How God’s Three Voices break the silence

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The Old Testament ends with God in hiding, so to speak. The period of darkness is said to have lasted for four hundred years—the last words of Malachi in the Old Testament to the first words in the New Testament span those silent four centuries.

Questions about God being real might have come up for many Jews who were born in that period of time with nothing but an old story about being freed from Egyptian captivity to keep them afloat. The story, so legendary, seem unbelievable. Our God, who has been silent for all of my life, my parent’s life, my grandparents lives, and my great-grandparents lives, split the Red Sea, and drowned hundreds of Egyptians, their chariots and horses, as a way of ushering His people to the Promised Land? It seems like a stretch.

Philip Yancey describes God’s voice in three ways. God, called Yahweh, was magnificent in his presence. He’s the First Voice of the Trinity—the three distinct personalities of God that are described in scripture and throughout Christian tradition. It’s a Voice that trembles and shakes. When it erupts in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of smoke by day, it is unmistakable. But maybe it was too loud. Too lofty. And ultimately too easy to ignore—like Mt. Hood for Portlanders is easy to ignore, or Mt. Rainier for Seattlites. Is it possible that the period four hundred years were just of Jewish silence?

It’s really about the astonishment when the silence was finally broken. You can imagine then what it’s like for the Jewish people to hear the babbling of the old crazy prophet, the old Elijah wannabe, John the Baptist talking about the making a way for the Lord, who was coming. That’s God’s Second Voice—the incarnational one. The human one—the one that was in the person of Jesus Christ—came next to break the deafness to offer the humanity to the booming voice (or the silent whisper) of Yahweh.

The Third Voice of God—the Spirit (and bear in mind, these aren’t chronological)—comes to us during Pentecost, the season we are working toward in Eastertide (the reason we are in that celebrates the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus). The Spirit’s voice comes in tongues, and is filled in the church today and has always been. The language that the Bible writers use to describe the Holy Spirit—Helper, Counselor, Advocate—imply that there will be periods of time where we will feel like the voice of God is silent, and we need to develop the ears to hear the voice of the Spirit, within us, exclaiming again.

The Gospel of Mark starts with that breaking of silence that the Jewish people were waiting for for four hundred years. John the Baptist shows up from wandering the wilderness to declare that the Messiah is coming. He is introduced to us a radical prophet wearing camel hair and eating locusts and honey (strictly following the Law of Moses—the numerous laws found in the Old Testament). John is offering everyone in Judea his revolutionary spirit. He’s telling them that Messiah is coming and that they need to prepare the way for him. John says that he can baptize people with water, but Jesus, the promised Messiah, is going to do so with the Holy Spirit. We get the idea that John doesn’t know exactly how this will all work out, but he knows something great is about to happen, and he’s ready to prepare for it. He doesn’t know if his prophecy will bring the Messiah, or Yahweh himself, or even a combination of both.

John is himself is confused, but he’s not letting his uncertainty stop the ferocity of his message. He’s just as shocked coming of the wilderness declaring this truth as the Jews who are hearing it are. They are preparing the way for the Lord. Whatever that means.

Then it gets weird. Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos—the Word made Flesh—God’s voice since the beginning of time, gets baptized as God’s Son. Why does Jesus get baptized? What inward change is he reflecting. Perhaps Jesus is birthed into the world when his ministry begins.

He has been baptized and He can begin His Mission. It’s a mission that he could be very well learning about as he progressed in it.

He is baptized by Water, and then through the suffering that comes with following God. Jesus becomes immediately familiar with the pain of being a desperate, limited human being in the wilderness. And His cousin, John the Baptist, gets imprisoned for doing the declaring that Jesus is about to. Of course, John the Baptist eventually gets beheaded and the fate of Jesus becomes even more daunting.

He’s compelled to keep His mission going. And so just like John the Baptist, he starts proclaiming the message from God. Jesus knows what to do. He’s been tested for the mission field already and know it is His turn to declare to the world that everyone must repent, turn to God. Change their ways, and follow after righteousness. He’s ready to do his mission and to declare it to those who have ears. Who will listen? He starts finding people that will.

Jesus is preparing the people who are next. He’s taking those who will listen to Him and teaching His way. The Revolution is starting. God’s voice, in the person of Jesus Christ, is being prepared again to proclaimed all over the world. The church is going to break the silence.

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