I read an article from the July 2010 issue of TIME magazine about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). We have been listening for aliens now for over fifty years. Gregory and James Benford (twin brothers) are rethinking our technique for listening. They propose that perhaps we are listening for the wrong thing. The Benfords suggest that aliens are probably sending out powerful bursts of energy in our direction rather than a continuous broadcast which would use up phenomenal amounts of energy and we should be doing the same thing.
We’ve been listening now for fifty years, spending millions of dollars in our efforts, employing an untold number of scientists to listen for sounds from something or someone we have no proof exists. It’s fascinating to fantasize about the possibility of alien life. Millions have been entertained by such fabrications portrayed in the films E.T., Contact, and Star Wars.
Imagine the broiling outrage if NASA had announced that the Hubble Telescope was being rocketed into space on a great mission to look for God? Suppose millions of dollars were spent and an untold number of scientists were employed to listen for the voice of God during a fifty year NASA project that was to begin next Monday? There would be a huge backlash about the “idiots” who were spending our good money listening for sounds from a fantasy figure that does not exist. Others, myself included, would wonder why spend millions listening for a voice that millions hear clearly every day?
God has been speaking to men since the beginning. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:8) Moses heard the voice of God in the burning bush. He recorded prophecies after hearing God’s voice that were fulfilled 3400 years later. Abraham was so familiar with the voice of God he was referred to as ‘God’s friend.’ A twelve year old boy named Samuel heard the soft whisper of God over and over. David heard the sweet voice of God as he composed and played music on the hillsides of Israel.
Many fail to hear because they are listening for the wrong thing. The assumption is that an all powerful God makes only all powerful noises. But God can miraculous reduce all of his glorious might into a soft whisper. He doesn’t always reveal himself in flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder. Elijah heard the great wind, he felt the earth shake and he witnessed the fire but God was in none of those. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)
It’s a trick that teachers use a lot. If the little tykes are being rowdy, raising your voice only adds to the tumult. Sometimes, when a soft voice is used the noise subsides in a collective attempt to hear what is about to be said. Perhaps God speaks to us in a whisper because he wants us to be quiet and listen. Isaiah seemed to capture this concept when he said, “You are a God that hides yourself.” (Isa. 45:15) If it seems God is hiding it’s because he wants us to look for him.
The skeptic will say, “I won’t play the fool and look for a god that does not exist.” Sadly, he may never find God because there are conditions that must first be met: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) The heart darkened by unbelief must be enlightened by the floodlight of faith and then that heart will not just find God, he will see God everywhere. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
Maybe you used to see God but not so much anymore. Maybe his voice was very familiar to you at one time but now it may be a voice seldom heard. It reminds me of an old man riding along in an old truck with an old wife. His wife was a little troubled that there had grown a distance between them. So, as the old truck rambled down a bumpy country road she finally got up the courage to ask him, “Leroy, we don’t seem to be as close as we used to be. Why, we used to sit next to each other in this old truck.” The old man furled his thick white brow and looked at his wife and snarled, “Well, I ain’t the one that moved.”
If God seems far off…he is not the one who moved.