I remember visiting a church in college and as the pastor greeted the many visitors that day he announced, "We believe that the Lord speaks to us in a still quiet voice. We ask that you take your children to their classes before the service starts so that we don't miss what He has for us today." I was as astounded then as I was again years later when I heard a similar proclamation from a pulpit. What a relief that God speaks to us of His power and majesty from the might of mountains and the roar of the ocean. What a gift that from His Word we receive knowledge of His will and work—His very voice speaks to us through Scripture and through the splendor of His creation.
1 Kings 19:12 tells us of God speaking to the prophet Elijah not from the earthquake or mighty winds but in a “gentle whisper”. But this is the only time we see God speaking in this way. He thundered from Mt Sinai when talking. But that’s not really how he talks to us today—in direct whisper or in thunderous meetings on the mountaintops. Hebrews 1:1-2 gives us a beautiful instruction on how we receive God’s Word now:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
God's revelation (His work of making Himself known to us) is broken down into two categories: general and special revelation. Both of these work together to give us a full and beautiful picture of our triune God. Both are essential. But so too is knowing the difference and support for each.
General revelation is the way that God reveals Himself to us through His created world. Through God’s creation, we can learn of His goodness, kindness, and His power as God and Creator. This does not give us knowledge that leads to salvation, but it does give us knowledge that leads to worship and awareness of Him.
Psalm 19 is a favorite passage of mine, and truly it illuminates both general and special revelation for us. Through the first verses of this psalm, we learn that the very heavens “declare the glory of God” (19:1). Romans 1:20 decidedly confirms this, declaring “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
There’s a waterfall an hour from my house that I like to hike to each summer. Steps are hewn into the side of a gully, and you can climb down to the base of the waterfall and explore the boulders, stream, and small valley created by this waterfall. It’s magnificent, and each time I’m there it feels as if I’m standing in a sanctuary. Trees tower above me, gently curving towards each other over the rim of small valley. The subdued roar of the falls mingles with the echoes of rustling leaves, steady song of the stream, and sounds of delight from hikers—it sounds like praise. When I’m there, I’m aware that God can be known as good and kind Creator through His created world.
Yet, even the most amazing sunrise and majestic waterfall cannot reveal to me God’s plan of salvation for a desperate world. So, in His mercy, He spoke.
Special revelation is the way that God has made Himself and his plan for salvation known to us. Hebrews 1:1 tells us that God has spoken—first through the prophets (we see this displayed continually throughout the Old Testament), and secondly through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to reveal the fullness of God’s Word to us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
God isn’t bringing us a new Word. He speaks to us through Scripture. Hebrews is full of the call to anchor ourselves, finding discernment and maturity through the increasing knowledge of Scripture. It’s remarkable when we stop to think that we can hold the very Word of the living God. The One who doesn’t slumber or sleep, the powerful Creator, He cares for us so deeply and richly that He sent to us the Word as flesh. And through the work of the Holy Spirit inspired the preservation of His work and will for us.
I often fail to remember in seasons of sorrow, loneliness, and need, that my true need is living water, Bread of Life, and the True Vine–in whom we abide, have our nourishment, and flourish.
This doesn’t diminish the mystery of how He applies his word to us. He uses His Word in plentiful ways and applies it to us by the Holy Spirit. Not only in a still quiet voice, as that pastor said so long ago, but in the prompt and guidance of the Spirit as our Counselor and Comforter. But just as Hebrews teaches us that God now speaks to us through the Bible, we’re exhorted to “pay close attention to what we have heard” through Scripture that we may have sound discernment (Heb. 2:1). If we feel prompted by Spirit, it will always be in-line with Scripture. If we think God has a specific purpose and will for our lives, Scripture will affirm this! We check everything against the Word of God with confidence, knowing that He will affirm His own Word to us.
We don’t read God’s Word because we have to, checking off our thirty-minute devotional time as if it is a law for the believer. No, there is grace here! But, friend, our Bibles are the very Word of God given that we may know Him–His works, His nature, and His will for us, that is salvation in Christ Jesus! Oh, how we ought to delight in the gift of beholding Him, and literally taking Him at His Word! Will you join me in praying for an increased desire for God’s Word in your life?