Sound - the very idea of it - has always fascinated me. I grew up not knowing there were certain sounds, like the sound of birds, or machines, or the tick-tock of a clock. I heard only in part, because of deafness. Childhood nerve damage to my ears left me hearing only the loudest of noises, or those closest in proximity to me. I did not know that some sounds even existed until, in fourth grade, I was given hearing aids.
The shock of sound alarmed me beyond belief. The moment an audiologist turned up the volume for me, I screamed. Suddenly, there was sound, and a lot of it! An air conditioner outside the window, humming noisily, made me jump out of the chair I was sitting in. I remember thinking it was the hum of an aircraft invasion! Refrigerators make noise - did you know that? And birds, mice, all of God's creation has something to say - if you can hear it.
Heaven is like this, too. Not to alarm us, of course, but heaven is a noisy place! John gives us amazing descriptions of the sounds of heaven in Revelation. As one deeply intimate with the Lord, John was given access to sights and sounds that most humans will never see or hear. And it all started with sound.
Look at the first Pentecost. The disciples (including John) were gathered in an upper room, waiting for a promised encounter with God. Acts 2 says that "Suddenly, there came a SOUND from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2). I am certain that the noise of this whirlwind made at least some of the disciples jump out of their seats, as I did when I could first hear! These believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) What a powerful initiation to hearing the sounds of heaven!
Sound Begets Speech
From the moment the Holy Spirit opened the ears of the disciples, He also inspired them to speak the gospel. The Holy Spirit, whose job it is to amplify the sounds of heaven in our ears, filled the first believers with language, not just hearing, so that thousands of others heard about God in their own languages and became believers themselves. The amplification of the sounds of heaven brought the multiplication of men into the Kingdom of God.
And so it still is with us today. If you are listening, you will also be speaking. And speaking - telling others the Good News of the Gospel - is the primary call and commission of every believer. (See Matthew 28:18).
But the reverse is also true: if we are NOT listening, we will not be hearing either. If we do not hear the Words of God, we will not be saved. If believers do not listen daily for the sounds of heaven, those specific and personal instructions He wants to give us, we will not be led by the Spirit. And if we don't know where we are supposed to be or what He wants us to be doing, we will not be living and sharing the testimonies He wants to give us, which will lead others to hear more about Him.
How then shall they believe in Him of whom
What does heaven sound like? John's experience with the incredible sounds and sights of heaven began with the sound of a trumpet: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying: I am the Alpha and the Omega...write what you see in a book and send it to the churches..." (Revelation 1:10-11) This would be the first of over 20 times John would hear loud voices, thunderings, earthquakes, music, loud cries of angels, harps, and worship.
In contrast, only once are we told (in Revelation 8) that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1). This coincided with the opening of the seventh seal. (Seven is the number biblically connected with rest and sabbaths).
The noises and voices John hears take him successively higher in the heavenly realm, until at last he is able to see the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem, the final destiny of all believers. Yet even in his first glimpse of the throne of God, John writes that "...from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices." (Rev 4:5) The seven Spirits of God were burning like lamps before the throne. He also sees living creatures and elders worshiping day and night, speaking of the holiness of God. Their praise never ceases; they do not rest.
What can we gain from this? The knowledge that the closer we get to the throne of God, the more constant our speaking will be. The Spirit of God mysteriously abides both within us and near to the throne. What He hears, He speaks to us. What we hear, we then speak, preach, prophesy, and sing. As we draw as near to God as we can, we will be compelled, as these elders are, to speak of Him constantly, to worship Him 24/7, and to yield to the inspiration of the Spirit within us.
Jesus cried aloud when He gave up His Spirit and when He summoned Lazarus from the tomb. Angels cry loudly and trumpet the proclamations of God. Man cries out in his prayers of distress or decree. All are normal responses to the pneuma, or the breath, of the Spirit of God in us. Hearing from God compels us to speak. Sharing what we hear will cause others to hear Him also.
Hearing and speech are intricately linked in both the natural and spiritual realms. Don't let a deaf and dumb spirit silence you. Listen for the loud sounds of heaven, and then speak in such a way that you'll compel others to hear heaven, too.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes
Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
~ Isaiah 62:7
My youngest son was invited to a "sleepover party" this week. One of his closest friends was turning 10 and wanted my little guy to celebrate with him. You might not think a sleepover is such a big deal at your age, but for a nine-year-old who has often been left behind while two older brothers go on sleepovers, this was like being given the world! Oh, the fun they would have! They would stay up until TEN O'CLOCK, he boasted to me! They would eat popcorn! Watch movies! Candy for dinner! And on and on he went.
