HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD:
Suspicion and apprehension: these are the words that rightly described my attitude when people would claim of ‘hearing the voice of God.’
Very often I would hear people (especially religious preachers) make claims of having been spoken to by God. My apprehensive reaction stemmed from my childhood understanding that the Biblical accounts of verbal encounters with the Almighty only involved people like Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Abraham, et cetera.
Moses was to lead the Hebrews/Israelites out of captivity. God needed to use him especially for that purpose and had to manifest himself to him in an extraordinary manner. Elijah was a radical priest who demonstrated the omnipotent power of God in very unique and distinguishing circumstances. Abraham was an icon of faith. For him to have waited over a hundred years before bearing a child so much outweighs the promise of ‘a piece of land. Their faith and deeds surely afforded them the singular privilege of communicating with the Almighty on a one-to-one basis.
When one compares these patriarchs of old with today’s Christians, the personality gap seems very disproportionate to imagine that God would choose to interact with any of us in the same manner. However, God spoke to me not long ago and though there was this childhood feeling of inadequacy in me; the unfolding events in my life opened my heart to understand differently and to know that the human measurement of personality which looks at physical appearances or status, has nothing to do with God’s assessment of people.
I have never considered myself fit to be God’s oracle, at least, by human standards, but then I elected to enlist as a full-time public practitioner of Christian Science healing which involved having to abandon my paid employment as a military officer and as an international journalist. And although I must confess that I have a track record of job turnover, I have never enjoyed the job security and satisfaction that I do with being a Christian Science Practitioner. There were young ones to tend through primary education and an elderly mother whose only son is me. There were house rent and utility bills to pay. And I was little known in the foreign land where God’s voice had led me to relocate. Above all, I had cultivated a culture of not accepting any fees for my services. Therefore, for God to speak to me a promise of unceasing sustenance is, to say the least, like a voice that needed scrutinizing. When I opened my Bible the following morning to behold involuntarily the same promise clearly delineated in Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so that thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shall be fed;” there was no telling that this truly was the voice of God. What I immediately heard was, in the words of the Psalmist, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this;”…. Psalm 62:11.
Since then, it has dawned on me that God can speak to anybody, not on account of our human assessment of standards, but by reason of the needs of our time and environment and our personal relationship with God.
When God speaks to people, it is always for a divine purpose that will serve the overall interest of a greater majority. Jonah’s mission to be an evangelist - to the people of Nineveh started with a voice from God. An escape bid that resulted in his being thrown into the sea brought him face to face with God again. The flavor of this second encounter is the fact that his concealment within the safe repository of a fish’s belly could not hide the evangelist from the presence of God. His encounter with the mariners also serves to establish the fact that God’s command cannot be thwarted for too long.
God also provides the wherewithal to facilitate the mission. The children of Israel were to travel through a desert land to the land of promise. They had no ship to sail through the sea, but God charted a course across the great sea. He gave them manna when they seemed to have run out of ration. He stayed the pestilence when there was an epidemic outbreak. The Israelites developed an attitude of trustiness borne out of the multiple demonstration of God’s ability to supply their needs - even in dire circumstances.
A senior friend of mine demonstrated a similar sense of trusting God in turbulent times. We were on an eight-hour flight to South Africa in December 2004. About five minutes before landing, the pilot’s voice announced that the landing would be delayed because of approaching stormy weather in Johannesburg. Less than a minute thereafter, the voice came again, this time audibly shaky. It warned that he was going to drop the aircraft some meters below to avoid a head-on collision with the fierce storm. If the pilot and the crew were expressing such panic, might it be expected that the passengers would also then panic? As I looked down the aisle, I could see the hostesses curled into their seats like frightened puppies and the atmosphere had changed from one of anxiety to that of serenity. One could see the different religious blends depicted by the postures of supplication exhibited by the passengers. Prompted by the inhibited and consoling voice of the pilot, some of us could look out of the window to behold some trees and a building aflame with the lightning. However, amidst the raging flame were the fascinating evening lights which gave Johannesburg the look of Manhattan at night. Once we had landed and were queued in the arrival hall for immigration formalities, the hitherto charged atmospheric weather had assumed a serene and tranquil feeling. A passenger asked my friend why he had remained calm during the tempestuous weather. His spontaneous and emphatic response was, “I was trusty.” That statement jolted me into further inquiry. My friend said that just before the cockpit alert came on stream, he had heard the voice of God saying to him, “Be still!” And he had followed that command.
Although there were appearances that could make one relapse into doubting, I was confident that the voice of God had spoken to us, as clearly as a human voice, because there was not one sick among my close acquaintances. But my trustiness stems from a statement by the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, that “Divine Love has met and will always meet every human need.”
I could have naturally questioned why God would choose to communicate with me or my friend, but when I had opened my Bible and the first passage that greeted me, carried a repetition of the same promise God had spoken into my ear when I first entered the public practice of Christian Science healing, I was left with no option than to accept the obvious fact; “God has spoken once, twice have I heard it…….” Not only do I know, but now I understand that anybody can hear the voice of God. Whom God chooses for his communication is entirely God’s business. But we need to be on our guard in obedience to Jesus’ command to his disciples; “What I say unto others, I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:37