“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
(The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis)
CAN YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?
“Arise, my dearest. Hurry, my darling.
Come away with me!
I have come as you have asked
to draw you to my heart and lead you out.
For now is the time, my beautiful one.
The season has changed,
the bondage of your barren winter has ended,
and the season of hiding is over and gone.
The rains have soaked the earth
and left it bright with blossoming flowers.
The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived.
I hear the cooing of doves in our land,
filling the air with songs to awaken you
and guide you forth.
Can you not discern this new day of destiny
breaking forth around you?
The early signs of my purposes and plans
are bursting forth.
The budding vines of new life
are now blooming everywhere.
The fragrance of their flowers whispers,
“There is change in the air.”
Arise, my love, my beautiful companion,
and run with me to the higher place.
For now is the time to arise and come away with me.”
(Song of Songs 2:8-10) – TPT
What we have here are words from the Song of Solomon, an ancient piece of Hebrew poetry probably written by King Solomon about a king and his lover. Some translators prefer to call this writing the Song of Songs and this is my preferred title, for this is what it is – the song of all songs, the ultimate song, the most powerful of all songs ever written. It is a love song, a song of passion, longing, intimacy and zeal.
Some theologians and scholars see this writing as a celebration of human love between a man and a woman. Others see it as a type or picture of God and Israel. Still others see this book as a picture of Christ and His Church. Although I believe there is truth in all of these interpretations, I believe it is the later that really is the heart of this book. I believe that the Song of Songs is ultimately about the divine romance that Jesus has for His Bride, the Church, and that this love song is what He is singing over us right now.
In chapter two, the bridegroom makes a powerful prophetic statement to his lover.
He simply declares “the season has changed”.
The king’s lover has evidently been in a season which is described as a “barren winter”. The image is one of no life, no fruit, no growth. Nothing is happening, the ground is tough, and everything seems so hard.
The king describes how she feels trapped in this barren winter – she is in bondage, her barrenness is a prison that she can’t escape from. No matter what she does or no matter how hard she tries she can’t change the circumstances or environment that she is in.
But now the king comes and declares over her: “The season is over and gone… Can you not discern this new day of destiny… There is change in the air.”
Can you imagine the excitement and the relief? This declaration brings with it hope and expectancy. The king is bringing her into a new season – one that is full of life, full of fruitfulness, full of joy and full of purpose and destiny.
As believers we must understand that times and seasons belong to God. Daniel 2 says “He (God) changes times and seasons” (v21).
The good news is that this God who changes times and seasons is our loving, Heavenly Father. That means His desire is that we wouldn’t live in the barrenness of winter but in the fruitfulness of spring.
He is the God who declares light into darkness; He creates and sustains everything with His powerful word. He is the God whose voice calms storms, moves mountains and raises the dead.
This same God has the power and authority to come to those who feel like they are living in the bondage of winter and declare over them: “The season is over and gone… Can you not discern this new day of destiny… There is change in the air.”
These aren’t just empty words of wishful thinking – this is the God who “calls into being things that were not” (Romans 4:17). When He declares a new season over your life, you can be certain that His Word has the power to propel us into that which He has spoken.
A New Season
I personally believe that God is announcing a new season over His Church. Looking at the Church worldwide, in recent decades there have been great moves of God in Africa, Asia and South America. These have resulted in an incredible harvest of souls.
But it seems like the Church in the West – the USA to some extent and Europe to a greater extent – has been in a barren winter. Although there have been some signs of life and little pockets where God has moved, by and large the Church has struggled to grow. There have been few signs of large numbers of salvations, of prodigals returning an-masse, of the signs and wonders that are supposed to accompany the gospel. Little by little the Church has lost its influence in the nations as society has become more and more secular.
Meanwhile Christians have been working hard, faithfully praying and seeking God, and yet it seems that, no matter how hard we have worked or strived, things just aren’t changing.
But I believe that a new season is on the way! I believe that once again God is singing a new song over His Church! I believe we are coming into a new day of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring, a new day of visitation, a new day of us seeing God’s Kingdom here on earth. You can call it revival, or reformation or outpouring, it doesn’t really matter, but I believe we are going to see salvations like never before, prodigals returning like never before, an ease in praying for the sick, signs and wonders becoming common, moves of God’s Spirit, churches growing, communities changing, believers returning to their first love, nations turning back to God!
Of course we can talk about grand themes like this and sometimes get lost in the scale of it all, so why don’t we make it personal? How about your winter ending? How about your barrenness ceasing? How about you, your marriage, your family, your ministry, your finances entering into a new season? How about you entering into a new day of blessing, of favour, of health, of abundance, of prosperity?
