by Jeff Lindsay
In the rush of this modern world I am convinced that we are too easily distracted from the most important things. There are so many choices. There are so many distractions all demanding our time and our attention. I feel kind of silly even pointing out that which is so obvious.
Sadly then it seems that we only hear, what we want to hear. Which means we could completely tune out the voice of God. Well that is if He is even speaking at all, right?
Does God speak to us? Is it possible we are missing messages from Him? Does God desire an intimate relationship with His creation to the point of “speaking” to us? How would we know if God is speaking? Could it be that we just hear that voice in our own head, you know that voice we listen to from time to time, that which we may call our conscience or personal discernment.
Does our scripture today illuminate this idea for us at all when it says in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” or in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me”?
This passage is a dialog between Jesus and some Jews in the temple; they are asking Jesus if he is the Messiah. Their intent is obviously to catch him speaking blasphemy so they can stone him. Jesus answers in a round about way but for us–the reader today–his intent is clear. Jesus is saying he is the messiah, or in other words the shepherd of his people, his creation.
This passage suggests there is some speaking and some hearing going on, doesn’t it?
Have you heard his voice? Are you frustrated with the ones who say they have?
“Two friends were walking along a crowded city sidewalk. Suddenly, one remarked: “Listen to the lovely sound of that cricket.”
The other one could not hear the sound of the cricket at all.
The friend asked: “How can you hear the sound of a cricket amid the roar of the traffic and the sounds of the city?”
The first one, who was a zoologist, had been trained to hear the sounds of nature.
He didn’t explain to the other friend how he could hear the sound of the cricket, instead, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a half-dollar coin, dropped it onto the sidewalk, and watched as a dozen people began to look for the coin as they heard it clanking amid the sounds of the traffic and the sounds of the city.
The first friend turned to the other friend and said, “We hear what we listen for.”
Is that true? We hear what we listen for?
This challenges me to evaluate whether I am tuned in to the voice of God. How about you? What are you listening for? Do you hear what you want to hear? Do you-do we hear Gods voice in the midst of all the voices in the world?
I was working a hockey game with a former staff member, Bobo Burns, at the old Met center. Edina was playing Minnetonka and the stands were packed. In between periods we often had to cross the ice to the referees dressing room where the extra pucks were kept in the refrigerator. As I crossed the ice, people were cheering and the pep band was playing but I heard Bobo call out and tell me to bring back 6 pucks. When I came back to start the second period with pucks in tow Bobo had a surprised look on his face and asked how did you hear me with all the noise in the building? I said I guess I just know your voice.
Bobo and I had spent a lot of time together, we were friends, and plus I wanted to know what he needed to tell me.
Do we have this kind of trusting relationship with God? At first this sounds, well, kind of critical… but this question should create a pause in all of our lives, so that we might evaluate our relationship with God and how we hear his voice, if at all, because it might really matter sometime.
How much time do you set-aside for the one you call God? How much time do we spend with the one we might call Lord?
Knowingly or unknowingly we all make choices of what voices we are listening too. The Gospel lesson today might be a bit convicting but it is also offers a wonderful promise. “My sheep hear my voice!”
It does not say we could hear his voice or we should hear his voice or we might hear his voice. The Scripture says: My Sheep Hear My Voice!
To hear his voice is to say we want to discern, we want to understand, we want to know God’s desire for our life.
We want His guidance in our decisions, in our problems, in our planning, so we can make wise choices. Knowing the voice of God might result in knowing the will of God. Which would assume God wants us to know this will.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4 verse 4 it says “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The Greek word for “comes” speaks of a continuing function suggesting God continues to speak. It means something that happened in the past, is happening in the present, and will continue to take place in the future. Like the Bible says, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Right? So it is pretty important that we know the voice of God, so that we can live by every word that proceeds from His mouth.
There are two Greek terms translated “word” in the Scriptures. The two Greek words are “logos” and “rhema.”
