The Unexpected Voice of God

Posted on December 11, 2012 by

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Promised LandThe season of Advent has begun.  For centuries, the church has selected readings for worship that are intended to lead us to Bethlehem, to the stable, to Jesus – the Word made flesh.  Last Sunday’s New Testament reading comes from Luke 3: 1-6:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”

One might expect a reading on shepherds, or a bright star or perhaps even Mary or Joseph, but every Advent, the church places us in the desert with Jesus’ cousin.  As we follow Luke’s gaze across the landscape of the first century, some important themes and questions emerge:

Luke outlines the height of political and religious power and authority; the names and places are impressive to the ancient world.  Yet, when the “word of God came”, the word came from John who was in the desert.

  • Why does God give his inspiration to a “nobody from nowhere”?
  • What does this godly choice tell us about the way God might speak in today’s world?
  • What does Luke’s juxtaposition say to us personally?

I’ve reflected on these questions with some wiser and more experienced friends over the years and they’ve shared with me two simply conclusions.  First, God’s Word often comes from unexpected places and unexpected people – so keep on the look-out.  Second, God’s Word comes to those who are aware of their need and are able to listen… and the desert helps to create that.  The Grinch complains (perhaps accurately) that Christmas has too much “noise, noise, noise!”  Luke’s story is clear – God speaks clearly to us when we’re in the wilderness.

These two observations about how God speaks challenge me this week:  In a season defined by tradition, a hectic schedule, and high volume, can I pull away to experience the quiet I need to hear Him? Can I hear God in an unexpected place, from an unexpected voice?

As we move forward in spiritual leadership, there can be seasons when pulling away and hearing God’s voice is a real challenge.  I’ve realized that oftentimes, I actually don’t want to hear God’s voice.  John points out that for us to prepare for Jesus’ coming, for us to be open to Jesus in our lives – we need to repent.  The direction of our life must change in order for us to follow him.  In order for us to run behind our Savior, we have to lay down our own plans and go in a new direction.

Sadly, I will often blame others for my own failure to hear God’s voice.  However, the more potent truth is that I avoid the wilderness and the unexpected places where God speaks to me so that I don’t have to change my comfortable life.  I prefer my self-made palaces and my self-centered worship (like Pilate and Caiaphas) rather than the rugged, life-changing presence of Jesus.

This Advent, where are you? and what is He calling you to be?  May we all hear His voice this season.

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