Nothing is more precious to me in my life than the voice of God. By the “voice” of God, I don’t mean that I tangibly hear Him all the time. What I mean is His presence…the way He shows His self in small ways like through a song, through a quote that just hits your right in the feels, in the way the sun rises up in the morning and paints the clouds all different kinds of colors. I think this song expresses it well…
I am still learning (and will be for the rest of my life!) how to “hear” God’s voice. For me, it requires slowing down, living life with more margin, and allowing myself more time to quiet my soul. Really I’ve learned that it’s not about God showing up, but about ME making space to RECOGNIZE His presence in my life because. He is always there…I am not always aware.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a theme that seems to keep repeating itself…I’ve noticed God asking people this question: “Where are you?”
This question comes up within the first few pages of the Bible with Adam and Eve after they have just sinned by eating from the tree God told them not to eat from. Moments after, they hear God walking about in the garden so they hide from him. As they are hiding, God calls to them and asks “Where are you?” The first time I read it, I was very confused because God knows everything, so why would he ask them where they were?? Wouldn’t he already know?
If you keep reading Genesis, you get to the story of Cain and Abel…another well-known story in which Cain murders his brother Abel. After Cain commits this heinous act, the Bible says in Genesis 4:9 that God asks Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” I had a flash-back to Adam and Eve and thought again, why would God be asking when he knew Abel was dead and he knew that Cain had killed him?
Fast forward to Abraham’s story, which is also in Genesis…God came to Abraham in his old age and promised Him that he would have a son of his own who would be his heir. Unfortunately, as it does for many of us, God’s timeline didn’t match up with Abraham’s, so Abraham and his wife Sarah took matters into their own hands to get things moving along, by having Abraham have a child with one of their servants, named Hagar. While they are in the process of trying to have a child through Hagar instead of Sarah, there erupts a lot of conflict between the women, which leads Hagar to run away because of how badly Sarah treated her. I think this is one of the most beautiful “Where are you?” moments. As Hagar is running away, an angel finds her and says to her, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Again I thought to myself, God already knew the entire situation. He knew exactly where she came from, why she left, and where she was going, but He still asked her! Weird! The angel then goes on to tell her the news of her pregnancy and that she is to name the son Ishmael, which means “God hears” because the Lord heard her cry. So I was left to wonder again, why was God asking her where she came from and where she planned to go when He already knew?
Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and as more time passes on, Abraham still hasn’t had a son who will be his own heir by conceiving with Sarah…until we get to Genesis 21. After a lot of waiting, Abraham finally receives this promise of his own son at 100 years old! This would’ve been such a joyous day, a promise fulfilled that he had waited decades to be fulfilled…Isaac.
In Genesis 22, with that context in mind, we come to the next “Where are you?” moment that looks a little bit different. This time, God called out to get Abraham’s attention by simply calling out his name. Abraham’s immediate response was, “Here I am!” He heard God’s call to Him and God began to tell him the plan, which was for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. So, Abraham was asked to give up the very thing that God gave him to fulfill His promise to him…the son he waited decades for! Can you imagine? But what blows my mind, even more, is his response…the Bible says that he got up early the next morning and went. That is a man who must’ve truly known and loved God to be obedient so quickly and to be willing to let go of what God gave him, despite loving it so.
These stories when combined together, paint a bigger picture and lesson we can all learn from as we ourselves seek to hear from God, be in His presence, and be obedient to what He asks of us…
God calls out to all people at any and all times…Adam and Eve had just sinned. Cain had just committed the first murder the world had ever seen. Hagar was a slave. Abraham was a faithful man. God called out to ALL of them, not just the one who was faithful. He cared about each of them, despite mistakes they made or things they did, and the same is true of us today. God is calling out to you! Despite what you have done or who you are! He loves you all the same!
God calls out to us to help us, not to actually have us answer his questions so he can know things. It seems kind of funny when you first think about it, but the more I think about it, the more beautiful it becomes. The same question of “Where are you?” can have different purposes for each of us. I believe that for Adam and Eve, God was trying to get them to repent. To be honest about where they were and to allow themselves, mistakes and all to be seen by God…and to give them the freedom of knowing they were still loved, despite their sin. The same, I think, is true for Cain. That God was giving him a chance to come clean, to repent and admit what he had done…to finally give to God his anger and his jealousy that he could no longer contain or hold onto without hurting others. I believe that he asked Hagar because she needed to know that God saw her and heard her in the midst of her distress. He wanted her to consider and process through all that had happened and to know that despite all of it, He saw her and He loved her, even when she felt like nobody else did. He would be with her and take care of her.
If you listen, you will hear Him. If you notice, you will see Him. God desires to speak to you, for you to hear Him, and for you to respond to His call and questions…
So, where are you? Where have you come from? Where are you going?