Friends, this week I am at a spiritual formation retreat, which is part of the two-year program I’ve been doing through Renovare;. While I’m away, I’ve asked my friend Connie Willems, former editor of Discipleship Journal, to share an article from her newsletter with you. Like me, she has been on an exciting journey of learning to hear from God personally, in the context of relationship. I think you’ll appreciate what she has to say.
I’ve been doing an intense Bible study over the past year on how God speaks, whom He speaks to, and what methods He uses. I want to make sure that as we relate and listen with God, we’re doing so in ways that match His character and habits as revealed in Scripture.
One of the first things I noticed was that when God speaks in the Bible, He is talking with people He knows by name. That may seem stunningly obvious, but seeing the stories one after another really drove it home to me. As I paged through Genesis, I noted that
The Lord said to Cain . . . (4:6)
The Lord appeared to Abraham . . . (18:1)
God came to Abimelech in a dream . . . (20:3)
The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven . . . (21:17)
The Lord appeared to Isaac . . . (26:2)
God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night . . . (31:24)
God said to Jacob . . . (35:1)
Time after time, I noted, God talks with an individual, often addressing him or her by name. In fact, it wasn’t until much later — the book of Judges — that I saw God speaking to a group of unnamed people. The more I pondered this, the more I realized that seeing God speak (and even dialogue) so personally corrected a perception I hadn’t been aware I held.
I sort of had an unstated idea that God broadcasts His speech to everyone, somewhat like a radio station sends out a signal; it’s up to us to tune in and hear — or not. That hidden thought was exposed when I saw God talking so often with one person. He knew exactly whom He was talking with, what the person’s name was, and why He was taking time with him or her. God was being highly personal and very deliberate.
I’d experienced times that God spoke with me, but I’m not sure I recognized just how personal those interactions were. God hadn’t wandered into a conversation with me because I was the only one around. He had chosen to speak with me because He knew me and wanted to talk with me.
While God is omniscient and therefore knows everything, it’s still stunning to experience that He knows our names . . . He knows us. Hagar expressed this wonder after the angel of the Lord came and found her in the desert. He addressed her by name, talked with her, and gave her direction and a new vision for the future. Afterward, marveling, she named God El Roi, “the God who sees me,” saying, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
Note: Connie writes this newsletter along with our mutual friend, Buddy Westbrook. If you’d like to subscribe to their free newsletter, Talking Points, click on http://eepurl.com/kBRBX.