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  Hearing God's Voice
Forward "And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth."
- Acts 22:14

From Genesis to Revelation, it has been the heartbeat desire of God to dwell among His people. One important aspect of that is communication and intimacy, out of which we can learn to hear His voice. Unfortunately, some denominations dismiss this, saying things like, "We don't need to hear God's voice. We have the Word." Yes, we have God's Word, and in the Word, Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:16).

So why do people who use this excuse not practice God's Word in this regard? Let us be challenged to go beyond our denominational biases and truly step forward to be a vessel of honor for the Lord!

Index Hearing the Voice of God - What is it?
Is it Biblical?
How Come We Can't Hear?
How Do We Know It's Him?
How Can I Hear His Voice?
A Personal Testimony

Hearing the Voice of God - What is it? In Genesis 3:8, we see Adam and Eve. "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..." God desires to walk among us and talk among us. It's more a question - not of how to hear God's voice, but will we hear Him? Will we say, "Yes, Lord!" and obey His command? Adam and Eve disobeyed the voice of God who told them not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the rest of verse 8 says, "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden."

God can speak to us in various ways. It is important to know that not all of God's communication is vocal.

  • A still small voice. Elijah was on the run in 1 Kings 19 from evil Queen Jezebel who ordered his death, after a mighty miracle in which he challenged the prophets of Baal to call upon their God while Elijah called upon his. As a result, God consumed Elijah's altar with fire, and Jezebel's unanswered prophets were all put to death. Despite God's marvelous works, His mightiest prophet was frightened and had retreated into a cave.

    1 Kings 19:11-13 says, "And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; [but] the LORD [was] not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; [but] the LORD [was] not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; [but] the LORD [was] not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was [so], when Elijah heard [it], that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, [there came] a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?"

  • A voice in your ear. Isaiah 30:21 says, "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
  • Conviction by the Holy Spirit. John 16:8 says that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. In the same fashion, let's say you were about to say something really nasty to someone. You suddenly either feel a "pulling back" by the Holy Spirit to not say that nasty thing, or you sense the Lord tap you on the skull and say, "Son, that's not nice. Don't say that." The word "to convict" is also translated as "to reprove." We must be humble and accept God's reproof of our actions!
  • Being led by the Spirit. Romas 8:14 says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." When you are in a constant state of loving intimacy with Jesus, and you not only allow Him to lead your life, but you are accutely sensitive to the Holy Spirit as how He desires to lead you, that places you in right relationship with the Lord, such that you are God's little son or daughter! The Holy Spirit may either allow you to sense His urging you in a particular direction, or may even speak to you audibly.
  • When reading the word, a scripture jumps out at you. In your Quiet Times before the Lord, have you ever found that - as you're reading from your Bible - a particular verse suddenly jumps out at you? There's an excitement, as you say, "Yes! That verse fits exactly my situation! That's my verse!" The Holy Spirit has a way of illuminating upon the Word and opening our eyes to understand its meaning much deeper than what we would understand as a result of an dry, academic theological head-knowledge study that has no application nor pertinence in your life or anyone else's nor has the power to tell a flea to go away? The more you take those scriptures the Lord reveals to you and hide it in your heart, the more God finds you trustworthy to give you more revelation!

    These are but a few examples of hearing from God. The important thing is to be open to any avenue through which the Lord choses to speak, making sure that these avenues are holy. For example, God would not speak out of a Mormon or a Buddhist or a Jehovah's Witness, nor would He use the Bhagivad Gita or Upanishad writings, simply because they reject the deity of Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God Himself!

    Once in a while, God would use simple things to get your attention. God really touched my heart through a Bambi film in which Bambi had been wounded in his war against the hounds and hunters, and lay on the grass accepting death and defeat. That was very much my situation at one point. The King came and told Bambi, "Get up!" Bambi made a feeble effort, like I had, but gave up easily as I had. The King spoke with a voice full of royal compellation. "You must get up." Had I not heeded to the Lord's prompting through that movie, I might have remained in spiritual defeat much longer than I had been in, and had not arisen in God's mercy, righteousness and grace.

