As we close out our second Advent week, let’s position ourselves like the other voice mentioned in Isaiah 40:6b. This voice in the second part of this verse says, “What should I call out?” As we worship today, keep in mind this similar voice inside of you asking God, “What do you want my life to proclaim?” and hear His answer.
Isaiah 40:6-8 Common English Bible (CEB)
126 When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming.6 A voice was saying:
“What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass;
all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass dries up
and the flower withers
when the Lord’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass dries up;
the flower withers,
but our God’s word will exist forever.
- What are you bringing to this prayerful time with God today (worries, hopes, fears, etc.)?
- What are you sensing about your biggest desire? Now that we are nearly halfway through this Advent season, consider putting to paper what your biggest desire for His coming is. Write it down and begin to pray about it daily.
Allow yourself whatever time is necessary here in prayer to get in touch with this deep longing of your soul while allowing God to speak.
4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness
We began this second week of Advent considering whether we may hear God’s voice in the distance precisely because that’s where we consider Him to be and He loves to come wherever we are.
Monday, we thought through God’s merciful patience. We immersed ourselves in the story of John the Baptist on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we looked at our own lives and discovered we are the ones often erecting barriers to our Lord’s coming, but that God makes a smooth path anyway. Thursday’s devotional centered on Jesus’ desire for us to be found in peace when He comes, and yesterday continued that theme of peace and how it actually brings the Kingdom into being.
Today, let me ask you a question: When is the last time you have been in the wilderness?
I don’t necessarily mean when you last went to the outback of Australia. I mean, when is the last time you’ve disengaged from your hectic, to do list-driven world?
Along with the images of a garden and a river, scripture often paints an image of God’s people being in a wilderness or desert area.
We find nearly 300 mentions of this word, or words like it in scripture. The Hebrews wandered in it, looking for the Promised Land and finding quail and manna instead. Elijah heard a small voice, so small it was described as “still.” Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.
I remember the first time I went to the Sandhills of western Nebraska. I wanted to know what it was like to experience a world without technology, to feel what life was like before cars and planes and iPhones and Keurigs.
I randomly picked a road, then another, made a few turns as the roads transitioned from concrete, to blacktop, to gravel, and eventually I found myself lost, with no cell phone signal, in the middle of nowhere.
It was perfect.
The gravel crunched under my feet as I stepped out of my car to take it all in. It took me a few moments to notice how silent and still everything was. I looked skyward to find the familiar chemtrails, evidence of flying human sardines speeding to more civilized places, but there was only uninterrupted cobalt overhead.
Even the long ago likely bare-hands made farmhouses and barns I spied about every four or five miles had given way to tidal grasses once my rubber hit the gravel about four turns ago.
Civilization had receded into creation.
There wasn’t even a fence in sight, which made sense, because this didn’t feel like a place that could be owned.
Except the gravel road standing through these grassy waves like a man-made pier, there was no evidence anyone had ever been here.
As I look back on this memory, what most surprised me was how long it took me to notice the silence. I didn’t hear it at first.
The gentle breeze rhythmically moving around my cheeks and calling awake the hairs on my arms was really the only noticeable sound as it swayed through the content grasses.
And my hearing problem wasn’t because I had to first let go of all the modern-day sounds I had carried into this place. No, I wasn’t hearing my anxieties, I didn’t have a song stuck in my head, and there wasn’t an internal voice like most days reciting a to do list and loudly reminding me of my inability to ever get it done because of my many weaknesses.
No, on this day, for whatever reason, I had not brought the normal chattering voices in my head along with me – and yet, in spite of this lack of competition, I still didn’t notice the silence.
I think the problem was my ears weren’t tuned. I didn’t know what silence sounded like.
This was therefore a profoundly lonely experience!
And then it wasn’t.
As I stood there, alone, I slowly realized I was feeling and living and experiencing the Sandhills of Nebraska.
The silent breeze was still the only sound revealing itself as it brushed into my ears. I could also hear the response of the grasses as the breeze move through them like a friend.
But the rest was unrevealed silence.
And it was in this silence that I knew everything made sense, knew I existed as surely as this ocean prairie. I could feel myself, the Sandhills, and God. This kind of silence is felt more than heard. And it was astonishingly relational.
God reveals Himself in the silence
I think we find this wilderness theme scattered through the stories scripture has preserved because it’s impossible to hear the silence when we are surrounded by noise. It’s impossible to feel belonging when we are surrounded by things that don’t belong.
I didn’t directly hear God that day. I only heard nature giving up His hiding place.
I didn’t hear God, but I felt He was there with me.
Often I question whether God speaks, and I wonder when I think I’ve heard Him if it’s really my voice.
That day made all the difference in the world.
- This weekend, is there a way for you to get away to be alone with God in silence?
Pray for your spouse, a family member or a close friend to be able to hear God’s voice in the midst of a busy Christmas season.
A Closing Prayer
I pray that You will help me find places in my life where I can escape to the wilderness to hear and feel You. Whether this is a quiet prayer room or an escape to nature, help me find ways to make this a routine rhythm in my life just like when I see Jesus getting away often to be with You in scripture.
- This evening, continue again to worship through Psalm 80:3 as a personal prayer. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- Consider taking just 5 minutes tomorrow and praying in silence.
Scriptures from Our Advent Series
Texts for First Advent Week:?Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Texts for Second Advent Week: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8
Image from: savethesandhills.com