SCRIPTURE: Hearing My Master’s Voice

My Writing

Hearing My Master's Voice by Julia Marks

During my lifetime I have read(ish) the Bible through(ish) a number of times.

I have a collection of reading plans.  One even from the time of Elizabeth I, with readings from 3 Kings and 4 Kings.

I say read, when what I really mean is hum.

I think that during my life, I have tended to hum with the imagined sound of a bassoon in the back of my mind while reading the Bible.  It beats having to pay attention to it, after all.  Except the good parts.  I pay attention(ish) to the good parts.  Like the story of Tamar in Genesis.

The humming is so bad that in spite of the fact that every morning and evening, during prayers, I read that section of psalms that is carved out in my prayerbook (there was even quite a long time when, in addition to reading through the psalms every month, I listened to 10 of them every day at lunchtime), when I sit down in church to read the psalm appointed for that day, I feel like I have never heard these words before.

The words just wash over me.  Refreshing.  But new.

Except those psalms whose words I have sung, like As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, or psalms I memorized back in Sunday school.

Those I recognize.  Anything else is, well, a male baritone hum.  Don’t let them beat me, don’t forget me down here in this ditch, feed me,  and, oh yes, you’re a great God, really you are.

Something along those lines.

For me, the importance of scripture lies in its “codes.”  When I am working on a vision, I listen intently to the readings in church to see if something in scripture confirms my vision. For most of my visions, the words from the readings sing out in unison or in harmony.  And then I know that I am on the right path in my current study.  (Weekday service readings are absolutely great for this kind of thing.)

So THIS YEAR I’m listening to the Bible.  Straight through.  While I listen, I make myself play a game on the computer so that my attention is not really taken away from the words of the Bible, but my mind is not free to, well, hum along.  Or doze off.

As you can well imagine, I rolled my virtual eyes at the thought of hearing the upcoming chapters of the hind-end of Exodus and those truly lovely books of the Bible that follow Exodus.

The really important books of the Bible.  The ones that start the Bible out with a real bang.  The ones that have been divided off into their own little, very important world, described by their own word, even: The Pentateuch.  Even the word, Torah, refers to these five books, giving them an increased sense of importance.

And yet I’ve always found them the best, or easiest, to hum along to.

This in spite of the fact that my daughter when she was young declared that she would name her first child, Deuteronomy.

But this year something changed.

Perhaps it was because I was listening to the Bible.  (I do listen to books here and there as I am rooting around with an idea here and there.  But I don’t read the Bible for reading the Bible’s sake by listening to it.  I always thought, being an English Major, that that would be sacrilegious.)

But here they came.  I opened my email and there they were: chapters from Exodus.

Oh, poor baby.  Off to float in your little reed basket.  And then the rest of his life, until. . .

(Of course, I’m hardening his heart to say, no, to you, Moses.)

And what does Moses say to this great God?  God Almighty?  God the omnipotent, the omnipresent, the virtual owner of all things omni?

Moses says, No.

So, again, God tries.

(Of course, I’m hardening his heart to say, no, to you, Moses.)

And Moses says, no.

And this routine goes on and on and on, until, well. . .

I must say that I did remember this from my younger years, I remember thinking this over and humming, humph.  Imagine that.

But now, in my dotage, I listened to Moses responding to this Most Important God by saying, No, I’m not doing that.  I have a stutter.  And I’m not going up in front of no pharaoh and making a fool of myself.

And I doubled over with laughter.

And I allowed myself the rumination of wondering just how many priests in the whole history of the church have gotten up into the pulpit and preached on Moses saying, NO, to God.

I guess the answer to that question would be, exactly, zero.

We wouldn’t want congregants getting any ideas about getting uppity, now would we?

But the laughter soon ended as, day-after-day, came the chapters that told me about God’s instructions to Moses.

Instructions about everything.

And I found myself sitting up very, very straight.  My ears perked up like a dog’s when he hears the family car pulled into the driveway.

I found myself tingling.


There was the EXACTITUDE.

Nail three half-penny nails nine cubbies below the phanough in  a triangle using a two-pound stone.  Nail them in half-way so you can hang the blue and gold tassels from them so they can swing in the wind.

(NOTE: not actual scripture)

The more I listened, the more fascinated I became with the details.  The turquoise.  The naming of the people who had to find the stones to nail the nails.  The cubits.

There was the ABSOLUTENESS.

There were no choices given.  No, well, you could use teak for the cornerpieces, or you could use oak.  Whichever you think is best.  There were no openings for questions or requests for explanations.  (I could almost imagine myself, sitting next to Moses, and every time a command came through I would ask, Why?  AND RECEIVE NO ANSWER WHATSOEVER.  I don’t do this with my own visions, but there was something about the obsessive-compulsive nature of the demands (I mean commands) that made me want to put my finger in them and stir.)

There was the REPETITION.

(You got that?)

(I wasn’t sure you were listening the first hundred times.)

(Just making sure you heard me.)

But what really got to me, what really made me know that it was God who was talking to Moses, was the tenderness.  Yes, from time-to-time, on rare occasion, when someone violated the law of God, the outcome was serious.  And very, very bad for the violator.  Or violators.

But most of the time, all the exactness, all the absoluteness, all the repetition went to defining the methods of how to get someone out of the fix they got themselves into.  Yes, I know you are a bunch of mess-ups.  But here’s what I want you to do to right yourself with Me when you get yourself into trouble.

And the animals to be sacrificed were listed.  The weight of spices given.  The ritual described.  Over and over.  Again and again.

And here’s the remedy for this kind of sin.

A recipe book for forgiveness by God.

And it began to dawn on me that the beginning of the Bible — right from the start — we are taught to listen to God.  We are taught to obey God.  And we are taught to love God because, more than anything, he wants us to be in his good graces.

Oh, and we are taught that


Yup, got it.


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