A New Sound
What is interesting as we read again Song of Songs 2 is that this new season is accompanied by a new sound. The King describes this as “the season of singing” with “the cooing of doves” and “the air filled with the songs of awakening”. Even the fragrance of the flowers is whispering a sound.
We of course see this in the natural world. As I write this chapter, we have just entered the season of spring. It seems that there are sounds I have not heard during winter that are suddenly being released again – the sound of children playing outside, the sound of the lawnmower cutting grass, the sound of birds tweeting, the sound of bees buzzing, the sound of new born lambs bleating.
As winter transitions into spring, the new season is accompanied by a new sound.
This is not only true in the natural, but the spiritual too. You often find on the pages of scripture that whenever God does a new thing, along with it comes a new sound.
“The God of gods, the mighty Lord Himself, has spoken!
He shouts out over all the people of the earth
in every brilliant sunrise and every beautiful sunset,
saying, “Listen to Me!”
God’s glory-light shines out of the Zion-realm
with the radiance of perfect beauty.
With the rumble of thunder He approaches;
He will not be silent, for He comes with an ear-splitting sound!
All around Him are furious flames of fire,
and preceding Him is the dazzling blaze of his glory.
Here He comes to judge His people!
He summons His court with heaven and earth as His jury, saying,
“Gather all My lovers, My godly ones whose hearts are one with Me—
those who have entered into My holy covenant” (Psalm 50:1-5) – TPT
Psalm 50 is a powerful description of God coming in power from heaven to earth. Although this can ultimately refer to the second coming of Jesus, I believe prophetically we can see a glimpse into God visiting our churches, our lives, our homes and our communities with His revival power.
When God comes in Psalm 50 He comes with glory and fire! As He comes, He will not be silent. His coming is accompanied by noise – He is speaking, He is shouting, there is the rumble of thunder! There is an ear splitting sound that is a sign that the King is coming! God is on the move!
The Sound of Glory
The glory of God is one of the major themes in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. The glory of God can be described as the weight of God’s majesty, His splendour, the fullness of His presence. The glory of God is His beauty, His holiness, His Kingdom authority, His power all rolled into one. The glory is His goodness and His goodness is His glory.
In truth it is impossible to adequately describe the glory of God using human words. Some things you just have to experience! All I know is that you were created to know and experience and live in His glory. When His glory turns up, everything changes. Satan cannot stand in the glory of God. Neither can sin, sickness, bondage, fear, shame, unbelief. You will know when you experience His glory. In His glory you are truly changed. You are never the same again.
When Ezekiel talks about the glory of God, he seems to be describing something that is tangible, something that can be experienced but also something that can move. This concept is seen elsewhere in Scripture as Habakkuk declares that one day “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.
Although there is a sense in which the whole earth is already filled with His glory (Isaiah 6), the earth or rather the peoples of the earth don’t know that yet! They aren’t aware of it, they haven’t experienced it. But as the mighty oceans move, the glory of God is on the move: visiting churches, touching lives, reviving His people, transforming nations.
Ezekiel describes the movement of God’s glory like this: “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing” (Ezekiel 3:12).
Notice that as the glory of God moves, it is accompanied by a sound – in this case a loud rumbling sound.
In chapter 43 of Ezekiel there is a powerful moment when the glory of God, which has departed from the temple, returns and once again fills the house of God. Again, this move of God’s glory is accompanied by a sound – this time the roar of rushing waters (v2).
Today the temple of God is no longer a building built by man, but the place where God lives and dwells is us, His people, His Church. God’s great desire is that we would see His glory (John 17:24) and that His glory would fill His Church (Ephesians 3:21).
I believe we are living in those days when the glory of God is being experienced like never before. And with that glory comes a new sound! It is the sound of awakening, the sound of a new day, the dove (the Holy Spirit) is once again cooing in our land!
The Sound of the Spirit
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
In Acts 2, 120 believers are gathered in an upper room waiting for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit to be poured out. They had probably been waiting for 10 days before the feast of Pentecost arrived. During that time they had not been sat idly waiting. They had been praying, they had been praising, they had been asking God to send His Spirit.
You can just imagine the sounds that were coming out of the Upper Room. The sounds of petition, sounds of longing, frustration, groaning, tears. Sounds of prayer and singing, sounds of worship all filled the air.
But on the day of Pentecost itself, suddenly there was another sound that entered the room. This sound drowned out the sound of their praying. It was a sound so powerful that it ‘filled the house’. Can you imagine a sound so powerful that you can actually feel it? Translators describe it as the sound of a ‘rushing mighty wind’, ‘a violent wind’, ‘a violent tempest blast’, ‘the howling of a fierce wind’, ‘the roar of a violent wind’, ‘a strong wind blowing’, ‘a mighty windstorm’, ‘a strong driving wind’, ‘a violent breath’.
