Hearing the Voice
The vision came powerful and unannounced.
“I am your shield.” God was speaking. “You will have a great reward.”
I have often longed for such an experience–the world shrinking away, God’s confident voice booming audible blessings into my ears. How reassuring that would be. My faithlessness would be driven away.
Abram teaches me that I may be overestimating my reaction to such a visitation.
Doubt surely dripped from his tongue as he responded to God. “What will you give me that really matters? I still don’t have any children, and when I die, a servant will own it all.”
While I’ve never experienced a vision from the Lord quite like that of Abram’s, his attitude feels very familiar.
In tough seasons of life I’ve opened my Bible and heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit: “I am with you, do not be afraid.” The words on the page call me toward trust, obedience, and mission. The words in my heart promise provision today and rewards in eternity. Then dissonant words surface to chase the others away.
Perhaps something similar happens to you? Your disillusion finds a voice more powerful in the moment then that of the Holy Spirit: “Gee, God. That’s nice and all, but what about ______?”
What occupies the blank is likely different for all of us. For some it comes home with them from work–they’re stuck and can’t provide for their family. For others its in their perceived weaknesses. “I’ll never conquer my faults.”
Maybe you long for a spouse, or are estranged from the one you have. Perhaps your children have abandoned the faith, and the pain of it eats at you.
Former pastor, you were called to the ministry and then chased away from it, burned out. Aspiring Pastor, you hear the call, but can’t even seem to get started.
Do you experience the same pain that Abram spoke of? The slow sinking hopelessness of infertility?
“Your words are amazing, Lord… may it be as you say… but I just don’t see how it can be.”
The Word of the LORD
In the midst of the vision, God’s voice already heard and pushed aside, something changed. I quote directly now:
And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir, your very own son shall be your heir.
This is the first place in scripture that we encounter the very special phrase “the word of the LORD.” It is reserved to signify direct revelation from God–a formal decree of reality intended to open the eyes of those who cannot see the truth. Abram was becoming a prophet with a message that would echo into far off ages.
The word of the LORD came to Abram with the power to transform his worldview. His cynicism began to dissolve. God continued, beckoning him to look up into the heavens–to see the stars and start to count. Abram saw, and light began to flood into the dark places of his heart.
“So shall your offspring be.”
Abram could not count the stars even if he gave the remainder of his life to the task. Though he was childless now, he would become father to countless multitudes. His response is foundational to our Faith.
And he believed the LORD and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Abram’s doubt was gone. The word of the LORD accomplished its task; his heart had received the truth. Abram’s hope was restored, though he would not live to see its ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
Don’t Stop Listening
Brother, Sister, Christian: I know your doubt because it is similar to my own. Life is not where you expected it to be. Time goes on and your dreams seem far away. When you open your Bible, or hear the preacher talk, you feel conflicted. The Holy Spirit whispers promises of peace in Christ, but doubt shouts a rebuke. Encouragement shifts into searing frustration. Hope flees.
In that moment you will want to close the Book or brood unhearing through the rest of the sermon. I plead with you to instead open you ears–you may yet hear the word of the LORD and be renewed. Open your eyes! You may yet see the stars of God’s promise, and believe. Jesus has died for you; your sins are gone! Christ has risen for you; you will live with him forever!
Do not be afraid. He is your shield. You will have a great reward.