    Royal Note: Sometimes God may want to speak through your nagging mother or your wife, and they may even tell you it's God!

  • Is it Biblical? Sure it is! In addition to the aforementioned scriptures in the section, "Hearing the Voice of God - What is it?" let us look at some additional verses. Here is John 10:1-16. Observe closely.

    John 10:1-16 - 1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
    2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
    3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
    4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
    5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
    6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
    7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
    8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
    9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
    10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.
    11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
    12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
    13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
    14 I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine.
    15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
    16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.
    The important thing to note is that Jesus is the Shepherd, and we are His little sheep. (Though some of our brothers and sisters may appear much larger than us, remember that it's all the wool - the outward appearance!) By default, spiritually, we as Jesus sheep will absolutely hear and recognize and be able to follow His voice. We will not know the voice of strangers, as it says in this passage. The thieves and robbers are, in verse 1, those who do not enter by the door of the sheepfold.

    The door, in verse 9, is Jesus. People who claim to be shepherds of the flock but do not go by Jesus cannot possibly lead the flock and be a vessel of God's voice to His people. If heeded to, they will deceive the people of God.

    Hebrews 3:7-12 says this:

    Hebrews 3:7-12 - 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
    8 Harden not your hearts
    , as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
    9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
    10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in [their] heart; and they have not known my ways.
    11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
    12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
    13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

    Israel was not able to enter into God's rest because they hardened their hearts against God's voice. And so the Holy Spirit, in this scripture, implores that of us "today."

    How Come We Can't Hear? Good question. From what we've just seen in Hebrews 3:7-12, it is possible to harden your heart against hearing God's voice. Now that can be dangerous, because the consequence of that is not being able to enter into God's rest. It means a rest and repose from a lifetime of arduous effort of following the Law to earn God's favor. Israel gave up relationship for religion, and sonship for servanthood.

    The following are various reasons why we can't hear God's voice. Some of them quite alarming.

  • Sin and Iniquity. With microwave technology, two buildings could communicate with rooftop microwave dishes - they merely have to be aimed one at the other without any object obstructing their transmission path. Occasionally, a pigeon lands in front of a microwave dish and gets roasted and dies, blocking the reception! The transmitting dish (God) is still fully functional, but we're in no position to receive. It's not so much our sin and failings but more an unwillingness to repent.

    The difference between sin and iniquity is that sin can easily be forgiven, but the word "iniquity" in the Hebrew means, literally, "to be bent out of shape" - hence the expression that one has a "bent for sin." We have a bent for sin when we love the act we're about to commit far more than getting on our knees and just loving and listening to Jesus. We must pray, "Dear Lord, straighten all the iniquity out of us, that we would be obedient to hear Your voice!"

  • Preoccupation with the things of the world. Jesus showed in the parable of the sower in Luke 8:7 that some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked the seed. Jesus explains in verse 14, "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of [this] life, and bring no fruit to perfection."

    What did He mean? Galatians speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit, each of which are aspects of the Lord's character. When you receive the Word of God into your life, the Word begins a process of creating within us things that are lacking but are needed in order for us to be Christ-like - hence scriptures like, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10). The "cares and riches and pleasures" of the world can cause us to not set us apart unto the Lord and allow the Word to affect change within our lives. In the end, we are no more Christ-like after that R-Rated sex- and violence-ridden movie than before we paid an arm and a leg to watch it! So let's examine our lives. Let's look at the things we allow to distract us from keeping our eyes solely on God.

  • Incorrect theology. One terrible idea nursed by pseudo-theological circles is that God no longer speaks today. In fact, in some theological seminaries, you may raise many eyebrows if you say you hear the voice of God with any clarity at all! The following are two lines of thinking:

    1. Lack of understanding of scripture. Denominational churches tend to say, "In the old times, before scripture was written, God performed mighty miracles and spoke to His people so that people would believe in Him. So now that we have the Bible (i.e. Canonical Scripture has been assembled and completed) God no longer works miracles and speaks from Heaven."

