As I settle in and integrate my experiences from this past weekend (Steven’s great teaching, insights from the other authors, my musings and reactions) I am in the midst (as I am writing this) of an unexpected revelation. I was thinking back over the other people who I have interacted with over the years and I suddenly realized that God has been trying to give me teachable moments all of my life. I was just too [insert pig-headed adjective of choice here] to listen and learn.
As I explored the sudden explosion of possibilities, I realized how little, how very little, I had been listening to that still small voice trying to instruct, help, guide, and direct my steps. I have missed so many significant opportunities to grow in grace, to build up the new man in Christ. Surprisingly, some of the more important lessons were offered by wormwoods (people who reject Christ or even God). Despite my appreciation of Balaam’s story, I failed to learn from it.
As I sit here writing this, I am overwhelmed, but also saddened at the missed chances. I have turned my back so many times to God’s gentle promptings that I am ashamed. This is interesting because the initial preface of my novel deals with this issue of listening to God’s whispers. I enclose it below for your understanding of where I am coming from.
Life for the people of Egypt was filled with signs and omens sent by their gods. Almost anything could be a divine voice, trying to get their attention. The flight of a bird, the movement of the wind, or on a larger scale, the size of the yearly inundation of the Nile could be a divine message. Something as simple as the timing of an event could have special meaning, because the gods caused circumstances to work together for a purpose. Sometimes it was a sign; other times it was a message, or possibly an omen or warning. It might signal something good, signifying a blessing, or warn of an ill wind that preceded judgment.
A whisper from the gods was most common, since they usually employed subtle methods to express themselves, seeking the listening ear among the multitude of their followers. Most of these quiet efforts were lost in the daily clutter of life, because hardly anyone was looking or listening and would see or hear these hushed murmurings. The gods used these faint expressions to identify the true believers, those who sought out their voice, from the masses who only pretended to serve them.
When necessary, the gods raised their voices and spoke through intermediaries. Whether birds, or animals acted out their message, or they used people who received prophetic dreams and visions, these divine communications were often cryptic and difficult to interpret. Long debates ensued, but one thing all of Egypt agreed upon: ignoring the raised voices put the listener at peril.
On the rare occasions, when their message was so important, so significant they did not want any one in Egypt to miss what they were saying, the gods shouted. They used heavenly messengers associated with events that shook the earth and the nation. The people knew great calamity or great blessing teetered on their response, so they clamored for interpretation.
It was not unusual for an Egyptian to be concerned with the will of their gods; Egypt was considered the most religious nation in the entire world and its reverence for the gods permeated everything about its life.
The Hebrews, who had called Egypt their home for almost 400 years, had similar beliefs. Their God, the invisible, nameless one, spoke to them as well, often quietly, sometimes in dreams and visions, and on rare occasions, with thunderous events.
During this fateful day, there will be many whispers and numerous raised voices, all enveloped by a resounding shout. Some will pay attention to the soft-spoken signs. There will be arguments over the raised voices that many will try to use to their own ends. The shout, however, will overwhelm everyone, making it difficult to hear anything with clarity afterward. When this day is over, events that will change Egypt, the Hebrews, and all of history will be set in motion.
I need to rework that and make it tighter, but you get the idea. If we are honest and committed to following God, we will be attuned to his whispers, to his still small voice. Not just when we are searching for something, an answer to a problem, but every moment of every day, in every circumstance and every interaction. That is life-changing and I expect this is what separates the historic “saints” from the rest us who follow Christ.
When Paul argues that we should bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), I had always viewed that as a negative thing, a necessary limiting, restricting view to avoid sin. But with this context added, it can be so much more. It is liberating, enervating. We have a real life coach, a loving Father and Brother who want the best for us (yes, they may call for extreme sacrifice), to assist us in every way possible to work out our salvation. We are never alone and every moment is a teachable moment with God.
Wow! This changes everything. It alters every second of my remaining life. Everything, and I mean all of it, is now part of the training program, part of my path. My eyes are open (finally), my attention focused in a way I never before appreciated. I have been coming to this revelation for a long time, or maybe better said, I have been resisting this revelation for my whole life in Christ. Now I need to embrace it, live in it, use to drive my living forward along the path God has for me.
This change will not be easy, and I will fail, but He knows that and does not give up on me, just as I will not give up on myself. My hand is to a new plow. This is so cool.
So, dear reader, I pray this revelation for you also, that you will be able to see clearly what He has revealed to my heart. May it be yours also. As they say in sports, this is a game changer. Hallelujah! My eternal adventure has just entered a whole new arena. Thank you God!
Grace and peace to your day and may you be filled with the same joy today God has unexpectedly given to me. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Postscript May 4: Upon rereading this, I realize some of you may not think this is all that big a deal. We should all know this and understand its demands. In other words, it is basic. True, yet not true. I have known the principle but never experienced it in such an all-encompassing way. It is hard to explain. This is the difference between intellectually understanding what it will mean to be a father and holding that new life in your arms. That is the best I can do at the moment, but trust me, God has just put me in deep water where before I was walking on wet pavement.