How to Hear God: With What Manner of Voice Does God Speak?

Been talking about this concept – that YOU can hear God speak.

For an example of whether God still speaks today – and how – here is a quick example: REVIVAL IS COMING: The Spiritual Significance of the Seattle Earthquake.

God still speaks today, and YOU can hear Him – I have referenced before Moses’ prophecy when he declared: ‘Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!‘  (Num. 11:29)  Moses was looking forward into the year of the Lord’s favor, the church age – THIS ERA WE LIVE IN NOW – after the first coming of Christ.  Moses was THE commissioned prophet of God in the earth at that time, he was not merely wishfully daydreaming when he made the above statement.  He was, from the anointing, speaking the heart of God.  God’s will and desire for His children – as stated plainly by Moses – was fulfilled in Acts 2, when God has poured out His Spirit upon all flesh.

Here is a thought I introduced in an earlier post: having the Spirit of God makes you prophetic.  (Really, ‘prophetic’ is just a fancy theological word for being spiritual, or spiritually discerning.)  The Holy Spirit IS the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10), prophecy is His nature.  Those who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9); the more aware of the Holy Spirit (in us) that we become, and the more place we give Him in our lives, the more like Him we will naturally become.  This is the premise of Paul’s teaching on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)- the concept is, that if you spend time with the Spirit of God, you begin to take on His personal characteristics, you start becoming like He is; it grows on you naturally as a result of being in Christ – like fruit grows naturally on a tree.  Being spiritual in general works the same way – just as you cannot spend great deal of time with the Holy Spirit without developing His personality traits (described, again, in Gal. 5:22), yet similarly you cannot spend a great deal of time with Him (a Spirit) without becoming more spiritual.  You must become spiritually aware [prophetic] in order to grow in God (1 Cor. 2:12-16).

Jesus declared plainly that His sheep hear His voice (John 10:27), that is the plain Gospel premise I have been working from.  If you hear His voice, you are hearing God speak – it is prophetic.

Now, there is a distinction between the general prophetic nature of all Christians, and the GIFT of prophecy.  There is a further distinction between the gift of prophecy, and those who are commissioned prophets.  (Having a gift of prophecy does not necessarily make one a commissioned prophet).

In any military, EVERY soldier gets a weapon – certain specialized operatives get equipped with a little more advanced technology.  Every Christian can prophesy, but certain callings require greater attunement with His voice.  There are not only diversities of spiritual gifts, but also ‘differences of administrations’ and ‘diversities of operations’ (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

In his teaching on spiritual giftedness, Paul advised ALL Christians to desire the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1 & 39); he also told everyone with the gift of tongues to PRAY that they might also receive the gift of interpretation (1 Cor. 14:3).  Paul believed that it was possible to receive more spiritual gifts than just the one or two that the Holy Spirit initially gifted you with (1 Cor. 12:11).

Do you want further spiritual giftedness?  Don’t be ashamed of that as though you were pursuing some carnal thing – that is a good thing; God WANTS you to want the gifts (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1; 14:13; 14:39).  Why would He want you to want them, unless He desired to bless you with them (Matt 7:11; Luke 11:13)?

You have the Spirit of God, and hear Him, and when you learn to be completely in tune with His voice; He will teach you EVERYTHING:

1 John 2:20 & 27
20 But ye have an unction [or, ‘an anointing‘] from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

27 the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

WOW!  What is the Apostle John saying here?  He is advocating that we learn to rely wholly upon the indwelling Spirit of God to teach us EVERYTHING.  In fact, he plainly states that when we have learned to rely fully on the indwelling anointing of God, we will not need any earthy teachers!

Of course, John isn’t advocating a new thought, this is the same thing that Jesus declared before He was crucified (John 14:26).  (See also Heb. 8:10-12; 10:16 & 17)

Yes, YOU can hear God – and much more than that!  If we Christians began to get faith for what we already have – and walk in it – then we might just start looking like the church in the book of Acts!

Now I’m preaching, let me back up a bit to the intended topic of this post: HOW does God speak to us?  We may be hearing Him, but if we are not distinguishing what He says, then we are foreigners to Him, and not near friends.

I will use a couple of biblical examples to give us some further technical clarification on hearing God; on increasing our sensitivity to His Spirit:

Let’s look at Elijah; Elijah is a pretty impressive success story of hearing the voice of God.  Elijah was not only a full-blown commissioned prophet of God, he was THE prophet of Israel.  Like Moses in his day, or Samuel in his, Elijah was THE Prophet of God commissioned over all of God’s people: the nation of Israel.  That’s an impressive resume’; maybe we could learn something about spirituality from a guy like that.

There was a point at the very pinnacle of Elijah’s ministry where God taught him (and us) a very pertinent lesson about hearing the voice of God.  Elijah has completed the largest major task in his ministry, he has brought revival to the nation of Israel through repentance; he showed on Mount Carmel that ‘I AM’ is the only True God with any power, and turned the people back to Him from their idols.  Yet in the midst of all the mighty work that God’s hand was upon Elijah to do, he was filled with fear when the pagan Queen threatened to murder him.  Elijah ran from the main field of his labors out into the wilderness, there to hide, and to wait upon God (many a commentator attacks Elijah’s weakness in this, but I say: wait until you have stood in his shoes, and been wrought upon in such a mighty way as the True judge and prophet of Israel before condemning him harshly.)

