of Prophecy Day / Heritage Sabbath Program
13, 2007 (North America, October 20, 2007)
sermon "Listening as God Speaks"
in Acrobat Reader (PDF)
as God Speaks
George W. Reid
If God spoke
to you, would you listen? Really listening is more than just hearing
the sounds. It is entering into a positive relationship, one of
respect and love. Such a relationship with God leads to obedience
as well, doing the things that will please and honor Him. So if
God spoke to you, would you listen, really?
This has been
the key issue for human beings since the very beginning, as we may
see throughout Scripture.
I. God's Original
Plan for Human Beings
begin where the Bible begins, in the first three chapters of Genesis.
There in the briefest descriptive sketch Moses lays out before us
the origins of our world. His crowning act was the creation of humans,
made in the image of God. They were expressly created for the purpose
of living a flawless and unlimited life in full communion with the
Creator Himself. No other earthly creature would enjoy such privilege.
But, as always,
privilege brings with it responsibility. God placed in human hands
the management of the planet's perfectly synchronized and matched
natural environment. We marvel that such opportunity was given to
Adam and Eve, that the process of all nature should rest in their
How could two
people so recently brought into existence manage such an assignment?
God would take it upon Himself to help them, guiding them personally
every step of the way. We can scarcely grasp the significance of
such personal intimacy with the Creator of the universe. For any
question there would be an answer--not simply a reply, but counsel
of divine wisdom, not only for the moment but laced with wisdom
that could short-circuit the very processes of cause and effect.
It was flawless guidance. But it would benefit them only if they
would listen to what God said.
II. The Plan
this kind of privilege, their descent into sin takes on a vast significance.
What was involved was not merely the taking of a fruit, although
that carried significance of its own because it represented departure
from God's way and asserting their own will. They refused to listen,
to heed, as God spoke. Sad to say, our culture tends strongly to
minimize if not ridicule the entire story. In western culture the
whole report gets lightly dismissed in jokes, mocking the very idea
that misuse of a fruit should carry such grave importance. From
today's human perspective many view things that way, but they do
not see as God sees.
In this act
of self-serving independence our first parents shattered not only
their innocence but the intended order of nature. Life changed.
Genesis 3 records the parting conference between the first humans
and the Lord as He laid before them the grinding consequences of
failing to listen, of breaking away from God's way, separating from
His presence. Now the once-friendly earth would bring forth thorns
and thistles. Fear and conflict would invade the animal kingdom,
a new social relationship would impact the human family, and the
first couple would find themselves expelled from the only home they
had ever known. They would now go out alone into a chilling, inhospitable
world of toil and tears. But worst of all, the comforting connection
with God was fading away. They were on their own in a wild land.
III. God's Plan
set out to begin the struggle for a new kind of life--one that included
the consequences of sin, with death at its end--the merciful Creator
filled their cup, especially that of Eve, with a message of ultimate
hope. It was the first truly biblical prophecy--one set before Adam
and Eve by God in person, which today we share by reading the Scriptures.
While Adam and Eve listened speechless, God turned to Satan, who
was masquerading behind the form of the serpent, to set forth in
cryptic language his future: "'And I will put enmity between
you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall
bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel'"
(Genesis 3:15). So in the conflict between Christ and Satan, the
evil one would have his day at Calvary, but in the end he would
As she listened,
and forever after, this promise must have consoled Eve, with whom
the sad story of sin here on earth had begun. Within her line of
offspring would come the Deliverer who, although suffering the consequences
of the wrong choices she and Adam had made, would finally bring
an end to the deceiver, terminating his career of sin. With this
ray of hope in hand, the first couple walked away from Eden alone,
with the shadow of sin's gloomy barrier standing between them and
God. The close tie they had enjoyed with God was broken.
In intense sorrow
God witnessed His beloved creatures now starting on an uncertain
pilgrimage through a fallen and often dangerous world. In that first
generation even murder would enter their now-troubled lives when
they stumbled upon their son's body, crumpled on the ground, victim
of his own brother Cain. What bitter, irrepressible tears must have
fallen as they gathered up the limp body for burial. They seemed
alone, but in truth they were not abandoned. They were God's beloved
children whom He could never forget. Before disappearing beyond
the shadows, God reached out to establish one last line of immediate
contact through the prophetic gift. Although He was now distanced
from the human family, guidance and counsel would yet come from
Him to His creatures. He would do this through His prophets. Perhaps
His people would listen as God spoke through the prophets.
Communication from God
Abraham is the
first person called a prophet in Scripture, given the title by God
Himself (Genesis 20:7). God communicated with Abraham and even called
on him to prefigure God's own sacrifice in giving His beloved Son
(Genesis 22). Isaac was spared at the last moment, but generations
of believers since have better understood God's heart and His great
sacrifice as they read the amazing story of an earthly father and
son, whose very lives seemed a prophecy of God's saving grace. And
Abraham set a right example in listening to God's voice. God said
of him, "'Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments,
My statutes and My laws'" (Genesis 26:5).
