Hearing God | Liz Downey

Fishermen at Sea, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1796; Tate Museum, London.

Fishermen at Sea, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1796; Tate Museum, London.

John 12:27-36

“Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (John 12:28-29)

I love the sense of confusion and wonder in the onlookers here, as it’s probably what I would be feeling in the same situation. A crowd is standing near Jesus as an audible voice responds to His prayer to the Father, but some witnesses think it’s thunder, while some pick up on the supernatural implications but assume it’s an angel speaking. No one gets it quite right.

These reactions make me think of how God’s voice appears in the world today, and in my life. Do I even know how to hear Him over the clamor of my busyness and distractions, or am I functionally deaf to his voice? In lieu of an audible sound from heaven saying, “move here,” “marry this person,” or “don’t do that,” how do we discern what God is saying to us?

Jesus responds to the crowd’s murmurings about the source of the sound by telling them, “this voice has come for your sake, not mine (v.30).” Jesus didn’t need the audible voice of the Father – he’s in intimate communion with Him every day. Yet the voice serves to highlight God’s plan for their, and our, redemption – the ruler of the world will be cast out, but then lifted up to draw all people to him. Jesus urges them, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light (v.35-36).”

 As we prepare to enter into the darkness of Good Friday in just a few days, we can take comfort in the fact that we can walk in the light, that through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and through God’s word, we have “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) to help us listen to the voice from heaven. Unlike the onlookers in Jesus’ day, we know that the Son of Man was lifted up, and lifted up in glory. As D.A. Carson says about those witnesses, “eventually they would remember what Jesus had told them the voice had uttered, and it would be for them a divine confirmation that the shameful cross, and all that flowed from it, was not a defeat but a victory, not final destruction but ultimate glorification.”

Liz Downey is Advent's Operations and Communications Coordinator. She's an avid horseback rider, huge fan of public libraries, and loves traveling to new places near and far. She lives in Brookland.