The Voice of God
People often think that if they could only spend a little personal time with Jesus Christ and watch him do a few healings and miracles, that it would be easy for them to believe. In my experience, I've found that folks who think this way cave in easily under pressure. Why? Well, Jesus Christ isn't here, so there is nothing in that kind of thinking that is of any value in a crisis. Nowhere in the bible does it state that when you are under pressure you are to wish you had been with Jesus. That kind of thinking invites failure. Besides, we have something far better than being with Jesus could ever be. Let's take a look at this in more detail.
When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, do you know what his apostles and closest disciples did?
And they all forsook him, and fled.
That's right, they all ran away. Do you still think being with Jesus is the answer to all your problems? These guys had been with Jesus Christ for months. Some of them had seen Lazarus raised from the dead. Peter had walked on water and had heard the voice of God out of a cloud on the mount of transfiguration. They had seen blind men healed. Yet they all ran away. And where were these same disciples just a few days later?
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews [Judeans], came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Where were they? Cowering in fear behind closed doors. If you still think being with Jesus would be the answer to all your problems, you had better think again.
However, Peter and the other disciples changed. Less than fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, instead of cowering behind closed doors for fear of the Judeans, Peter stood up with the other apostles and confronted them in public.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
Where did his fear go? This was in the temple, by the way, where the very same religious criminals would have been who'd had the Romans murder Jesus Christ. This was the same Peter who had run away from them earlier. What changed Peter? What changed the other apostles? Being with Jesus hadn't done it. In fact, Jesus wasn't even around anymore.
Some folks are also tempted to think that if only Moses was here, or one of the other great men of God, they would find it easy to believe. Really? Okay, let's imagine you're with Moses and you're back in Egypt during the time of the Exodus. Moses has just led you and the Israeli people out of the slavery of Egypt, and you've witnessed all the plagues that happened to Pharaoh and his people. Now you would find it easy to believe God and trust in him, right? Okay, let's see what happened when the Israelites were on the shores of the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his army were coming after them.
And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Not only did these people not trust in God, they actually accused Moses of taking them out into the wilderness to kill them. God, however, being merciful and long suffering, provided a way for them to escape. He literally parted the waters of the Red Sea and the children of Israel walked to the other side on dry ground. When Pharaoh and his army came after them, they were drowned by the returning waters.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
God's people saw all this with their own eyes. If you were there, you would have been beating your chest as well, and finding it easy to believe God, right? Let's continue reading.
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:
And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Just a few days later they're bitching about the food and accusing Moses of dragging them into the wilderness to murder them with starvation. They had already forgotten what God had done for them at the Red Sea. However, God being merciful and long suffering provided them with manna to eat. He fed over two million people in a barren desert with manna, bread from heaven. Surely now they will believe?
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.
Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?
And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.
A few days later they're bitching again, this time about water. They've forgotten everything God did for them in Egypt, they've forgotten all about the Red Sea, and they're already taking for granted the manna they're eating. All they can see is that there is no water, and they accuse Moses of taking them out into the wilderness to murder them with thirst. They were so pissed off, they were on the verge of stoning him. Again, God is merciful and long suffering, and provides them with water. Surely now they will believe God will take care of them? Some time later, God summoned Moses for a little chat and off he went up a mountain.
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Forty days was all it took for these people to forget everything God had done for them and return to the idolatry of Egypt. Whining, complaining, bitching, and accusing is all they seem to know how to do. That's what idolatry does to people. Do you still think being with Moses would be the answer to all your problems?
Once again, God being merciful and long suffering sorted out this mess, and had Moses lead them to the borders of the promised land. There it was, spread before them, a land of milk and honey, and all they had to do was walk in and take it. Their response? Thankfulness to God?
And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
They took one look at the land and went straight back to bitching, even going so far as to accuse God of leading them there so he could murder them with war. You may think seeing miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, that being with Moses or being with Jesus would be the answer to all your problems, but if you do, you are deluded. You are making excuses for your unbelief.
