The LORD God commanded Abram to shift from his father’s house and his family to a new place that was to be told to him about later. The disciples were also asked to follow the Lord with little details about their future and their role in that. They continued to expect the setting up of a political kingdom by the Lord with important positions of honor for each one of them. They stayed with the Lord for more than three years yet failed to grasp the essence of His work as Man till the Holy Spirit descended on them on the Day of Pentecost. On behalf of all of them Apostle Peter plainly sought the Lord about their future for they had left all for Him.
Why could the disciples understand what was told to them by the Lord? Before God called out anyone for His work in the Scriptures, some details are provided about the background of that person. ‘Noah was a righteous man, righteous in his generation. Noah walked with God’ (Genesis 6:9) and only after this we learn that God spoke to Noah and we consider his being chosen to make the Ark as a right thing. Likewise, before Moses’ call from the burning bush, we know lot of details about the circumstances prevailing in Egypt, oppression of the Jews, his birth and being brought up in Pharaoh’s palace and killing of an Egyptian to help a fellow Jew, escape and marriage to Zipporah, Jethro the Midian priest’s daughter etc. But when Abram was called there is no information about him that would provide the reason for the call to him (Genesis 12:1-3). Moses knew the ways of the palace and was courageous but what about Abram for there is absolute vacuum concerning him and he received the greatest blessing that ‘all the families of the earth will be blessed through you’.
Abram was chosen by God to be the father of a new group of people who would reveal God to the other people on the earth – But why was he chosen for this role? Many stories about his youth are given, his search for truth, his endless inquisitiveness to understand the origin of mankind, his battle for truth with his people and even about his many sacrifices for his convictions before people who were deeply involved in worship of other gods. But there is no mention in the Scriptures about any of his unique virtues. Nahmanides, Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman, also known as Ramban, the acronym for his name, the great Jewish scholar around 1250 has said, that the words ‘Lech Lecha’ that God said to Abram to go to a new land are said to every human being but only Abram heard the call. The call of God is, ‘Go to yourself, from your land, your birthplace and your father’s home, to the land that I will show you’ and is the Divine call to everyone. God speaks to every human being but since communication is two ways, if the other party does not listen it is wasted. Abram had the spiritual, emotional and psychological tuning ready to hear the call and obey.
Many times the same message preached to an audience, touches someone to the core to bring in a change, while others remain unaffected. God speaks to each one of us and His message is ‘Lech Lecha’, move out of your insecurities, traumas of the past, fears and all the voices that hold you back and open up to God’s life of abundance to become more than what you are. When Lord Jesus chose the twelve disciples, the call was the same ‘Lech Lecha’ to get out of your superficial self and get filled to the core of your being with His divine light. A rich young man had come to the Lord to find ways to get eternal life with his self-efforts (Matthew 19:16-29). He loved his wealth and that had become his god, permanent focus and he did not want to part with that. Apostle Peter speaking on behalf of all disciples then asked the Lord, ‘we have left all and followed You. Therefore, what shall we have?’ Like the Jewish people the disciples also believed in the Messiah setting up a political kingdom by defeating the Romans and expected great positions of honor. The call ‘Lech Lecha’ was partially heard by them and they followed the Lord physically and Judas Iscariot could later turn away and join the Chief Priests and Jewish elders to get Him arrested. The change within them really occurred after the Holy Spirit descended on them and the change from within started.
The call to every one of us is also the same but the blessings flow only when we really hear and obey to move out of our old beliefs and ideas of earning our salvation through our good works to receiving it by God’s grace and mercy. Only then do we understand the purpose of the call and His power starts working from within us to make us a blessing for others, like Abraham was.
How can we do the works Lord Jesus did during His earthly ministry? – God created man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27) and ‘God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7). The Jewish interpretation of this is that man became a ‘speaking being’, one who could communicate with God, worship and obey Him. An image is what we see in a mirror and what the one in front of the mirror does, the image does exactly the same thing. Since the sinful nature that we inherited had blinded us to reality, we forgot who we are. The coming of the Son of God was to reveal our true self to us and blessing us with the indwelling Holy Spirit in reminding us about His words also helps us to live in like manner.
The call ‘Lech Lecha’ for each believer is to move out of our worldly way of life to enter into the heavenly way of the Lord by looking to Him and in Him the ultimate truth. As ‘salt of the earth’ and as ‘light of the world’, a believer’s role is to preserve the decaying values of the world and to show the real way that God desires for us to live by (Matthew 5:13-14). Out of the chosen twelve also not everyone heard in the same manner. Apostle John and His brother James were so angry at the Samaritan village for not receiving and honoring the Lord that they sought His permission ‘to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them’ (Luke 9:54-55).
The mother of James and John sought special favor for her sons to sit on the right and left of Lord Jesus in His kingdom (Matthew 20:21). James, the brother of Apostle John was martyred by the sword, by King Herod and he was the first of them to die (Acts 12:2). His brother Apostle John died in 100 AD at the age of 93-94, the last among the Apostles (Acts 12:2). Apostle John is the only one who repeatedly asserted in his Gospel account about the love of Lord Jesus for him by referring indirectly to himself as ‘the disciples whom Jesus loved’. Filled with that love, he was the only one who was present at the cross and who was entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of Mary, His mother by the Lord.
The disciples went out for fishing but caught nothing the whole night and heard a call from the resurrected Lord from the shore to cast their net on the right side of the boat ‘and you will find some’ (John 21:7). Only Apostle John recognized Him to tell Apostle Peter, ‘It is the Lord’, who put on his outer garment and plunged into the sea to reach Him first. The ‘Lech Lecha’ call to move out of their old lifestyles and follow was to all the disciples but only Apostle John fully experienced the love of the Master. He did this for he heard the call not only by the ears but by his heart also to fully surrender to Him.
