The voice among voices

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A voice is an important vehicle for communication. Under normal circumstances not a day goes by without hearing voices or using your own voice. Indeed, life would be more challenging if our ability to use our voices or hear voices was impaired in any way—as some members of our community experience daily.

The concept of “voice” is an interesting one that usually consists of several avenues of meaning all of which relate to the communication of a message. Indeed, a voice without a message usually has no real meaning. This implies some sort of intelligence associated with both the delivery and receipt of the underlying message. Additionally, the range of meanings associated with “voice” exists on a spectrum from physical to metaphorical depending on context and use. “Voice” can relate to the physical components and characteristics that produce sound to the metaphorical and symbolic implications related to the content or intent of the message.

I have noticed recently that our culture has been significantly impacted by many voices from different directions. Some of these voices appear to be helpful while others appear to be destructive. As we consider all these voices, one can’t help wondering about the voices we as Christians, or more specifically Seventh-day Adventist Christians, are influenced by. Did you know that there are several places in the Bible where a voice is heard calling to God’s representatives on earth?

One of the most famous voices in the Bible relates to the message and work of John the Baptist in the preparation for the first advent of Jesus. All four Gospels draw our attention to the prophetic fulfilment of John’s important work to prepare the hearts and minds of God’s people in his day. This was to be accomplished by Spirit-inspired repentance where “the high places of human pride and power [were] to be cast down”.1

It’s a preparatory voice that has its roots in the days of Elijah and echoes down to the people of our day (Matthew 11:13-15; Malachi 4:5,6).

The Gospel of Mark, pulling language from Isaiah 40:3, hauntingly describes this voice as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3).

This description ignites the imagination somewhat. It is not many voices, but one lone voice that is heard in a place where you would not expect to hear a voice. It also encourages several questions. Why is the voice in the wilderness? Who is responsible for the voice? What is it saying and why? Can it be ignored?

Another cry from an unidentifiable voice is heard by those slumbering young women waiting for the procession of the bridegroom in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The symbolism within the parable is alarming, particularly as it relates to the church in our day that is prophetically described as sleeping, unprepared and unaware of or choosing to trivialise the lateness of the hour!

This “voice” also raises some interesting questions. If the church is depicted as sleeping, who is it that gives the “Midnight Cry”? Why did the five foolish virgins fail to prepare—what held their attention to the point of distraction? Why do you need an illuminated lamp to join the procession?

A third voice is one that really revved up our early pioneers and is probably the best-known voice within Adventism. It is found around the middle of the last book of the Bible, and it is made by a celestial being gliding through the heavens proclaiming the “everlasting good news”, which oddly enough includes a call to Creator worship in the light of a judgement message that has something to do with the fall of a mystical city called Babylon (Revelation 14:6–12).

Strange as this may seem, it only gets stranger! This prophetic voice calls again four chapters later–only this time there is a sense of desperation (Revelation 18:1–5). 

It’s almost like the first proclamation hadn’t been taken seriously. Why? What was it about the previous voice that failed to gain attention? Was the problem with the messenger, the receivers or the message? Why the effort in repeating the message “shouting with a mighty voice”? What is so important about that message that it warrants such desperation?

The final voice in this small but targeted cluster of biblical voices is one that some of us are looking forward to hearing. However, it’s a voice that is proclaimed with mixed feelings. While there is joy that fills all heaven when the voice of the archangel finally calls forth those who have slept in the loving arms of Jesus and that time-shattering event sometimes called the eschaton unfolds, our Creator God internalises the eternal loss of those who ignored all His previous voices (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). 

God’s assurance to His children is that all our tears are eventually wiped away by the closing work of our wonderful Creator God’s salvific and demonstrative work (Revelation 21:4). However, there is no mention of the loss associated with God in honouring the decisions of His wayward children in their absolute rejection of all the voices He used to try to get their attention and draw them home. Only those who have experienced the loss of a child will have a small glimpse into the eternal depth of loss that our wonderful God will hold and never let go—He is the eternal God; He does not forget.

So, as we all contemplate the cacophony of voices that flood our attention it is well to remember that there are some voices that are more important than others, especially for members of a church with such an affinity with the “voice” of end-time prophecy. Indeed, our ability to appropriately respond to any voice is negatively impacted when we don’t listen to the right voice! When we do listen to the right voice, our Spirit-empowered voice becomes a representative voice that with Spirit-guided humility invites others home.

Our wonderful Creator God invites us to dig deeper into His Word—the best voice—to peer into and plumb the depths of eternal truths which hold amazing insights about His character and government.

We just need to be willing to listen.

1. White, Ellen G. The Desire of Ages. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898. p215.

Randall Ibbott  is a freelance IT consultant from Central Coast, NSW.

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