The God of the Bible is a relational God. He is a communicative Being. From the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the very last words of the Book of Revelation, God interacts and communicates to His people. God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. He spoke to Abraham in a vision. Jacob encountered God in a late night wrestling match and God spoke to Joseph through dreams. For Moses, a burning bush, lightening, earthquakes, clouds, fire, tablets and snakes all became God’s instruments of communication. God spoke to Balaam through a donkey and to Peter through a rooster. Elijah found God as a gentle whisper in sheer silence and David as he lifted his voice in song. Jeremiah understood God through an almond tree. Isaiah saw a vision of heaven and a coal touching his mouth, while Daniel simply received a message from God as a mental picture. At other times, God got creative and imaginative. For over a year, the prophet Ezekiel laid on his side as a message from God to the people of Israel. On another occasion, Ezekiel took a clay tablet, drew on it and then destroyed it in front of the people and simply said, “Yup, that’s what God says…” Another prophet, Hosea’s, very life circumstances became a prophetic parable, a dramatic representation of the heart of God for His people. Scripture says that God also had some prophets say nothing verbally, rather they acted out God’s message like a mime. (You may have to dig a little to find that one). Jesus Himself used seeds, birds, flowers, children, kings, fish, nets, coins, hillsides and stories to communicate to the people of God. Jesus very life was a 4D display of God in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14, 18).
How did God communicate to humanity throughout Scripture? He utilized every possible means.
Think about it.
God could have just used the two-tablets. He could have communicated with an instant download or automatic update like some Microsoft product. He could have inserted a chip of some sort in our brains. But, God’s not interested in obligatory worship, or even monotone expressions of love. He’s into worship that is wild with abandonment and love that is radical with expression.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our relationship with God. It is true that there is only one way to God, yet throughout Scripture, God chooses to communicate to people uniquely and individually.
So here’s my question.
If in Scripture, God is so creative, diverse and expressive in His dealings with humanity, why are our interactions that are directed back to Him often so predictable, limited and monotone? We say our prayers, perhaps go to church and sing some songs. And, if we go to “one of those” churches, we’ll clap our hands and maybe even raise them up in the air. But, is that it? Are these simple expressions the apex of our endless worship and gratitude to an Infinite God.
Scripture says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Love is something that is communicated. It is expressed. It’s done with the heart… the soul… the mind… and our actual physical bodies and strength…
Scripture is loaded with communication that has nothing to do with words or speaking. At times, people simply communicate to God with movements, expressions and their physical posture. It’s important to remember that communication is greater than merely the sounds that come out of our mouths.
This may come as a surprise, but God’s native language is not English. Nor is it Spanish, or even Hebrew or Greek. God knows all these languages and uses them to communicate to us at times. However, the Gospel of John says that, “God is Spiritand his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Communication can take place without words. In fact, Communication specialist tell us that “what I say,” the spoken words, make up as little as 7% of human communication. How I say the words, make up 38%. And, how I look make up about 55%. In other words, about 93% of all communication transpires in my facial expressions, body language and vocal inflection.
I have three kids. At times their silent body language and facial expressions speak louder than the words coming out of their mouths. Perhaps this is truer than we realize with the songs we sing or the prayers we offer to God. There have been times when I say, “I surrender,” yet my fists are clinched, as if to say, “but not everything.”
Here’s a personal confession.
Sometimes, I say my prayers, but the words don’t seem to be enough. Perhaps my vocabulary isn’t vast enough, or I just can’t find the right word, or maybe what I’m trying to say can’t be said with mere words alone. My undergraduate studies were in American Sign Language and often I don’t say any words out loud when I pray. I simply sign. And, it’s as my arms are moving, body contorting and face expressing that something deep within me connects to God in ways my words can’t match. (I don’t typically recommend doing this while driving alone).
At other times, rather than saying “God, I give You control of my life,” I simply keep my mouth shut and kneel down on my knees and hold my hands open before Him. The ancients called this the “giving of the hand.” Peasants did this when they came into the presence of a king. Without words, this kneeling act declared their allegiance and surrender to the will and way of the king before them.
