Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Voice of God

Sometimes when I reflect on Scripture I only consider the words before me. I examine their origin, their context, their meaning, and their hidden meanings. In no way do I discourage this as there is a great deal of wisdom and fruit that comes from these things.

Other times I consider myself, the individual who hears these words. I, a student who is in the midst of this semester, who is experiencing beautiful fall weather, and who contemplates a life in service to God and others, hear the words of Scripture in a way unique to myself.

Some live in tropical climates, others live in frigid lands, some live in places at war, while others still live in prosperity. His voice reaches all the ends of the earth. It's incredible to think that I, in this place, with this or that disposition, and at this time, am hearing God's word as He intended me to hear it.

The Gospel is not just the words that are written but the words that are heard. "I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Rom 1:16). "Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. ... [His detractors] could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke" (Acts 6:8, 10). A word, spoken in the Spirit and heard in the Spirit, produces in us a profound effect. We rightly reverence those words deemed necessary on revelation, but do we not also reverence those in whom we witness the Spirit? For we should reverence God wherever He is, not only on the page but among us and in the world too.

Likewise, God speaks one message, but we hear it in many ways. All the same, God asks us to respond in the same way: with love, all while praising His glorious name. Jesus emerges from the desert saying, "Repent! and believe in the gospel!" One voice demanding one response.

This one response happens in many ways. The one who suffers from lust must respond with chastity while the one suffering from pride must respond with humility. The one who despairs must respond with hope and the one who is angry must respond with patience. Often I find that all of us suffer from numerous things: pride, lust, despair, and anger. The cross seems to heavy to bear, and the response seems as if it would strain our voice.

At this time it would seem necessary to first take an inventory of our sins, our emotions, and our thoughts. It is not enough to say "I am tempted so I must be chaste." Rather, upon reviewing ourselves we say, "I am unchaste when I give into my anger." One may pluck the fruit of sin only to have it regrow. Finding the root is the surer means of conquering sin. The root, if deep, requires great effort and persistence to pull. That you are pulling at that root is a cause for thanksgiving. "Hermas, stop saying all these prayers for your sins. Ask also for righteousness, so that you may take part of it to your family" (Shepherd of Hermas, 9:6). Praying for forgiveness, while good, also makes us focus on ourselves. Praying for righteousness and strength allows us to share it with others.

Listen to His voice. When you decide where His voice is or isn't you have already hardened your heart. Did not King David find God's voice in the dissenting servant of his enemies house? Zeru'iah said to him, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head." David replied, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeru'iah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?" (2 Sam 16:9, 10) (cf. 2 Sam 16).

So too must it be with us. Do not say, "The Lord is only with this man" or "The Lord in only in Scripture" for you are then a liar and a deceiver. Do not say, "The Lord only speaks good things to me" for many of God's servants were treated severely before they were glorified. Furthermore do not say, "I should have never been born," for "before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jer 1:5) and "all the hairs of your head are numbered" (Mt 10:30).

God is speaking to every one but He is also speaking to you in the manner He sees fit. "My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding ... then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul" (Prv 2:2, 9-10).