After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave And behold, a voice came to him…” I Kings 19:12-13
The Bible is filled with wonderful stories about voices—angry voices, joyful voices, deceitful voices, commanding voices—but one of my childhood favorites is about Samuel. His mother Hannah, after being barren and mocked for many years, gave birth to Samuel. Then Hannah did something almost unbelievable. She took her little toddler to the priest Eli and presented him for a lifetime of service to the Lord. Perhaps her gratitude propelled her to make this sacrifice believing that Yahweh would reward her with other children. It is certain that the faith of this Hebrew mother saturated her small child who would become the most outstanding judge and prophet that Israel would know.
When Samuel was a small boy, a Voice came to him, calling him in the night. He arose from his bed and went to Eli the priest, reporting for duty, but Eli said he hadn’t called. After this happened three times, Eli recognized that God was calling the child. We know from the text that Eli had ceased listening to God; instead God spoke to a little child. God spoke to the one who had hearing ears. And Samuel later reported what God had told him. Throughout his entire life, Samuel listened, heard, and was God’s spokesman.
Then there’s a cautionary tale earlier in Genesis about a man who discriminated between voices but failed to take the proper action. As Isaac lay dying, he asked his favorite son to make his favorite meat dish. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob (with Mother’s complicity) disguised himself as his brother, and Mom made a tasty meat dish. Isaac tasted the food and said, “Your arms are hairy like Esau’s (because of the disguise), but your voice is like Jacob’s.” Isaac’s hearing was intact, and he questioned the voice, but he allowed himself to be deceived resulting in great bitterness for his family.
We all have voices speaking in our heads. The issue here is To whose voice are we listening? Take a few minutes from time to time to listen to the conversation in your head. We play out discussions we intend or hope to have; we replay past events, trying to correct hurtful conversations; we expend energy arguing over positions and opinions. All in our heads. And then there are other voices that inject fear or anger or hurt or negativity. Whose voices are we listening to?
My mother had an interesting observation. She said, “Always listen to the pronouns. That’s the key.” For example, does the voice say, “I or me” or does it say, “You?” When a voice begins to accuse or demean with thoughts such as, “You are never going to get it right,” or “You are always going to be a loser…” Words to this effect should alert us that the voice is not us, and it’s certainly not God. Listen to the pronouns.
But there are other voices in our heads that we need to shut down. When we begin projecting what might happen in a circumstance or speculate about the possibility of disaster or anything not of faith, we’re filling our heads with voices that move us away from trust in a loving, compassionate Father who only wants good for us. All the voices that fill our heads with noise and not belief must be silenced immediately whatever the source.
Let’s determine to stop those negative voices the first moment a word is uttered and replace them with praise. Replace them with thanksgiving. Replace them with God.
Lord, we allow ourselves to be robbed of the peace that comes from you when we listen to any voice that is not of faith. Forgive us; work in us; remind us to listen to you only. We ask for your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.