God told Moses to “take off his shoes.” The text says the ground was holy, but I think there was another message that God was trying to convey to Moses. In Hebrew culture the feet represent one’s authority and rights. Shoes (or sandals) represented the protection of those rights. When someone wanted to communicate the surrendering of their rights, they’d take off their shoes. Interesting in business transactions, rather than signing a final contract, one person would give the other person their shoe. As crazy as this sounds, there’s actually an example of this in the Book of Ruth.
Back to Moses.
God said, “Take off you shoes.” It was holy ground. But, what else? God was about to send Moses to the most powerful man on earth and declare that he release his entire slave-labor force. The stakes were high. This was a life and death matter. Namely, Moses’ death, if things didn’t go well. Moses would need more than his own pedigree and experience. Further, he would need to trust God completely and relinquish his own inhibitions and fears. “Take off your shoes,” God said. I think God’s point was this: “Moses, where I’m sending you and what I’m calling you to do will require everything you have, your complete trust, and total abandonment. So, take off your shoes and in doing so, lay aside all that you’ve been, all that you are, and all that you’ve ever hoped to be. Lay down your rights, what you deserve, what you desire, and all that you fear. And, as you stand before Me barefoot, without your own devices of self-preservation, I will lead you, guide you and protect you…”
Sometimes, when I’m praying about a situation or a circumstance where things are not going my way, I simply take off my shoes and stand there before God. It’s a way of saying, “God, I don’t like this. I don’t understand. But, I’m going to let it go. I’m going to stop trying to influence or control the outcome. I lay down my rights and what I think I deserve, etc…”
After Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr., in Selma, Alabama, in 1963, he said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” Perhaps at times, we need to learn to say less, so we can communicate more.
The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. We have forgotten that God is a person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. -A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
If you are weary of some sleepy form of devotion, probably God is as weary of it as you are. -Frank Laubach
*If you’d like learn more about different ways to engage God, the online version of this article includes a variety of suggestions, along with a list of resources for further exploration and study.
PRACTICES OF ENGAGING GOD WITH THE SENSES by Jerrell Jobe
Talk to God out loud.
Pray with other people out loud.
Listen to and sing praise songs and hymns.
Listen to the Bible on MP3 or CD (see resource section below for links to websites.)
Read portions of Scripture out loud. Recite memory verses out loud.
Have a set time of silence after reading your Bible. Listen for God’s response.
Process what you are learning in the Bible verbally—you can do this through praying about it, sharing with others or simply musing your thoughts aloud
Read the Bible, devotionals, Christian literature or biographies.
Utilize inspirational images to enhance your times of communion with God. (below, in resourcesection, there are some links to books with images).
Write in your journal, using diagrams and pictures.. Take notes of the sermon. Doodle.
Put Scripture memory verses on an index card or on your phone and review them often.
Use your imagination when reading Bible stories (mentally visualize the scene)
Illustrative Bible study tools and dictionaries. The Glo Bible.
Use written study tools such as commentaries, dictionaries—in text form, software or online
Go on a retreat or conference. This is a time for worship, connecting with others, listening to God and growing in your faith.
Create in physical response to something heard in a sermon or read in your personal study. (color, paint, knit, sculpt, scrapbook.)
Give away something in response to God’s love. (tithe, material objects, your skill/time/talents.)
Pray while walking, driving, baking, even while brushing your teeth.
Be physical during worship. Stand, raise your hands, clap, kneel, even let out a verbal, “Amen.”
Find a good devotional that includes Bible references and reading, and includes life application principles.
Write next steps or action steps in your journal from your Bible studies or teaching that you receive. This will help translate what you learn into everyday life.
Cross-reference instructional teaching in the Bible and devotional insights to historical Biblical accounts of actual characters.
When studying with others, discuss real life situations and case studies.
Resources for Engaging God Interactively
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities
—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made.
Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth
Praying in Color Kids’ Edition by Sybil MacBeth
Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying With Icons by Henri Nouwen
Moments with the Savior Series by Ken Gire
Beyond Words: A Treasury of Paintings and Devotional Writings; Were You There?: Find Yourself with Jesus; Tell Me the Story; Tell Me the Truth; Tell Me the Secrets by Ron DiCianni