God speaks. God’s voice is just loud enough to catch your attention.
How loud is loud enough? To John, on the island of Patmos, it sounded like a trumpet (verse 10). To Elijah (1 Kings 19), God waited after the sound of wind had passed, after the noise of earthquake, after the crackling of fire, and in the whisper of silence, to make God’s voice heard by the prophet.
I believe that whenever, like John, we are “in the Spirit,” we shall hear.
John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. Let us note that by then, the observance of the Lord’s Day was already in practice. It was not some new Roman or Roman Catholic invention. It was part of the early church’s tradition.
It was not the “Lord’s Day” in that sense. It was a Saturday, a day I cannot forget as long as memory serves me. It turned out certainly to be the Lord’s Day for me.
On that Saturday, I was among Christians gathered to fast and pray at a place called Cavalla Hill in Montserrat. We sang that hymn by Charles Wesley “And Can It Be”. As we sang the words “[he] emptied himself of all but love” I heard God. Yes, I did, asking me, “Are you ready for that?” This was either a Demanding or Dumb Question that God was posing- Demanding because I knew the answer was a definite NO. No, I was not ready for that! God knew it, so why ask such a Dumb question? And yet, because I was sure that it was God asking, I dared not say no.
That question, Dumb, Demanding, Dangerous left me no Doubt that I had to take God’s voice more seriously. It was loud enough for me to hear. It was the beginning of a period of serious introspection and reflection that led to my becoming a Methodist Minister.
As we sang and prayed, there was an earthquake. The Lord did not speak to me in the earthquake, which, however, turned out to be very significant. Years later, the earthquake, which had cracked our bedroom wall at Olveston, leaving real visible evidence of its passage, turned out to be the voice of God. I’ll explain.
After journeying through seminary, studying more Psychology that I’d come to face teaching young people and dealing with their parents, studying Psychology of Religion, that can simultaneously sharpen one’s brains and dull one’s senses, I sought for scientific explanations that could explain the voice I heard at Cavalla Hill years before. Was I hallucinating? After all, I had been fasting for some time, so that was a possibility (By the way, it must have bored the witnesses at my ordination as I put them through listening to this shaky bit of my spiritual journey. Yes, there was a time when I thought, rather, tried to think, that I had not heard God’s voice.
And in my trying, God posed a series of Dumb, Demanding, Dangerous Questions! “Do you remember the earthquake?” Of course I did! The chapel has been renovated but I still remember what it looked like on that Saturday. There was I watching two brass flower vases rock from side to side during the earthquake. Of course I remembered. One of the pastors leading, my dear friend, clutched the arms of her chair as if that piece of furniture could have protected her from any earthquake damage. I can still see the look in her eyes as my glance flitted from the vases to her face. Of course I remember. The minister in charge required us to go outside in case there were after-shocks. So we went outside to continue praying. Of course I remembered. Yes! Yes! Yes! Why such a Dumb question, God!
Do you remember the damage to your house? Why would I not? Up until then, it was the only thing I could remember us getting an insurance payment for. So why the dumb question God?
Then God spoke loud enough for me to hear and answer without speaking, the certainly that I shall never again ask that question about whether God had spoken to me.
If you can remember all these things related to the earthquake, these real things, then why would you doubt my speaking to you just before the earthquake?
And in that earthquake from the past, I heard God speak again.
God speaks, and God’s voice is always just loud enough for us to hear.
Let us listen.
Master speak! Thy servant heareth, waiting for thy gracious word,
Longing for the voice that cheereth; Master, let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord for thee; what has thou to say to me?
Speak to me by name, O Master, let me know it is to me;
Speak, that I may follow faster, with a step more firm and free,
Where the Shepherd leads the flock in the shadow of the rock.
Master, speak and make me ready when thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady still to follow every word.
I am listening Lord, for thee; Master, speak! O speak to Mme!
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1836-1879.