Listen and speak

I am in the process of thinking about writing a few books that would try and bring together the many random thoughts that have developed over the past 10 years. The 10 years prior to moving to Spain were years of travel with an emphasis on how history shapes a geography spiritually (the land being the place where the corporate memory is held) and then how the church is to be a redemptive presence to remove the effects of the past and connect with and release the gift of the geography. The last ten years have been marked by a greater desire to see how the body of Christ can be repositioned within the world as a priesthood for the nations. Anyway those are my reflections and into that are continual thoughts about social transformation. So recently as I have been writing I am thinking about God’s ear and his voice, at least as far as concerning oppression.

God’s ear is turned toward the one oppressed and his voice comes to challenge the one oppressing.

We read:

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob (Exod. 3: 23,24).

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering”(Exod. 3:7).

The ear of the Lord is toward the oppressed. He hears their cry. He then responds to the cry and commissions Moses.

And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exod. 3:9,10).

In response Moses is commissioned to speak to Pharaoh. Moses does not incite the people to riot and rebel, but is sent to speak to Pharaoh thus delegitimising his control and oppression over others. The word of the Lord so often comes to those with power to repent and come down from their position of control, independence and abuse. ‘Woe to you…’ is what we read to such people, whereas we often read ‘blessed are you…’ to those who are at the receiving end of such abuse.

If the Lord’s ear is toward the oppressed so that he hears the cry but his mouth is directed toward those who are the reason for the cry of the oppressed this surely must position the church with her ear and mouth turned in the same direction. God does not do everything. He calls, commissions and acts with those called and commissioned. It is the church’s responsibility to listen and speak.

The cry of the land, the groan of creation in bondage comes to the ‘sons and daughters’ who have found freedom and glory. There is a longing in creation to come to the same destiny, for creation to become all that it was meant to be. That cry is not always a pretty sound, nor an articulated sound, and certainly seldom is it a pure sound. Most pain sounds are not pretty! Therein lies the challenge. It can be easy to write off an impure sound, or an oppression that expresses itself in a less than attractive way, and in the process to miss the cry for freedom. It can even be easy to fail to listen but to speak to that impure sound and rebuke it. How many cries for freedom have we missed, and if we have missed them how many opportunities to be agents of change have we missed (and I am thinking more corporately than individually on this)?

Likewise it can be to easy to run with the status quo and not address the powers. And maybe speaking is not possible until we first listen?

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5 thoughts on “Listen and speak

  1. Long time, no speak, Martin 😊

    I currently work for a Christian organisation (not going to name them as I don’t want to be seen as criticising in public) which works in international development. They do some truly inspiring and amazing work in tackling the causes and effects of poverty. Part of their role is ‘speaking truth to power’ – since it is often the misuse of power that causes poverty. They use the word ‘prophetic’ to describe this, as they see themselves speaking on behalf of the poor, or at least amplifying the voices of the poor.

    My challenge to them (we’re currently going through a re-envisioning process) has been to say that speaking truth to power and speaking on behalf of the poor, is not itself prophetic. While this work is absolutely valuable and necessary, for it to be truly prophetic, it needs to have heard God’s word on the matter. So listening to the poor is important , but hearing God in among the poor is vital before the speaking out can be prophetic.

    Semantics? I don’t think so. While humanity can resuscitate a dying world, only God and his people can resurrect it. And I’m reaching out for resurrection. For us to see that, we need God’s word in ours and his power behind it.

  2. I have been following your example and praying for a shift in Israeli policies re: oppression etc. Plenty of cries for freedom. Since starting praying, th Israeli government have agreed to deliver mountains of parcels to the West Bank held up for years, the Defence Minister has resigned over Gaza and I hear this morning that the Netanyahus may have to face fraud charges. Not sure yet whether this is good news or, as with Franco’s body, it means going deeper!

    1. Encouraging… Prayer… so many challenges. We are not the smartest at what to pray for, how to pray etc… And if we get a shift no way of proving it was down to us!! But best part is keep on going as it just seems as if there are shifts, coincidental or not, and I deeply suspect the shifts would not take place if we stopped.

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