Listen to God’s Voice

June 1, 2016

Minute by minute, decision by decision, day after day, we are incited, tempted, seduced, and drawn into the battle within in our hearts and minds for the supremacy of the Universe.

Our battlefield is our mind, and the goal of our conquest is for happiness, for peace, for fulfillment. Oftentimes, though, our battle objectives fail us in the life-long pursuit of our goal because we lack the insight, true wisdom, and a self-awareness of how our desires actually work to short-circuit the achievement of our goal.

Though our pride tells us otherwise, we will never be ultimately satisfied by playing god. True peace and joy comes only by obeying God. This great truth is woven into the very fabric of Scripture. We are created by a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise Being who desires to bestow grace, mercy and peace upon His creation. Despite the great lengths He has gone through, we still reject Him, we hear not His voice. Instead, we hear and heed other voices. This is the foundation laid for us in Genesis 1-3. True fulfillment is to be found only in believing the voice of God, trusting in the God who has spoken, and taking to heart the words He was given us in His Word.

But, you may say to me, the costs of obeying your God are too high. To be sure, there are temporal consequences to obeying the voice of God. In our post-modern culture, there are many forces at work playing the serpent’s role. The paganists listen for many gods. The atheists account only themselves as god. The pantheists say all is god. The New Agers say we all are god. Reason would say that not all of these can be true. However, the Bible teaches that none of these can be true, because in none of these worldviews is truth found. And, to stand against them is to sure to draw their derision. Their derision has consequences such as loss of status, loss of prestige, loss of wealth, loss of relationships, even loss of life. But, even when obeying God costs us in the short-term, it is always to our long-term advantage.

The Cost is High, But Not Too High

I myself have experienced the costs of not obeying God. I have also experienced the costs of obeying God. I would be quick to agree that the costs are high, but not too high. I would also counter that the cost for playing god is far greater than the cost of obeying God.

Let me give you an example from Scripture, though many who read this may instantly object, please do me the favor of hearing me out, of hearing the Bible out, of hearing God out. After all, He created You, He loves you, and He knows what is best for you.

Many know the story, or part of the story, as presented in Genesis 3. It’s the passage known as ‘The Fall’. In it we are introduced to a crafty serpent that can talk, a woman who is a self-fashioned aficionado of fruit, and a man whose great sin is listening to the voice of his wife, rather than the voice of God.

Immediately, we see the aim of the crafty serpent is to create doubt in the mind of the woman as to the motives and goodness of the God who created her. Read this:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5, ESV)

 

Now, let’s agree on some things. First, the serpent mis-quotes God, right off the bat. He knew what God had said, but intentionally, and with malice chose to misrepresent God’s words in an attempt to misrepresent God’s character and motive. What God actually said is found in Genesis 2:15-17.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

First, notice the actual meaning and intent of God’s prohibition to Adam. In God’s goodness, he sought to protect Adam from (1) evil, and (2) death. Contrast that with the first recorded words of the serpent, as they are said to Eve:

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Emphasis added.)

Why would he misrepresent God’s words in such a way? What is his intention? He desired to impugn the motives of the Creator, so that his would be the voice heard and heeded, rather than the voice of God. The culture at large, is serpent-like in its continual misrepresentation of God’s Word, in order to drown out His voice that theirs would be heard and heeded. We must be on guard in a way the woman was not.

The woman, lacking resolve, was already in trouble, for she too twists God’s word. Notice her response, as if ashamed of the true words of God, she repeats them, and then adds to them:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3) (Emphasis added.)

Here the door is opened. The hull is cracked, the dam is burst, the inevitable is on the march. Sadly, the voice of God is being drowned out by other voices; the seductive voice of the serpent, and the equally seductive voice of self-talk. Notice the serpent’s secondary assault, an outright, not so subtle, boot-on-the-neck, blatant attack on the truth from God’s own voice:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Notice two things here. First, the serpent directly contradicts God’s truth, “You will not surely die.” Secondly, he attacks the motive of God, painting Him as an insecure, petty deity whose only purpose in the prohibition is to withhold an equality with God from His creatures, “For God knows…you will be like God”. Herein is the great battle in our hearts and minds, we don’t want to obey God as much as we want to play god.

