Amos / chapter 8 (read the chapter)
There is an old story of an elderly man who worked in an icehouse, and one day, he lost a valuable pocket watch while he was working. He searched for it for a long time, meticulously raking through the sawdust, but he couldn’t find it. His coworkers also took turns looking for the watch, but they had no more luck than the old man.
After they had given up, the man’s grandson heard of his grandfather’s misfortune. And one day, during the lunch hour, he slipped unnoticed into the icehouse and, when his grandfather and coworkers returned, he produced the watch.
Amazed, his grandfather asked him how he had found it. “I closed the door,” the young boy said, “got down on the floor, and laid very still. It wasn’t long before I heard the watch ticking.”
I couldn’t help but think of that story as I read in Amos 8 about the special kind of famine that would fall upon the land: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.’” (vs 11-12)
What I found interesting about that was that the famine would not be a lack of God’s word, but a lack of the hearing of it. The problem wouldn’t be that God wasn’t talking, but that the people were no longer listening.
We often think of the Biblical God as raising His voice a lot—on Mount Sinai with Moses, out of the whirlwind with Job, and so forth. But this is most definitely not God’s preferred method of speaking. There are many places in Scripture to remind us that God prefers to speak softly:
- Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kgs 19:11-12)
- Be still and know that I am God. (Ps 46:10)
- “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zech 4:6)
When God needs to raise His voice in order to get our attention, He certainly will. But if we persistently reject His voice (as the Israelites did), there will come a time when we can’t hear Him anymore. When that happens, it wouldn’t matter how loud He shouted at us—we still wouldn’t be able to hear Him.
God prefers speaking softly to shouting. He prefers to talk, discuss, and reason with us. Just like the boy who found the watch hidden in the sawdust, when we are still and willing to listen, we will be able to hear God speaking to us. Even if we can’t see Him, we will have no problem hearing His voice.