The sun of a new year, ready to burst on the horizon, can serve our lives and souls in countless ways. But could any single new-year focus be more important than doing whatever it takes to hear from God himself?
Hearing God’s voice gets at the heart of what it means to be human. God made us for more than just listening to him, but not for less. To help us get the point, God dug two holes in the sides of our head so that even when we’re too weak to act, too weak to walk, too weak to reach, too weak to speak, even too weak to watch or read, words might travel into our heads and down into our hearts. Hearing is the most basic of human functions, and typically the last faculty to flee as the body shuts down at death. And God gave us ears, both physically and spiritually, that we might hear him.
New Year, New Habit
Of all the possible directions we’re pulled this time of year for fresh resolutions about health and finances and lifestyle, no resolutions hold greater potential for life-change, and eternal good, than fresh resolves to consistently put ourselves within earshot of God’s voice. Is there any more pressing question as a human, and as a Christian, than How will I hear God’s voice in 2019?
Perhaps you could start just one new habit to hear his voice this year. I’ll leave the specific suggestions to others, and to your own creativity, but I’d like to help you go beneath the resolution to the reward. Scripture itself is full of motivations that can carry you into 2019 with some fresh resolve about Bible reading or meditation, and shaping your life with God’s words of life. But perhaps one might stand above the rest this year: not only has our God spoken to us in the Scriptures, but he is speaking. It’s a theme that’s particularly powerful in the book of Hebrews, first in chapters 3–4 and then again in chapter 12. Maybe God would be pleased to make this your experience in 2019.
The Living God Still Speaks
Let’s start at the end with Hebrews 12:25, which gives the culminating word: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” Not “him who has spoken” but “him who is speaking.”
The previous section of the letter highlights God’s words for his people in the past. In the giving of the first covenant, his voice sounded from Sinai, and the people, including Moses, trembled with fear (Hebrews 12:18–21). But now, “the living God,” as Hebrews calls him four times (Hebrews 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22), speaks to us through his risen Son (Hebrews 1:2), whose blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). While Abel’s shed blood cried out from the ground for justice and retribution (Genesis 4:10–11), Jesus’s blood pleads for mercy and forgiveness. And if Abel, though dead, “still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4), how much more the living God through his incarnate Word? Not only as “him who has spoken” but as “him who is speaking.”
Our God is indeed “the living God,” and he continues to speak, from heaven’s throne, to his new-covenant people, through his Son. But how?
In His Living Word
How do we access the words of the incarnate Word? Hebrews 4:12 is memorable to many for its claim that “the word of God is living and active.” But what does the author of Hebrews have in view when he claims God’s word is “living and active”? He has Scripture in mind. And in particular, in this context, it’s Psalm 95.
Hebrews 3:7–11 quotes Psalm 95:7–11 and emphasizes that this is not a dead word or a mere historical record but a living call and ongoing offer, first issued a thousand years prior, and still speaking in the first century. Hebrews 3:15–4:11 then makes the case that not only did God offer rest (in the Promised Land) to his people under Joshua, but that offer of rest remained open to Psalm 95’s hearers and “still speaks.”
This living sequence from the Promised Land to Psalm 95 to the present is what the author has in view when he says, “the word of God is living and active.” Just as God offered rest to his people under Joshua, so also the offer remained hundreds of years later in the psalm, and now God’s word “still speaks” in the church age, both two thousand years ago and to us today. God’s word is a living word. He is the living God who continues to speak through his living Word, Jesus, in his living word, Scripture.
But one more piece remains: one more Person.
By His Living Spirit
The author of Hebrews has a remarkable doctrine of Scripture at work in his quotation of Psalm 95. It is simple and yet profound, and bursting with Bible-intake inspiration for 2019: “As the Holy Spirit says . . .” (Hebrews 3:7).
Psalm 95, as Scripture — and as representative of all of Scripture — is not only Spirit-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), and not only was it spoken in the past, but the Spirit continues to be the living breath carrying God’s word to the ears of his people. “As the Holy Spirit says . . .”
God’s written word, first and foremost, is what the Holy Spirit says. Not just said. Not just has spoken. But says. He is speaking. The living God, by his living Spirit, is speaking to us in his living word. How amazing that the Holy Spirit of God continues to speak to God’s people, to work powerfully in us subjectively, internally, writing God’s own words on our hearts. And how does he do it? By uniting himself to God’s objective, external, written word. He ever lives to make God’s word come alive for God’s people.
Here at the outset of a new year, take note with me. We all want to hear God speak. He made us for this. We all want to hear from God himself, by his Spirit, to give us the words we need to walk in what he’s called us to, for our joy and the good of others, in 2019. And what we need is for “him who is speaking” to keep saying, by his Spirit, what he’s been saying all along — and to make it come alive for us.
When we come to the Bible this year and every year, we come to an utterly unique Book. We come to the living words of the living God made alive for us by his living Spirit.
Here we will hear the most important voice of 2019. Will you plan accordingly?