|Thomas Leuthard (CC)|
You see, I was a big fan of the sitcom, Seinfeld, back in its heyday. In a certain episode the titular character’s cross hallway neighbor, Kramer, swore off speaking. “94% of communication is non-verbal.” He said, just prior to his vow of silence. Thinking it would be funny or challenging or whatever I decided to see if I could go an entire day without talking. 24 hours. A school day no less. Nods, hand signals, gestures, all acceptable. No words.
I made it through school to the chagrin of my friends. They coaxed and cajoled me to respond to their inquiries, but I held strong. I may have squeaked out a word to the teacher in history class, but only because I was scared of him. He was loud, old, and had a crew cut and an impossibly large belly. You'd have been scared too. I’m pretty sure he had a rifle stashed away somewhere in the classroom. But other than history class, I sailed to the afternoon.
My dad, younger brother, and I were in Carson City for some reason, no doubt making our daily pilgrimage to Albertson’s grocery store. We lived in the Dayton Valley, but at the time there was no commerce of note in the tiny town other than a take and bake pizzeria, a greasy casino, and the roadrunner cafe. Anything else you wanted you had to drive up the mountain—a test for any engine possessing four or fewer cylinders, and you had to pass through the brothel infested Mound House in order to arrive at Carson City where they had a real grocery store.
Whatever the errand, before heading home my dad had a question. “You boys want pizza for dinner?"
My brother cheered, and I enthusiastically nodded my head. It was at that point my dad hatched his scheme. Maybe it was a giant setup from the beginning, or maybe he just thought of it in that moment, but what came next was an unanticipated test.
“Andy, you need to say it."
I knew my father well enough to know once he issued that ultimatum, he’d never back down. It was me breaking my vow for deliciously melted mozzerella on garlic encrusted dough with tomato sauce and basil, or descend into Dayton without the pie. I nodded my head more fervently.
“Say it, Andy!” My brother pleaded. I continued to nod, my body language becoming increasingly frantic.
“He’s gotta say it. Say it or I’ll make chili.”
But I couldn’t do it. I was too stubborn. I held my speech at the expense of my taste buds—the ultimate in tongue confusion.
And my brother has never forgiven me.
If God's There, Why Isn't He Saying Anything?
Sometimes it seems like God has taken a vow of silence too. We read all of these awesome stories in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers in which God speaks directly to people. Adam and Eve heard His voice. He told Noah to build a boat. Abram listened to God’s promises to bless him.
In the 21st century? Crickets. If God's there, why isn't He saying anything? He who formed the ear can whisper into it just as easily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard God with my ears. He speaks to me all the time, through intuition, scripture, circumstances, friends, sermons, the Spirit. There have been a few times in my life when I “heard” Him clearly. But never audibly. Never out loud. Why not?
I wish I had all of the answers. I don’t, but I have a hunch. Two hunches actually.
1. God spoke prior to His other revelations
Before the Law, prior to Jesus and the Holy Sprit’s arrival at Pentecost, speaking was necessary. It was the best way to communicate directly and clearly with His people. As generations passed, He gave Moses the tablets, Mary the Savior, and Peter the Spirit. All of these events are detailed in another important revelation: the Bible. Now that we have received all of these things—luxuries others didn’t have—God allows them to speak on His behalf. But why?
2. No matter how much God reveals, we’ll always demand more.
Remember when God told Moses to depart from Sinai? What did Moses say? He asked God to show Himself. We’d kill just to hear a word from God. Moses was talking directly to the Almighty, but hearing His voice wasn’t enough. He wanted to see Him. Bob Goff in his book, Love Does, remarks on this very phenomenon:
Most of the characters in Scripture didn’t hear from God in an audible voice. Even though at one point Moses got the audio version of God and a stone tablet. What the Bible describes about Moses’ encounter with God is much like what God regularly does to me. That is, God didn’t give Moses what he asked for. Moses wanted to see God’s face just like I want to hear His voice. In response, God told Moses to get in a big crack in a rock and God passed by. But when He did, He covered Moses’ eyes with His hand so that all Moses got to see was God’s back.1
Would Moses have asked to see God’s face had he not first heard His voice? Maybe, maybe not. But the truth is Moses wasn’t satisfied hearing only. He wanted to see God.
But what happened when the people did see Jesus? They demanded more miracles and signs even though they saw Jesus heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind. Even Philip, one of the twelve disciples asked for more. "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (John 14:8). What would have happened if they saw the Father (other than instant death of course)? Chances are the sight still wouldn’t suffice for Philip.
No matter how much evidence there is, we can always raise our level of disbelief. But at some point we must exercise faith. God has revealed Himself to us through the majesty of creation, the Holy Scriptures, and His son, Jesus. For some, that isn’t enough evidence. But I’m convinced no matter how much evidence He gave us, we’d always demand more.
In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, a man in hades begs Abraham to send the poor beggar named Lazarus who is in heaven to witness to his brothers that they might not also descend to hell upon death. In response Abraham says to the rich man:
"They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them." And [the rich man] said, "No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:29-31
Of course Jesus did rise from the dead, and some are still unconvinced.
If you’re struggling with hearing God’s voice as I have at times, I challenge you to focus on the revelations we have in front of our eyes. Not all generations of humanity have had the privilege of the Bible or the hindsight knowledge of Christ’s resurrection. Don’t focus so much on what you lack, that you overlook the gifts you already have.
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1. Goff, Bob (2012-04-30). Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World (pp. 141-142). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.