Discerning the Voice of God

Day 7 of 7

But don’t take my word for it. We go to God’s Word for instruction. In the story of the patriarch Abraham, we find both the value and profitable results of making plans to obey.

Read Genesis 22:2-18.

Old Testament sacrificial rituals were quite laborious. The process was painstakingly detailed and time-consuming, not to mention messy (what with all that slaying and dismembering going on). But the succinct summary of Abraham’s activity in verse three, outside of the emotional torment invoked by verse two, makes the whole thing sound rather easy.

Yet the assignment Yahweh gave to Abraham could not have been accomplished on a whim. No haphazard spontaneity would enable Abraham to follow through on this mission. It was too arduous and meticulous of a task to accomplish without adequate preparation, strategy, intentionality, accountability, and dedication to detail. Each of these would be required in order to fully obey God’s directive.

Consider the following as it related to Abraham’s plan of obedience.

1. PREPARATION AND STRATEGY: The journey to Mount Moriah in Jerusalem required three days (see Gen. 22:4). This meant gathering supplies ahead of time for overnight camping as well as measuring out rations for food and drink, all in order to sustain the entourage as they made their trip to the place of sacrifice.

2. ACCOUNTABILITY: Abraham’s choice to bring two servants along may have been to provide help in carrying enough wood to build an altar. But, perhaps he brought them along for companionship as he carried out this difficult assignment.

3. INTENTIONALITY AND DEDICATION: Along with the wood, “glowing pieces of charcoal or other embers would have been carried in small pottery containers and carefully nursed along until a fire was needed.”

He refused to leave anything to chance. He didn’t just hope to carry out God’s instructions. He put measures in place to be certain of it. Abraham’s plan put him in position to hear what God would say or do next.

This may not be what we prefer our obedience to feel like. But this is what obedience looks like. When Abraham lived out his trust in God by making plans to obey what he’d been told, his faith was rewarded with the miraculous appearance of a substitutionary animal and the subsequent salvation of his son Isaac.

So what about you? What about me?

Will we, like Abraham, prepare to be obedient to God?

To read more of Discerning the Voice of God, visit LifeWay.com/DiscerningTheVoiceofGod. There you’ll also find teaching videos and other resources from Priscilla Shirer.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah–jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord , for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Genesis 22:2‭-‬18 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/gen.22.2-18.KJV

Advertisements

SABBATH

SABBATH

Seeking to be generous toward others in anonymity reveals to us the true motivations of our hearts around our desire to give. We remember that God has given graciously toward us in so many ways that we do not deserve, and it fills our hearts with gratitude for Him. Giving also helps us to remember that it is God and God alone who sustainably supplies those who are in need. It is not our work which produces righteousness. God has ordained that we would stop and rest to truly consider His love, grace, and provision. While we are resting, God is still working.

Today, on our final day, we will engage in a day of Sabbath. This may be a new rhythm, so it might not feel natural to fully engage in the day. It may look like taking the family for a hike and discussing the majesty of God’s creation. Maybe it’s reading the Scriptures and attending a worship gathering to acknowledge His glory. Practicing the Sabbath helps us identify how we’ve attempted in our own strength to achieve or accomplish what we think brings us rest and fulfillment. The Sabbath also helps us to stave off the idol of productivity. When we stop our laboring and remember the Sabbath, we remember the significant work that happened on the cross. When we remember what we’ve been rescued from, we will celebrate the rescuer.

Caution: Because this is a new practice, you may feel like you don’t know how to properly Sabbath and, thus, would rather not attempt it at all. Remember that the true intention is not for us to please God by practicing the Sabbath but to find rest as a result of His gift of the Sabbath for us.

A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us—not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.

MARVA DAWN

There’s nothing selfish about Sabbath, rest & self-care. We can’t give what we don’t have.

EUGENE CHO

The Sabbath is God’s stand against the tyranny of always having to say yes. The Sabbath is God’s gift of a no to us in our obsessive, compulsive patterns of living.

A.J. SWOBODA

The Sabbath is God’s sign-post, pointing not only to his goodness toward all men as their Creator, but also to his mercy toward his chosen people as their Redeemer.