Jesus Christ handled this kind of thinking in his day and time. He was right there, doing miracle after miracle, and people refused to believe. They told him that if only he would raise someone from the dead, they would believe, so he told them a little parable to confront their anaemic thinking.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Remember, this parable is just a story, a fiction, which he knew those listening would understand. If I told a parable about good and evil to Star Trek fans that involved the Borg and the Federation, that wouldn't mean I believed there were star ships warping around the universe and that an invasion by aliens was imminent. Jesus Christ knew that the dead were dead. This parable isn't a true story, it's merely a fictional illustration to make a point to the science fiction fans of his day.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
I used to have a problem with this parable, in that I couldn't understand how actually witnessing someone being raised from the dead wouldn't make people believe. I guess I doubted the truth Jesus Christ taught here. Well, I recently raised someone from the dead. She was lying by the side of the road, in winter, and it was late at night and very dark. I was the first on the scene, and she had no pulse. I had someone call the emergency services, then I prayed for her, carried out a few instructions, and she sat up just as the police arrived. I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever that if I had not been there that night, she would now be buried in a cemetery somewhere. I told this story the following week to a group of christians. I could see they weren't interested in anything I had to say, but I told the story anyway, believing it would get a response. When I was done, they said nothing, looked away and went back to watching something more important on television. My words had no impact. At that very moment, I thought of this parable in Luke and the truth of it hit me like a brick on the head.
Jesus Christ illustrated the truth in this parable. If people will not hear the word, whether it be from Jesus, Moses, one of the prophets or from me, they will not hear the word even though someone was raised from the dead right before their eyes. I now know this by experience. Believing God is simple. It's a choice people make. From now on, if people do not make that choice, I am not going to waste my time with them. If you are a christian and television is more important to you than the word of God, then television is your god, and I don't give a fuck how religious and nice you think you are. As a christian, you are supposed to be an example, a living epistle of the word, not a mouthpiece for the world.
So what changed Peter? Simply being with Jesus obviously hadn't done it. Hearing the voice of God out of a cloud certainly hadn't done it. Walking on water hadn't done it. Seeing Lazarus raised from the dead hadn't done it. Peter himself gives us a huge clue in his own epistle.
2 Peter 1:16-19
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
According to these verses, there is a more sure word of prophecy, there is something more sure, more reliable, more dependable than hearing the audible voice of God. What on earth is Peter talking about? What could be more sure than hearing the voice of God booming out of a cloud?
As we've seen with the Israelites following Moses, what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears isn't sufficient to fuel our believing for the long term. Time has a habit of dulling our memories. What we saw yesterday doesn't have the same impact on our hearts and minds as it does today, and it will have even less impact tomorrow. We are human and we forget. The Israelites had been with Moses, and had seen miracle after miracle, yet it wasn't enough to keep them thankful and believing. Peter had been with Jesus, and yet he had run away when it mattered. Simply being with Jesus wasn't enough to overcome his fear. Even after Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead, his apostles still refused to believe.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Still think being with Jesus would solve all your believing problems? Jesus Christ was a man, as was Moses, as am I. The truth is, if you won't hear the word from me, you wouldn't hear it from Jesus Christ or Moses either. They were not magicians any more than I am. There is no magic formula to this. Either you decide to believe the word, or you don't. If you want to be a believer, I suggest you get your head out of television world and into the bible.
So then faith [pistis - believing] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The renewed mind is the key to power, but it isn't the power itself. Peter knew the word, but it takes more than that. He even fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus Christ needed his support. He denied Jesus when he was accused of being one of his followers. He was human. Yet, just fifty days later he went through a remarkable transformation on the day of Pentecost when he stood up in the temple and publicly confronted the Judeans. Do these sound like the words of a man full of fear?
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Any idea what changed Peter? Any idea what the more sure word of prophecy is? What changed Peter is what happened that morning in Jerusalem.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost [pneuma hagion - holy spirit], and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
It is this manifestation of the spirit, speaking in tongues that Peter referred to as being a more sure word of prophecy than hearing the audible voice of God from a cloud. Right now in the 21st Century, we have something far more reliable and dependable to fuel our believing than simply seeing a few miracles done by Jesus or Moses. Memories dim, and we forget, but we can speak in tongues and hear the voice of God at any time we choose. That spirit within us is supernatural power just waiting to be energised and overflow out of us. It was the energising of this power that changed Peter. When Peter spoke in tongues and energised the spirit he had received, it changed him and it will change you too. We can hear the voice of God every moment of every day out of our own mouths.
Chapter 39 - Manifesting the Power of God