This is our problem, and our great dilemma, and the thing from which we must be saved. The desire to be like God, to be god in place of God. To supplant the voice of God by other voices, the voices of the culture, of this age, of our own self-talk.

By now, you may say, what is this self-talk you keep referring to? You see it in all it’s gory power in the following verses:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:6-7)

Once the woman yielded to the voice of the serpent, the next voice she heard was her own. She took it upon herself to place value and authority in her own voice. She determined what was good, and what was to be desired, and despite the warning from God, she took of the forbidden tree and ate. Notice the progression: “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food… it was a delight…it was to be desired”. That is self-talk that defies logic, defies truth, defies God. It is what we must be on our guard against always!

Her self-talk, incited by the God-degrading voice of the God-hating serpent, convinced her to go against God. Scripture says “when the woman saw…she took…and ate.” This is the end result of ignoring God’s truth, it is indulging in what is wrong because of a desire within us. It is a danger as ancient as creation. It is rejecting the God who created us, the God who sets loving boundaries for us, in order to embrace ourselves as god.

Sadly, her sin was not merely her sin, but it became ours. For, in the next breath, we see the horror of the woman’s serpent-likeness, as she gives of the fruit to the man, who is described as “her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

This scene is tragic, heart-breaking, and played out over and over again in our hearts and minds. We willfully, sometimes ignorantly, sometimes deliberately, reject God’s voice in deference to other voices.

Notice God’s words to the man in 3:17,

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

God begins the announcement of the consequences to Adam with, “because you have listened to the voice of your wife”. This the culmination of the woman listening to her own heart, after listening to the serpent who misrepresented God and cast doubt upon His motives and goodness.

So, I say to you, what is the cost? Is it too high a cost to obey God? No! I say, it is too high a cost not to obey Him.

Notice the consequences of rejecting the voice of God, life out of earshot of God is described as “cursed” (3:14); a life of “enmity” (3:15);  in “pain” (3:16); and death;  for we are given these words, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (3:19).

Thankfully, in the midst of the destructive consequences of rejecting God’s voice, God continues to speak, even to fallen man. His tenderness prevails as He fashions skins to clothe their naked bodies. He has not forsaken them, He still has plans to bless their offspring, and to accomplish His great purposes. He is, after all, unchangingly good.

Hear The Voice That Is True

So, let us acknowledge our strategic quandary. We hear many voices, when only One is true.

We hear the talk of our culture, the spirit of the age, and we are seduced by its wisdom. We bow to public opinion, or sentiment. We float along, as leaves on a wave, going where ever the currents take us. We believe the lie that truth does not exist, or that truth is what we declare it to be. But, no true truth ever changed. Just as North, South, East and West are constant, so the fixed truths upon which the Universe was founded. As light dispels dark, as much light produces heat, as much sound produces confusion, so truth never wavers.

We hear our own self-talk, encouraging us to seek our own good, our own best interests, our own happiness, in ways in which we approve. We must acknowledge that for all the great human achievement and knowledge stored up like so many vats of fine wine, we still only see reality through a lens dimly lighted.

We hear the voice of God, encouraging us to see our own limitations, to see the devastation wrought when we listen to other voices. He speaks for our good, for our protection. He speaks to guide us, to lead us, to position us for our greatest joy. The God of the Universe, whose wisdom is clearly seen in the ordered universe in which we dwell, offers us the truth, the goal, and the happiness we desire.

So, our choices are, we can listen to the voices of our culture, we can listen to the voice of our own selves, or we can listen to the voice of God. He has the true key to joy, peace, life and human flourishing. Other voices, from finite beings, lead us down a dangerous path.

When we stand against the culture, against our friends, against our enemies, we will learn the cost is high. But, when we stand at the Judgment, before a Holy God and the great cloud of witnesses, we will be glad we did not say the cost was too high.

Ken Nichols

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