I was asleep but my heart was awake. A Voice! My Beloved was knocking. (Song 5:2)
The voice of the Beloved is sweet, fragrant oil pouring forth on the Bride’s thirsty soul. It is like no other voice we will ever hear. It calms our inner storms, declares peace and increase over us and sings intimate songs of love, hope and encouragement to our weariness. Yet I’ve heard it said that sometimes God withholds His voice from us to test us.
Well, that got me thinking…and searching. Is there any time in God’s history with humanity when He withheld His voice from His own people? If there is, I can’t find it. Throughout His centuries-long struggle with Israel, God communicated continually. And even when Amos prophesied over Israel an impending famine of hearing the word of the Lord, it was the ‘hearing’ that was faulty, not the communication withheld (Amos 8:11-12).
When Jesus walked among humanity He too was continually communicating with His own – even in weariness, even in great sorrow, even from the Cross. The only time He refused to speak was on trial before Pontius Pilate, where He stood prophetically as the silent Lamb about to be slaughtered (Is. 53:7, Matt. 27:13).
Adam and Ishshah (Eve) were intimately familiar with the Voice. After their fall they heard the Voice in the garden and hid in shame from His Presence. But the Voice sought them out.
Many Bible versions will tell us they heard ‘the sound of God walking’, but the scene is greatly expanded by looking into the original Hebrew wording. The word usually translated ‘sound’ is ‘qowl’, more often meaning ‘voice’ than ‘sound’. The word translated ‘walking’ can also be translated ‘go’, ‘come’ or ‘move’. The ‘cool of the day’ references the Hebrew ‘ruach”, meaning spirit, wind or breeze. This is not the picture we may have vaguely imagined of God’s approaching footsteps being heard while He took a leisurely evening stroll.
What Adam and Ishshah heard and sensed was God as a living, fluid, Voice – a Voice whose Presence moves, floats and dances on the Breath, or wind of the Spirit, a Voice who expresses Himself through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. We can imagine the movement of this God who is Voice-Presence-Word stirring through the leaves and branches around them as they ‘hid themselves from the Presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden’ (Gen. 3:8-10).
It is not God who hides Himself from humanity, but humanity that hides from the voice of God. So if God is continually speaking with us, why do we sometimes struggle to hear His voice? I am convinced it is not because He is testing us with His silence. God is a communicator. Deep is constantly calling to deep but we are not always adequately tuned into His spiritual soundwaves.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. (Psalm 42:7)
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ closest companions. She had stood among the crowd while He delivered discourses to multitudes. She had sat at table with Him and others of His inner circle in the intimacy of private conversation. She had heard Him command devils, speak tender words of encouragement, ask probing questions, laugh, weep, teach and debate. She was an eye and ear witness to His anguish in the final moments on the Cross. She knew His voice as well as anyone, and better than most.
But when Mary heard Jesus’ voice on the morning of His resurrection, it was completely unfamiliar.
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). (Jn. 20:11-16)
Just moments before, Mary had conversed with angels. How is it then when Jesus spoke His very close friend failed to recognise His voice? While considering this question recently this is what I heard in the Spirit: ‘Your inability to hear Me does not mean I am silent.’
Often we don’t hear His voice clearly because what He is conveying doesn’t fit within the parameters of our present reality. Mary’s perceived reality, that Jesus was dead, did not initially allow her to hear and recognise His voice. While He was asking her why she was weeping, she was asking Him to show her where Jesus dead body was hidden. Her question reveals a paradigm, or mindset, that was way out of tune with the reality right in front of her, preventing her from recognising the voice she loved so well.
Sometimes we are simply asking God the wrong question. Sometimes limitations we have built around Him lock His voice out from our audio field. Sometimes our emotional perspective clouds our personal atmosphere, keeping us earthbound when He is actually calling us higher. Sometimes fear, weariness or distraction render us deaf though His voice is as close as a heartbeat.
And sometimes He simply desires us to come deeper.
But when Jesus spoke Mary’s name she had her ‘aha moment’. Have you had those ‘aha moments’ where suddenly the lights go on, the trumpets sound, the fog dissipates and everything becomes abundantly clear? His voice manifests in the depths, deep calling to deep, in the place where He knows us intimately. And then we realise He has been speaking all along.
One of the most frequent declarations Jesus made while preaching the Kingdom to the multitudes was ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ But in private, to His faithful disciples, He said:
But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matt. 13:16-17)
It is to the Bride of Christ that ‘ears to hear’ have been granted. The Voice of the Beloved seeks us out, calling us to awaken and follow Him away from every distraction the world offers us. Deep is calling out to deep and His tender heart will not be satisfied until we respond wholeheartedly from the depths of our beings, forsaking all to follow, even if it seems to us we follow alone.
It’s in the following that we come to know His voice in all its many facets (Jn. 10:27). The world has taught us to ask logical questions and expect rational answers according to accumulated human knowledge. The Kingdom invites us to see and hear, through Christ, ‘things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man’ (1 Cor. 2:9)
God is speaking to those who are His. The Voice has never hidden Himself from us or withheld His communication from us. He calls us to a new reality – His reality – a Kingdom prepared for those who love Him unconditionally and are willing to follow without looking back.
His Voice is not withheld from us. It is stirring the spiritual atmosphere around and within us, disturbing our comfort zones, calling us out from our hiding places. All shame has been removed, everything that was broken is being restored, and we are free.
We are free to hear.
We are free to follow.
We are free to dance with the Voice in the Light.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. Rev. 3:20
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2017. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.