Posted: 7/19/19 at 3:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
I am reading an interesting book by Judson Edwards entitled “Quiet Faith: An Introvert’s Guide to Spiritual Survival.” In his book he drew my attention to an interesting event in the life of Jesus that reveals how some people are tuned to God’s voice and recognize God speaking in life’s events. At the same event, there were two other groups which didn’t really understand what was happening.
The verses are found in John 12. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11, then in chapter 12 we discover that some Greeks, who were in Jerusalem for the Passover, came to Phillip seeking Jesus. Upon hearing this, Jesus said that the time had come for him to be glorified. He meant it was time to reveal the presence and manifested goodness of God through himself and his work.
Jesus also told his disciples that his spirit was troubled. He explained, “Should I ask God to deliver me from what is coming? No way! It is for this reason I came into the world. So instead I will say: ‘Father, glorify Your Name!’” Continuing in John 12:28–29 (CSB) we read: “… Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
This is an interesting event, because it shows God speaking to people, but various people heard something different. Jesus and the disciples heard it as the voice of God, who distinctly said: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” God was speaking about what would be accomplished by Jesus on the cross, and by his resurrection. God’s goodness would be revealed to people as they realized that Jesus died to bring forgiveness to people who believe in him, and he rose from the dead to break the power of death over us.
But some in the crowd heard it as a loud booming thunder, perhaps with a rumble following. For many people, this is their view of God—a powerful, perhaps threatening, other-worldly being of unimaginable power—but without mutual interaction or communication.
Still others heard something powerful but assumed it was some intermediary being such as an angel, making some kind of pronouncement, but they couldn’t catch the words.
Many people have similar experiences as they attend a church service or hear a message. For some the meaning is clear and distinct as they hear God speaking to them. Others sense power and perhaps something like the sound of an approaching storm but brush it aside as just another “natural” occurrence. Still others know God is trying to communicate with them, but can’t quite grasp the meaning, so they hope to hear more.
Whenever we have an unusual experience in which God shows up unexpectedly, people interpret it differently. The other day while shopping, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. This person was struggling with discovering what God was conveying through a recent event. Was it judgment? Encouragement? A call to listen further? We talked a little more, since it was pouring rain outside. Then the rain stopped and we stepped outside. In the sky a full, beautiful rainbow appeared, solid and multicolored from one side of the horizon to the other. It was huge, and perfect.
I smiled, tapped my friend on the shoulder, and pointing to the rainbow said: “That is God’s message to you! It is his promise of hope to you!” We both realized that it was indeed a perfectly timed message from God, as God was telling my friend: “I know what you are feeling. I understand your pain. I love you. Here is a reminder of my love and care for you. This rainbow’s for you!” My friend walked to the car, smiling and looking in awe at God’s thunderous, yet quiet, message of hope.
Interestingly, there was a small crowd of others waiting by the door of the store for the rain to clear, who also paused to marvel at the beautiful rainbow. I wonder what message they received from God?
What issue are you wrestling over today? What is it that God is saying to you regarding that issue? Is it a clear, confident, and meaningful word from God? Or are you hearing something that sounds like booming thunder? Or perhaps an impression that God is indeed speaking to you, but you would like him to clarify what he is saying?
I pray that you will clearly hear what God is saying to you!