I can hear God. His voice is easily picked up by the alert ear—by any who are ready to listen. And I’m listening.
What is he is saying? He regularly starts with a simple message that is both threatening and comforting: “I am Yahweh.” And from there he goes on to share what that means to us. And by “us” I mean everyone, and not just those of us who are listening. Those who listen can be called prophets for having heard God if we then share what he said. So, in that sense, I’m a prophet.
I know that this approach—claiming to hear God—is provocative, even to some Christ-followers. Yet it needs to be said. But I refuse to be presumptuous about what constitutes his voice: the place where I hear God speak—the only place—is in the Bible. No visions. No “words from the Lord”. Just the Bible. And what God says in the Bible is often ominous and always clear: Yahweh is coming again.
I’m conscious, though, that even many Christians today find the Bible an awkward book. That, in turn, makes an odd lot out of all who hear God speaking in it. The Bible is seen by most people to be out of touch with modern times. It can’t be accommodated to the new realities of life—though many bright folks work hard to reshape features—as it rejects new views of sex and marriage; resists abortions; dismisses the practice of serial marriage; undercuts themes of reverse-misogyny; challenges materialism and consumerism; confronts greed and power politics; and dismisses dark and edgy entertainments. By any measure of newly enlightened values the Bible is upside-down to where the future lies.
Yet in the Bible Yahweh seems untroubled by it all. Psalm 2 tells us that when upset people rage against him and his values he laughs. And with that he regularly makes a striking promise: “You shall come to know that I am Yahweh.” In using his personal name—representing his place as loving creator and strong ruler of all that is—we find that he is unfazed by his bad press. A clearer picture of him is coming.
The reason I’ve taken up this topic? Because of Yahweh’s warning to Jeremiah in Lamentations 2:14—“Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.”
The problem was, and is, that false prophets—not speaking here of prophets as predictors of future events but as divine spokesmen—have created false impressions of what he is like. False prophets today test the wind of culture and then set their sail accordingly: “Yes, God is exactly like a progressive 21st century self-made, self-indulgent man or woman!” They may grab proof texts from the Bible, but reading the Bible to actually hear God’s heart is another matter.
Listen again to Jeremiah: “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds” (Jer. 23:21-22).
My point here is not to elevate my own voice as uniquely reliable but to point all of us back to God’s freely accessible council: the Bible. There he speaks very clearly. If the message seems upside-down when we read it, it may be because we’ve adopted the values of a culture that calls “evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” and who “are wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
Thankfully Yahweh is a lover—as the Father, Son, Spirit God who exists eternally in a communion of glorious mutual devotion—whose love overflows to the creation. Yet if we despise that love and prefer, instead, the whoredom of self-love we pervert his creation purpose. We become monstrous—by desiring to be “like god”—and in the process become unfit for a heaven inhabited by the true Triune God.
When, then, does God’s voice become audible? We can hear it as a still, small voice. He inhabits the humble places: the manger rather than the chairman’s chair. He comes to us in the brokenness of the cross and not in any theology of glory; in the orphan’s cry and the homeless person’s despair.
And here is what I hear him saying today: “Be humbled, my son, and enjoy becoming more and more like my Son who in his own humility loves you.”
I invite you to answer with me, “Yes, Yahweh, we’re listening. And please come quickly!”