What is it like to hear the voice of God? The following story is told of the conversion of St. Augustine. One day, while he was struggling with his inability to overcome his own passions and desires, he went into his garden carrying the Letter of Paul to the Romans. While in agony of mind over his struggle, he suddenly heard a child’s voice from the neighboring garden saying, “Take up and read, take up and read.” He immediately opened Paul’s letter and read from Romans 13: 14, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” This experience was the moment of his conversion. He became the greatest of the early Church Father because he heard the voice of God speaking as if through the voice of a child.
What would it be like today if God would speak to his people? How would we experience his voice coming from heaven to speak to us? Would it be a voice of thunder causing fear and dread? Or would it come to us, as with the baptism of Jesus, in a gentle voice of comfort and reassurance? Would we recognize it as the voice of God? Would anyone listen to him? Or are we too busy in our work and our play to have time to listen to God? Are we even too busy in our worship to actually take the time to listen for the voice of God to speak to us? Or do we not even really expect him to speak to us anymore?
If we are to be able to listen when God speaks to us, we will need spiritual ears. We want to learn to listen, and to develop ears that have the spiritual sensitivity to hear what God may be saying to us today. We may learn how we may have such spiritually sensitive hearing from the story of Elijah that we read from the Scriptures today.
In learning to hear God’s voice and to receive God’s message, Elijah had to learn to see things in accordance with God’s way. And that is not the way of punishment and judgement, but the way of grace and salvation. And today, too, if we truly want to hear the voice of God to guide our lives, we must begin by looking to Jesus Christ and to his example of love and service. Through his acts of apparent weakness, he showed us the real power of God. Are we listening for his voice and direction today?
Today, God may speak to us through some mighty miracle, through thunder and storm, through turbulent times and political events that shake the world. Or he may speak to us in quiet words and works of brotherly love. Such words arise when we have personally heard the voice of God speaking his salvation into our hearts and minds. Such works reflect the example of loving sacrifice shown to us by our Lord.
Sometimes we are so busy with our own concerns that we cannot hear God’s voice: the noise of our problems and our works block him out! No doubt our concerns, like Elijah’s are good ones. After all, we are concerned for the well being of God’s Church. Yet, we must learn to lay aside our own concerns, and our own expectations and to quiet our souls so that we may hear the ‘gentle whisper’ of God as he speaks to us today. We must learn to hear God in the quiet and gentle works of Christian love and mercy. We must learn to listen to the Spirit of God at work in us and around us in the quiet deeds of sacrificial love.
We have God’s promise that he will bring judgment upon those who deserve it in his own way and his own time, and not according to our demands. And we have his promise that he will preserve a faithful remnant in every time and place. Those who will not serve the gods of this world. Those who will tune their hearts and their ears to hear the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit urging us onward in our faithful service to God in our daily work.
May God find us all eager to hear his words and commands, eager to obey and to serve him in big ways or small ways. May we all truly learn to listen to the gentle whisper of our God as it comes to us today. Amen