Please forgive the following personal testimonial introduction to this article, for I do not want to appear more than I am, which is, not much.
I don’t know if you have ever heard the voice of God. I thought I did, once, many years ago, as a single, audible word, into my right ear. It sounded so close, as if it was spoken deep right in at the ear drum. In my surprise and euphoria I forgot the word which was spoken… but I can still sense the closeness of it.
Since then the Lord has “spoken” to me a few times during prayers, during my counselling of others, and during some Bible study sessions which I was leading. Not often though, I have to say, and the “voice” I hear, if I can be so bold as to call it a voice, is certainly internal and from the Holy Spirit, and not external. On the couple of occasions when I have been praying in public and the Holy Spirit has taken over and spoken through me, I have found it an interesting experience to hear my mouth voice out words which are not mine, in sentence structures and vocabularies which are not mine either. As you can well imagine, my wife was the first to spot the change: “That was not you!” was her usual comment.
It always amazes me that those who have had really powerful and intimate personal contacts with the Lord Jesus can remember so much more than I can ever do. On the few times it has happened to me, I am so in awe of what is taking place, that I am actually being used by the Holy Spirit!!!, that I’m just like the proverbial deer in the car headlights – dumbstruck and in awe – just simply thinking… WOW!
Does God speak to me in other than audible voices? I have to say: all the time. The problem is, I am usually too busy to listen, and too busy to write down what He is saying. When I do that to my wife, she calls it “taking her for granted.” I guess the Lord has stronger words than that for me…..
I know for certain from journaling experiences, that the Lord gives me words now and again, which, though individually appear to mean not a whole lot, collectively, they are a gold mine of prophetic utterances for solving my current issues. The Bible also says God speaks, though not necessarily in words we can easily understand. Here are a few examples from the Bible, all wonderful Hebraic word pictures which I just adore:
Psalm 18:13 “Jehovah also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave forth His voice; hailstones and coals of fire.”
Psalm 29:3 “The voice of Jehovah is on the waters; the God of glory thunders; Jehovah is above many waters.”
Psalm 29:8 “The voice of Jehovah shakes the wilderness; Jehovah shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”
Psalm 29:7 “The voice of Jehovah goes through flames of fire.”
Psalm 104:7 “At Your rebuke they flee; at the voice of Your thunder they hurry away.”
Ezekiel 1:24 “And I heard the sound of their wings, like the sound of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, in their going was the sound of tumult, like the sound of an army….”
I was actually reading about “hearing the voice of God” after receiving a number of Prayer Requests from people who wanted the experience. For the record, I do believe that God “speaks” to us all the time, but mostly, we are unaware of it. Occasionally however, just very occasionally, I believe He also speaks in audible words.
As I studied the Bible, I found that there were three general ways people heard God speaking audibly to them.
The first group were those who heard God as in a face-to-face conversation. Jesus and Moses Job come into this category. However, so too do two unlikely unnamed men with whom Saul of Tarsus was journeying to Damascus, en route to persecute the Christians there. As Acts 9:7 says “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, indeed hearing a voice but seeing no one.”
Why did Jesus allow these two unnamed men to hear His conversation with Saul (later to become the Apostle Paul)? Well, I believe Matthew 18:16 gives the answer “…take one or two more with you, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” In other words, the conversion of Saul from a persecutor of the Church to an Apostle of Jesus was so important to the Kingdom, that Jesus Himself established His word and Saul’s conversion by independent witnesses in accordance to Jewish Levitical law, so that none may later deny Saul’s testimony.
The second group are those who, when God was speaking, heard only Thunder. If we look back to Moses in the Book of Exodus, we can the difference between Moses and the Israelites:
“And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Lo, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever. And Moses told the words of the people to Jehovah.’” (Exodus 19:9)
“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. And when the people saw, they trembled, and stood afar off. And they said to Moses, You speak with us, and we will hear. But let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)
This last verse is also translated as “And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.”
We have a wonderful example too in the New Testament where Jesus talked with His Father in the presence of a crowd, as John 12:27-30 recalls and as Jesus says:
“And My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this cause I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!
Then there came a voice from the heaven saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’
Then the crowd who stood by and heard said that it thundered. Others said, ‘An angel spoke to Him.’
Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sakes.”
