God, Did I Hear You Right?
The Biblical definition of apocalypse is an exposure, an uncovering, or a revealing. It is God pulling back the curtain between heaven and earth and allowing humans to experience them as one. I believe we are living in an unprecedented time of God’s apocalypses.
Have you ever gotten your “tang toungled?” A dear friend with dyslexia, sometimes twists words and phrases up in fun ways. Around a dinner table with he and others, we discussed our concerns about a young person we know who is hanging with shady people. Three or four of us talked simultaneously and into that stew of words my dyslexic friend said earnestly, “Well, you know the old saying. ‘If you lie down with fleas, you’ll get up with dogs.’” The conversation stopped, then exploded with, “Wait. What? Did I hear you right?” My sweet friend attempted the saying again, but our belly laughs tipped him off that maybe he got lost in the weeds on that one.
Do you ever have moments like that with God, where you think you heard him say something but then you’re not so sure? I can think of many times I felt certain God brought clear direction, and I tried to obey him.
I’ve started jobs and ended jobs.
I’ve moved in and out of houses.
I’ve built friendships and let go of some people.
I’ve volunteered for ministries and disengaged from ministries all based on my perception of God’s voice to me.
Sometimes my obedience to God’s voice bears good fruit right away. Those are great times. I feel affirmed in my ability to hear God. Other times, nothing happens, or negative stuff happens. I find myself with this question. “God, did I hear you right?”
We see Abram in a moment like that in Genesis 15. In Genesis 12 God paints the big picture of his promise to Abram to create a great nation from his descendants. Between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 though, years passed, and Sarah still felt the sting of empty arms. Both Abram and Sarah watched years slip away along with their strength and their hope. God, in his mercy, knows they need encouragement and a reminder of his promise. Chapter 15 opens with an apocalyptic moment for Abram where God speaks to him in a vision. In the vision God speaks four key ideas to Abram.
- Do not be afraid because I am your shield.
- Do not be afraid because I will bring you a great reward.
- You will bear a child and your wealth will be given to him.
- Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars, too many to count.
These are beautiful promises, but Abram doesn’t receive the first two very well at all. In fact, it sounds to me like he interrupts God and starts arguing with him. We can hear Abram’s frustration in verses 2 and 3.
“Sometime later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.’ O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Whew! Can you hear the anger and the accusing stance that Abram takes with God? Three times in a row Abram points out that God has not made good on his promise even though God JUST reassured him that the promise stands.
Have you ever done that? I sure have when I obeyed God and things don’t go well or as I expected.
Our good, good Father doesn’t yell at Abram or scold him. He invites Abram to come outside of his tent and do some stargazing.
Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” Genesis 15:4-5 NLT.
In this apocalyptic vision, God allows Abram to see what already exists from a heavenly point of view. Unbound by time and space, God could already see all of Abram’s descendants. He used the stars as a metaphor to help Abram see this glimpse of heaven’s perspective.
Abram got it. He settled himself and believed God again.
And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith Genesis 15:6 NLT.
I don’t always get it.
I don’t always believe it.
I want to grow up and be more like Abram.
There are some profound lessons we can keep for ourselves from Abram’s apocalyptic encounter with God. Here’s some I pulled out, but I bet you can find even more.
We Can Be Fearless In Our Obedience to God Because He Is Our Shield
Psalm 18:30 says, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” Psalm 5:12 says, “For you bless the godly O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.” These are only two of the dozens of verses in scripture that convey God’s promise to protect his children. When we walk in obedience, troubles and trials still come but we are covered and protected amid them. We emerge from floods and fires unharmed in our spirits. We may lose many things, as God allows our lives to be shaken, but Holy Spirit will keep our spirits sealed and intact.
God is our shield.
God is our fortress.
God is our covering and protection.
Disobedience drives us out from under the covering wings of our Father and sends us into the arms of doubt, fear, confusion and all the pain they can bring. Obedience to God’s calls on us can create a fearlessness that takes risks, moves against the grain of our culture, and enables us to stand alone when people think we’re goofy. Don’t you doubt for a minute that Abram probably encountered mockers that laughed at the idea of he and Sarah bearing children in their old age.
God Rewards His Obedient Children
God longs to pour out blessing after blessing on his children but often cannot because of our disobedience. Its obvious God wanted to pour out the blessing of Ninevah’s mass repentance and revival on Jonah. This is every preacher and evangelist’s dream. God delayed that blessing because of Jonah’s disobedience. Instead, he put him in a time out inside a fish. God assured Abram that if he continued to move in faith and not in fear, he would receive a great reward from God.
God wants to reward our obedience with things “beyond what we can ask or imagine,” as Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20. Like having a baby in your nineties.
God Works Out the Details of His Promises for You
Abram’s faith stretched as far as believing God would make him wealthy. After that, he figured all that wealth would pass to one of his servants. His faith had not grown quite enough to believe that God would grow a baby in elderly Sarah.
At times, I too believe for the large strokes of God’s promises but struggle to believe that all the necessary details will fall in place.
“God, this is my dream job, but it doesn’t pay what I hoped for.”
“I found a doctor with a diagnosis for me, but my hospital doesn’t do this procedure.”
“My prodigal child came home and thank you for that God, but now I need him out of my basement and into a job.”
Often, as one of God’s promises comes to pass in our lives, we encounter some obstacles, that keep us from fully enjoying the promise. We searched and prayed for our current home for six months and when we finally found it, at first, we were pushed away from it by a couple with a better offer. My faith drooped for a bit and then God encouraged me through my husband’s faith that this was OUR house.
God will work out every detail of his promises for you, but it may take time, just as it did for Abram. Don’t lose heart in God’s waiting room. As my old pastor, Wayne Benson used to say, “Don’t doubt in the darkness what God spoke to you in the light.”
Keep your eyes and heart open. God may show up in your life in a dream or vision, prophetic word, sermon, or some other means, for the purpose of encouraging you to keep believing in one of his promises, no matter what. I think he’s eager to pull back some curtains and show you heaven’s perspective on something you are going through right now. Quiet yourself. Get out in nature regularly, like Abram did, and listen to your Father’s voice. Those very moments, when we are questioning what we’ve heard from him before, are the best times to seek him again.
Don’t give up on his promises.
Don’t doubt that you heard his voice before and that you will hear it again.
Draw near and listen closely.