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From The Heart

God speaks

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We often long to “hear the voice of God”. I think by saying that, we mean that we want God to speak a word that is particularly for me; a message in an envelope that has my name and address on it. Some people spend their whole lives in expectation of this (“If only God would reveal himself to me, I would believe in him”) and end up not realising that He has never been silent and has revealed himself. The very fact that the book of Isaiah exists is evidence of this. In the passage we are looking at this week God says “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there” (Is 48:16). God made himself known to Adam and Eve right at the beginning, and continued to reveal himself to every person since, even at the most basic level through the creation (Romans 1:20), but much much more than this as well.

The fact of God’s revelation is an act of grace by itself. Given our pre-disposition towards ignoring him, not listening and disobeying what He says, God could quite justly give up on speaking to us. But because He is gracious and loving, He does. He continues to reach out and show us who He is and how we can be made right with Him.

The bible gives an unequivocal answer to the question “Does God speak to us?” It’s a very clear and loud “Yes!” Through creation, through the prophets, and finally, fully and completely, through His Son (Heb 1:1-3). Of all the people who have lived on the planet, we are amongst those to whom He has spoken most fully and clearly. And we have the record of this revelation in the Scriptures.

Rather than “Does God speak to us?” the real question is: are we listening? Are we digging into what God says to us and letting His Spirit change us and mould us into the likeness of Jesus? That is what He wants to happen, and when we do that, we know for sure He is working to bring it about.

Australian Idol

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The people of God in Isaiah’s time got themselves in a lot of trouble when they succumbed to the temptation to put their faith in the idols of the nations around them. There were lots of reasons for it: The idols were targeted at fertility (people and crops) – a big concern for any society. They were more visible than the Lord. And often the nations who worshipped the idols seemed much more powerful than their nation, giving the impression that the Lord was less powerful. Even though they had plenty of evidence of God’s almighty power in their history, they so easily forgot.

Whilst our idols in Australia are more sophisticated than those of the ancient world, the temptation to serve them is no less real. The worship of power, self, possessions and pleasure that is endemic in our culture has a powerful pull on us all. To ‘hope in the Lord’ seems silly when the stability of position and possessions like a solid house (‘real’ estate), healthy finances and superannuation packages is what our society banks on and trusts in.

The answer for the people of God has always been the same: Love for the Lord is to be the passion that drives what we do with all our lives, including our possessions and position. Isaiah’s message that ultimately only the Lord rules and saves, foreshadowed the message of Jesus and the apostles; the Kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news.

Serving the Lord involves ridding ourselves of our idolatry and worshipping him alone. He’s the only One who deserves such a place in our lives.

Waiting for the Lord

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There is a wonderful promise in Isaiah 40 that I’m sure we’ve clung to with varying degrees of desperation at different times. It goes like this:

they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Is 40:31)

I’ve often watched huge wedge-tailed eagles riding thermal currents in the mountains. I’ve been filled with wonder (and not a little jealousy!) as they effortlessly glide for kilometres going up and down at leisure, borne along by powerful unseen airflows. It all happens with the tweaking of a wingtip here and a movement of the tail there, or an occasional slight shifting of the balance.

It seems so different to the way we go through life, with any progress seemingly being gained through a lot hard work, sweat and pain. The occasions when we feel like we’re soaring effortlessly like an eagle seem to be infrequent, in my experience. And yet the Lord encourages us to wait and hope for Him; live out our lives in dependence on Him.

Ultimately, he’s pointing us to that time when we will be in the new creation, when the weariness and fainting and stumbling will be over and we will see Jesus and be like him, free from the limitations of our sin and weakness. In the meantime we wait for the Lord, and trust in Him who “gives power to the faint” (v29). There can be no safer place to be.