Behold, I Stand

Small Voice Calling > The Call > Behold, I Stand

“If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will come into his house.”

The second time I heard Ralph McTell sing Small Voice Calling, he added a line denying that the voice belonged to Jesus. Where did that thought come from? It reminded me of a vision a man called John had on a remote Greek island.

Where will I find this story in the Bible?

The Revelation to John, Chapter 3, Verses 14 to 22 (Revelation 3: 14 – 22).

Who’s in it?

The Christians in Laodicea
The Amen, the true witness.

What’s the background?

Nine hundred years have come and gone since Elijah heard God’s still small voice. It is near the end of the first century AD, maybe fifty years after Jesus had been executed by the Roman army of occupation. John is living on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. Many think he was exiled there because he was a Christian. The Book of Revelation opens with a series of short letters to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. The messages in the letters were revealed to John in a vision by “one like a Son of man” who says he is “the First and the Last, the Living One”.

Right, what’s the big revelation?

The seventh and last letter is from “the Amen, the true witness” to the church in Laodicea, a large and wealthy banking and administrative centre in what is now Turkey. In it, the Amen tells the people in the church that he knows all about them, and finds them “neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm”. How he wishes they were one or the other! If they stay lukewarm, he tells them, he will spit them out of His mouth. “You call yourselves rich”, he says, referring to their worldly wealth, “but I say you are poor. Buy pure gold from me if you want to be really rich. Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will come into his house and share a meal with him.”

Line drawing by Annie Vallotton
from the Good News Bible

The remainder of the book describes a series of visions that an angel showed to John, and which John faithfully wrote down so that anyone who takes their message to heart will find happiness. In this way John identified himself with the great prophets in Israel.

How does Ralph use this story?

When Ralph wrote, in the chorus to Small Voice Calling:

There’s a small voice calling our names outside
And he says that he knows us…

Ralph may have been thinking about how the Amen knew all about the people of Laodicea, and knocked on their doors to see if they would invite him in.

light of the world.jpg
“The Light of The World” by Holman Hunt
was inspired by this story

And when he wrote:

…the course you are taking
Is causing an aching
I believe
From sitting too hard on the fence

Ralph may have been remembering how they were “neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm”, unable or unwilling to make up their minds about the Amen. 

Ralph then says of the Amen:

There’s a small voice calling our names outside
And he wants to come in…
But his name ain’t Jesus

OK then, who is this “Amen”?

John clearly states at the beginning of his book that it is “a revelation of Jesus Christ”.

The mysterious names of the man in John`s vision – “A Son of man”, “the First and the Last, the Living One” and “the Amen, the true witness” – are all different names for Jesus: a sort of code that John’s contemporary readers would understand, but the Roman authorities might not.

But didn’t you say that Jesus had been dead for fifty years?

Well, yes…