During the Transfiguration of the Lord on the mount, Apostle Peter offered to make three huts for the Lord, Moses and Elijah but the voice of God from the cloud commanded them to ‘Hear Him’.The Shema command to the Israelites has been turned into a prayer by them (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The Hebrew word Shema means to listen, understand and obey. The Jews while saying this prayer, cover their eyes with their right hands to avoid distraction by anything of this world. When we read the Word of God, we also must shut the worldly eyes of the mind and heart to really imbibe the teaching and make that our own.
Lord Jesus sent seventy others, besides the twelve into the nearby villages, with authority to ‘heal the sick there’ (Luke 10:1, 9, 17 & 21). They returned with joy to say that ‘even the demons are subject to us in Your name’. Then Lord ‘Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes’. But He also told them to rejoice for their names being written in heaven and not be content with worldly things.
A child easily believes and that is what a believer is supposed to do. We tend to start looking for the how and why in the Word of God rather than leaving it to Him to fulfill His promises. Apostle Peter was commanded by the Lord to drop a hook into the lake, catch the fish and take out the drachma coin from its mouth and pay the Temple tax for both of them (Matthew 17:27). Apostle Peter was a fisherman and he still overcame the initial embarrassment of placing a line to catch fish. As told by the Lord, he got the fish, took the coin from its mouth and paid the Jewish tax collectors. He did not doubt nor tried to find out the way that the coin could have reached the mouth of the fish.
The call touches every human heart but many are so filled with darkness that they ignore and continue in their ways. Abraham and many others including the eleven heard and changed the world by hearing and internalizing the message. I heard my ‘Lech Lecha’ but ignored it for years on end and pray that you will not, and follow Him from this very moment.
How do we hear and identify the voice of God? In the Scripture we find God communicating with man through an audible voice (Moses, child Samuel and Elijah), an angel (Zechariah and Mary), a dream (Joseph) and writing on the wall (King Belshazzar/Daniel). It is natural for us to want to hear His Word to know and follow His will but the noise of the world drowns out everything. God speaks to man but he does not understand and this is through a dream or a vision and God ‘opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, in order to turn man from his deeds and conceal pride from him’ (Job 33:14-18). Some miraculous deeds may also contain a message for man.
Hearing anyone always has three components, listen, then understand the message and finally adapt that or act upon it. The more we earnestly desire to hear God the greater is the possibility of our hearing. God’s message is clear, ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13). King David understood the secret and said, ‘The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God’ (Psalm 14:2). We must invite God into our lives and only then He responds to our desire for more of Him when we pursue Him regularly.
We demonstrate our desire for Him by reading and studying the Holy Bible, spending time in prayer, fellowship with other believers and know more of Him and then recognize His voice. We focus completely on God by physically and mentally laying aside our works/distractions for we cannot be multi-tasking our mind for this. We tend to get irritated when someone we are talking to keeps busy with his/her phone and God definitely must receive our complete attention if we really want to hear Him. Like the spirit of man knows all about him the Holy Spirit in a believer is from God and knows all about God, being a member of the Holy Trinity ‘that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God’ (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). God does not want to confuse us and His Spirit from within us answers our questions through His Word and inner promptings. Despite that most people rarely hear or understand the message of God and live blindly.
What disables us from hearing God? Our attitude determines our ability to hear God and there are many other reasons for this. First, false expectation; Expecting to hear only what we want to, for too many people believe in a God who must always agree with them. God will answer what is right and many times will disagree with our choices and ways and when we humbly accept that, obey diligently, we continue to hear Him.
Second, distractions; In the world everyone seeks instant gratification and attention spans are short. Seeking God is a time-consuming work and one gets easily distracted. Apostle Paul identifies this malaise as setting your minds on the worldly things instead of things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5).
Third, trying too hard; We do not hear His voice because we are a ‘super Christian’ but for being the Lord’s sheep and thus we recognize His voice to follow Him (John 10:27). When we are desperate to Hear Him we tend to invite other spirits to step in and lead us astray.
Four, disobedience; In the Old Testament, the Israelites were repeatedly warned to hear and obey God. Though the reward system is replaced by grace of God, still our obedience is definitely required, for how can we expect Him to speak to us if we are not willing to obey His words.
Five, Unbelief; Most people either do not expect or do not believe that God can and does speak to them. It could be because of their perceived lack of ability, false doctrinal teaching or simple unbelief.
Six, wrong attitude and behavior; We being created in God’s image and likeness are expected to reflect godly attitude towards others. Liars and cowardly people are also listed among others who are barred from being part of God’s family in the new dispensation (Revelation 21:8). Such ones will not hear the voice of God.
Seven, lack of concern or indifference; If we are more concerned about other things than God, He will not answer our call.
How do you know you are hearing God’s voice only? First, the message will always be in line with the Scripture for He will never act outside His being. Second, confirmation of the message by other believers. Third, A message coming again and again without change is likely to be from God because He is consistent and persistent. Four, A child does not fully understand but over time he starts understanding his parents’ words. A mature Christian will hear Him clearly and recognize the message better as compared to a new believer.
Hearing God without believing and obeying is ignoring Him and this would not only silence His message but may also result in punishment. The call from God is consistent for He as a good Father, cares for each one of His children but only they Hear Him well who desire to and want to follow Him. God is a loving Father and He offered His most precious gift, His Own Son, as a sacrifice on the cross to get us to be His family members. Why would He ignore those who He redeemed at such great cost? But till such time we turn to Him with complete devotion, we can neither get His attention nor hear Him. Hearing Him depends more on us as to how much we desire to hear and pay heed to His calling!