The Voice of the Lord

Exodus 19 and 20

"Um, Moses? Can we come with you and watch while you talk to God?"

Like a good sitter, Moses assures them, "Sure you can. But you've been playing outside all day and your faces are all dirty, you have mud on your hands, and your clothes are all full of sand. Let's clean up first."

After three days of cleansing, Gods' children with shining faces and clean clothes were prepared to watch God speak. It was story time. Or so they thought. This was not exactly a "Good morning boys and girls" sort of moment. No, when God came down He spoke with thunder and lightning. He spoke over the din of a ear-splitting trumpet blast. The words from the Creator's mouth shook the foundations of Creation itself. The people were filled with fear and trembling.

"Um, Moses? On second thought, you speak to God. We'll go back to playing in the sandbox waaaaay over there and you can just tell us later what He said. We'll do what He says. Honest! OK?"

Thus was born the priesthood. As an Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor saw her role much like Moses did: turn and listen to God, return and speak to the people. Repeat. But what do you do when you turn facing the altar to listen and God is silent?

[When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor] This game of divine hide and seek is part of God's pedagogy in Isaiah, which makes silence a vital component of God's speech. Tragically, the game often backfires. Like restless children easily distracted, the people seek God for a little while and then go off to make mud pies, without ever discovering God's hiding place.

I see a lot of the dualism connected to our reluctance to enter into an intimate relationship with our Creator. We would rather keep the Lord at arms length behind an impersonal screen of syllogisms and deductive logic. It’s OK to let the Lord God into our heads, but heaven forbid we ever let him into our hearts and souls.

The kind of intimate relationship which comes from being nose-to-nose with Jesus is scary. But this is exactly where he wants us. He wants to be the apple of our eyes and he wants us to be the apple of his. He wants to be so close that he can see his own reflection in the pupils of our eyes — he wants us to be his “pupilla” (literally, “little doll” in Latin), his little anointed-one, his little Christ.

It is easier to talk about Jesus than to talk with him.

It is easier to pray in public, pray in groups, than it is to pray in private.

It is much easier to write a check to feed the hungry than it is to take a hungry homeless family to lunch. Invite them into your home for Thanksgiving? Never!

It is easier to incessantly argue about the menu than to actually sit down and share a meal together.

It is easier to sit and watch the parade of apostles than to actually get up out of our lawn chair on the curb and work to become one.

It is much easier to push heaven up into the sky than to work to bring it down to earth.

When the entire Hebrew nation with freshly laundered clothes and clean shiny faces heard the thunderous voice of the Lord, they ran and hid.  It really hasn’t changed much since, has it? We appoint people to talk to and respond to God while we sit on the far end of the sandbox and watch.

What would happen if we ALL went up to the mountain of God with humble hearts and said, “OK, Lord. I feel you thunder, I hear your trumpet blasts. Put me to work.”

Maybe a little of Heaven would come down to Earth and, for sure, we would be in for the most exciting and fulfilling rides of our lives.

So what on earth are we waiting for?

I long for yet run from God's presence. I crave God's guiding hand on my shoulder yet deeply understand that responding to His touch may cost me more than I am willing to pay. He is going to ask me to change, to give up some of my pride, my arrogance. He is going to expose my idolatry and shake the foundations of my existence. No wonder the sandbox, so easy and undemanding, is so enticing.

Israel heard the voice of the Lord and ran from it. Jacob, too, heard the voice of the Lord and was afraid. He stood in awe at the gate of eternity, erected a stone pillar, and poured oil on it. He built an altar. It stands as a testament to a place where God broke through and spoke directly to mankind.

As a Christian, I have a similar place within me. It is an altar erected by Jesus when I awoke to His presence. He anointed that place and made it Holy. It is the place where God speaks, not with smoke and fire and trumpet blasts and earthquakes, but with still, small voices.


It is a place where God doesn't scare me away with His voice, but begs me to come closer and closer until I can hear Him plainly – until I can hear Him above the cacophony of other voices in my head – until I can feel His kindness, His goodness, His patience

– until I can hear His peace.

And at the edge of that peace, while immersed in His love, filled to the brim, I can't help but run back to the sandbox and slosh that love back out into the world. And in doing that, I feel His joy.