In our mul­ti-year work cre­at­ing The Ren­o­varé Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion Bible (now pub­lished as The Life With Bible), we gave a lot of atten­tion to the Word of God writ­ten, the Scrip­ture. And how vital­ly impor­tant this real­i­ty is. Scrip­ture as the Word of God writ­ten anchors us by giv­ing a blue­print for how God has spo­ken to his peo­ple through­out bib­li­cal his­to­ry. But the Bible itself uses the Word of God in two oth­er ways as well. There is the Word of God liv­ing, the debar Yah­weh, and there is the Word of God incar­nate, Jesus.

The Word of God Liv­ing: The Debar Yahweh

The debar Yah­weh, the liv­ing Word of God, brought the uni­verse crash­ing into exis­tence. God said, Let there be light,” and light came into being. The same for sky and sea and land and the plant king­dom and the ani­mal king­dom and the human species. God speaks and it is … God speaks and it is … God speaks and it is. This is the liv­ing, act­ing, cre­at­ing, form­ing, trans­form­ing Word of God which is sharp­er than any two-edged sword; capa­ble of divid­ing soul from spir­it, joints from mar­row and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

This liv­ing Word of God, this debar Yah­weh, is the Thus saith the Lord” of the prophet­ic tra­di­tion. The prophets were not real­ly reli­gious sooth­say­ers or social crit­ics or vil­lage cranks. They were ordi­nary peo­ple who encoun­tered face-to-face the One who, as Amos puts it, made the Pleiades and Ori­on” (5:8).

Old Tes­ta­ment pro­fes­sor Howard Macy says that these encoun­ters were blind-sid­ing, breath-suck­ing, gut-jar­ring; they were full of ener­gy, cre­ativ­i­ty, and crazy sur­prise; they inter­min­gled fear and attrac­tion, ten­der­ness and amazement.” 

Abra­ham Hes­chel writes, To the prophets, God was over­whelm­ing­ly real and shat­ter­ing­ly present. They nev­er spoke of Him as from a dis­tance. They lived as wit­ness­es, struck by the words of God …” They fed off God’s liv­ing word to them. God was shat­ter­ing­ly present to them; the debar Yah­weh had come to them; and their entire lives became ori­ent­ed around this stun­ning real­i­ty. As a result they received what Wal­ter Bruegge­mann calls a prophet­ic imag­i­na­tion,” the capac­i­ty to see what is yet pos­si­ble through the pow­er of God, It is the task of prophet­ic imag­i­na­tion and min­istry to bring peo­ple to engage the promise of new­ness that is at work in our his­to­ry with God.”

And here is the real­ly shock­ing news: all Chris­tians are called, in some mea­sure, to prophet­ic life and wit­ness. Out of the humil­i­ty and gen­eros­i­ty of his great heart, Moses had wist­ful­ly exclaimed, Would that all the Lord’s peo­ple were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spir­it on them!” (Num. 11:29). Well, with the gift of the Spir­it at Pen­te­cost God did exact­ly that. 

The prophet Joel had promised a day when the Spir­it would enable all God’s peo­ple to dream dreams, to have visions, and to proph­esy, and on that Pen­te­cost day Peter declared that Joel’s promise had indeed come to pass. At Pen­te­cost God ini­ti­at­ed a uni­ver­sal, rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mu­ni­ty of prophets. In Invit­ing the Mys­tic, Sup­port­ing the Prophet Kather­ine Marie Dyck­man and L. Patrick Car­roll write, All of us Chris­tians, not just some spe­cial­ly cho­sen’ are called to be deeply unit­ed to God in prayer and to speak out of that prayer with some strand of prophet­ic voice. Every­one is called to be both mys­tic and prophet.” 

What we need to under­stand is that God is still speak­ing. The debar Yah­weh is still active and alive, cre­at­ing and recre­at­ing, form­ing and trans­form­ing. God is our Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Cos­mos,” as Dal­las Willard puts it. 