The invitation arrived a week or so ahead of time. It was beautiful: a full-color, printed invitation complete with pictures, time and date. It promptly earned a coveted place on our fridge, where my son could visually savor its promised delights until the momentous day should arrive. We discussed it daily: what to bring, what to wear, how exciting that HE had been invited, along with one or two of his best friends! This was just THE BEST!
As you already know, the hard part of receiving a promise is waiting for its fulfillment. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Not knowing when your promise will happen is difficult, of course, but even knowing the appointed time can be a challenge - especially for children! But what actually happened surprised me.
The day of the party arrived, and my little guy had patiently made it through the week, occupied with school, chores, and other things important to nine-year-olds. His suitcase was packed, a gift was purchased and wrapped, and his sleeping bag rolled and ready. There were just a few more hours left to wait, and my son's energy was contagious. As he went bouncing (yes, bouncing!) up the stairs looking for something to do, I caught his expression momentarily.
He had a smile as wide as Texas on his face. His arms were wide open, swinging his body up the stairs as he bounced. His eyes were directed heavenward, as if in thoughtful anticipation of the night's incredible delights. Excitement and energy oozed from every pore of his being. And suddenly, it was as if the Lord stopped all of the motion and "froze" the image of my son into my spirit. "This," He said, "is what it looks like to wait in hope for My promises."
Honestly, I had never thought about waiting very much - or at least about how to wait. I knew the Bible mentioned that we should be patient in waiting, of course. Ugh! Mostly, it seemed to me that lengthy delays of God's promises made the heart sick, not joyful!
Like many people, I am impatient at heart and don't like waiting, especially when I know there's something really good coming! So I spent some time in the Word, and in the process, He transformed my thinking about waiting in hope.
My son instinctively knew something that I had forgotten: that the fulfillment of a promise depends on the character of the one who made it, and on your relationship with that same person. Nothing short of death would have cancelled my son's attendance at the party, because he was intimate - best friends - with the giver of the party. It was a done deal, even if the sacred day and hour had not yet arrived. He knew that hope does not disappoint, because of love (See Romans 5:5).
We have promises given to us from the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 1:1 says the Lord IS our hope! This hope is firm and secure, an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). What does that mean? We can hold confidently to the hope we have, because the character of the One who promised us is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). If we remain in fellowship with our Savior and Friend, there is NOTHING that can separate us from His love and His promises! Just like my son, our reaction to all of his promises should be: "YES! AMEN! I'm there! I believe I'm gonna receive!"
Take springtime for example. God honors His appointed times and seasons for things, as creation testifies. No matter how long the winter seems or how deeply we ache for the flowers of springtime, the revelation of His promises will come to pass (see Habbakuk 2:3). Waiting makes hope's promises sweeter when they manifest.
After the party (which was unutterably awesome, according to my little one), this same child handed me the first sweet-smelling flower from our garden. I didn't see it at the time, but I now believe the Lord was renewing my hope as well. Springtime had arrived, in all its glory, and even "Snowmaggedon," New England's hardest winter of all time, hadn't stopped it. We waited longer, but our reward only became sweeter.
Biblical waiting does not look like drudgery and doubt. Fear and uncertainty arise only when the character of the giver comes into question. Believers have the amazing privilege of relying upon Someone whose character is flawless, and whose intentions are sure. Rather, patience looks like a little boy, dancing heavenward, celebrating in his heart the goodness of his very best friend, who can't wait to see his promise fulfilled and his friend at his side.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people connect with God.
She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.
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One of the reasons why I began writing His Inscriptions was to strengthen believers - especially Christian leaders - who are weary and exhausted for various reasons. You may be feeling that way today. It is not uncommon, in an increasingly hostile world, to feel tired or discouraged. Once we are weary, it becomes harder than ever to maintain the good habits we have of connecting with God. Self-discipline eludes us and our communication with God ebbs at the time we need it most.
The Bible addresses weariness, and in its simplest form, we know that a weary body needs rest and nourishment, just as a weary spirit does. There are numerous examples in Scripture of exhausted believers seeking bread and water - both natural and spiritual - to sustain them. They serve as examples to us of how to overcome our own exhaustion. As is so often the case, one way leads to the bread of adversity and the water of affliction (see Isaiah 30:15-21, especially v. 20), and the other leads to the bread of life and to living water.
Causes of Exhaustion
Exhaustion itself is not a sin. God has a special place in His heart for those who are weary, and He does not "break a bruised reed." (Isaiah 42:3). In other words, He is all about lifting up those who are oppressed and giving rest to those who are tired. His ways are along paths of stillness and refreshment (Psalm 23). It is the enemy who is the taskmaster, the driven one who pushes us beyond our limits. In Old Testament stories, this enemy often shows up as an Amalekite. The Amalekites symbolize the first cause of exhaustion: warfare.
