Daily D – Isaiah 30:21
Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. ISAIAH 30:21 (NLT)
I read this week that the most important thing you can ever help someone else learn is how to hear God. This is true.
Billy Ray (not his real name) was new to our school. He had the kind of personality that immediately gained attention. He was bold and declarative. He was also a little odd. He quickly gathered a flock of friends and just as quickly lost most of them.
Billy Ray lived a block or so away from me. I worked hard to be his friend. However, he was a hard friend to keep. One day on the playground he told us God was talking to him. He said God told him to tell us something. I was no expert in hearing God, and am not to this day, but I knew what was being said at that moment sounded more like someone making up stuff on the spot than anything I had ever heard at church.
We were playing at his house one day out in his backyard. He said he had a secret clubhouse. It turned out to be a bush at the back of the yard. It was there the boy who spoke for God showed me the cigarettes and matches he had taken. I ran home. That was probably the last conversation I ever had with Billy Ray. I wonder whatever happened to him? (As it turns out, he lives nearby and is involved with a ministry to those on the edges of society. Thanks, Facebook!)
The best way to hear God is to read the Bible. It helps if you have a plan. It also helps if you understand the kind of literature you are reading. Consider Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, for example. Genesis, the book of beginnings, is a book full of stories, some of which sound like the front pages of current newspapers. Isn’t it interesting how God’s first collection of divine revelation is the stories of individuals and families and not laws, rules, and regulations?
Exodus is another story of how God saves and delivers, guides and provides. Then we get to Leviticus with is law codes.
What is God saying to us with this particular arrangement?
There is more, much more, to say about hearing God through the pages of the Bible. Three books are especially helpful. First, let’s begin with a simple and easy-to-read favorite. Jan Johnson is one of those rare authors capable of saying more by saying less. Pick up her Enjoying the Presence of God and discover chapters of three to five pages. Enjoy the lack of guilt and the maximized joy packed into these few pages.
Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart wrote one of my favorite books on biblical interpretation, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This is a book worth its weight in gold. It helps Bible students understand the different kinds of literature in the Bible and how each is to be read, understood, and applied.
For the adventurous and patient, there is Dallas Willard’s Hearing God. If there is one book I wish everyone would read and take to heart, this may be it. Willard and Jan Johnson were good friends and colleagues in writing. Whereas Johnson can say more in a few words than most can say in volumes, Willard says more with more. I have yet to pick up a book by Willard where I did not have to slow down, re-read passages, and ponder deeply for long moments before progressing onward. In other words, don’t get in a hurry. Indeed, savor his writing.
Go back to today’s verse. Suppose you do not have your Bible handy. Certainly, you do not have Jan or Gordon or Doug or Dallas to call on. You are in a tough spot and you need wisdom and guidance from God. What do you do? You ask him for what you need and listen for what he is saying. He probably will not speak out loud. He will place his thoughts in your mind. He will never speak in a contradictory fashion to what he has already revealed.
Ask him to show you the way you should go. Move forward in faith trusting him to lead you and to make course corrections when you take the wrong steps. He who promises to be with us, to provide for us, to guide us, and to rescue us will never lead you falsely. Quiet your mind. Pray in faith believing. Do what you think God is telling you. Tell him you trust him to guide you.
There is more, much more, to learning to hear from God. Start where you are and grow in this grace. God is more eager to speak than we are to listen. What is he saying to you now? Ask him to give you ears to hear and a willing and obedient heart to follow wherever he leads. He never says no to those kinds of requests.
I will learn to hear God.
Our Father, in a world full of phonies, we want to truly hear you. Give us ears to hear. Give us willing and obedient hearts to do what you say. Empower us to follow you wherever you lead. Empower us to trust you to guide us and to provide for us. Thank you for hearing and answering this prayer. Amen.
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2 Timothy 2:3-6 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (NLT)