Time after time Dr. Willard tells us to go to the Bible to get a word from God.
Of course this raises a question. If we want to hear God and we would like to hear God’s voice, how can we hear a voice from a page?
Well, he is not talking about just “reading” the Bible. He is talking about God “seizing” him as he is reading the Bible.
How do we read the Bible?
Let’s be honest; often we just call out words as we are asked to read scripture in public. Sometimes we may read the Bible because of a commitment to read it through in a certain amount of time. Both of those types of reading are not what he is talking about.
Do we read, think and even meditate on God’s word?
Dr. Willard describes his experience: “I find myself addressed, caught up in all the individuality of my concrete existence by something beyond me.” This is the power that he is talking about when the Bible seizes him.
Is this an audible voice?
A couple of nights ago, my wife questioned me about an experience I had nineteen years ago. I was in a horribly tense situation and I was seriously crying out to God for help. I had never really done that before but I was in a mess. I had lost all hope. My world was turned upside down and I did not know where to turn.
I cried out for an answer and I felt I heard an audible voice. I felt that it was God.
She said, “If I was with you, could I have heard God’s voice?”
The answer is no. The voice was for me. I was in serious need of an answer and He gave it to me. I don’t believe she could have heard God’s audible voice on that day.
Most of the time, for me and others, God’s voice is a thought or a perception and in the reading of God’s word, that is probably what happens when God “seizes” Dr. Willard from the Bible.
You may think that he is a special man; a scholar of the Bible and the fact that he is gives him special insight into the meaning of the Bible. He disputes that. All a person needs is to be open to God as your read and be humble as you ask God to expose His message to you in your reading.
This attitude is so helpful because we need frequent exposure to the Bible for four reasons:
1.The Bible is available to all of us 24/7. When we are “in the Bible,” we have a “computer terminal in place, from which we can communicate, act and interact with God in His work.” The beauty of finding God’s voice in the Bible is “direct, daily kingdom access for all believers” [Willard, 185].
2.We need a source of “confidence, comfort and peace” from time to time. Dr. Willard knows that as human beings we all go through hard times, stresses, upsets [the list goes on and on. The reading of God’s word can calm us down as it sends us to a more peaceful state of mind.
3.Protection from mad religionists and legalists is a further advantage of the Bible’s “open line.” People have their hidden agendas, some folks want to try to manipulate others using God’s word. Certainly we can point to “religious leaders” who have benefitted from twisting God’s word for personal gain. The eighties saw Jim and Tammy Baker. In the nineties, we saw Jimmy Swaggert. In 2006, Ted Haggard suffered from his indiscretions. The list goes on and on as people are caught in their efforts to speak one way and live another. Ready access to God’s Word is a protection against a manipulator. Ready access to God’s Word can also protect us from a legalist who makes us feel we are not working our way to heaven; these people put more guilt on good Christians because they are the ones who are making up the rules [can anyone say Pharisee?]. We all fall short from the legalist’s point of view.
4.The Bible can give us a “realization of a biblical quality of life.” Dr. Willard cites examples of the sons of Jesse and famous Bible personage King David, and makes the case that we need the Bible to relate to these people from another time. Without the Bible as our reference, understanding their lives would be a mystery. God has them in the Bible for us to learn from their lives, for us to figure out their impulses.
Before we get too caught up in searching for an audible voice from God, maybe it is better to go to our “computer terminal”.
Think of your Bible as God’s permanent address, “the telephone installed so we can take the heavenly orders and participate in decisions as we do kingdom business” [Willard, 185].