Variations in the voice of God through familiar scriptures

In a waiting room at the War Office the many applicants for a job vacancy in Communications sat restlessly wondering if the interviews would ever start. How surprised and disappointed they all were when at last an official appeared and announced: ‘The appointment has now been made. Only one man heard the summons to the interview room issued in Morse code amidst background music on the sound system, while you all read magazines or chatted. He followed the instructions to come unobtrusively to my office over there. You may have assumed he’d just given up and gone home. You see, his work with us will require that level of attentive listening.’

This incident helps us to make sense of Isaiah’s strange commission (Isaiah 6:1-13):

‘Go and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of the people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed”’  (verses Isaiah 6:9-10). 

On that auspicious occasion Isaiah could see and hear realities in the spiritual realms – and appropriate them experientially. However, his audiences would merely hear his sermons, try to imagine the spiritual dimension, yet fail to experience repentance (‘Woe is me’, verse Isaiah 6:5) and redemption (‘your guilt is taken away’, verse Isaiah 6:7) – that is, ‘turn and be healed’ (verse Isaiah 6:1). Only a remnant would enter into these wondrous realities (verse Isaiah 6:13).

What’s the message among the music?

Ezekiel had been a dramatic preacher in the homeland (chapters Isaiah 1:0;-32:0) before he was ordained afresh to minister to God’s people in exile (chapters Isaiah 33:0;-48:0). His new messages were much discussed in homes and in public (Isaiah 33:30) as if he was a pop star: ‘You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t do it’ (Isaiah 33:32).

Each prophet has various voices – for example:

[] the voice of Warning about Deserved Retribution – the nation’s wilfulness would lead   to defeat in war and their removal from their land into exile;

[] the voice of Wooing towards Desired Repentance – occasionally heard and acted on by king and priest and people, by generally ignored;

[] the voice of Wonder at Destined Restoration (eg Amos 9:11–15).

Some examples as samples

[] In 1972 I’d been invited for my first ministry trip overseas – behind ‘the Iron Curtain’. God confirmed it unexpectedly as I read Jeremiah 1:5, emphasising ‘to the nations’.

[] Years later, preparing a message for a conference on the Ministry of the Prophet, I felt depressed and emotionally confused, and God emphasised the phrase ‘appointed you a prophet,’ reminding me that most of the biblical prophets suffered emotional upheavals.

[] Once, finding myself lost in a bewildering ministry maze going nowhere, I heard him speak the familiar words of Jeremiah 29:11, emphasising the first words, I know the plans I have for you’I had no idea; but within weeks my wife and I unexpectedly relocated where we have been rooted for the past sixteen years!

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