‘Before they call, I will answer, while they are still speaking, I will hear.’ Isaiah 65v24.

In this month of special remembrance of our national heroes, both living and departed, perhaps we can add our thankfulness also for those whose benevolence towards us has enriched our lives. It is always deeply moving to see our young service people gathered together to sing, “I vow to thee my country.” The second verse takes us on to that other country that we may also serve here and now, wherever we reside.

Out in the bushlands, two nurses were battling to save the life of a young mother after childbirth. Sadly she could not survive, but her baby, tiny and vulnerable, had been safely delivered. Now the mission station had two more orphans under its care, a new born infant and her three year old sister. Although the days were hot, the temperature dipped at night, so keeping the baby warm became a matter of concern. Reviewing the day at prayer-time, they added a hot water bottle to the urgently needed list. But who, in these parts could provide such an item?

Ten year old Gemma made another request. “Please Lord God, can we have a little doll to comfort the baby’s sister?”

A few days later, a jeep arrived to deliver a large postal package, from friends far away. Such gifts were received with great thankfulness and relief as they provided medical supplies, clothing, books, pencils and crayons for the children along with sweets. All gathered round in happy anticipation as the box revealed its treasured contents. A cheer went up as a hot water bottle was lifted from the top, an unlikely gift in such a sun-soaked place. Gemma was expecting something else. Rummaging around, she finally emerged, eyes shining and with a triumphant smile, as she held aloft a beautifully dressed, baby doll.

“I knew God would hear us,” she laughed and skipped off to present the orphaned sister with her own special gift.

How could two such unlikely items come to be supplied with precision and perfect timing, even though the package had been some time in transit? The answer lies in the relationship between our compassionate God and those who listen for his voice.

This is not, for most of us, an audible voice sounding in our ears, but rather it is that ‘still small voice’ communicating in the mind and persistently nudging our thoughts in a direction of good consequences. There may be no sense of peace until the obedient disciple has acted upon the call, bringing the divinely planned blessing to both giver and receiver. We are, after all, the body of Christ, still on earth, the hands and feet that facilitate God’s intended purposes. When we discover that a plea or supplication has been answered through the generous provision of God and through our agency, then the joy is multiplied and faith strengthened. Trust and confidence are renewed by obedient service.

There is a crucial element in the process of following guidance. We need to know and recognise the Shepherd’s voice. Jesus explained, “When he (the shepherd) has brought out all his own (from the sheepfold) he goes on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.” John 10v4.

A tourist once paid a shepherd to test this verse by exchanging clothes and calling to the sheep. Immediately, the sheep recognised the familiar tones of their carer and ran to him only.

Listen to the still small voice, trust and obey.

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