THE BAKER ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE

If you’ve enjoyed this plan and would like to continue the conversation, check out my book Soul Rest: Reclaim Your Life. Return to Sabbath. Or, connect at soulrestbook.com.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Genesis 2:3 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/gen.2.3.KJV

GIVE GENEROUSLY

One of the great gifts of fasting, in any fashion, is that it shows us our dependence on specific things that may hinder us from communion with God. It also helps us to gain clarity in hearing the voice of God, who speaks. When we are untethered to things, it helps us to gain a restful posture because we are not consumed with the acquisition and maintenance of them. Fasting, when practiced regularly, helps us to realize the possibility that we can live with less than we have.

Today, find a way to give to someone else anonymously. The power of this practice is the calibration and clarity it brings. It helps to bring to the forefront not what we aspire to be but who we really are. That is the power of the text in Matthew 6 when it talks about not letting your “right hand know what you left hand is doing” while giving. When you give, while looking for nothing in return, you are able to extend grace to others in a way that refreshes your awareness of God’s grace toward us, which produces rest. Write down what you feel and experience as a result of this exercise.

Caution: The potential temptation here is to say that it may be too difficult for us to find an opportunity to do this practice. Or, in giving, we may want to do it in a way that we are recognized for it. Even if it is as small as paying for the coffee of someone behind you in the drive-through, find a way to make it happen.

Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.

HENRI NOUWEN

The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Proverbs 11:25 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/pro.11.25.KJV

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Hebrews 13:6 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/heb.13.6.KJV

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/2co.9.7.KJV

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Philippians 2:4 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/php.2.4.KJV

Fully Live in Grace Of God

PRACTICE FASTING OR WITHHOLDING

What we have realized together is that God intends for humanity to find both freedom and flourishing in our lives on earth. Many of us have believed the lie that God is seeking the opposite and, in turn, it has affected the way that we live. There is no rest in the effort to con- tinually attempt to earn the love and grace of God when the Bible tells us there is no way to do so. But we celebrate that it says in John 3 that God didn’t send His son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved. So, if God intends for us to “fully live” on earth, we need to discern what the Spirit is saying to us about how to do so.

Today, choose to withhold or fast from something that you know will be difficult to live without. For many of us, it may be turning off our cell phones for a period of time. Another might be intentionally fasting from a meal. In doing this, we are attempting to bring to light our reliance on certain things, in order to reveal our need for God to be our ultimate desire. We also want to ask God to speak to us about the ways that He is leading us to live flourishing and thriving lives. Write down the insights that God provides for you as you engage the process.

Caution: The temptation may be to choose to withhold from something that is not as important, in an effort to minimize the impact on your day. I would encourage you to trust God with something that might be a bit more difficult to live without so that you can experience the weight of the tension of the practice.

We fast because, as those already caught up in Jesus’ kingdom-project, in God’s new world, we need to be sure that we are saying a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old.

N. T. WRIGHT

We fast because it helps to give us balance in life. It makes us more keenly sensitive to the whole of life so that we’re not so obsessed by our consumer mentality.

RICHARD J. FOSTER

Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement or pursuit—for any season—sets the stage for God to appear.

DAN B. ALLENDER

Therefore also now, saith the Lord , turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Joel 2:12 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/jol.2.12.KJV

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/mat.4.4.KJV

The Beauty Of God

WHAT DOES GOD WANT FOR US?

We have established our anchor in the truth that God is our true source of rest. Even as we do this, though, we find ourselves wondering how this applies to our lives here on earth. With increasingly busy schedules, family responsibilities, and work obligations always present, we want to know how this practically affects our daily lives. Most of the time, we live under the assumption of what Jesus expects from the way that we live our lives on earth. We need to take some time to look at what Jesus actually says He desires for us.

Today, in your time of stillness, focus on the truth of what the Bible says about God’s desire for humanity on earth. Rather than living under the assumption of how God must feel and think about things that happen in and around our lives, take some time to read the Scripture to see the words of Jesus, and others, as they pertain to the way we should live. Write down the insights that God provides as you read His truth.

Caution: We may think that this is a day that we can skip or take lightly because we already know all of this information. Really lean in and drink deeply of the truth that you are reading. Don’t take anything for granted. Ask God to speak afresh to you.

You don’t go to God because He’s useful, you go because He’s beautiful. And nothing is more useful than finding God beautiful.

