02Jun20 - Preacher Diary
Sometimes we have come to God with burdens in the soul heavier than words could ever convey. Those are the times we speak in the language of tears. Sometimes even priests misunderstand that language, those wordless moments of stammering tears, so they give us names we do not deserve. Because they cannot hear our loud voice as it is traditional with them at prayers, they think us drunk or crazy. But God hears. He hears hearts also, not voices only. He understands even the cacophonies of wordless agonies and speechless groans; “groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26, Good News Translation); pains too rough for manicured liturgies, too hot and hasty for practised fanciful words. “He that searcheth the hearts” also hears the hearts, and “knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8:27).
Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought that she had been drunken (1 Samuel 1:13).
That was Hannah. She got called a name she never deserved, because she prayed in a manner never before. She prayed from her heart rather than merely from her lips, and God heard her heart while humans still waited to hear her voice. She was soundless to mortals, but loud and eloquent in the ears of God. She “spoke in her heart.” Those soundless lip-motions had been a conversation with Jehovah, and humans were riled because they could not overhear for ecclesiastical gossip.
Sometimes the burdens that drive someone to the altar are too deep and private to be profaned with audible words, too holy to be desecrated by hollow eloquence; hallowed burdens not meant for shallow ears. Hannah made her choice; she “spoke in her heart.”
Not everyone at the alar had gone there to pray like Hannah. Some had merely followed someone there; others were pious tourists watching to see ‘how’ people prayed, or ‘hear’ and supervise the volume of praying voices. Hannah would not be distracted by any of those. She “spoke in her heart” to the God who hears hearts also.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ASK [from our lips] or THINK [in the heart], according to the power that worketh in us (Ephesians 3:20).
I would have thought that ‘exceeding abundant’ answers were only in response to voluminous voices. Hannah “spoke in her heart”: I would have thought also that ‘speaking’ goes with voice rather than with heart; that ‘speaking’ goes with audible sounds rather than with silence and speechless lips. That is the problem of mortal priests, not the High Priest on high. Sometimes we are noisy on the lips but empty in the soul, so God hears nothing. Hannah was full and bursting in her heart but soundless on her lips; God heard her loud and clear. What does God answer? The noise?
This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Mark 7:6).
Sometimes the much noise is not the sound of His presence but the sign of His passing. “The LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains… but the LORD was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19:11-12). There was “great” noise as He “passed by.” The noise announced His passing, not His coming; it announced His absence, not His presence; “…but the LORD was not in the wind … but the LORD was not in the earthquake … but the LORD was not in the fire” (vv.11-12). Some rushing mighty wind might be the announcement of His coming as on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), but some mighty sounds are an empty commotion in noisy imitation of that, like the sonic earth-tremors at Ichabod, announcing His departure (1 Samuel 4:5,21).
And AFTER the earthquake a fire… and AFTER the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12).
The priest had called Hannah a drunk daughter of the devil (v.16), but then he had not been speaking for God even though he had been speaking from the altar of God. His priests might sometimes be wrong, but never God; they might err in His name, yet not the “God, that CANNOT lie” (Titus 1:2). Not every voice from the altar is the voice of the Master. If prayers were left for priests to answer, alas how many right prayers will go unanswered, and how many wrong prayers will get express approval!
Strangely, at last, the same Enemy who had called her an unfitting name, blessed her, saying, “Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him” (v.17). May your enemies bless you this day. May they join their unrestrainable ‘Amen’ to your deep but misunderstood wordless groans. Amen.
If God were to answer merely the volume of the voice, alas, how many Hannahs will have remained the perpetual laughing stock of their pestilent Peninnahs! Not every prayer may be properly conveyed on the platter of audible sounds, vociferous sounds that thrill the ears of sedated priests used to noise and numbers. May Jehovah hear your heart today. May He read your eloquent tears coded with inexpressible griefs. He that “searcheth the heart” hears hearts also. Amen.
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? (Psalm 56:8).
From The Preacher’s diary,
February 10, 2020.