By Daniel Adams
When we read through the Bible today it seems as though way back then God was always speaking with somebody. God walked and talked with Adam; God spoke to Cain; God liked Enoch so much he took him; God gave Noah instructions; God gave a promise to Abram, and so on, and so on. And that’s just the first twelve chapters.
It seems like God speaks to everybody except me. It becomes easy to feel left out of the conversation. For me, it’s reminiscent of every party I went to while I was in high school; and, there weren't many. There was a group of jocks in one corner, talking about practice; there were musicians in another, prattling on about the halftime show; there were shop guys, cheerleaders and nerds. There were conversations going on all around me; and, I wasn’t a part of any of them. There I stood in the middle of it all, trying to edge into the conversation.
“Hey guys, the homecoming game sure was exciting, huh?”
It's easy to feel the same way when we read the Word.
"Hey God, that Exodus sure was exciting, huh?”
If you, like me, sometimes feel left out, there are some things to remember concerning revelation, enlightenment, and God speaking to the individual, that help me feel better:
1.) Keep in mind the vast expanse of time that actually passed biblically between messages from God. For example, Ten years passed between the time God spoke to Moses about giving him an heir and when God spoke to Hagar about returning to Sarai (Genesis 16). Thirteen more years passed before God spoke to Abram again (chapter 17). We read the Bible as though those things happened rapid-fire; but, they did not. Abraham went twenty-three years between messages from God.
2.) Consider the extremely small percentage of the total population of the earth that ever heard God speak, ever. Even if there are hundreds of examples in the Word, there are billions of people who have lived and died since the dawn of time.
3.) Exclude all messages prior to the flood. God changed the rules at that juncture.
4.) God now has the Bible through which to speak to us, a luxury that was not afforded prior to Moses, and was not readily available to the bulk of humankind until the early 20th century.
Does God still speak to people individually?
The answer is a resounding "Yes." And this is not a new question, it's one we humans have been asking over and over again throughout the ages. Isn't there a story somewhere about a prophet hiding out under the crag of a stone waiting for God to speak?
Part of the problem is that we try to place God in a box. In other words, we want to hear God how we want to hear God. We want God to peer down through a gap in the clouds and shout with a big booming voice. But if there's anything to be gleaned from the scripture it is that God is unpredictable. We can never know how God will chose to speak from one moment to the next.
God speaks through nature, humanity, the Word and even through media. One has only to seek the divine to find the divine. How can we be sure it's God we're hearing? It is a matter of faith. There is no acid test. There's no litmus paper for the voice of God. And we may never know from which direction the word will come, or in what vehicle it may arrive. God speaks through friends and foes, on mountaintops and in valleys, especially in valleys.
We must listen for God's voice and learn what it sounds like. Often, for me, it comes down to picking up on the internal voice, the prompting of a thought that rarely sounds like something I would naturally think.
A couple of years ago I lived in a small apartment above a working garage. It was inexpensive; but, the upside ended there. It was noisy, homely, smelled of motor oil and was a half hour drive from my children. After my divorce, however, it was the best I could afford. I had been praying for an improvement, but saw no options on my budget.
In late March I pruned apple trees for a local orchard, as I had done for several years running. As we worked in the field that contained the bunkhouse, where the migrant workers stayed for a couple months out of the year, the owner grilled me with questions about my living situation, what it cost, how I liked it, whether or not I had a lease, etc. I didn't understand why he was asking; but, he's a great guy, and seemed genuinely concerned, so I answered honestly.
"How would you like to pay me a hundred dollars less and stay right there in that bunkhouse?" He said.
Within two weeks I was living in the bunkhouse, a rustic cabin with a million dollar view. It was quiet, spacious, smelled like apple blossoms and from my living room I could see much of the Presidential Mountain Range, and it was two minutes away from my kids. As I prepared for bed in my new home on the first night I had one of those thoughts... you know, the kind that don't sound like something I would think.
It said, I want you to bless the orchard.
Elated, and grinning ear to ear, as I had been since I started unpacking, I agreed. I knew the voice, and understood what it meant. Each day as I drove through the field of trees I pronounced a blessing for a good heavy crop of fine looking fruit, right out the window of my car. No altar, no sacrifice, no religious mantra; I didn't stop and kneel. I didn't even turn down the radio.
As the season progressed I learned that the orchard wasn't doing so well financially. They had lost their contract with a food chain in Florida which purchased most of their apples; and things were looking poorly for the picking season. They thought they may not even bring the migrant workers to the field. And then the frost hit.
It was late, the blossoms were already on the trees and all of New England experienced what they call a "Killer Frost." All the orchards were hit, from up-state New York to Maine. Blossoms fell to the ground everywhere, un-pollinated. Many orchards lost their entire crop. The owner of the orchard I lived in was particularly worried.
I just kept blessing the trees.
By harvest, the field I lived in had a beautiful crop, all the apples were sold, and I shared the bunkhouse with thirteen Jamaican apple pickers, instead of the three they had planned on having. A field boss who had been in New England apple business for thirty years told me he had never seen such a wonderful crop of apples in one orchard. This, he thought, was peculiar in a year that had seen so many orchards with poor or no crops.
Did God speak to me that day in the spring when I was moving in? Yes. It would be impossible for me to deny. Have I ever heard the audible voice of God? No. But I find that God speaks to me plenty; although, it typically means I am being humbled in some way.
What is really at question, as with anyone seeking enlightenment through any religion, is, how committed to being enlightened are you? How open are you to receiving enlightenment through various sources? Do you keep questions to which you seek answers in the conscious part of your brain? And most importantly, do you make time to listen?
We are a people who, in an effort to conserve time, have become slaves to time. Everything is moving faster and faster. We have quickened our pace, but not in a healthy way. I’ll give you an example.
Before vacuums existed people used to take carpets outside and beat the dust and dirt out of them. Carpets were scantly placed in key areas of the house, in front of the entry, beside the bed, under the kitchen table, etc. Vacuums made cleaning them easier. In the new age of ease, wall to wall carpeting became possible. First we carpeted our living rooms, then our bedrooms, then our hallways. Then we put a small carpet beside the shower, in front of the toilet, in front of each sink, and kept the one in front of the entry. Because we have vacuums, the pets can live indoors. We can vacuum their hair. So, beating the rugs, which was a ten minute chore once a week, became a two hour project three times a week. How is that easier?
We created a small block of time and squeezed a large block into the gap. In doing so we have closed off portions of our mind simply because we do not have time to use them. Our ability t hear God is greatly dependent on our willingness to listen. God always likes, and often speaks to those who seek God daily. God will speak to you, and when you realize that has happened, you will have to decide whether or not to believe.