Hearken Unto Me, My People. Give Heed To Me, O Lord! by Abraham Kuyper

6. Hearken Unto Me, My People. Give Heed To Me, O Lord!

In times past it was commonly believed that sound itself came from the throat, and that its power was but limited. Hence a word could only be heard at a short distance, farther away it could not be heard, and so we were cut off from those with whom we desired to speak. He who had anything to say from a distance, sent a messenger, and later, when the great invention of writing was made, the message was carried by a letter.

Since then, however, all this has been changed. Now it is known that our throat has no sound of its own, but it enables us to make vibrations in the air, and these vibrations find in the ear of him who listens an artistically constructed instrument that receives them.

When we speak, we transmit our thoughts in these vibrations. Along the airwaves they glide to the ear of him who hears us, and through the ear they quicken the selfsame thoughts in him. Thus we speak.

But this is not all.

It was discovered that apart from throat and ear, and at a very much farther distance, communication could be established by means of visible signs, and thus telegraphy originated. Then it was found that a like contact of throat upon ear could be obtained along an extended metal thread; which discovery brought us the telephone.

And now still greater advances have been made. It has been demonstrated that intelligent communication can be transmitted through the air, without the aid of wires, and thoughts have been exchanged at distances of thousands of miles.

Thus things which in former times were altogether unthinkable have now become reality. And when we consider how quickly these more and more wonderful inventions have followed one another, it is plain that still further developments can be looked for, and that dealing with people at incredible distances will yet, perhaps, become the common practice.

This now comes to the help of our weak faith.

That the Lord is simultaneously a God at hand and a God afar off (Jer. 23:23) expresses in prophetical language the fact that before God all distance falls away, and that He can speak to us and can hear our voice, even though heaven is His throne and we kneel here on earth; yea, though we whisper a prayer under our breath, which he who stands by our side can not hear.

Faith had no other explanation for this than the question: “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?” and shall He Who formed the voice, not speak?” (Psalm 94:9).

Confidence was based upon the confession of God’s omnipresence, and upon the fact that He is the All-knowing One; but there was nothing in this that supported and carried the imagination.

And it is this which has become altogether different.

Now that it has become possible for us, impotent creatures, to extend our voice across whole continents and make ourselves intelligible to one another; now that, even without the help of wires, exchange of thought has become possible at distances of many thousands of miles; and everything tends to show that this is but the beginning of a communication which shall be yet further developed, we now can have some idea of the way in which this communication can at length endlessly extend itself, and how the Lord our God, Who has the absolute disposal of all these means, inasmuch as He created them, from the Throne of His Glory can look down upon us and can whisper to us in the soul. And how,on the other hand,when however weak, our voice goes out to Him in supplication, it can be heard by Him, since all distance that separates us falls away.

As regards the life of glory among the redeemed, it becomes more and more clear to us, that in that life communication shall not only be possible from time to time with a few. but that when once every limitation of our temporal life falls away and that life of glory begins, communication with all God’s saints shall be possible at one and the same time.

Even then, it will all be the expression and the working out of the fact of our creation after the Divine Image. It will not be in the same way that God has communication with us now, but it will be a communication in a similar way. And now that even we ourselves can speak with our fellowmen at such incredible distances, it seems to bring us closer to God in our prayer, and God Himself closer to us when He speaks. And the “Hearken unto me, my people,” followed by the prayer, “Give heed to me, O Lord,” has become more real to us.

In our secret walk with God, if we may so express ourselves, there is still a wholly different phase, even that of sacred ardor that springs from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in us. As often as this indwelling operates, there is no distance between us and God. Then the Lord speaks to us in the inner chamber of the heart; then we are aware of His holy presence, not afar off, but close by, and our speaking to Him is the confidential whisper as from mouth into ear. Such is the case at close of day, when higher peace fills the heart, and the blessed enjoyment of being God’s child brings us a hushed ecstasy.

But we do not deal with this phase now. We here speak of the man who truly believes, but who, either by sin or trouble, has in part lost the consciousness of being God’s child, and finds himself at a far distance from God, and God far distant from him; a condition of the soul that constantly presents itself in this life, even with those who are most saintly. And then it seems that at first God does not hear, and as though we have to call on Him that He may hear again the voice of our supplication.

“Give heed to me, O Lord,” is the soul’s cry of him who feels as though God pays no attention to his prayer. And in the same way, when by Isaiah God says: “Hearken unto me, my people,” it means that at first the people give no heed to the speaking of the Lord.

Both these cries, therefore, belong to the phase of temporary estrangement, when fellowship between God and our soul, and between our soul and God has been interrupted by sin or by sore trial. Then communication must be established again. In the parlance of the telephone, God then rings us up, and we call up God, that He may listen to us. And so the broken connection restores itself.

Communication, fellowship with God, is the great sanctifying and protecting power, that holds us up in life. It is not we apart here below, and God far distant in heaven above, so that but a few moments of the long day we remember Him on our knees; but it is constant, continuous fellowship with our Father in heaven, as little as possible disturbed or broken, and this is the secret of the faith-power of God’s child.

In former times, when life was less hurried and less busy, this was easier than now. Life in the present time subjects our nerves to so great a strain, and overwhelms us restlessly with such new sensations, that the quiet collecting of the soul before God becomes ever less frequent; and it is for this reason that in our times the hidden walk with God suffers loss.

But there lies a counterpoise in these new discoveries of world-wide communication. They help to impart a feeling of reality to our effort to restore the broken connection, in a way that was not possible before.

And so these discoveries of science become a support to the life of our devotions. Our hearkening unto God can gain by them, and our prayer, “O Lord, give heed unto me and hear the voice of my supplication,” can derive strength from them in our approach to the Throne of God.

From To Be Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper. Reproduced from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/kuyper/near.iii.vi.html (accessed July 15, 2014).

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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