June 12: God Is Speaking!

by IAN GREIG writing in THE LIVING WORD

Theme: God is constantly speaking and guiding with a spiritual voice

The Living Word Bible Study (TLW23C) for Sunday, June 12 — based on these inter-denominational Revised Common Lectionary readings:

Psalm 8 and Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31 — The voice of Wisdom echoes creation in speaking for God

John 16:12–15 — The Spirit makes known to us the full truth of Jesus

Romans 5:1–5 — Hope is our assurance of God’s love and future glory

Psalm 8 — The voice of Wisdom echoes creation in speaking for God

Humankind is crowned with honour and entrusted to look after His world

1 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory in the heavens.

“Lord, our Lord” — Yahweh ‘Adonay (traditionally Jehovah), the personal name of the covenant God of Israel and king of the earth.

“How majestic is Your name” — how majestic You are. Here “name” stands for the whole person of God, character and reputation.

2 Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

“Praise of children” — later, Jesus taught how children with uncomplicated faith were a model of receiving God’s kingdom, Matt. 18:4. Israel, weak and helpless compared to the Gentile nations that surrounded them, became divinely empowered by their declarations of faithful praise.

3-4 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?

“The work of Your fingers” — the very sun, moon and stars that pagan nations worshipped were positioned by the Almighty who we praise.

5–8 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of Your hands; You put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

“Made them rulers” — a commentary on Genesis 1:26–28.

“Crowned them with glory and honour” — God so values the part of His creation which is in His own image, He has set us to manage the rest as stewards.

9 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

“Does not wisdom call out” — God’s voice of wisdom is personified as a woman who speaks out openly. As Proverbs opens we hear her at the city gate meeting place: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways… [delighting] in mockery and [hating] knowledge?… Repent… Then I will make known to you my teachings.” Prov. 1:20–23.

2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

“She takes her stand” — the worthy “Wisdom”, is contrasted with the loud and seductive “Folly” , Prov. 9:13 NLT.

“At the highest point” — vantage locations chosen by both women suggest ancient temples, like choosing between Yahweh and false deities.

For further study of Wisdom and Folly read the whole of Proverbs 8:1–9:6 and 9:13–18.

3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud:

“Beside the gate” — the gate buildings of Near Eastern cities of this time had chambers for meetings; this was like standing on the steps of the town hall.

4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.

“O people, I call out” — a public appeal for all to respond to her, like a prophet.

22-23 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of His works, before His deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

“I was formed… at the very beginning” — first, God acquired wisdom, to be craftsman-like in the Creation.

“The first of His works” — an expression of God’s nature, and a way of saying wisdom does not exist apart from God.

24-26 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before He made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.

27 I was there when He set the heavens in place, when He marked out the horizon on the face of the deep…

“I was there” — involved with everything in the created order, Wisdom teaches us how the world works, and testifies to God’s greatness.

28-29 …when He established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep His command, and when He marked out the foundations of the earth.

30-31 Then I was constantly at His side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence, rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind.

“Constantly at His side… day after day… always in His presence” — therefore completely reliable.

“Delighting in mankind” — humans, made in the image of God, represent the high point of God’s creation.

Reflection

SUMMARY Out of many competing voices attracting our attention, who do we believe? The voice of Folly is more seductive, but Wisdom is known for reliability. Our best choice is joining the chorus of celestial lights and earthly flocks in praising their majestic Creator.

APPLICATION This depicts how God is always giving us good counsel — if we are listening rather than going our independent way. It’s about choosing to hear His wisdom and remember His delight in us, the ones He trusts to look after His creation, despite Adam’s disastrous failure.

QUESTION If we are crowned with honour (but not as much as angels), how does that influence how we approach God?

John 16:12–15 — The Spirit makes known to us the full truth of Jesus

He takes from Father and Son to disclose God’s kingdom purposes to believers

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.

“More than you can now bear” — or process, without the enabling, empowering presence of the Spirit.

13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.