You get the idea! It was not a physical wind that entered the room, it was a sound that filled the room! A sound so mighty, so strong, so violent, so powerful that the whole house reverberated with the sound. A sound that caused them to feel like the whole building was shaking!
What was the source of this sound? All translators are clear: this was a sound that ‘came from heaven’. This was not the sound of the disciples. This was not the sound of the worship team! This was not hype or sensationalism. This was a heavenly sound. A divine sound.
This sound wasn’t just noise by itself. This sound was accompanied by something – it was accompanied with fire; it was accompanied by the Holy Spirit Himself.
For the disciples this sound was the sign that everything was about to change. This day was the start of a whole new era of God dealing with man. On this day the Church of Jesus Christ was born. On this day, God Himself came to live in human hearts. On this day ordinary men and women were clothed with the very power of God. This was a new day of closeness, of resurrection life, of transformed hearts. It ushered them into a day of evangelism, of boldness, of signs and wonders. And it was all accompanied by a sound.
In fact it was the case in Acts 2 that the sound preceded the move of the Holy Spirit. Before they saw the fire and felt the Spirit they first heard the sound.
Quite often before we see God at work, we will hear Him. Often there is first the sound and then the manifestation. Many times we will hear the proclamation of the new season before we see the fruit of the new season.
That means that what I can see is less important than what I can hear.
The Sound of Bells
Exodus 28 describes in some detail the garments that Aaron the high priest would wear as he went into the Holy Place to minister to the Lord. Verse 32 tells us that Aaron would wear gold bells around the hem of his robe. Verse 33 tells us “the sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord”.
I find it interesting that when the high priest went through the veil into the presence of God, the people on the outside couldn’t see what he was doing. How did they know that he was at work, doing his priestly ministry? How did they know he wasn’t asleep or dead or watching television?! Because there was a sound! There was a sound of bells coming out of the presence of God. As long as they could hear the sound of bells, they knew that the high priest was alive and at work!
For the believer today our High Priest is Jesus Himself. Do you know that Jesus is alive and at work in your life and in your circumstances? Do you know that Jesus is on the move in the nations of the world?
I’ll be honest, sometimes I look at my life and wonder – is God really at work? I look at my nation and think – God are you really moving?
Sometimes we look at our circumstances and wonder – is God really there? I certainly can’t see Him!
But for a moment, just stop. Stop and pause. Take your eyes off of your circumstances. Take your eyes off of what is happening around you. Stop and listen. Can you hear it? It’s the sound of bells! It’s the sound that the King is still on the throne. It’s the sound that Jesus is still alive and still at work!
The truth is that God often does His best work in the dark where you can’t see Him. When Jesus was laid in the grave, it appeared like it was all over. The devil thought that he had won; the religious leaders thought that they had won. Even the disciples thought Jesus had failed.
See the dead body of Jesus lying in darkness, lying in the grave. What can you hear? Nothing? All is quiet? All is silent? Listen a little harder. It may be a faint sound that you can hear but from far far away, in another dimension, if you listen close enough, you can hear the sound of keys! It is the sound of the keys of death and hades being snatched from satan’s grip. It is the sound of prison doors being opened. It is the sound of death being defeated. It is the sound of captivity being made captive!
The greatest triumph, the greatest victory, happened when all was dark. Just because you can’t see Jesus at work right now, it doesn’t mean He isn’t at work! Can you hear Him? Can you hear the sound of bells? Can you hear the sound from Heaven? It is the signal – something is coming!
For my family, one of our favourite festive movies is The Polar Express. We usually watch it each Christmas Eve accompanied by some hot chocolate! At the end of the movie, the main character is given a bell from Santa’s sleigh. On Christmas morning the boy and his younger sister Sarah are delighted to hear the sweet ringing of the bell as they shake it. However the parents, who no longer believe in Santa, shake the bell and can’t hear anything, explaining that it must be broken. The movie ends with the now adult boy lamenting that for his friends and his sister, they gradually grew deaf to the bell as their belief faded over the years. The bell, however, still rings for him, as it will do for all those who truly believe.
For many believers they have heard so many prophetic words of coming moves of God, talk of revival, declarations that this is a new time – and yet it has seemed to come to no fruition. They have stopped truly believing that God could move by His glory again in our day. They seem to have plateaued, believing that the way things are is the way that things will always be.
That have become deaf to the sound of bells.
Other believers have lived in the hardship of winter for so long that they have lost all hope that a new season could be theirs.
They too can no longer hear the sound of bells.
