In Psalm 115, the Psalmist contrasts the idols of the other nations with God. “They have mouths,” he writes, “but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; they make no sound in their throats.” [1]


Throughout the Scriptures, we are told that our God speaks, sees and listens…the incarnate Christ certainly touched and walked. But for the most part, this understanding does not infiltrate our personal times with our Lord. We read and we speak, but rarely do we wait for him to engage in dialogue with us.


No, I am not thinking about Mount Sinai or about parting clouds and a thunder like voice, although our Lord may wish to communicate in whichever form he chooses. Rather, I am speaking about the voice that comes to us in silence…the deep that cries out to the deep…the language of the soul and the heart. God has spoken. Of that we as believers are certain. We have his Word that transcends time and tribe and tongue. God speaks to us in stories…stories of his dealings with men, women and children like us…and through their lives He directs our lives. Our God speaks to us in significantly relatable stories.


When we take up his Word to read it, we bring our ears in line with his mouth, and if we are attentive, we will feel his breath on our cheeks as he whispers to us through what is written. The Scriptures are primarily a revelation of his heart. Of course, we humans have turned it into many things such as a book of laws or of ideas or of philosophies. But the words are meant to transport us into the very throne room of God…to lift us up onto his lap so that we might perceive each heartbeat of our universal King.


In many ways, the Bible is a doorway into the real world beyond our world. To use Narnian terminology, it is the cupboard that ushers us into a place where we might begin to see things the right-side-up. It is as we read and as we listen that we are enabled to enter into dialogue with the God who listens and hears and speaks. Read to understand, but then repeat and enquire to learn. It is like any other conversation…a give and a take…a speaking and a listening…a questioning and an answering. God has spoken, but I hear his voice afresh across the eons of time as I listen through reading and reflecting. He speaks as I read…but he listens, too, as I read it back with added questions…and then the same Spirit who inspired the Word written on the pages speaks to my mind and touches my heart.


It has long been my practice to have this very active form of participatory dialogue with the God who speaks. It takes time, yes, but so does any relationship worth cultivating. And as we wait to listen, wisdom is distilled, and drop by drop it restores our soul.


Johannes van der Bijl

Holy Trinity Ministry Partner with the Society for Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS)


© Johannes W H van der Bijl 2021, Oxford

[1] Psalm 115:5-7 (NRSV)