What does the voice of God sound like to you?  Have you ever heard it?  How do you hear it? Under what circumstances? Did the voice seem familiar? Perhaps you thought it was just your conscience giving you trouble. Had you heard it before? Can you sort out God’s voice from all the other voices that you hear?  Was it a loud voice, or was it a small voice, even a whisper?

In 1 Kings 19:1-13 is the story of Elijah fleeing for his life because he was carrying out God’s instructions.  Now he is hiding in a cave and the Lord spoke to him: “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah tells God that he has carried out God’s instructions, but now he wants to die, it has been too much.  God tells him: “Go out and stand before the mountain.” While Elijah is standing there, there is a terrible wind, an earthquake, and a roaring fire, but God was not in any of those.  After all had calmed  there was the sound of a gentle whisper of the voice of God.

How does God speak to you?  Be honest. Was there ever a time when your circumstances were such that you thought God was trying to tell you something? What form does God’s voice take?  Does He indeed speak to you in those circumstances of your life?  In the beauty of a moment, the smile of a child, the comfort of a friend?

In a previous essay on this Blog, I cited the Hebrew word “Shema” which means a special kind of hearing, to really hear and then actively apply. Shema implies that we listen and do something; heal a wound, correct a problem, reach out, not tolerate evil,  etc. Those times when we sense that the voice of God is telling us something, it does require shema, that special kind of hearing, listening and acting.

Many years ago, my daughter, her husband, my wife and I were in Chicago in early December, doing some shopping.  It was cold and there was snow on the streets and sidewalks.  As we walked toward where our car was parked, amid all the clammer of honking horns, Christmas carols, etc. I heard a very quiet voice telling me “help him”!  We continued to walk on, but then I heard it again “HELP HIM”, very insistent.  I realized it was the voice of my wife and her focus was on an older man, laying in the middle of the busy street, unable to rise. We helped him get to a bench on the sidewalk where he was assisted by a police officer.

Was the voice I heard just my wife, or the voice of God, or both?  Too often we are distracted by the voices and confusion all around us that we miss the voice of God. We miss His voice because of all the disappointments, discouragements, all those elements that up-end us, and disrupt our lives. Or perhaps the heat of arguments, the passion of others, the screams of politicians overwhelms that gentle whisper, that still small voice that is God speaking to us.

I recently heard a story of a farm boy who learned Morse Code and longed to be a telegraph operator. When an opening occurred in the local telegraph office, he wanted to go apply for the job.  However, his chores delayed him and he arrived an hour late for the interview.  When he walked into the office, it was filled with other applicants, each complaining about how long they had been waiting. He sat down, but very shortly he jumped up and walked into the supervisor’s office.  A little while later the supervisor emerged with his arm around the farm boy. He explained to the room full of applicants that he had been tapping out code instructions to them for the past hour.  The message was “if you can understand this, come to my office!  But because of the complaining they were doing, all had missed the message, except for the farm boy, who was hired.

The voice of God can come to us in so many different forms. Do we let all those distractions, or preconceived notions, or the influence of others cause us to miss the voice of God within ourselves? Do we miss the tapping on the glass but our complaining drowns out the message from God? Do we miss that “help him” voice in our ear?  Or perhaps, that wee small voice of our “conscience” is drowned out by the inconvenience of the “right thing to do”, or the discomfort of reaching out.  Or maybe we, too, will hear, like Elijah, that voice or God asking “What are you doing here?”  Will we have an answer?  Will you have an answer?

May God improve your shema on your walk with Him.

For What It’s Worth.

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