But I believe, whether we are disappointed cynics or burnt out and weary, God is wanting us to recapture a childlike sense of faith and expectancy and believe once again that:
“I (God) am about to do something….that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.” (1 Samuel 3:11)
Your sound must change
A few years ago I was on a mission’s trip preaching the gospel in the country of Macedonia. It was one of those beautiful spring evenings in mainland Europe – the kind when you can walk outside in shorts and a T-Shirt when you’d probably be wrapped up warm indoors with a hot drink back in England! Myself and the team with me were walking past the river that runs through the middle of this particular city when we began to hear the sound of music coming from across the other side of the river. It was the sound of a band playing live instrumental music.
I paused for a moment, certain that I recognised the song that was being played but temporarily being unable to place it. Then it dawned on me – the song that they were playing was a Christmas carol! For a moment I was in a daze and I turned to the team to confirm that what I was hearing was correct. A Christmas carol – but in the middle of spring. A good song, a great song – but the wrong season!
I felt like going over to the band and asking them, “Hasn’t anyone told you that the season has changed? This isn’t the right sound for this season!”
I felt the Holy Spirit whisper into my heart, “This is my Church. I am trying to bring them into spring but they are still singing the songs of winter”.
I firmly believe that as the Church we are not to just sit around and wait for God to do something, hoping that one day things will change. I believe today is the day of salvation. Today His Kingdom is at hand. Today His power and glory are available. I don’t need to live in winter or barrenness another moment – He changed my season and He changed it forever when He died and rose again. I should never live in death or decay but always live in the fruit of the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
But I also believe that my sound determines my season. Indeed the sound that my life produces will either keep me trapped in a permanent winter or propel me into a glorious spring.
Not only must I hear the new sound from Heaven but, if I want to see the fruit of that, then that new sound has to be on my lips also.
The old sounds of unbelief, of cynicism, of religiosity have to be banished from our lives.
The sounds of winter have no place in what God is wanting to do now.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40)
It is time to declare a new sound – a sound of hope, of faith, of excitement, of expectancy.
According to Zephaniah God right now is making a sound over your life! Right now He is singing over your circumstances, over your church, over your nation.
The sound that Heaven is producing over you is a happy sound! It is a sound of joy, a sound of love, a sound of triumph, a sound of freedom and a sound of victory!
The invitation from Holy Spirit is to lean in and listen to that sound.
The challenge of the Holy Spirit is to take that sound and let it be your sound, your song and your confession.
Releasing heaven’s sound
The book of Revelation was originally a letter written by the Apostle John to seven churches in the region of Asia Minor. From chapter 1, verse 9 onwards, John describes his vision of the glorified Jesus, the throne-room of heaven and various apocalyptic events including the second coming of Christ. So, if chapter 1, verse 9 onwards is the description of John’s revelation, the first 8 verses are the introduction, written after the event, setting the scene for what is to come.
Why is that significant? Because in verse 4, (remember this is written after John has had his encounter) he uses this title of Jesus “Him who is, and who was, and who is to come”. There are many words used in the book of Revelation that are directly referencing themes and images used elsewhere in Scripture, but this title that John uses, “Him who is, and who was, and who is to come” is unique to John and to this book.
So, where did John get the idea that Jesus is the One who is, and was, and who is to come?
Well in chapter 4, John is caught up into the throne room of heaven and sees an incredible vision of God seated on the throne, surrounded by angelic worship. In the presence of God, John can hear a sound, it is the sound of living creatures singing to God. And what are the words of their praise:
‘“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” who was, and is, and is to come.” (v8)
It was in the presence of God, in the throne room of heaven that John heard the sound filling the atmosphere, declaring that Jesus is the One who was, is and is to come.
What does John do with heaven’s sound? He then takes that sound and releases on the earth in his letters to the Church. When he describes Jesus in chapter 1, he is not coming up with some original thought or something that he has made up himself. He is releasing the sound that he has first heard in heaven.
This is my great desire in writing this book. Understand that heaven is making a sound over your life, over your church, over your community and over your nation. Heaven is declaring who Jesus is and who you are in Him. Heaven is singing a love song, a song pregnant with hope and purpose over your church, over your circumstances, over your town and city.
God is looking for a people that know what it is to be “in the Spirit” (1:10) and to respond to the call to be caught up into His presence and before His throne lean in and listen. What is heaven saying? What are the words and the sounds and the songs that are coming from the throne room? Your job and my job, is to then take those sounds and release them on the earth – through prayer, prophesy, declaration, worship, action – we take what heaven is saying and singing and doing and then we release it on the earth.
“He who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world (John 8:26)
Jesus knew what it was to hear and then to release what He had heard. It was this partnership with heaven that brought God’s Kingdom to earth and saw lives transformed wherever He went. This too is our mandate, this is the invitation we all have – to turn winter into spring, to bring heaven to earth. But it all starts by leaning in and listening. Can you hear what I hear?