The more I study God and the Bible the more I become convinced that it is all about relationship. Everything is about relationship. Each of the ten commandments were details on how to properly relate to either God or man. Eternal life according to John 17:3 is relationship with God. Jesus summed up the Old Testament by saying, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Properly relate to God and properly relate to people. Relationship with God and relationship with people is all that matters. I would suggest that it is our purpose in life and the reason we were created, but that is another article. I want to focus on relationship with God and specifically hearing from Him.
Any relationship must be two-sided. I can talk to a table or I can talk to my wife. The table sits. Beth sits, listens and responds. This talk and response is essential to relationship. It is essential to friendship. We all talk to God. Even non-Christians talk to God, but if we stop there we have an equivalent to the table-relationship. I want to take the time to help those who don’t hear from God to begin the process. Maybe no one reading this is in that position. If so, then I hope to encourage listening to God on a greater level and frequency. Why not pursue the living and interactive God?
John 10:1-5 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:25-28 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, (26) but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. (27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
I understand that Jesus was talking to specific people in a specific place almost 2000 years ago. I don’t claim that this passage was written to me. I do think that it applies to us today. The sheep or flock is referring to those who are His, those who know Him. For the sake of this article it is us. We believers are His sheep. We follow Him, for we know His voice. We hear His voice, and He knows us (intimate relational knowledge), and we follow Him. To these He says He gives eternal life. I love our God. He is so personal, so vast yet so simple.
So how do we hear God? How does God speak? In no particular order of frequency or importance I will lay out a few of the ways God spoke to people in the Bible.
Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I think this is very commonly understood. God gave us the Bible. It is His word for us, His direction for our life. If I wonder what God’s will is for me, I look in the Bible. I read directives and follow them.
An inner voice
Acts 8:29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
The Holy Spirit spoke to Philip, and Philip obeyed. It was God speaking directly to the thoughts of a person. There was no angel, no voice from the clouds (at least none of that is written). When I hear from God, it is usually in this manner. It is almost a thought that is louder or clearer than my own. I recognize it when I hear it because I’ve practiced and have become familiar with the voice of the Shepherd.
Acts 8:34-36 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” (35) Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (36) And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
God spoke to the eunuch through a Godly person (Philip). God does this today. God uses individuals to give us specific direction and wisdom. God did this with Moses, and God does this today with our pastors, counselors and even our friends.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, (9) for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
This is interesting to me. How did Paul get direction for his next step? A wide door was opened. As far as we can tell God didn’t speak directly to him. He didn’t search his Torah or a letter from Peter. It was simply that the circumstances opened for him to minister. Sometimes God just gives us good circumstances or situations.
Supernatural events: angels, visions, dreams, signs
Numbers 22:28,31 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” (31) Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.
Acts 9:3-4 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. (4) And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
This is less common. If not it wouldn’t be supernatural. It would be natural. Nevertheless it happened, and I think it does today. God is infinitely creative, and He is interactive. He sometimes does really cool things like these simply to speak to an individual, not without cause or reason, however.
2 Corinthians 2:12-13 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, (13) my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
Here Paul receives direction through a lack of peace. There are times when God speaks to us by giving us peace or the opposite of peace. This is not an excuse to be led by our emotions.
When hearing from God by some of these methods it would be very easy to go wrong. We hear of extreme cases where people kill their children because “God told them to.” Some people start new religions based on “hearing God.” People come up with new doctrines that “God revealed to them.” So how do we proceed? How do we know when God is really speaking to us? How do we come to know the voice of our Shepherd?
When God speaks to us it will line up with the Bible. The word of the Lord to us will never contradict scripture. Godly people will affirm it. If I hear from God, I can take that to my pastor and ask for wisdom and confirmation. The Holy Spirit will give us peace about it. God’s directions for our lives will never violate our conscience.
Finally, I think we come to know His voice by coming to know Him. Spend time with God. Give Him the chance to speak. Practice speaking to Him, and at the same time practice hearing Him. The more I hear a voice the easier it is to recognize it in the future.
About six years ago I was walking at a ranch spending time with God. Suddenly, I heard God say, “Run!” I began to run. “Run faster!” So I ran faster. “Turn right!” I did. “Turn left! Keep running.” Then I came into a clearing and saw the most beautiful sunset. If I had kept walking I never would have seen it. God was interacting with me, speaking to me simply because He loved me and wanted to share in a relationship.
God is personal and interactive. He loves relationship. He desires our friendship. Give Him a chance. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.