I need to use these symbols to replace the actual words spoken to me in an extremely coarse exchange I had with a person who was upset with me. “*&$)%^#@*&)^#**!!” Initially, I was a little taken aback with the vocabulary, but at the same time the explicit words helped provide abundant clarity for what this person was expressing.
In contrast, I’ve also had exchanges with people whose communication was super unclear and vague. In these kinds of interactions, it can be challenging to know exactly what’s being said.
What style of communication would you prefer? Do you like explicit and overt? Or do you prefer indirect and maybe obscure?
I think it’s important to think about communication in these ways, not only for our human to human interaction, but moreso for the communication that happens between God and us. I say this because it’s very natural to assume that God communicates with us similar to how we communicate with each other using words, conversations, dialogue, etc. Thankfully, God has given us the Bible for some concrete words to help us know and recognize God not only in human history but also in God’s character and heart.
However, we would be wise to pause and consider that God is Infinite and we are finite. To this end, communication from and with God does not always follow the same patterns and expressions that we experience in our human to human dialogues or communication.
For example, in 1Kings 19, there’s a fascinating exchange between the prophet Elisha and God. This exchange happened after Elisha had seen God move dramatically in 1Kings 18, confirming God’s power and judgment against the idolatry of the King and Queen of Israel. After this dramatic demonstration, the Queen of Israel threatened to kill Elisha and he fearfully ran for his life. God sent an angel to provide food and rest for Elisha, who then ran into wilderness where he was hiding in a cave for the culminating events of 1Kings 19.
In this chapter, Elisha looks out from the cave and sees a massive wind that is strong enough to smash rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. Elisha sees an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake. Elisha sees fire, but God isn’t in the fire. When Elisha hears “a still small voice” he recognizes this is God speaking with him and heads out of his cave.
If you’re like me, I want God to speak to me in clear, explicit and direct ways. I would like it if God would dialogue with me with definite words, clear discussion, obvious interactions and overt engagement – maybe not quite as extreme as an earthquake or rock crushing wind. And to this end, I’m massively grateful for the Bible because it gives me God’s Word in black and white.
Let’s appreciate, however, that God communicates with us not only in explicit and definite ways, but also in ways that are more subtle, like the gentle whisper or still small voice. God can communicate with us as a gentle whisper, a tender reminder, the beautiful sunrise or sunset, through the comment or hug or a friend, in a sermon or blog, in a dream at night and many other ways. Consequently, we would be wise to ask God to help us recognize the massive variety of ways that God communicates with us everyday, appreciating that Infinite has innumerable expressions for communicating with us who are finite.