“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”-Matt 4.4
Yesterday I shared about Jed's hearing the voice through weakness. You probably should know that the desire for the Voice has been planted by different people along the way. In the summer of 2015 he was at Heirborn, a PK retreat. (I don't think he knew what a PK was until that retreat). Our kids have been somewhat insulated from the mainstream church world. At the encouragement of our family friends Jeff and Miquell, Jed decided to go.
On the last night Amie Dockery prophesied over several kids. Jed, who only knew Eva, sat in the back his head down and prayed silently, "God please, give me a word too. I just want to know that you notice me. That you see me." Amie stopped what she was doing and called out Jed. Her words were a real treasure to me, as Miquell video'd them and sent them to me right then.
I picked Jed up from the airport. We talked for 20 minutes about the Voice. He was fascinated with it. (Thank you, Amie, Jeff, and Miquell).
"So what did God say to you, Jed? When Amie prophesied."
"I don't really remember, dad, all I know is that God spoke to me! I got so excited about the fact that he was talking to me that I cannot remember what he said. I just kept crying and thinking, 'Wow, God is talking to me.'"
I so get that. It's true the Voice really is the treasure. And the awe and wonder at it really is the most appropriate response.
ln the Hebrew Talmud there is this legend about the Voice.*
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai's tomb.
He asked him: 'Have I a portion in the world to come?'
Elijah replied, 'if the Master desires it.'
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi recounts, 'I saw two, but heard the voice of a third.' (the Rabbi saw only himself and Elijah, but heard a third, the Voice).
He then asked him, 'When will the Messiah come?'
'Go and ask him yourself,' was Elijah's reply.
'Where is he sitting?'
'At the entrance to Rome.'
So he went to the entrance and greeted him, saying, 'peace upon thee, Master and Teacher.'
'Peace upon thee, O son of Levi,' the Messiah replied.
'When wilt thou come Master?' asked he,
'To-day', was his answer.
On his returning to Elijah, Elijah enquired, 'What did he say to thee?'
'He spoke falsely to me, stating that he would come to-day, but did not.'
Elijah answered him, 'The Messiah was speaking of the word "Today" mentioned in the verse: "Today - if you will hearken to my voice."
This story resonates with my own experiences. There are times when there are two of us talking and I am aware of a third voice. I want more, I want to go deeper, to understand its currents and pulls, and I am reminded that he will come to me, 'To-day' if I will hear his voice. The question is "If" not "when." Psalm 95.7 doesn't say "if" he speaks, the Psalter assumes the Voice is always communicating, communicating in the Now, the To-day, the condition is "if you will hear."
One of my Clopas-Emmaus-Road-Travelers in life, Andrew, came out to San Francisco the Christmas of 2015 with his two daughters: Ashlyn and Ardyn. Sipping on a coffee at Royal Ground in the Richmond early one morning he explained his trip to me.
"I told Ashlyn and Ardyn that I wanted to give them an experience for Christmas this year, a memory, rather than a consumer good. When I gave them their choice of experiences they both said, 'San Francisco.'" (They both were born in the City and now live on the East Coast.)
My soul latched onto the words, "experience..., a memory, rather than a consumer good." Andrew said it, but I felt like there was a "third voice." I wasn't sure why or what God was communicating with me so I asked a bunch of questions trying to linger around that point.
Let me explain how this works for me. The Scriptures are there in black and white, written and preserved for each generation. They are sacred and holy conversations inspired by God in history. I study them, read them, seek to live my life in the lanes they provide. I have this expansive view of Scriptures and their power, not only are they the revelation of God, but also a medium into the living Voice. The spiritual vibration that animates all of life and holds all of it in orbiting order.
The Voice speaks not only through Scriptures, but also nature, conversations, and life. The Voice often comes to me in riddles and puzzle pieces, or maybe a better way of saying it is, my skill level is such that it requires patient and interpretive work on my end. Usually how this works is when I sense or feel something I write it down, make a note of it, and wait. Frequently there will be two or three Voice encounters that establish the word God is saying to me.**
So when Andrew said, "give them an experience" I felt life, joy, peace and hope gurgling up like an artesian well in my soul. I discerned the Spirit was saying, "Keep looking at this word I want to show you something."
Later that week, Ardyn, a senior in high school, sought out one of those spoken-word cafes. (That is so old-school San Franciscan). Her dad's got to be proud. She found a spot and as Heaven would have it she not only got to listen to some S. F. Spit but she performed her "What the Water Gave Me" piece. The people loved it, her dad and sister were beat-poet-proud. The next morning she read it for us at coffee. The whole piece is incredible. But again, I heard the third voice in these final words from her spoken word.