Logos is described as the general word of God. Through reading and hearing the Scriptures you can receive all the knowledge you need concerning God and his promises but just by reading you do not necessarily get faith.
I guess that’s why Paul says in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” In this passage the Greek term for Word is not logos, but rhema. Faith specifically comes by hearing the Rhema of God.
Logos has been defined as “the written or said word of God,” and Rhema as “the saying, the action word of God.” God speaking.
That is God giving a specific word to a specific person for a specific situation. The writer of Hebrews shares this truth in 11:6 when he says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word, the Rehma of God.
For instance, Peter didn’t walk on the water because of logos, because of a general knowledge of God. Peter walked on water because the Lord said come.
Peter asked, “Lord if you are the Lord, command me to come.” And Jesus replied, “Come.” The word Christ gave to Peter was Rhema. The word Christ gave to Peter, stirred up by the Holy Spirit, brought forth the faith then to act.
Clearly through the Scriptures you can and will grow in your knowledge of God. The Scriptures are powerful. They are food for our souls.
You may listen to the word of God and you may study the Scriptures, but only when the Holy Spirit comes and stirs the Scriptures in your heart will logos become Rhema.
So how will you hear his voice?
I was in Alaska one summer before my senior year in high school at a camp outside Juneau Alaska. We had a day off from our work so we decided to hunt for the lake on the top of the mountain near the camp with strict instructions that we must be back before dark. We were so excited to visit this lake that we were not paying attention to the fact the sun was going down. We turned back but soon realized we would not get down before it got dark. We were walking in the pitch-black darkness when I heard clearly the word stop! I told my two friends we needed to stop and wait out the night since we were already in deep trouble. At first light just 20 feet in front of us was a 200-foot drop. We would have never seen it coming.
Sometimes it’s as dramatic as a “stop” but far more often, in my experience, it’s the truth of scripture, common sense wisdom, the incite of a friend, clarity from a time of prayer, or one of many other ways God chooses to communicate with His people. Far too many of us who call ourselves people of Jesus do not hear Him speak because we don’t listen.
If we are honest we often don’t take time to listen to each other even let alone God.
To truly hear God, or those God has placed in our lives, we must take time to listen
— to truly hear!
The Gospel reading today speaks to that: “You do not believe because you are not one of my sheep.” “My sheep hear my voice.” I give them eternal life and they will never perish.” Clearly to hear his voice we must be one of his sheep. Then we must slow down, calm ourselves and listen to our shepherd!
There is a story about a man who was having difficulty communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of hearing. So he decided to conduct a test. Without her knowing about it one evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room.
Her back was to him and she could not see him. Very quietly he whispered, “Can you hear me?” There was no response.
Moving a little closer, he asked again, “Can you hear me now?” Still no reply; quietly he edged closer and whispered the same words, but still no answer.
Finally, he moved right in behind her chair and said, “Can you hear me now?” To his surprise and chagrin, she responded with irritation in her voice, “Yes! For the fourth time, yes!”
Is the hearing problem with God or with us!? Do we hear what we listen for?
A few months ago I was in a car accident. It was a normal day but oh that would change dramatically. We had freezing rain followed by a few inches of snow. I was driving behind a plow truck, which was removing the snow, leaving the road just icy. As he slowed down to turn a corner, I came up on the truck and tried to stop but got caught in the snow at the center of the lane, which dragged me into on-coming traffic. I hit a mini van almost head on. My car ended up on the sidewalk facing almost the opposite direction. I wanted to get out of my car to see what had happened to the other driver but I heard “don’t move!” Both the ER doctor and the neurosurgeon later told me, had I tried to get out of the car things would have turned out catastrophic.
God truly is speaking — are we listening, are we following His directions? It might not be life or death. It might be a word of guidance to how we relate to others. It might be the leading to serve another of God’s sheep or the opportunity to be the hands and feet of the Good Shepherd who longs to care for his sheep even through us.
Amen and Amen!