Sunday, June 23, 2013

Burning Bushes

Somewhere in the created, humanly miscued world, there arose people who somehow managed to hear the voice of God. Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, the patriarchs and prophets, Jesus, the apostles and various people deemed to be in the presence of God after their deaths.

I seize on the image of the burning bush from which Moses heard a voice that said it was that of God because, to me, it offers a fitting metaphor of what hearing and talking to God is all about.

Yes, I know the joke: talking to God is prayer and hearing God is a symptom of schizophrenia. I am a modern man and do not disdain science; I only propose that science does not yet know everything. Scientifically, God is profoundly unobservable and as a result nothing pertaining to the divine can be the subject of empirical analysis.

Thus, I welcome you, as Rod Serling might have, to the twilight zone of faith. I find it difficult to grasp that Abraham, Moses, Jesus and their pals heard the voice of God like you and I hear the voice of a friend on the telephone. Note that none of them even knew what a telephone was.

Parascientists such as Erich von Daniken have proposed pseudo-explanations that sound like science fiction: for example, the Tabernacle of the ancient Hebrews, from which the supposed voice of God was heard, but only by priests and rabbis, was really a radio left behind by extraterrestrials.

Let us consider something different.

Abraham, Moses, Jesus and company, like Gautama Buddha, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Lao-Tse and so forth, all ancient men in robes who spoke with wisdom that seemed divine, were men of prayer and deep, deep meditation. Men who were somehow distinctive for seeking an intuitive path to truth at a time of great empirical ignorance.

Is it impossible to imagine a spiritual search (yes, a clash of created chemicals in their created minds) resulting in an ineffable experience that communicated a goal, a command, a feeling of peace, a certainty that defied explanation (other than it was God speaking)?

God came to Samuel and Daniel in dreams, to Moses in a burning bush, to Jesus at his baptism as a voice heard only by those who were listening for it, to saints and apostles as apparitions. Elijah discovers that God is in the quiet hush of wind. Jeremiah cannot dissuade God that he is too young and awkward to be a prophet.

The consistent thread is an ineffable, life-transforming communication that is recognized as divine and beyond appeal. When God speaks, you can only follow or disobey. You cannot see God's face and you must only believe through God's wonders (or even without them).

God speaks in riddles sometimes, makes absurd and curious demands (or maybe the human hearing is off).

God often speaks what is already in the person's mind, almost confirming a chosen path. Abraham’s father is the first to come up with the idea that he and Lot and their wives are to go to Canaan. Then God calls upon Abraham to do so and makes his covenant. (See Genesis at the end of chapter 11 and beginning of 12.)

It is not magic. It is not delusion. It is the voice of God.


Anne Malcolm said...

I believe this.

Anne Malcolm said...

It is not unbelievable to me, as I know ordinary people in ordinary circumstances who've received a word, or two. But so many people of faith have been squished by authority that says we're incapable of discernment or it is only churchmen in high places that are worthy. So communication between God & wo/man is as nearly extinct as Latin. Maybe it's even a dead language to the Church at large.