city, desert, discerning the spirits, ears of the heart, God's voice, Michael Clark, Michael Fishbane, Mother Theresa, peace, Philo of Alexandria, quietness of heart, Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, seek and find, wilderness
November 14, 2016
I thought I could repost this article from 2015 as a featured post in front of all others because I hope that others might be helped, too, when they are reminded of how we can more clearly perceive God’s still and small voice in our restless and noisy times. May God bless you all who still drop by on here!
I think it got more and more obvious to some lately that I spend less time on the internet, both on my blogs, on other blogs and on social media. Not that it had been my initial intention to do so, yet there were some incidents in my family that were like a real “wake-up call” for me. Writing blog posts and comments should not be a burden, right? If I was all alone and had no widely ramified kinship and other tasks apart from the net, I would perhaps go on with writing and reading other blogs as I did before. Although I tried several times during the last year (yes, my blogs will have their first anniversary in June) to step back a bit, I needed to be freed by God recently to really do so, finally. As a dear brother, Michael Clark, often says, “In Him we live and move and have our being, NOT our doing.” I truly love the wisdom of these few words. As long as I cannot rest in Him, I cannot really do a “good” thing for God, either. That’s for sure, since disturbance and a peaceful loving heart rarely go together.
Just recently I realized that the quieter my soul became, the more directly I could hear what God really wanted to let me know. It is not even necessary that God uses words. There is a sudden and immediate awareness of what is true and right and pure, even without words. It seems to me that God offers His help and wisdom to us all day long and also during the night in our dreams. However, we are so used to “run around in circles” (even in our minds) that the clarity of His silent speaking is easily getting lost.
As for the experience of hearing God’s voice in dry land where we might suffer (spiritually) from thirst and deprivations of life, I found the following excerpt by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel quite helpful and enlightening, too.
The Hebrew word for “wilderness” (מִדְבַּר = midbar) coincidentally shares the same consonants word for the term מְדַבֵּר (mĕdĕbēr = “speaker”). Philo of Alexandria and some of the Hassidic mystics suggest that the wilderness is precisely where God reveals Himself to His people—and not in the cacophonous uproar of the city, where human beings ignore the Voice of God speaking.
Mother Theresa once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” The silence of nature speaks volumes, but without words—simply by being present to the power of the Divine that infuses its being with life and purpose. 
It is no accident that spiritual people throughout history discovered how the דְּמָמָה דַקָּה “still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12–13) is the vehicle through which God makes His Presence known, even though this “small voice” more often than not is drowned out by the cacophonous world we live in. According to Michael Fishbane, “The phrase may be a deliberate paradox—an attempt to articulate the voiced silence of God’s presence, through reference to a sound (kol) that is both silently still דְּמָמָה (demāmāh) and audibly thin דַקָּה (dāqǎ).” Fishbane’s Zen-like observation succinctly captures the subtlety of how God communicates, within the stillness of our being—that is where He is heard. This mystery flows from the depths of eternity; pointing to great immensity of the Divine; yet, God’s immensity is never so far removed from the human heart that seeks truth and comfort.
Israel discovers her faith in the wilderness and later constructs a Tabernacle (Mishkan) to symbolize God’s abiding Presence among them. In its precincts, God does not speak “to Moses” rather, Moses hears the Divine Word resonate from within his innermost being and conscience. Throughout Jewish tradition, the Mishkan represents God’s triumph over the forces of chaos. Creating a sacred place within the hostile precincts of the wilderness is a spiritually suggestive metaphor for moderns—for even as we enter our own personal wilderness, God beckons us to make a holy space for God to dwell with us as we traverse the מִדְבַּר.
 Philo asks: Why didn’t God give the Ten Commandments in a city? Why did he choose the desert? His answer may be paraphrased briefly as follows: The city is not a safe place; they are full crime. 2) The city is a symbol of vanity. In contrast, the desert is characterized by simplicity. 3) The life in the desert posed less distractions; being in the desert enabled a person to purify himself and become more conducive for receiving the Divine oracles. 4) In the desert, the Israelite people learned that the Ten Commandments were not the products of human beings. It was in the desert the people came to know God through the various miracles of the manna, the quail, the making of sweet water, etc. Philo observes, “For he who gave abundance of life’s necessaries also granted the resources for the good life; for living they needed food and drink, which they found without making any preparations”(Philo Decalogue 2-7).
 Hannah Ward, Jennifer Wild, The Westminster Collection of Christian Meditations – Oxford, Great Britain: Lion Publishing, 1998),159.