Have you ever heard God’s voice? I don’t mean through scripture or as an urging by the Holy Spirit, but God’s actual audible voice. Not many have, but probably more than you would guess. The following is an account from one of my pastors, Rev. Dr. Timothy W Ehrlich, which he has included in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon. This took place when Tim was a young man, and it relates the first time God spoke to him.
Every day in my daily prayer I thank God for speaking into my life nine times. I say “into my life” instead of speaking “to me,” because twice God spoke to others on my behalf, and, seven times God spoke directly to me. God has never spoken to me in long conversations like He had with Jeremiah and others; in every instance God was economical with His words. Eight of the times He spoke only a single sentence; and once He spoke two short sentences. God always used the fewest number of words to communicate His message and each time it was at an important moment in my life or that of someone else. This account is about the first time that God spoke to me in words I could hear.
As a theologian it is surprising to me that this time and three of the other times, I heard God speak, His words were not in answer to a prayer request but rather they were given unsolicited! When I say they were unsolicited I don’t mean that God’s communications were unwelcome, far from it, I wish God would speak to me even more though being spoken to by God is also a weight to carry. On this occasion I was not asking for a word or anything from God.
While in the Marines, on a day of liberty; I got off the ship and rented a small motorcycle at the end of the dock and rode around San Juan for hours. I love to ride motorcycles and wanted to take in as much of the city as I could. I traveled around on busy streets and quiet back neighborhood streets and was enjoying the beautiful weather and the interesting scenery. In the late afternoon I was heading back to the ship on a two-lane road that ran parallel to the beach.
As I was thinking about God, I suddenly heard a deep, booming male voice speaking to me. It commanded, “Go to the beach!” Instantly I knew this was God and this was an urgent demand. Turning the motorcycle into the first street, I drove towards the beach. I spotted a women’s clothing store on the left a short distance from the beach, so I jumped off the bike, and ran into one of their changing stalls and quickly put on my bathing suit. I ran out of the shop smiling an apology to the shop clerks and ran toward the ocean.
In front of me and a little to my left was a long breakwater made of huge concrete blocks that were shaped like the metal jacks I played with as a boy. The breakwater was fifteen or twenty feet wide and extended from the beach straight out into the ocean about 200 feet. There was a strong fast-moving ocean current that was sweeping along parallel to the beach from right to left. When it hit the concrete breakwater, it turned to flow out away from the shore.
Looking around, I noticed two girls being carried along in the fast-moving current. I could see from their faces that they were scared. As I watched, one of the girls wrapped her arms around the other. My Red Cross lifesaving class taught me that this is a classic drowning scenario; one person panics and grabs the other to keep his or her head above water. But the other person can’t stay afloat with someone wrapped around them. So they both drown. I knew I only had seconds to act before they both slipped below the surface and were carried away by the current.
There were three Marines, unfamiliar to me, sitting on the sand to the right side of the breakwater. Fortunately, one of the marines had his Marine Corps issued field air mattress, used by the infantry for the many times we were required to sleep on the ground. I ran up to them, grabbed the mattress saying, “Somebody needs this!” I then ran into the surf, jumped on, and paddled out to the girls. Sliding off, I pushed the mattress into them. They let go of each other and climbed on, draping themselves over it. I hung on to the end of the mattress and let the current carry us out, knowing that it was too strong to swim against and that as soon as we reached the end of the breakwater it would let go of us. Once we were passed the end, I pulled the mattress and them down the other side and back to the beach.
After many thanks for saving them, the young ladies went their separate way and I walked the mattress back to other Marines. After drying off in the sun, I got back on the motorcycle so it could be returned on time.
[In the post entitled “Your Inner Being Could Save Your Life. Are You Listening?” you, the reader, will find more current-day examples of God’s spoken directions that saved someone.]
Two things are significant theologically about this experience:
First is that when God chose to speak into my life here (and at other times), it was like a family member who knows they are welcome to come into your home without knocking: although it was a forceful command His voice was familiar and comfortable.
Secondly God demonstrated His foreknowledge; He knew these girls were going to drown and directed my path to beach without a second to spare, on behalf of one or both of those two girls who He obviously wanted saved.
I thank God every day for speaking to me that day and for allowing me to save those girls. I could have no way of knowing then that God would speak to me directly six more times.
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