The Outside Voice (Hebrews 1:1)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways. (Hebrews 1:1)

We live in a communication-rich world. Just this morning, I’ve managed to communicate with my two oldest daughters without setting eyes on either one of them. Between the ubiquitous cell phone, the text message, Twitter, Facebook, and good, old-fashioned hollering, we can communicate through many channels and with the greatest of ease. Emily, on a train to Chicago, managed to take a photo of the grandkids with her phone and, using Amtrak’s wifi, post it to Facebook. That so beats the squalling I heard when they rose at 5:00 this morning.

I appreciate the ease of communication that we enjoy, but that ease does not equal profundity. Even that most prolific of the prophets, Isaiah, wrote relatively little by the standards of the world. Compare Isaiah’s sixty-six chapters to the 1,056 lines that comprise Milton’s Paradise Lost. Or the 100 cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Yes, both of those works are quite profound, but many even longer works–think of perhaps one of James Michener’s vast novels–make up for their lack of importance with a hefty page count.

God spoke to our (Hebrew) ancestors at many times and in various ways, but he did not blather on endlessly. Read the life of Abraham to see how a series of powerful experiences were interrupted by long years of normality. If Isaiah wrote at a steady pace, which he probably did not, he would have churned out just the equivalent of a chapter each year throughout his career.

A young Christian expects God to speak clearly, powerfully, and pretty much nonstop. As we move through our lives, we recognize that most of the time even the still, small voice is a great deal more definite than what we hear from God. We need to learn a lesson from those Old Testament prophets, listening carefully in order to be ready for those rare eruptions of God’s “outside” voice.