The Amalekites were the "valley-dwellers," as their name implies. They are the ones who attacked Israel's weaker, rear flanks at Rephidim when Moses led Israel out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 25). They attacked Israel again at Ziklag, kidnapping defenseless women and children and burning the city. (1 Samuel 30). They aligned themselves with the Midianites (whom Gideon fought) against Israel. And it is widely believed that Haman was a descendant of Amalek as well.
The Amalekites liked to hit Israel when they were down. They didn't play fair. For this, they earned God's eternal displeasure, voiced in Balaam's fourth oracle: "Amalek was first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction." (Numbers 24:20). Despite the command for Israel to blot the Amalekites out completely, God indicates that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
The second cause of exhaustion is sorrow or grief. When the Amalekites destroyed Ziklag, carrying off Israel's wives and children, David's men "lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep." David was "greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters." (1 Samuel 30:4-6).
In fact, when David went up to recapture the women and children, 200 of his 600 men stayed behind, because they "were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor." (1 Samuel 30:10).
The name Besor may derive from the Hebrew "basar," which means "cheerful," or "cool." They were undoubtedly in need of some cheering up.
Now, I don't know how wide this brook was at the time, but it is not mentioned as a "raging river" or a great "Red Sea," which should give you an idea of just how tired these men were from their grieving. It shouldn't be terribly difficult to cross a "brook" - unless you are truly exhausted.
Jesus' disciples faced a similar type of exhaustion. After being told that their superhuman leader was about to die, they could not even pray with Him at Gethsemane. The reason? A crisis of faith that found them "sleeping from sorrow." (Luke 22:45).
A third type of exhaustion is that which results from intense spiritual activity. Daniel fell sick and faint after a significant encounter with an angel in Daniel 8. Elijah ended up in a cave after a long journey and a massive victory against 400 prophets of Baal. Moses needed support to hold his hands up in a prayer-battle, and counsel from his father-in-law to delegate his responsibilities.
Jesus often told the disciples to "come away and rest" after times of ministry. Sometimes, successes lead to exhaustion, too. No one is exempt.
Seeking a Solution
We know, of course, that we are exhausted. We feel it deep within our bones. We want to sleep, to stop all the motion and commotion. We crave peace and nourishment but it doesn't come. If we haven't crashed by our own "Brook Besor" yet, we begin looking for help, creating solutions we think will solve the problem. Unfortunately, they don't always work.
Gideon's starving army was denied bread twice, first by the men of Succoth (meaning "tents/tabernacles"), and then by the men of Penuel (which means, "the face of God.") How symbolic; they were seeking bread that only God could supply; man's help turned out to be useless! Elijah had to be fed bread and water by an angel to regain his strength. The disciples slept until Jesus wakened them and told them to "arise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46). Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup because he was so weary. He regretted it later.
Only David did the prudent thing by seeking the face of the Lord in his weariness. In the midst of a burning, desolate city when his men were blaming him entirely for their losses, David sought the priest's ephod and inquired of God as to what should be done. Not surprisingly, God said "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." (1 Samuel 30:8) Remember, God wants us to have a decisive victory over the Amalekites! But the ones who defeat this particular enemy are those who, like David and Moses, work their strategies in partnership with God.
There is no remedy for physical exhaustion except rest and nourishment. What these Bible stories illustrate is that the remedy for soul-exhaustion can only be found in Jesus. He is the Bread of Life, and His Word is the Living Water that refreshes from within. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).
Immediately after David prayed at Ziklag, a famished Egyptian man was found in a nearby field. He was an Amalekite servant who had not eaten for three days. Why? Because true to form, when the servant fell sick, his Amalekite master left him behind. The calling-card of an Amalekite is a sick and weary servant!
It was the previously-weary David, now fresh from prayer and full of the compassion of the Lord, who gave this Egyptian the bread of life and the water that restored him. That same servant then led David to the Amalekite troops, where David's men recaptured all that had been stolen.
Jesus guarantees that we will recapture our strength as we enter into His Presence. It does seem contradictory to stop and locate that place of stillness with Him daily, when there is so much that needs to be done! Won't we lose our battles if we stop fighting? Aren't we becoming lazy, or too "soft," when we choose intimacy over activity?
No, because the moment we raise our hands in prayer, as Moses and David did, the Lord releases heavenly armies to fight victoriously for us. He is still "Jehovah-Nissi," the Lord our Banner, who defeated a wearying enemy for Moses and David centuries ago. (Exodus 17:14-16)
It's an enigma. No matter how exhausted we feel, WE are told to arise and blot out the Amalekites who weary us. Yet it is GOD who promises to wage war against them from generation to generation. The solution to this enigma is partnership. Allow me to rephrase God's words to David as our answer for today: "Pursue ME, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015. All references NKJV.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.