TIMOTHY KELLER

Thus saith the Lord , Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
Jeremiah 6:16 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/jer.6.16.KJV

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
John 10:10 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/jhn.10.10.KJV

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:5 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/jhn.15.5.KJV

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Galatians 5:1 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/gal.5.1.KJV

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Matthew 11:28‭-‬29 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/mat.11.28-29.KJV

Restless Soul: Rest In Me

FOCUS ON THE SOURCE

When we take the time to look inward to understand the condition of our hearts, sometimes what we find there can produce feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment. Although this is completely understandable, this is not God’s intention for your life. We may even begin to feel a bit overwhelmed because the number of areas we’ve identified as needing rest and healing seems insurmountable. The beautiful good news is that rest will not come from our work but from God’s finished work. We know that a vacation, sleep, or other restful postures will not be enough to restore us fully. When unrest is at the soul level, it’s untouchable by traditional means. We need an “other than” kind of power to remedy it. God is the true source of rest.

Today, focus on the truth that God is the ultimate source of the rest we long for. When was the last time you allowed yourself to just drink in the reality of who God really is? Most of our lives are lived in light of the reality of knowing the importance of God but not truly remembering and focusing on His story. In your time of stillness, meditate on God as our source of rest. Read some Scripture to support this idea. Look at the verses that point to the attributes of God. Take note of the things that come to mind as you do.

Caution: We may be tempted to believe that there are multiple ways that we can attain soul rest. Although there are many ways for us to assume a restful posture and experience temporary rest, the true source of the rest we long for comes from God, alone.

Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.

AUGUSTINE

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
Psalms 62:5 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.62.5.KJV

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
Jeremiah 31:25 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/jer.31.25.KJV

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
Psalms 63:5 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.63.5.KJV

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
Psalms 63:8 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.63.8.KJV

Take Inventory

TAKE INVENTORY

Our first notable point of awareness after day one is how difficult it is to be still and silent, even for a short time. The fact that we find it hard to stop and rest can make us feel like failures. We need to see it as the opposite. When we attempt to stop and realize that we can’t be still, it shows us the places we need the Spirit to enter in. This is a great gift because it removes the mystery of why we feel tired and discontent. When we are unable to rest, we implicitly can be saying that God cannot do his work without our help.

Today, set aside some time to take an inventory of the areas that seem as though they are in a state of unrest. We can better ask for restoration and wholeness when we can identify specifically the places that need healing. Pray, and ask God to show you the places in your heart and life that you may be missing. Write down some of the notable things that arose in your time of silence. Give yourself permission to admit the areas that are out of balance. Give yourself permission to slow down and take note.

Caution: There may be a temptation to minimize or justify the areas that are out of balance or need rest in your life. Be completely vulnerable and honest as you engage this process. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how difficult it is to realize about yourself.

It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things, and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest.

RONALD ROLHEISER

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalms 139:23‭-‬24 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.139.23-24.KJV

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
Psalms 63:1 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.63.1.KJV

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
Psalms 143:6 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.143.6.KJV

Be Still

KEEP STILL

In our fast-paced culture, we are constantly in motion. Whether it’s our always-packed calendar, always-racing mind, or always-connected technology, we aren’t very good at resting. At the root, many of us are consumed with working, performing, and longing to earn respect, position, authority, value, and love. Whether we attempt to receive these things from people or God, this striving causes us to become tired. Soul tired. The only way that we can begin a journey toward rest is to give ourselves permission to stop.

Today, take some time to find a quiet few moments of solitude. Preferably, it will be a time that you intentionally set aside for the purpose of being still. It would be optimal if you could go to a location that you consider restful, by default, and spend about 10 minutes alone. I think 10 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to hope for. Do this without the aid of technology or means that have the potential to interrupt you.

If stepping away isn’t possible in your day, find a way to create stillness in the midst of your regular flow. Drive in silence to or from work. Sit alone with no phone interaction during lunch. The key in all of this is to not allow anything to populate the time that you have set aside to be quiet and still.

Caution: There will be a temptation to minimize the importance of being still, but I want to encourage you to be vigilant. Note what is happening in your mind and heart as you engage this time of quiet stillness.

Keep still and let Him do some work.

THOMAS MERTON

Busyness is an illness of spirit.

EUGENE PETERSON

You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

DALLAS WILLARD

…all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.

THOMAS MERTON

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalms 46:10 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.46.10.KJV