    Unfortunately, this is the same line of reasoning that argues that the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) are no longer for today! Proponents of this arguement have somewhat failed to provide a solid irrefutable scripture supporting their premise. The best verse they've come up with is 1 Corinthians 13:10 which says, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." So they say, "Now that the Bible has come, the imperfect (the gifts) have disappeared."

    Proponents maintain that the Bible itself is what the scriptures are referring to in the phrase "that which is perfect." While we do believe the Word of God is perfect, we by no means have a perfect translation of it. (However, a 100% accurate translation is not necessary to believe in, love, and grow in Christ. Our 98% accuracy - for example - isn't bad at all!) Interpreting this verse in this way is really taking it out of context. Examine verses 11 and 12: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

    When we read it in this context, we now see that it is Jesus who is "that which is perfect." When Jesus Christ returns, we will see Him "face to face" and be know Him in His full majesty, glory and power "even as also I am known" by Him.

    2. Denominational Bias. Some denominations maintain that the Bible - the written word of God - is the final authority and finality of all that God wishes to express on the Earth. They also say that you cannot have any revelation in addition to the Bible. These denominations also maintain that Psalm 138:2 says, "... for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" so the Bible must be magnified above abolutely anything we understand of God!

    In all sensitivity, and not to judge these denominations, I must venture to say that some have themselves (rather than God Himself) exalted the Bible even above God's voice! If God were to tell them to do something, they can easily adopt an attitude, "Oh that really wan't God. The Bible says, this...!" and thereby override God's voice and command with their own interpretation of the Bible. That get's kinda dangerous, if you ask me!

    Yet, the word "word" in Psalms 138:2 is the Hebrew word "imrah" (Strongs 565) which can also be translated, "commandment, speech, word." In essence, this is the spoken word of God that God Himself is magnifying above His own name - which means that He is a man of His word (so to speak).

    Is there any revelation other than the Bible? Let's just say that there is no other recorded scripture other than Canonical scripture. Clearly, God's words cannot be added to or taken away from. But what about revelation? What is it? The word "revelation" in the Greek is "apokalupsis" from which we get the word "apocalypse." It literally means "an uncovering". That means we all have constant revelation of who God is. As we grow in Christ, our understanding of Him increases!

    That's why 1 Corinthians 13:12 says that we are seeing in "a glass darkly," meaning that we are not seeing the complete picture of all that He is. When the Lord comes to give us revelation, He gives us a peek at one more aspect of His character! Suddenly, our live is more exciting, because we understand something so awesome about God that we've not known before! To say that there is "no revelation apart from the Bible" in this light means that God cannot come and illuminate the Word and our understanding of it. Which further means that God does not speak to His people today.

    Has God truly spoken all that He wishes to say in recorded scripture? Let's see what the Bible has to say. Romans 10:17 says "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The word "Word" in the greek is "rhema" which means "a spoken word" versus "logos" which means "a written word." How else will we have faith to please God, if we do not develop a hearing ear?

    Again, not to judge anyone, in Mark 7:13 Jesus said to the Pharisees that in honoring their man-made tradition, they were rendering the Word of God powerless and making it of no effect. In fact, Jesus was saying that they themselves were delivering and making up all this tradition that was nullifying the commandments of God!
  • How do we know it's Him? Excellent question! First of all, recall that Jesus says in John 10 that His sheep hear and know His voice. The grammar is in present tense - not present tense future imperfect conditional whatever, and not "They shall hear My voice up until the Bible in the King James is published in 1711 after which they won't understand the Word of God and will have to guess, and if Satan deceives them, I'll lose My glorious Church to the New Age Movement, cults, witchcraft and Satanism."

    Indeed, many Christians have backslidden; we statistically comprise a significant number of those flocking to the New Age Movement - because we've not been taught to hear the voice of God but have been told to honor a tradition based on dead, dry dogma that has no power.

    We need to be both doctrinally strong but be so sensitive to hear God's voice that if He were to speak "I love you!" we would be able to respond to Him and to His heart.

