I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion “I’d become a Christian in a heartbeat if I heard God speak to me”. Even well-meaning Christians are frequently heard offering encouragement that begins with phrases such as “God spoke to me, and…” and while in most cases I tend to switch off after that, it begs an important question: should we be seeking this phenomenon as normative for the Christian life?
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”
For the writer of Hebrews, the age of God speaking loudly from a mountain, quietly in a whisper, or providing extra-biblical revelation through prophets is now past. We clearly read that God has definitively spoken by his Son, and that Jesus is the decisive Word. He will not be followed in this age by any greater word or replacement word. While other religions — and even some groups that claim an affiliation with Christianity — will claim additional writings as equal to or greater than the 66 books of the Protestant Christian bible, scripture itself makes plain that it is the supreme and final authority, and that Jesus Christ is the final revelation; the Word Incarnate.
So, when I complain that I don’t hear the Word of God, when I feel a desire to hear the voice of God, and get frustrated that he does not speak in ways that I may crave, what am I really saying? Am I unsatisfied with the full and complete revelation that God has given me in Jesus? Do I feel that the bible doesn’t speak into my situation, and I need something — dare I even say it — more? Maybe I do, more than I’d care to admit. But the truth is, this is the Word of God: the person of Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, and the work of Jesus. And if I want to hear God speak to me, I simply pick up the Bible. Nothing more, nothing less.
Wait. Isn’t God first and foremost relational? Searching the pages of Scripture seems mechanical, academic, even dull compared to a burning bush or face-to-face encounter on a mountain. Once again, I find myself asking a question which (if I’m honest) is a little too human-centric. It boils down to me expecting God to communicate the way that I would communicate if I were him. But thankfully, I’m not. And once again, Jesus himself gives us the answer in John 14-16. In sending us the Holy Spirit, we have direct access to God in our reading, in our learning, and the words and sentences come to life as we read because of his presence with us, and his desire to glorify Christ in all things. Surely I don’t doubt the Holy Spirit’s ability as teacher and counsellor, able to guide me in this truth. I open the pages of Scripture in the obedience of faith, believing that the Holy Spirit will do his work, because God has already revealed everything we need in this living, life-giving word.
God is calling us to hear his final, decisive Word — to meditate on it and study it and memorize it and linger over it and soak in it. We need not seek a higher knowledge or a more ‘personal’ revelation; God has spoken, and we need to learn to listen.