The words and promises of the Lord are pure words, Like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times.
With all the technology surrounding us, we hear thousands of messages every day. Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, coined the term “continuous partial attention” to describe the constant distractions of email, instant messaging, cell phones and other devices. She observes, “ To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention- continuously….We want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment.”
Too often, we value all received messages equally. God’s Word, though, is more precious and valuable than any other message sent to us. The psalmist describes God’s message as “pure words” that are like silver processed “seven times” in the furnace. The number seven signifies completion and perfection throughout the Scriptures. God’s Word is absolutely perfect and in alignment with the character of God. It is the supreme measure of truth, and it imparts light and life to those who treasure it.
When we read and hear God’s Word, we need to sit up and take notice. If we don’t understand it, we need to dig deeper until we find out what it means. And when God uses His Word to redirect our steps, we are wise to say, “Yes, Lord, I’m listening.” God’s Word directs us along God’s path, and that way is perfect for us each day.
To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement!
George W. Truitt
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
1 Corinthians 14:10-11
The apostle Paul is reminding us of a great truth that we all are well aware of; that there is a multitude of voices and they are all clamoring for our attention. As we have progressed with technology the access those voices have to us has multiplied many times over. I think few of us are ever separated any longer from a significant amount of things all competing for our attention. I wonder if our ancestors could have ever thought that one of the announcements in church would have been, “Please silence your phones”? Yet this is our norm today. Many families have a basket on the table so everyone will place their phone there in order to have family time. As a preacher, I often observe that there are those who are on their phones during worship times, disengaged from their surroundings. What a challenge it is for us to break away from the attraction of instant available news, messages, and the like. Could it be that we are so saturated with the voices of the world that we miss hearing the voice of God? There is a story in the Bible that illustrates how easy it is to miss the voice of God when we are surrounded by intense noise. Before I share that story I want to tell us what Jesus said. He said:
“The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
The idea is that we as the children of God must make ourselves available to hear God’s voice. Otherwise we will be confused as to which direction to go and what we are to do and that beloved seems to be the issue in a lot of people’s lives. Mass confusion and chaos seem to be the order of the day even among Christians. While we must acknowledge that our world is in great turmoil and human understanding and intelligence is seemingly insufficient; it might be well to consult and listen to the voice of God and to follow His counsel to address the overwhelming circumstances. While none of us have ever experienced such a time as this, the church has in its history faced challenges such as these and to a greater degree than what we are facing currently. The world has experienced chaos and confusion from the fall of Adam to the present day. I don’t think God is nervous or confused and I don’t think that He is without solution but in order to discover what God has for us we need to be still, to turn off the other voices in the world and hear what God is saying to us. We may never as a society find solutions to the pandemic or solution to any of the other challenges facing us but the church has no business sitting in confusion, trying to apply the wisdom of the world that has little if any effect on these things. Rather every child of God should be drawing near with open hearts and minds to hear instruction and wisdom from God. I absolutely believe that God has a solution for every one, for every family, for every church and for every community if we will choose to shut out the world for a few minutes and listen. Jesus said that we ought to go to the “secret place”- the place that separates us from the clamor of the world so we might hear the voice of God. This brings me to my story.
Elijah, that great prophet, called Israel to the mountain top for a time of reckoning. It seems they were confused as to whom the true and living God was so they worshipped both Baal and Jehovah. His question was interesting, “How long will you halt between two opinions? If Baal is God, serve him, but if Jehovah is God then serve Him!” And the Bible says the people said not a word. In that great contest that day between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, God answered by fire and the people turned to the Lord. Jezebel, the queen, who was a worshipper of Baal became infuriated and sent out word to find and execute Elijah so that great man of God went and hid himself in a cave and from the mountain top peak of success he goes into the cave of despair and depression. Now the story gets interesting. Elijah needed to hear from God. Things had not turned out as he had expected and instead of being welcomed and honored as a prophet of God he was hiding in fear for his life. What utter confusion he must have felt. Perhaps that’s you. You have given your life to God, you have tried to serve Him to the best of your ability and after all your effort, it seems as if life is still falling apart and sometimes it seems that it’s worse than it was before you made Christ your Savior. You need to hear a word from God. As Elijah sits in his despair things began to happen around him. As he watches them unfold, he keeps listening for the voice of God. Let me pause here and say that Elijah knew the voice of God for he had heard it before but in his state of being, that voice was no longer clear. There is no question that Christians and the church have heard the voice of God before clearly but the clamoring noise of the chaos and confusion around us now seems to have muddied that voice and it seem difficult to separate it from all the other noise. Here’s the story:
“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord , but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13
Did you see that the voice was not in the great commotion produced by the wind that tore the mountains and shattered the rock? In this great time of turmoil, the voice of God is not speaking through calamity and anger and human logic nor human reason and ways. The second thing that Elijah experienced was an earthquake it God did not speak through the earthquake. Some believe that we have to be shaken up to hear the voice of God and only through such shaking can He get our attention. We liken ourselves to disobedient children that must be grabbed and shaken before we will pay attention to God. Though the world around us be shaken, this is not the choice way for God to get our attention. To be sure the shaking ought to get out attention and move us to seek God and to hear His voice. After the earthquake came a fire. Now fire is something that consumes, takes away, leaving only a trace of what was before. The pandemic has forced us to identify our basic needs. At least initially, we only went out when and where was necessary. We were selective with whom we were around. Even families limited unnecessary contact. An we discovered the value of our relationships in those limitations. The church discovered that it could still do the work of God without many of its trappings and social activities. I personally believe that society and the church in general will rediscover the important values that had become lost in the magnitude of activity and choices. How will we rebuild after the devastating wind, the earth moving of the earthquake and the loss of what the fire burned up? I believe that God used these in Elijah’s life to say to him, “All that was before is passed. Elijah, I have a new assignment in a new way for you.” Perhaps that is what God is saying to us as His people. The final thing we read is that after all the noise and clamor of the wind, earthquake, and fire is that there came a whisper. Elijah recognized the voice of that whisper and went to the mouth of the cave to hear what God was speaking. Here are the words: “What are you doing here?” I believe that God is speaking those words to us today. To you as an individual, God is saying, “What are you doing here? Are you standing in total confusion, grieving the loss of the past, floundering in the sea of regret or hoping for a return to the old ways? Do you not know what to do or which way to go?” To the church I believe God is saying, “What are you doing here? Do you not see the opportunities? Are you so trapped in the cave of despair that you can’t hear the voice of God speaking fresh vision, new revelation and new direction?”
Elijah entered the cave, feeling like a colossal failure, but as he heard the whisper of God, he began his new assignment. One of those assignments was to find someone to succeed him so that the work of God could continue and he found Elisha who doubled the work of God with 14 miracles compared to Elijah’s 7.
Beloved I believe this is a timely word to the church. Let us cease to wallow in our cave of despair, depression, anger, conflict, and confusion. Let us shut out the clamoring voices around us. Let us not be so focused on the winds of adversities, the shaking of the earthquakes, or the loss from the fire that we fail to hear that whisper of God giving us new and living ways. Let us listen in the midst of the chaos for that small still voice that still guides and gives direction and wisdom. Let us find hope in the fact that we have not been abandoned nor forsaken by God. I truly believe that if we will listen, we will discover a glorious future.
Dr. John Thompson