    So how do we know it's God who is speaking to us, and that we're not making it up in our heads, or tell whether or not it's the Devil who is speaking to us? The Bible sheds light as to certain properties that the voice of God has.

  • God's faithfulness. Remember that when we are sincerely seeking after the Lord, the Lord honors that. Deuteronomy 4:35-36 says,

    Deuteronomy 4:35-36 - 35 Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he [is] God; [there is] none else beside him.
    36 Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
    37 And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;

    What a wonderful blessing, that the Lord loved us and our "fathers" in the faith! Above all, Jesus has been rooting for you and praying for you, always encouraging you. For His sake, the Lord comes through on our behalf!

  • God's voice makes our heart tremble. There is an inner impact when God speaks to us. It kinda blows you away! Sometimes He just gets your attention. At other times, when He speaks, it can be so powerful that you feel physically drained and have no strength left to speak! Job 37:1-2 says, "At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place. Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound [that] goeth out of his mouth."

  • God's voice has a particular sweetness. I've never recalled God speaking things in these times to strike fear in His people, nor to condemn them. Rather, it has been encouraging, full of life, comfort, promise, faith, and sweetness. Songs of Solomon 2:14 says, "O my dove, [that art] in the clefts of the rock, in the secret [places] of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet [is] thy voice, and thy countenance [is] comely." The dove in the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit. It is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

  • God's voice brings peace. Psalm 85:8 says, "I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Whenever you hear a "voice" and it bring fear, anxiety, trepidation, it's generally safe to say that it's not from God. However, that's not to say that God cannot warn you if you are purposely walking path that is in a dangerous direction away from Him.

  • God will never speak to you anything that directly contradicts with Scripture. As we saw in Psalms 138, God is a man of His word - so to speak. What God says in His integrity, royalty, and divinity and power, He cannot contradict. If He contradicts Himself, He is not God. If God promises in the Bible, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" and then, like Baal, run off to go to sleep and not hear you pray, He's not God. Again, if God says, "Thou shalt not commit murder" and some guy claims, "God told me I could kill that man to glorify Him!" would you say that this person was truly hearing from God, or perhaps he's deceived and is really hearing from the devil? The Word of God is a good standard and is like a lie-detector against the devil.

    (Also, what He says to us is not to add to Scipture, nor to revoke or remove it. Please be aware of this if you belong to a church where there is another Book that is used in equal or superior standing to the 66 books of the Bible!)

    Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

  • How Can I Hear His Voice? The opening scripture in Acts 22:14 says, "And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth." Religious people may argue, "That scripture was meant only for the Apostle Paul!" but we must really ask ourselves: did Paul ever exhalt himself in stature and rank above any of us? Rather, we've all been chosen. We've all been washed in the Blood of the Lamb! We've all been drawn unto God. We're all called to hear His voice, not just a select few.

    In Revelation 2:15, Jesus tells the Church of Pergamos that He's displeased that some ascribe to the Doctrine of the Nicolatians, which He hates. Nicolas was a man in this era who taught that there needs to be a spiritual elite who does all your penance, sacraments, hears God for you, etc. But recall that Jesus is not seeking for a spiritual elite but that we all come to Him like little children, because if our hearts are not like that of a little child, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven!

    In John 10, Jesus said that we are His sheep, and His sheep know His Voice. But Psalms 95:7 warns us that if we do hear His voice, we must not harden our hearts like the people of Israel did in the Wilderness, where they tried and tempted God, and so that entire generation perished. It was the next generation - a generation after the heart of God that entered into the Promised Land.

    Daniel 11:32 says, "... but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do [exploits]." God wants to work great exploits through our lives! The world may say one thing. Our circumstances may say another, and the Devil may indeed try to have his own way, but when we hear a Word from God, be it through the scriptures or right in our very ear (possibly a scripture we didn't even know was already in the Bible!) we can use that Word as judicial punishment against the words of darkness. Isaiah 54:17 says that no weapon formed against us shall prosper!

    So how can we better hear the voice of God?

