Word from the Lord was rare in those days. (1 Samuel 3:1)
Is word from the Lord rare in ours? The devout would respond, “Absolutely not!” yet they would have different reasons for their confidence. One group would say ‘no’ because they have the Bible and it is the full and inerrant communication from God to man. Another group would say ‘no’ because they have apostles and prophets who share words from the Lord. One of the big reasons I named this blog In The Middle With Mystery is that I have good friends in both of these camps yet who will have little or nothing to do with each other. It is a mystery to me that co-heirs in Christ of God’s Kingdom, where unity is of preeminent value, view each other as heretics.
I don’t believe either group’s source of inspiration is as inerrant as they think and I certainly don’t have a monopoly on truth. I need my family on both sides of this divide. I really do. I recognize the invaluable contribution that scripture has made to the Church, to culture and to my own life. It has been profound. Yet powerful changes took place in the first three centuries of Christianity without the Bible. Some amazing transformation also occurred in me in three months, before I had ever opened the scriptures.
This offends part of my family and that grieves me but I must be honest. I have also heard the word of the Lord independent of scripture. It is blasphemous for my sola scriptura family to hear me say this but his Spirit is within me, and he is not silent. Learning to hear God’s voice (and making mistakes) is one big reason there is some fear and trembling left in the working out of my salvation. Did you hear that? I not only have salvation. I am working it out.
I (Jesus) do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21)
What I see of the future comes by way of hearing God’s heart in scripture. I believe, in his sovereignty, while never violating an iota of our free will, he is going to have a Bride and she will not be the bipolar one that is still struggling with her identity on earth at this time. I don’t know if it will be because of a single, or many bursts of light, but something is going to give, and when it does, in some sense, I believe we shall be one in some recognizable way that will cause the world to see and to believe. When we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” unity, among other things is what I anticipate as God’s answer.
One thing really stands out to me in our passage; that is, God can be speaking and we can fail to understand that he is speaking to us. How blessed we are if there is an Eli, whose lamp is still alit, who can help us to process what we are hearing. This is a primary reason why we were commanded to not forsake our interaction with each other. Our relationships are not optional. They are vital and we must understand this, because in reality, we are spiritually conjoined in Christ.
So, what is our application? To begin, I would suggest that it is to find the community of saints God has called us to be a part of. This could be those who gather in the established institution with its bricks and mortar or it could be among a more nomadic tribe who has been called to function together without the overhead and tradition. Either way, my point is that we must present ourselves to God and to each other with the same attitude Samuel acquired;
Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
Most authentic believers carry within them a that-the-world-might-know ambition. Since they have been saved from terminal spiritual cancer they are left with the same hope and aspiration for others. How could this be otherwise? And since unity was so prominent in his final request to his Father, and since unity is also sited as a remedy to the world’s unbelief, then this same motivation must become an operational part of our hearts. Since Christ lives in us, nothing could be more natural than our gathering, anticipating that, by way of our unity, others might come to see and to attain eternal life in Christ.
Christians are odd balls to say the least. The scriptures refer to us as aliens and strangers. Coupling this with our understanding that all things are possible with God should equip us to think outside the box (or wineskin, as the case may be). Our world has zero hope outside of Jesus and he is currently being represented by 42, 000 denominations at last count. I am willing to be so bold as to imagine that God might indeed do something new in response to his own prayers and ours that would draw attention, of the most positive type, to his Bride. Perhaps our story, as the Church, will conclude as did our passage;
“Behold, I am about to do a thing at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” (1 Samuel 3:11)
Father, awaken your Bride to her ultimate calling – to glow radiantly in the midst of darkness, to such a degree that the hopeless, the captives and the downtrodden look upon her and find Life. Amen.