I find John 12:27-30 a fascinating passage because it shows that within the group, different people heard different things. Jesus heard His Father’s voice; at least some, if not all of the disciples heard God’s voice (or they could not have written the spoken words); some heard an angel; but most I believe, heard thunder. Interesting, all the hearers did not fall into one category.
The third group seems to fall in between the first two groups; in that they heard God as what First Kings 19:12 calls and describes as: “a still, small voice.” This is what Elijah seems to have heard, as recorded in the account of First Kings 19:11-13,
“And He said, Go forth and stand on the mountain before Jehovah. And, behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces before Jehovah . But Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind was an earthquake, but Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake was a fire, but Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire was a still, small voice.
And it happened when Elijah heard, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out, and stood at the cave entrance . And behold, a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
In truth, I find this one of the most wonderfully descriptive passages in the entire Bible. It is like a father and child playing hide-and-seek, where the father is down on his knees playing with the young child, seeking to be found, but not in the big things of life, but in the small, in the close and intimate things as the Father leads the child on and on and on….
I feel much the same when I read of what Job says, in Job 4:12-17 about hearing the voice of God, but this time it is the awesome power and majesty of the maker of Heaven and earth, of the Living God Himself, of the Lord God Almighty and Job’s absolute and sheer terror of His presence and voice:
“And a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a little of it. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake.
And a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not tell the form of it. An image was before my eyes; silence; then I heard a voice, ‘Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?’”
The final evidence of hearing God also falls under the last of these three loose groupings and is recorded in Acts 2:3-12 after the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples,
“And tongues as of fire appeared to them, being distributed; and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And dwelling at Jerusalem there were Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.
But this sound occurring, the multitude came together and were confounded, because they each heard them speaking in his own dialect.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, Behold, are not these who speak all Galileans? And how do we each hear in our own dialect in which we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking the great things of God in our own languages.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying to one another, What does this mean?”
Yes at Pentecost, the disciples were speaking in “tongues” – a Godly given language. The question is, did they speak in all of the recorded languages, or in a single “tongue” which the hearer heard in their own language or dialect? I believe it is the latter, for I know of instances such as a Pastor who preached in English (his only language) to a congregant who spoke no English, have her compliment him on his flawless Cantonese.
What does it all mean? I believe it means that irrespective of the language God speaks, or we speak, if God wants us, or others to understand, it will happen. But if God, in His infinite wisdom decides as Jesus said, that He has “hidden these things from the sophisticated and cunning, and have revealed them to babes…” ( Matthew 11:25 & Luke 10:12) then “By hearing you [they] shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you [they] shall see and shall not perceive…” (Matthew 13:14).
In other words, those with a close intimate and prayerful relationship with Jesus can hear Him loud and clear. Those who have a belief and true searching heart, yet have a relationship with Jesus which falls short of that which He requires, can still hear Him, but we really need to put in more effort, not just to hear Him, but more especially to improve our relationship such that hearing in the future, is effortless. I believe that is my personal takeaway message and note to self.
The third group, it seems, is far from God and even when they hear Him, are unable to recognise what they hear, for God has perhaps not given them that ability, or has removed it from them. I guess there’s another option for this deafness, and that is that the prince of this world, Satan, has blocked their hearing and deafened them. Of course they can be saved, but unless the Lord intervenes, how can they, the spiritually dead, hear?
What stops us from coming closer to God and having the relationship with Him which He wants to have with us, or hearing Him as Jesus and Moses did? I believe the answer is simply: Faith. Unless we believe and have faith, we can never hear God as He wants us to hear Him. Perhaps, the loudness of God’s voice in our lives is in a sense, a measurement of our Faith in Him?
I was considering ending this article on the last question, then I realised that telling someone “You cannot hear God because your Faith is not sufficient!” is not a good answer. It is also, I believe, not a correct answer. As I mentioned before, it is as if God is playing hide-and-seek with us, and when He does, please be assured, He WANTS to be found! Perhaps a better answer as to: “Why can’t I hear God speaking to me….” Is to say “Perhaps you’re not looking in the right places…? For surely I know, God wants you to find Him!”
And when we answer that, we had better take that brother or sister tightly by the hand and lead him or her to intimate relationship with Jesus, or answer to Jesus for our delinquency.