“Spirit of Truth” — or Spirit of Reality, leading disciples into the full truth all about Jesus.

“What is yet to come” — (1) the consequences of His life, death, resurrection and exaltation,
(2) the continuation of His ministry and
(3) His future return. The first and most lasting effect was the four Gospel accounts, together with the rest of the NT.

14 He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you.

“Glorify Me” — the Holy Spirit promotes the glory of Christ and the Father, not Himself.

15 All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.”

“Receive from Me… make known to You” — a difference of role, not rank. Father, Son and Spirit work in different ways, in perfect unity. All NT truth (and the theme of the OT) revealed by God finds its focus in Christ, and is disclosed to believers by the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

SUMMARY Jesus teaches here about being sensitive and open to the Holy Spirit’s revelation and leading. It seems like the same thing from a different perspective — described in different language — to the voice of God’s wisdom, which we met in the OT section earlier.

APPLICATION That’s why it is good to read Scripture in its own sequence — there is a ‘progressive revelation’ from the patriarchs and the law, through the prophets (looking ahead to change), Jesus showing how in Him the Old Covenant was realised, death and resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the era of life in the Spirit. This helps us to avoid relying on human logic and intellect, where we need the revelation that only the Holy Spirit can bring.

QUESTION In what sense is it right (or wrong) to ask God to show us what is to come?

Romans 5:1–5 — Hope is our assurance of God’s love and future glory

Justified before God by believing in Jesus, we know we have peace with Him

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

“Therefore” — this refers back to Romans 1:18–4:25, the whole argument about the state of humankind, the folly of aspiring to righteousness through works or observance, and the grace whereby “righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” Romans 3:22.

2 …through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

“Access” — the heavy partition curtain of the temple was torn apart in the earthquake, part of the spiritual battle surrounding the crucifixion, Matt. 27:51, Hebrews 10:19–22. Now believers have direct access at any time into the presence of God, welcomed by Jesus Himself.

“The hope of the glory of God” — meaning for those who have asked Jesus into their lives, the certainty. The word translated ‘hope’ is not optimism. It means something certain, not yet realised: a confident expectation. Jesus Himself secures the promise of our sharing in the glory of God, 1 Timothy 1:1.

• For further study, read Romans 8:29–30; John 17:22; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–2.

3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

“Suffering produces… hope” — not a morbid view of life, but joyful and triumphant despite the attacks and difficulties that come to all of us. God uses the experience of trusting Him in difficult circumstances to strengthen faith and character, reinforcing hope.

• For further study: compare the similar teaching of James 1:2–4, 1 Peter 1:6–7.

5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

“Shame” — in the OT, sometimes a negative verdict in God’s judgment. Believers need not fear this; the Holy Spirit witnesses, that God loves us, we belong to Him, and His love fills us and overflows through us to others.

Reflection

SUMMARY The text doesn’t actually call it the voice of hope, but that is a fair description. It is something like the reassurance that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”, and how true that is, when life seems to have put us in the ditch. Hope is much more than brave optimism. It is the clear assurance that God’s order of things is much greater, His plan has not been derailed, and our confident expectation is that He will bring us through. Hope says that we will see the glory of God — dimly in this life, overwhelmingly in the next.

APPLICATION Life in the Spirit brings all kinds of grace to reverse setbacks and press through to victory, but there will be things we have to endure. The Bible calls it suffering, and says it builds our faith and character. It doesn’t seem like that at the time, but those difficult times are the best times to hear ‘the voice of hope’ and feel close to God — who loves us, never lets us go and has a repertoire of ways of showing His love and encouragement when we need it.

QUESTION What is your experience of being able to trust God in a way you couldn’t explain?

PRAYER Lord, we are so grateful that You speak to us, with wisdom, guidance and the assurance of hope — and in many other ways.
We admit that our hearing and believing might need some more work.
Help us to get better at listening, and acting on your leading.
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”, we say, as we echo the words of Samuel. Amen.

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