  • Repent of all unconfessed sin, and ask God to heal you of all iniquity, all bents for sin. Ask the Lord to show you what attitudes and what behavioral patterns are unrepentant in your life that you need to change, especially if these are causing you not to hear His voice.
  • Be ever so willing to not only seek after His face and to hear His voice, but to be obedient. One elderly saint once told me in his own simple words: "I pray, then I obey!"
  • Be willing to receive God's instruction in any way, shape or form in which the Lord wants to present it. You may not necessarily like the message - especially if you don't like the messenger! Change your attitude if you are only willing to hear from God if He is to speak only a certain way, or answer with such an answer!
  • When in prayer, be in an attitude of waiting on God, not just calling out each item of your To-Do list to Him! Remember, He is our Shield and Buckler, not our Chef and Butler!
  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Rest in Him. Trust in His grace. You may not hear immediately (then again, sometimes you will). Sometimes you may wait on the Lord in your prayer time, read the Word, and then leave the house for the day. You might not have heard anything by then, but because you've faithfully sought the Lord that morning, you've developed your sensitivity in your spirit to hear God's voice. And in the midst of your circumstance, be it in class, or a situation on campus, or in the office, the Lord may speak to you or show you things highly pertinent to your situation!
  • There is such a thing as drainage. We are encouraged to be filled with the Spirit on a daily basis. But there are things in the world that may case that anointing to drain off until we become as dry as a dead river bed, unable to bring life to anyone! It can be that magazine under your mattress, that relationship that is not of God, a particular lifestyle that causes you to sin constantly. God spoke to the prophets in the Old (and New) Testament because they were friends with God. Love of the world puts you at enmity with God.

  • A Personal Testimony Several years ago, the moment I learned that I can learn to hear God's voice for myself, I went crazy and began to look up all the teachings I could find, all the sermon tapes of as many television and radio ministries I could find. Now some of them did have good content, and some were not exactly anointed of the Lord!

    I must have spent several hundred dollars total on tape series, books, etc. and ended up hearing... well, nothing.

    This was very disturbing, as I couldn't just ship all these tapes and books back and complain, "Hey! I want my money back!".

    But then the Lord brought a little conviction. He showed me that I was pursuing so hard to hear the spoken Word of the Lord that I was not going to listen to anything from Him that was not His audible voice. So I repented and told the Lord, "Okay. From now on, I'll be open to any way You wish to speak through me." And then, just like that, I began to hear Him!

    Only it wasn't quite like what I wanted to hear! One day, I got on a bus on my way to work. The bus was so full of kids that I had to stand on the stairwell. I heard this little kid talk to the driver. "Yeah," he said, "and the doctors said that because my shoulder's broken, that cartilege will set in the fracture and then when my arm's healed, it will be about an inch longer."

    Ouch. That's not easy to live with. My heart beat with a desire to pray for this kid, but I couldn't possibly do it in front of all those other kids! So I prayed this very pioused religious-sounding prayer that sounds a lot like some of these television preachers! "Dear God! I pray... that You will send Your witness to this boy, to pray for the healing of his shoulder."

    And the Lord replied, "What a great idea... why don't you go pray for him?"

    At first, I was going to say, "No, Lord!!!!" but resolved to swallow and say, "Okay, Lord, but You gotta give me an opening--!" And at that, the bus stopped, the bus door behind me opened, and all the kids filled out to school. And the only person left was me, the driver, and the boy! I said, "Hey kid, c'mere. Tell me about your shoulder." So I had a chance to pray for the kid and give him a cool comic-book tract.

    Several weeks later, on my way to work, across the bus, I saw a little kid waving to get my attention. "Uh, hey, remember me? The kid with the shoulder? Er... it feels better now!"

    Hallelujah! It's not so much being at the right place at the right time but being the right person God can use. This is but one exciting example of many others I've had of hearing God's voice. It should be a common occurance in our Christian lives.

    Also, there have been instances where God has told me, "You're going to get this job" on my way to a job interview. You may say, "Now that's just coincidence!" but there was one situation where the Lord told me the exact starting salary they were going to offer me. And when I spoke with them over the phone, that was the exact same amount that the Lord had told me. How I had doubted - I actualy was hoping for more!