Many years later,
Israel was at last on the verge of the promised land. The compassionate
heavenly Father moved His aging servant Moses to speak to Joshua,
his coming successor, before the assembled people, with words of
supreme comfort. Moses had been their prophetic leader. After an
arduous journey across the desert, during which ten times they had
revolted against his leadership, Moses spoke, "'The Lord is
the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not
fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed'" (Deuteronomy
31:8). The gift of prophecy called them to obedience and gave them
the assurance of God's continued leading and care.
also pointed the people to God, reproved their sins, and urged them
to repentance. But most precious of all were the messages that assured
them of God's continued care. Isaiah conveyed these comforting words
from God: "'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously
look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely
I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right
hand'" (Isaiah 41:10). Jeremiah told them of God's attitude
toward them: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares
the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a
future and a hope'" (Jeremiah 29:11). How well they listened
to what God was telling them would determine whether God's good
plans could be fulfilled. The prophets faithfully gave them the
divine messages and the assurance of God's loving interest.
As a token of
His abiding presence, the same message echoes in the ears of God's
New Testament people, pilgrims still moving toward the city whose
builder and maker is God. So the message of the apostle comes to
us who follow the footsteps of Jesus, "For He Himself has said,
'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'" (Hebrews
So what does
all this mean to us today? By implanting the gift of prophecy in
His beloved people, activated from time to time according to His
will, the great Creator maintains among us a continuing contact
to guide and encourage us His people. Time after time He has spoken
through His prophets, and we are the ones who benefit from those
messages recorded in the Scriptures. There, too, we find frequent
records of other prophets. Moved by the Spirit of God, these acted
to serve the needs of local times and places. They were not called
upon to write Scriptures, but in every way their service was a genuine
ministry of God.
V. The Ongoing
Nature of the Gift
In four New
Testament passages the apostle Paul cites the prophetic gift as
one of the most important gifts of the Spirit. Since the very beginning,
prophecy has provided a reliable channel carrying God's messages
to His people. We might ask, How long should we expect this gift
to continue? True, the Scriptures are complete, but our need for
guidance from God never ceases. Paul's response to our question
is explicit. The prophetic gift is given "until we all attain
to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to
the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
As long as we
keep progressing toward the fullness of Christ, so long will His
prophetic gift remain as He sees wise to initiate it. In the history
of the prophetic gift's manifestation, we see a clear pattern. The
gift is expressed most fully at times when the people of God face
serious decisions or peril.
The coming of
Jesus the Messiah sparked a dramatic outpouring of God's prophetic
gift that brought into existence the entire New Testament in a little
more than 50 years. The climax of the ages had come, the time when
the Kinsman-Redeemer of those who love the Lord was appearing to
confront Satan on his home turf. Devils hounded Jesus' every step
and rejoiced as He went to the cross. But His was the victory, Satan
was overcome and doomed, and liberty was won for Satan's captives.
Jesus' resurrection sealed an end to the conflict of the ages, and
although He was bruised in heel, His triumph at Calvary administered
the final blow to Satan. With that the first prophecy given to Adam
and Eve met its fulfillment.
So we see that
the prophetic gift remains for the people of God to the day of His
coming. This promise takes new power as we keep in mind the fact
that the God who created Adam and Eve and who inspired Abraham,
Moses, and the other prophets came among us in human form. Here
was the ultimate revelation of Himself to us. Born miraculously
of a virgin, He entered the human family to demonstrate forever
the depth of His love for His creatures. Beyond this, He went to
the cross to secure by His blood a future for us in eternal life.
It was this
same Christ who, at the beginning of earth's history, pronounced
the mighty words that brought us into existence, the same who formed
us from the dust and breathed into our nostrils that electrifying
breath of life--the supreme gift of all gifts. Along this same theme
Paul writes to the Colossian believers, "He is the image of
the invisible God . . . . For by Him all things were created, both
in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things
have been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:15,
So in all we
have been thinking about, Jesus Christ is our everlasting benefactor,
our Creator, our Redeemer, and our coming King. While we await His
return we have become His special people in an age when human history
will reach its end. Jesus is returning. At this time of special
crisis He has seen fit once more to provide communications for His
people through the prophetic gift. Ellen G. White has come among
us as His messenger to prepare us and to guide us through the turbulent
times sweeping up to His return. We will reap great benefit by listening
to His message for His remnant people, those who treasure the commandments
of God and the faith of Jesus.
In the whirl
of activity that marks our modern world, the real question is whether
we seek to hear the messages of God in the Bible and in the work
of His non-canonical prophet, Ellen White. Today we have an opportunity
to listen and to heed the messages from Him.
Jesus is coming.
Soon the need for the prophetic gift will cease as we enter the
presence of God once more. All that was lost in Eden is to be restored
in the Kingdom of God. Our task is to make sure that we listen to
His voice now and are clothed in the garments of His grace at His
appearing. What could be more important than this?
Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
George W. Reid
is the retired Director of the Biblical Research Institute of the
General Conference and a life member of the Ellen G. White Estate
Board of Trustees.