Listening to the voice of God 1 Kings 19: 11 & 12 Egypt The second book of the bible, Exodus, is where the central story of redemption begins- liberation from Egypt. Egypt is a place of slavery and oppression. Salvation is what happens when we cry out in Egypt. Because we all have our Egypt’s, don’t we? Addiction, suicidal thoughts, anger, rage- we’ve all got darkness and slavery in our hearts somewhere. Prejudices, hate, envy, lust, pride, racism, ego, dishonesty- we each could make our own list, and they would be long. The wrong and injustice we see around us everyday right down to the smallest details involving how we think and feel and act. The bible uses the word sin for this condition of slavery. The technical definition of sin in the scriptures is “to miss the mark.” Well we have all missed the mark in some way. Even deeply anti-religious people affirm that something is seriously wrong with our world and that wrong is nowhere more evident than in the human heart. At the center of the Christian experience is crying out in our slavery and being heard by God. Trust that through Jesus, God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. Rescue, redemption, grace. God doesn’t just want to save us; God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine. To live out what God represents. This means joining the God of the oppressed in doing something about our broken world. And that always involves being sensitive to his voice and hearing the cry of the oppressed. Genesis 4:10 says “what have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” This is God speaking to Cain after he has murdered his brother. Did you catch the word in the middle of the verse? God says to Cain, Listen! Because everything begins with a cry. It begins with someone crying and someone else hearing. And it’s hard to hear the cry when you are surrounded by so much noise. It’s hard to hear the cry when you are so distracted. It’s hard to hear the cry you are inaccessible to it. In proverbs it is written that the rich man’s wealth is his fortified city. People fortify cities with walls are meant to keep people out. But the problem with walls is that they also keep people in. Sometimes we build walls of our own noise and distraction that we keep ourselves locked in the seclusion of our own lives.
Walls isolate. So can gates, and freeways, and school systems, and grocery stores, and shopping malls, and homes, and cell phones, and televisions, and emails, and busyness, and text messages. When God gets Moses’ attention and lays out for him what liberation is going to look like for his people, he tells Moses to “go.” “Listen,” then “go.” The going will take a multitude of forms. It will be movement, action, life, and it will involve risk. It will mean conversation with people who are nothing like us, and it will probably involve questions and criticisms and perhaps even rejection from people who haven’t heard what we’ve heard. It’s about all of us taking the next step out of Egypt, doing the next right thing, being open to whatever God is calling us to, right here, right now. It isn’t just about trying to save the world. It’s about saving ourselves. Saving ourselves from comfort, saving ourselves from preservation, saving ourselves from indifference, saving ourselves from irrelevance. Because when we allow God to save us from ourselves, we can begin the movement of God. Jesus wants to save us from standing in the distance. Jesus wants to save us from fear. Jesus wants to save us from being blinded and deaf to the voices around us. And when we listen and go, it should never be about guilt. It comes from being captivated by a cause- one so massive and compelling that you’d sell everything to be a part of it. Jesus wants to save us from making the good news about another world and not his one. Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them. Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker. Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn’t believe the world can be made better, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen. The bible begins with Abel's blood crying out from the ground. The bible ends with God wiping away every tear. Can we stop and listen. God is with us when we go, when we respond, when we hear, when we listen. The problem is the noise.
Small still voice There’s this guy who records nature sounds for film and television, and he said in 1968 in order to record one hour of undisturbed natural sound, like no airplanes and cars, it would take him 15 hours of recording time. But he said that today, in order to get that same one hour of undisturbed recorded sound it takes over 2,000 hours of recording time. So in 1 kings we see this great Jewish prophet Elijah. Who’s at the end of his rope, tired and frustrated? And he comes to God, and God tells him to go up to a mountain because he is going to show up. So Elijah goes on the mountain. And this wind comes upon mountain and shatters the rocks, but God isn’t in the wind. Then this earthquake shakes the ground, but God isn’t in the earthquake. After that this massive fire covers the mountain but God isn’t in the fire. And then something interesting happens, the bible says that the still small voice of God or the whisper of God. There’s all sorts of discussion about what exactly this voice is. Because many scholars believe that the actual Hebrew word doesn’t even mean a sound that you could hear with your ears, like an audible noise. Some translators would say that God was in the sound of sheer silence. God wasn’t in the wind, God wasn’t in the earthquake, God wasn’t in the fire, God was in the sound of silence. Maybe the healing and guidance the world so desperately needs is not going to come from one more meeting or therapy session or self-help book or sermon for that matter. But by simply by God’s people listening to the voice of God. Do you believe that God’s voice is more interesting than the noise around you? Is it possible that you have been searching for God in the winds, the earthquakes and fires, and he is waiting to speak to you in the silence? When we remove ourselves from the noise we allow the opportunity to hear God’s voice, and also hear the cry.