verse is lifted from a scriptural context forecasting the future operation of the Holy Spirit with His people. It’s not solely for apostolic times, it’s not only for Israel, and it’s not a sweet-by-and-by promise.
The day is coming, Isaiah prophesies, when there won’t be need for an earthly high priest to give guidance to the nation of God, for all will become priests by proxy of Christ’s ministry in the Church; while there will be prophets and teachers, like Isaiah, we each will have an anointing to hear from God for ourselves (see 1 John 2:27, you know, the one that tells us we will not have need of a teacher for each of us are given grace to hear and understand supernaturally).
Thank God for the Bible!
Oh, what a blessed people we are to have a divinely preserved, living, breathing archive of God’s Eternal Story, will and mandate. I’m in a coffee shop right now sitting two tables away from a couple of dudes, each poring over copies of His written testaments to His people. How thrilling it is to see it in the public marketplace!
I, for one, would not enjoy the fellowship and intimate communion of Christ without His Holy Word, nor would I dare venture in ANY direction of my life without digging into His Words of Life found therein, to find my marching orders. I puzzle at those who cannot pick up any signals from glorified airwaves whenever they open the Bible. It’s a rare thing when I don’t hear clearly enough the whispers of the Holy when the scriptures are opened before my eyes.
The Bible has always been – and continues to be – my primary mode of hearing God, but – and I’m being careful here – it’s not my only means of hearing God. Sure, there are heralds who stand in Sunday pulpits and declare “thus says the Lord” to the congregation and God speaks vibrantly through them to His people: you are loved, you need to repent, learn to trust Me, lay it down, etc.
Yes, that. Certainly.
Or through counselors and wise spiritual mothers and fathers – surely these too. But I’m speaking about Something wholly and reverentially Other.
Driven To Hear
I’ve shared on this before but it begs notice once again. A few years ago, I was struggling. The pastorate had squeezed every ounce of moisture from my bones and I was parched to the soul. My personal prayer closet was getting cobwebs and the Word was little more than a polite guest in my life.
I needed a Word.
Word of God, speak…
So I drove an hour away to find a quiet out-of-the-way niche (a custom of mine) to be silent and expectant before my Shepherd. My agenda was simple. I only had one question on my heart and I asked it, then sat still as a stone (easier when you’re a paraplegic) and waited.
“Father, how do You feel about me?”
It was bold, sassy and desperate, but there it was in all its glory. I drove miles and spent gasoline to ask a question framed in seven words.
But you know what? In that holy ground spot I got not one, but two responses. Each came after a period of silence for a half-hour to an hour and then within mere minutes of each other.
“I’m jealous for you.”
“I’m protective of you.”
So this mercifully became how my relationship with God was defined in that moment – and since. It wasn’t audible. There was no golden hue and ethereal mist. No background choir. It just…was…in all its simple eloquence. I ‘heard’ my Father’s voice and those words were nowhere in my inner thesaurus at the time. Truth to tell, I had been expecting something quite different.
Did this message(s) conflict – in any way – with the written Word? Of course not. Were they the demented ramblings of the enemy? I won’t even dignify that with an answer.
Could it have been self-talk? I’ll allow that there are times that happens, but why dismiss out of hand the likelihood that my Father wants me to know these things – especially when my self-talk in that particular puddle of pity sounded more retributive and doubtful?
It was God. Speaking. To me. In the ‘now’.
I’ve heard that familiar voice many times in my life, mostly in the Word (even then it sounds like added commentary), but also in the gentle whisperings of a Friend at my shoulder.
Hard Of Hearing?
It’s telling that the final book of scriptural canon – which is more than its coda – is our book for our time because we are the people of the Book of Revelation. We are the people of the last days. And in this ‘right now’ book we find the phrase “he who has ears to hear…” an amazing SIXTEEN times! Hearing, it would seem, is quite crucial for the people of the last days.
Consider for a moment the convoluted, thorny, complicated issues of our day: the LGBTQ question – can someone be a Christian and be gay? What if they are gay but celibate? What of the quandary of gay marriage? If I assent to it, will I be contributing to the demise of the Gospel, much less the unraveling of the social fabric of our times? Will there be judgment because I was unfaithful to my post or will I be chastised by Jesus for being unloving?
What of taking up arms against our brothers to protect my family? Or joining the growing wave of unrest against those who are charged with enforcing the law? Who do I stand with? Is there a time when abortion is necessary? Is what that mega-church guy (whom everyone and their mother is running after) touting really biblical?
Certainly where the Bible offers black and white answers we should hitch our wagons, but where it is gray? Or silent?
The times are becoming more deceptive and the trilling voices seem so convincing; the news markets manipulate us into seeing only what they want us to see. Church celebrities, seduced by popular culture, offer their sage guidance but how do we know it isn’t bereft of the Holy Spirit’s endorsement?
We are Adam and Eve all over again, munching on the fruit of the Wrong Tree, using logic and sirens of the times to influence our choices.
And parents? We’re doing a sorry job of teaching our kids how to seek and wait on the Voice for their instruction. When do we ever tell them, “Go spend time alone with God on the matter. What does He say?” Instead we ask, which job pays the most? What uses the least gas? Which apartment is closer to work? What school has the best scholastics?
You know, stuff Adam would ask first.
We say we are people of the Book, people who value His Word, but how does that truly show up in our daily routine?
Peter and the Eleven (well 10 anyway) said it would be unthinkable for them to depart from Jesus and make it out there on their own. Jesus’ words were life to them. Jesus said and did nothing unless He was prompted by His Father’s voice. Was this only to fix His status as the Son of God? No, He was showing us how to live every moment by being the Son of MAN – living in utter dependence and total sensitivity to the word of His Father.
Look how equipped He’s left us to hear God! We have the Written Record, the Solid Standard and Faithful Plumbline, the indwelling Holy Spirit, wise and holy counselors – and that Voice that breathes into our ear canal – no, not those silly protuberances on the sides of our heads, but the inner ears belonging to spiritual sons and daughters of the Lord.
How can we not hear?
Only by this: if we have ears to hear but choose not to listen.
God help us, in these desperate times, to be people who read – and listen – for the Voice to tell us “this is the way, walk ye in it.”