What Saith the Heron?
Written By: Chris Mace
Sitting on the river’s edge at dusk watching and listening to heron fish and squawk, I wonder what messages they are conveying to each other. Creature communications are complex, but the idea that God speaks to us is vastly more intriguing and mysterious.
In the Bible narrative, God made His purposes known in visions and dreams, thunderings and prophetic words, tablets of stone and object lessons. A detached hand wrote on a wall; lots were cast; warriors succeeded or failed; a donkey spoke; a voice from heaven was heard; a still small voice whispered to Elijah; a whirlwind of questions and revelations inundated Job.
In this age of logic, reason, scientific methods, and intellectual arrogance, we are embarrassed by the miraculous. Some scoff at the idea of God -let alone that He reaches out to us and that we can not only engage Him with trusting hearts and praise-filled voices but also with laments, doubts, requests, and intercessions. That God speaks to us, let alone in unorthodox and indirect ways, easily provokes skepticism. Some God-believers are deists who accept God as existing but an uninterested or uninvolved player in current life. “Rational” minds want proofs and evidences and limit themselves to human possibilities.
Scripture also indicates that God speaks through the beauty, wonders, and mysteries of nature as well as through life circumstances that often include suffering which C. S. Lewis described as God’s megaphone. Job’s life is one example. In the midst of great emotional and physical distress, Job took issue with God and His justice. God in turn overwhelmed him with considerations about the origins, uniqueness, and immense diversity of the natural world and its created beings. He posed questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone?…Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth” (Job 38:4-6; 33)
Job had no answers. He was humbled. God’s purposes were too great for him to fully comprehend. However, he saw God’s transcendence, His eternality, His omniscience, His mighty power, and His sovereignty. He attained a deeper understanding of God’s nature through nature and that man’s puny wisdom is conceit and folly and that creation speaks so loudly that we ” have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:17-23)
Although nature is revelatory, sacred scripture continues to be God’s divinely practical and powerful wisdom. It is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:15-16)“ For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Addressing the people of Athens, the Apostle Paul said that “In (God) we live and move and have our being.” If we do not recognize that, we have either tuned Him out, or we are not understanding the language He speaks. We may choose not to listen, but maybe His voice has been muted by lack of religious training or by the loud and appealing voices of culture. Maybe rituals, traditions, and liturgy which do not translate into transformed living have resulted in inattention, disinterest, boredom. Maybe distorted, contrived, burdensome restrictions about what a believer should or should not do have killed interest. And maybe the hypocrisy of those who confess to love Christ but do not love their neighbor has deadened truth. Authenticity is immensely important to validate faith.
Redirecting focus away from tradition, ritual, legalism, and people and centering on the person of Christ is essential for Christian faith. He vividly, perfectly, and unmistakably personifies God’s love and “radiates God’s glory.” God speaks most powerfully and clearly to us through his life, and teachings. “Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfected of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus made a crucial statement and an amazing promise as he talked to those who would not recognize him as divine. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. (John 10:25-29 (NLT2)
We may be distracted or ignore God. We may seek Him in the wrong places, hear distorted ideas, or not understand what He is telling us. Just listen to Jesus. Standing before Pilate and his accusers, he stated his purpose in coming into this world was “to testify to truth.” (John 18:38) If that is so, it is imperative that we give him an audience!
In order to communicate intimately with anyone, one must know something about who they are. God knows us and has given us ways to hear Him. Three of those are creation, Scripture, and Jesus. For those who seek Him, God said, “Call unto me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you don’t know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
And just maybe, a squawking heron will speak with flashes of wonder, grace, and beauty!