So feed me to the water and let the waves drag me down in a wild embrace
Because I'll fade into the darkness of its depths
That's still and serene,
And darling you know, this has always been my destiny.
I had been doing the lectio divina on Jesus' baptism and Ardyn's words were in perfect pitch and harmony with what God was whispering into the morning haze. Her words 'fade into the darkness of its depths' jutted out like a sign that said, 'this direction'.... wilderness. I again made a note of the moment as though it was another piece. (That's the problem with us mystics). :-)
Several weeks later I was in San Marcos with Robin(hood), a badlands trekker, as the church he pastors led a group through the Story of God. Jerusalem went with me to help me do some story-forming; she was just awesome! She wanted to see Austin and the University of Texas. Robin and Promiseland generously offered to give us a day and evening in Austin, Jeru was like, "They really want to do this for us, just for telling the Story!" (Thank you, Robin.)
We talked about what an awesome experience Robin had given to us. (there was that word again).
As we hung out in a cafe and bookstore Jeru said, "I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail." (Again, I felt the 'third Voice,' drawing my attention back to Andrew giving his kids an experience, a memory.) Jeru and I grabbed some books, opened our computers and researched away. At Peche that night we dreamed and talked more about it. (the owner took a liking to us and chatted it up, even mistaking Jeru for 21, good times). By the time the evening was done she decided that for graduation she wanted to hike the John Muir Trail as a family experience. And thus the JMT trek we took the summer of 2016 was birthed. At that point, I had no idea the extent of the vision behind the Voice, but the pieces were coming together. I knew I needed each word, strung together, piece by piece.
Why the Voice is critical to me.
- Shema, as in "Hear (Shema) O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one, and you are to love the Lord you God with all..." Shema means, "listening with intention, with a desire to respond." It's the first word on a Jewish child's lips and the last before a Jew dies. Jesus said the shema is the first and greatest commandment. The command is 'listen.' It all unfolds in the discipline of "listening." We love God by listening to his voice. It's called the shema (the listen), not the echod (the one) or the aheb (the love).
- When the Abyss listened forests and flowerbeds, fruit orchards and mountains ranges, continents and polar caps, flocks and herds, swarms and packs, galaxies and starbursts came to artful life. The Voice brings order from chaos, life from death, light from darkness, and Lazarus from tombs. The Voice declares goodness "It is good," and resolution, "It is finished."
- Every time I have heard the faintest echo, sensed the slightest breath, or surrendered to the most challenging call, every time, it has transformed me. Notice Jesus says, "It is written... by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." There is the "Written" and the "Spoken." Jesus does not say, "Man lives by every word that is written from the mouth of God." He says, "Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God."
So when Satan says, "turn this stone to bread" and Jesus says, "Man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word the comes from the mouth of God" we have a complete picture of how Jesus calls us to live in the wilderness.
First, "Don't be so narrow-minded! God isn't limited to bread. And, bread isn't the only thing that sustains one. From God's mouth came manna. From God's mouth came a Raven to feed Elijah. From God's mouth came a miracle of oil and meal to feed a widow woman. From God's mouth came quail to feed Israel."
Second, "If I cave to this temptation and make bread from a stone. Tomorrow when I wake up I will have to do it again. And the next day and the next. I will find my identity as a stone-to-bread maker. My identity is in the Voice. The Voice said, "This is my beloved son, I love him and he brings me great joy." I don't need to make bread to prove that. I just need the Voice."
Third, Attentiveness to the "every word." Jesus committed to every 'word.' For me, this really helps me tie in and bring together all the words, promises, mysteries and puzzles. Bring what is written, what is spoken, what is coming from the Voice. There is life in bringing each word together, discover the picture that the puzzle pieces are creating.
CHREIA OF ACTION
- Conversation. Have a conversation with Cleopas about where you have heard the Voice and how the Voice usually speaks to you.
- Reflection. Reflect the times there were two of you and a third voice.
- Prayer. (1) Make a list of the things you can remember God speaking to you. (2) Put down how you felt next to each rememberence. (3) walk through each one thanking God for speaking to you in your life. (4) Look at your scarcity and say, "Man shall not live by _______ alone, but by and recount the times God has spoken to you."
**2Cor 13.1 and Deut. 19.15. I use the principle of this as part of my practice. A word needs to be established by two or three witnesses. Prophetically speaking Paul says, "Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said." (1Cor14.29).