God speaks to us. It’s a reality that few have experienced as directly as Job and Paul in our readings today, but a reality that we profess regardless. For Job, God speaks in a tone I sure wouldn’t want Him using with me. After 35 chapters of Job defending his own honor and railing against God’s unfairness to him, God speaks. And His tone is one of impatience and even anger. We like to translated it into the voice of a loving Father, but read at face value, God is tired of Job’s railing and arrogance. And His argument (“I am eternal, all powerful, and omniscient. You are Job. Do you have the right to question me?”) is pretty compelling and indisputable.
For Paul, God speaks in three ways. It is interesting to note that the language of the communication, though only 3 verses apart, speaks of three different means of communication. First, the “Holy Spirit” keeps them from preaching in Asia. Then the “Spirit of Jesus” keeps them from entering Bithynia. And finally, Paul has a vision in the night of a man. Why the differing language for each communication? What is the difference between “the Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of Jesus”? And why would God speak in 3 different ways? Questions for heaven someday.
I have people weekly speak to me of hearing God’s voice. “God has told me to” is the rarest since it implies a direct vocal communication from God. “God has called me to” is more common, and is unfortunately used of most decisions. Yes, God does call us to action and actions, but when someone tells me God called them to work at their job, only a week later to tell me that God is calling them on to another job (almost always with a higher salary or better benefits) I wonder. “God has told me to tell you” some complaint or another is also not uncommon. I fear that we use God the way we use “lots of people” to give weight to our own opinions, as in “lots of people think the same way that I do about ________”.
But when people tell me that they think God is telling them to do something unpleasant, painful, or dangerous, I tend to listen more. Biblically, God’s call is to salvation most of the time, but on occasion it is to an activity, and that activity is usually unpleasant. Because God doesn’t have to call us to the things we want to do, does He?