Now, I am ful­ly aware that there are those who feel that with the full Scrip­tur­al canon we no longer need the liv­ing voice of God, the Kol Yah­weh. And while I can appre­ci­ate such a posi­tion I will sim­ply respond with the words of William Law, an 18th cen­tu­ry Angli­can writer, in his book The Pow­er of the Spir­it, to say that because we now have all the writ­ings of Scrip­ture com­plete we no longer need the mirac­u­lous inspi­ra­tion of the Spir­it among men as in for­mer days, is a degree of blind­ness as great as any that can be charged upon the scribes and Pharisees.” 

My friends, God is a con­tin­u­ing, com­muning, speak­ing Pres­ence with his peo­ple. Here. Now. The Word of God living. 

Jesus: The Word Made Flesh

But there is more. Not only is there the Word of God writ­ten (Scrip­ture) and the Word of God liv­ing (the debar Yah­weh) there is also the Word of God incar­nate, Jesus Christ. This is of enor­mous impor­tance for our day. Peo­ple need a liv­ing Sav­ior that speaks life into us here and now. 

John, in his Gospel, makes a con­scious par­al­lel to the cre­ation nar­ra­tive of Gen­e­sis when he declares, In the begin­ning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us” (Gen.1:1,14). Jesus is the eter­nal Logos, the Word of God incar­nate. And just as in Gen­e­sis where God spoke the uni­verse into exis­tence, so in John’s Gospel Jesus brings about his great signs” by speak­ing. To the lame man Jesus says, Stand up, take your mat and walk” … and so he does; Jesus calls out to Lazarus in the grave, Lazarus, come out!”… and so he does. God cre­ates by speak­ing; Jesus cre­ates by speaking. 

On the Mount of Trans­fig­u­ra­tion God’s voice came out of the cloud say­ing, This is my Son, the Beloved … lis­ten to him!” (Matt. 17:5; bold added). The writer to the Hebrews tells us that in past days God spoke to his peo­ple through the prophets but now he is speak­ing through his Son (Heb. 1:1). And here is the great, good news: Jesus is alive, he is here to teach his peo­ple him­self. Jesus func­tions among us as Prophet, Priest, and King: our Prophet to teach us, our Priest to redeem us, our King to rule us. 

When Jesus was among us in the flesh he described him­self as the Good Shep­herd and that his sheep fol­low him because they know his voice” (Jn. 10:4 NIV). And in res­ur­rect­ed form Jesus declares that he is stand­ing at the door, knock­ing; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Rev. 3:20).

So, my friend, hear­ing Jesus’ voice is not all that elu­sive or com­pli­cat­ed. His grace comes right up to the doorstep of our souls. We are not here talk­ing about a com­pli­cat­ed exer­cise for the spir­i­tu­al­ly elite. No, it is more like just get­ting up and answer­ing the door. 

Meek­ness Opens the Door

Per­haps more than any sin­gle thing meek­ness of spir­it opens the door onto this life of hear­ing Jesus’ voice and obey­ing his Word. Meek­ness is a real pref­er­ence for God’s will. When this holy habit of mind is in us our whole being becomes so open to God’s impres­sions that, with­out any out­ward sign, there is an inward recog­ni­tion and choice of the will of God. God guides us, for the most part, not by vis­i­ble signs but by sway­ing our judg­ment. When we wait before God weigh­ing sin­cere­ly in the scales every con­sid­er­a­tion for or against a par­tic­u­lar course of action, and in readi­ness to see which way the pre­pon­der­ance lies, a frame of mind and heart is cre­at­ed in which we can be guid­ed. God then touch­es the scales and makes the bal­ance to sway as he wills. 

The expe­ri­ence and coun­sel of John Wool­man may help us here. These words from his Jour­nal were penned, as he put it, on the twen­ty-eighth day, fifth month, 1772: O, how safe, how qui­et, is that state where the soul stands in pure obe­di­ence to the voice of Christ and a watch­ful care is main­tained not to fol­low the voice of the stranger!” 

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in the Octo­ber 2005 Ren­o­varé Per­spec­tives newsletter.

Originally published October 2005

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