July 1, 2017

Ears to hear . . .

The leader of a “Hearing God” seminar said, “God is the only one who can speak directly into our minds.” When he said that, I thought of Jesus’ words:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Even though that is true, we also hear other noises and voices. Many people cannot bear silence so their radio, or i-pod, or other devices constantly supply music and noise. This makes hearing God a bit more difficult. We were at a prayer meeting where a worship team played music while we were praying. Since prayer is a two-way conversation, I had trouble hearing God’s quiet voice over the noise.

Satan whispers in my ears too. He tries to make me think his ideas are really mine and has sometimes succeeded. He also uses others to throw me off course. Deliberate and discerning listening is important.

To avoid listening to anti-God voices, Jesus came into my life to give me ears to hear, but He provides His Word, written so I have black and white evidence of what God says. He knew His people would need that!

Taking a big-picture look at the history of humanity with God also helps. The story is simple: creation, fall into sin, redemption, consummation. God’s enemy would have me believe that the universe just happened, sin is passé, redemption is unnecessary (or I can become righteous by my own efforts), and the return of Christ to reign is just a myth.

There are many other contrary voices to the Word of God. Some are direct and obvious, but most are subtle. Either way, those contrary voices oppose God and His plan to restore sinners into fellowship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.

All that said, as a ‘sheep’ in God’s care, I do know His voice. I don’t remember what I understood about God before that was true, but I do know that the Lord used all sorts of ways to speak to me, and still does. He is unlimited in His resources.

Today’s Scripture is from Job, a man stricken with loss and pain. Job’s friends tried to figure out why, and began ‘preaching’ to Job with accusations that he must have sinned or he would not be suffering so much. This was not true, yet some of what they said is true, but for other circumstances. For instance, one went after Job for not paying attention to God’s rebuke. While this was not what God was doing with Job, He has done it with me and with many others. Notice the truth in this for those who unlike Job are guilty of resisting God:

“Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. ‘Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out. His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and he is merciful to him, and says, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor”; then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.” ‘Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. Pay attention, O Job, listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have any words, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you. If not, listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.’” (Job 33:13–33)

This friend knew that God speaks in many ways and opens our ears to hear Him. He also knew that people often fail to listen, even when in sickness or other unpleasant situations, yet God is merciful. He finds a ransom, a Redeemer who can rescue them, declare what is right for them, and restore them to fellowship with Him.

I’m encouraged by two things: God is persistent. He does not easily turn His back on those who say no to Him.

Not only that, Job listened to Him rather than let his friends tell him why he was suffering. These ‘comforters’ assumed God was dealing with Job as He does with all sinners — getting his attention so he would repent. However, Job had done nothing wrong. Instead, God was proving to Satan that the faith He gives does not depend on ‘the good life’ He also gives to His children. That faith will remain firm, even in the most horrid of situations.

The fact that Job listened to God in the face of their words amazes me. When sickness and loss strikes, most people cry out ‘why me?’ looking for answers and reasons. His friends offered what sounds right, but God told them “you have not spoken of me what is right.” At first, that seemed odd, but now I understand. Even though we know His voice, it takes time to sort it out from all other voices and noises.

Jesus, thank You for this reminder to keep on learning to listen, discern, sieve and sort out. Help me practice solitude and silence, not to avoid others and noises, but to listen to You. You still speak and I must stay alert. Enable me always to give You full attention.

No comments: