Haunting Voices

Gen. 3:8.---' And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.'

Though our first parents when they sinned lost much, they did not lose this---the voice of God was in their ears, haunting the Garden and haunting their life. Adam and his wife had once walked familiarly with God, confident and childlike, without shame and without fear. But now an immense spiritual distance intervened between the creature and the Creator. All the old intimacy was over. Man was a child no longer; and God was far away and fearful. Still, far as he had fallen from his place in the Divine friendship, man was not beyond the sound of the Divine voice. If his soul had sinned, his ears were not deafened to the heavenly tones; and still ' they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.'

There is something here that is true, not of religion only, but of life. We may be parted from many things in life---from old places and persons and experiences---still we are not done with them. There are voices that come to us from all that has ever been.

We are separated from many things---it may be by force of circumstances; it may be by our own fault. Many ways the changes come; and old scenes are left behind, old companions drop out of sight, dear presence's vanish. Some of the things we lose are very precious. The love of a parent or a friend, the inspiration of a great teacher, the soul-moving power of some great experience---these have been with us and they have gone from us. Still, however far we may drift from our past, we never lose our memories. We never lose the capacity of being affected by the power of that which we once knew; and when the influences of former things come upon us, how they touch and thrill the heart! The voices out of the past may come to us with a wistful sadness of regret. Or they may be inspiring and heart-stirring, bracing us for work and conflict. But we always hear them. No density of overshadowing forgetfulness is so heavy, the leaves of the gathering years can never cluster so thickly about us, that we shall hear no more those voices from the past.

Now what the text does is to apply this truth about life to its highest and holiest experience. There is profound spiritual truth beneath all the simplicity of this chapter. It tells us that the ideal life, and so the first life, is this---when God dwells with man and walks with him and speaks with him, when man does not fear God and has no cause to fear Him, but walks like a happy child with God through the pleasant places. And it tells us that even when we fall from this first life, when its happiness is broken, whatever takes us away from it or comes between us and God. He does not cease to be an encompassing presence to us and a voice living and often loud. We hear still the sound of His coming through all the screens we make to hide us; and we know and feel that He is near.

The place of our life, like that Garden, is haunted by His presence; and God comes to us along every path, comes to us in spite of ourselves. We are beset by His approaches and appeals and all the wonder of His seeking love. Does not this explain experience? Some early and simple religious teaching long forgotten---you thought you had outgrown it, left it far behind; but it returns to your memory and moves you strangely, and you are almost on your knees. Or there are times when you are overcome by sudden emotion, or carried away in some train of thought that you cannot explain. The melting mood, the strange reverie---where comes it? It subdues and softens you, and makes you think of better things. Some event in your life---a great danger, a great trouble overhanging you, a great sorrow---some event brings you face to face with the Unseen Power that rules all things, and rules your life and whom you cannot escape. Or, most of all, in the stirrings and strivings of conscience, the sense of guilt and all anxiety that comes to earnest men as they look upon their life, He lays His healing hand upon you.

Not the first man only, but every man since who once knew God and then lost Him, who once prayed and then ceased to pray, who once walked like a child with his Father and then forsook the home of his soul, is visited by the conviction that he is not left to himself. There is Another seeking him still, and he hears again the voice in the garden in the cool of the day.

Men may pass a church and hear a snatch of a psalm, and the Eternal Lord draws near to them. They will always be exposed to His approach in the touch of death, or in the smile of a child---in the clouds of heaven, which are the dust of His feet, or upon the everlasting hills, or in the deeps which speak of His judgments. Most of all is it hopeless for those who have ever known Him to escape from the memory of Jesus.

And notice that this was the time when God appeared---' in the cool of the day '---when it was evening and the air was cool, when the evening breeze stirs up, and comes playing, rustling, whispering among the leaves. At eventide when the sun is setting and the land is still, when the shadows gather, when the lights are dim, and the noises are quiet, and the heart of man is hushed---we know the restful, reverent, pensive mood that comes in that still hour.

Everything in this old story has a meaning; and we know how much this means---the influence of evening, of the twilight. Then we hear the voices we cannot hear when our work fills our hands and occupies our thoughts, when we are distracted and excited, when the noise and the tumult of the world drown the higher voices. But at evening we are released and hushed and subdued---restful, thoughtful, sensitive. All that is best in our nature seems then to be alert. When the shadows close around, when the lights are dim, when memory broods, in the cool of the day, when the hot passions have spent their fires, we grow self conscious and God-conscious. We may try to hide, if we will,; but the wind---the Spirit blowing where it lists--- as it comes at eventide, stirs the inmost recesses of being, and reveals the trembling, apprehensive self. It was from the power of what had been that our first parents felt the hopelessness of trying to escape. The quieter the Garden grew, the clearer sounded the Voice.

We may believe that God will make such a time for us. He will bring us to an hour when the conditions will help us like the hush of evening, when the fever and strife are quiet and we hear God. It may come in the time we have to spend in a sick-room---in the long days and weary nights. It may come on a journey, in a strange city, when we feel lonely and far from home. It may come in some great sorrow, when our heart is hushed, and when we are alive to the unseen as never before. God will make for us such a time, like the cool of the day, quiet and solemn and wistful and ready for His revealings.

What God has to say we must hear each for himself. But what we need to remember is this---that everything depends on how we act when we hear the voice of God. They heard His voice; and they did hid themselves; and, hiding, they heard again. Would they stay in the shadow, ashamed and afraid? Or would they go out to meet Him? Surely this is what we must do. When God calls, let us meet Him in the open, hiding nothing. Hear the voice of the Lord God and go out to meet Him; and His word will be merciful, what ever it appoints for you.

Where do we hear the voice of God as we hear it in Christ? We hear Him best in the tender tones of the Son of Man who walked this world, and whose voice ever since has haunted this earth of ours as it haunts our life. The Christ of God, with His words of grace and gospel, of invitation and pardon and promise---these are the words of God if Divine words were ever heard by men. When Jesus Christ and His gospel touch our hearts, it is the voice of God that speaks. It is a voice Divine in depth of meaning and tenderness and pleading power. ' Hear Him.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha