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I was reading in John 12:29 where it says that “the crowd that stood there and heard it [the voice from heaven] said that it had thundered” (ESV). This caused me to wonder, how many times aren't we just like that crowd in that we also often misinterpret the voice of God for simply natural events? Similarly, how many times haven't we read that certain things will happen as “signs” of the approaching end of the world as we know it, for example Matthew 24:6-7, and we don't see the association between these events and God's sovereign plan for the end of the age? We simply chalk them all up to natural events.
But God says that they are “signs” to us, much like the voice from heaven in John 12 was also a “sign.” Strange how we usually don't seem to see, or we stubbornly don't want to see, the connection between the “sign” and that God is through that “sign” saying something to us. This is not just a phenomenon of the non-believing world. Even many so-called Christians are really quite worldly in that they tend to listen to and believe the world's explanation rather than listening to and believing God's explanation.
The purpose of any “sign” is to inform. This is as true in the natural as it is in the spiritual. Sometimes this “sign” is simply for general information or interest whereas other times it's designed for more serious things and brings with it penalties and consequences for disobedience. For example, a highway “sign” at the edge of town can inform me of things like the town's population, which may be of interest, whereas the posted speed limit “sign” at the edge of the same town, while not particularly interesting, will certainly bring penalties and consequences (speeding tickets / fines, etc) for failure to obey.
God's “signs” serve the same purpose; they can inform, and they can also bring penalties for failing to obey. To ignore God's “signs” is not only foolish, but it is also akin to wickedness. Think about it, how foolish to listen to and trust in man, but ignore God when He is trying to communicate with us! The Bible says that God “laughs” at our foolishness (Psalm 2:4; 37:13; 59:8; Proverbs 1:26). It's almost like God is saying, I can't believe that they can be so stupid! What more does God have to do to get our attention? The Apostle Paul reminds us that “we will all stand before the judgement seat of God” (Romans 14:10, ESV). God will have our attention then for sure! How sad that for some of us, it will then also be too late, as each of us then has to give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).
So here's the question. Was that just another thunderclap just now, or was it the voice of God speaking to us? Was that just another insignificant earthquake that woke us from our slumber last night, or was that a “sign” from God of something greater? When the news reported recently of a northern nation flexing its muscles and threatening war on its southern neighbour, was that just the normal way of the world, or was it also a “sign” from God related to the time of the end? Have we made the connection between these events and the voice of God, or is it all simply noise and thunder to us? Likewise, one cannot help but wonder what else God is saying that we've also turned our deaf and lethargic ears to.
Have we “really” heard the voice of God? For the majority of us, the answer is unfortunately, “No, we haven't.” The majority of us really don't have an ear for anything but ourselves. God forgive us.