As Elijah waited in the wilderness mountain, the Word of the Lord comes to him.  As this particular lesson in hearing God is only two verses long, I will transcribe it here in full:

1 Kings 19:11 & 12
11 And he [the Word of the Lord – that is: Jesus (John 1:1)] 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:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Wow… in this story, the Word of the Lord (again, Jesus) tells Elijah to go and stand in a certain place and wait upon the Lord.  Bear in mind, now, this is at the height of Elijah’s ministry – the man KNOWS how to hear God.  As Elijah waits, a tempest strong enough to ‘rend the mountains’ comes; Elijah is watching great rock slides; stones literally cracking under the force of the howling wind.  But the Word of the Lord was not in the wind.  After that an earthquake, surely more impressive than the rending done by the wind, but neither was the Word of the Lord in that.  After this, a fire broke out… it is not recorded how long Elijah stood waiting on the Word of the Lord; with these events, I would imagine hours at the least.

Now in the level of prophetic power, and gifting that Elijah had, and operated in, He had seen the Lord work in mighty great signs like these things – indeed on Mount Carmel the Word of the Lord hurdled down from the heavens and consumed his sacrifice, wood, and altar in one fell swoop! (1 Kings 18:30-39)

Sometimes God speaks in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire (see the example post I added at the beginning of this blog).  But how lofty had Elijah’s eyes become?  That is a large part of God’s testing him here.  Had Elijah moved in such high levels of the spiritual power that he would assume or presuppose he knew what God was saying when signs and wonders occurred?  Did he in pride see himself as one to whom God always spoke in powerful ways?

No, Elijah was a man of humility; surely that is why God could entrust him with His Word to begin with (for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4;6; 1 Peter 5:5)).  Throughout scripture God – at times – spoke through every one of the signs that Elijah experienced that day; He can, and does use those things to speak.  But such signs and wonders are not reliable in-and-of themselves as the voice of God; pagans interpret the weather as ‘omens;’ Elijah knew not to follow an omen, he remained patient and waited for the Word of the Lord – he waited for Christ to be revealed to him.

That day God spoke ONLY in the still, small voice.  Do not despise the day of small things – God speaks from within you, in a still, small voice.  That is how He always speaks; even when there are great signs – how shall you interpret them, unless you hear His still small voice?  If you have a vision, or dream, how will you interpret, and understand what you’ve seen without the still voice of the Spirit? (Some see real visions or dreams from God, but are not attuned to the still small voice, and so miss the message that God strove to speak to them.)

YOU can hear God.  Like Elijah, settle yourself and wait upon Him.  Do not be distracted, do not be moved until you have heard His soft, tender voice in the secret place of your heart.  Wait like Elijah waited, contemplate Jesus; abide in Him.  Often we don’t hear God because we haven’t the patience to wait upon Him – the ancients knew; Elijah knew how to wait upon God.

I am running a bit longer than intended with this post, but bear with me as I make a final point.

In some of today’s neo-Pentecostal movements, a certain emphasis is placed upon certain types of prophetic giftings.  I believe this is because once we begin to learn about the prophetic, many get caught up on certain technical details of it.  I often hear prophetic ministers ministering out of their own gift, rather than of the presence of Christ.  They will teach the technical usage of their own prophetic gift to others as though it is how God speaks to everyone – but remember, there are diversities of operations (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

I will use a biblical example to clarify what I mean:

Balaam was a backslidden prophet, who would revert to witchcraft when God wasn’t speaking (Numbers 24:1).  Balaam had a legitimate prophetic gifting – in fact he had what many modern Neo-Pentecostal circles refer to as the ‘seer’ gift.  Balaam would see spiritual things with his physical eyes.  I know this because in his prophecies, as recorded in scripture, Balaam emphasizes, and glorifies his own prophetic gifting more than he emphasizes the Word of God (Jesus Christ).  Let’s look at how Balaam introduces his prophecy over Israel:

Numbers 24:2 & 3
And he [Balaam] took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:

4 He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:

Balaam is actually speaking of himself in the third person; he emphasizes himself again, and again.  He seems to glory heavily in the fact that he is ‘the man whose eyes are open… falling into a trance with his eyes open.’  Notice how little glory Balaam gives to God, the originator of his prophetic gifting, and the one who spoke the message.  Even when Balaam references God it is in the context of himself being gifted to hear, and see!

There are some contemporary ministers who teach on, and heavily emphasize their own prophetic gifting.  Generally they teach in such a way that I believe they are actually trying to train people in things they have learned (and some of that is good), but the fact is: what ministers teach and emphasize is what becomes magnified in their hearers.  (For those familiar with revivalist & Pentecostal history, I believe this is where William Branham got off base – when he began to almost exclusively teach his own gifting.)  If we teach our own gifting, guess what?  Not everyone hears from God the same way, and we will find whether we mean to be doing it or not, we are magnifying ourselves, more than we are magnifying Christ, just like Balaam.

So my grave warning for this post (which I trust is otherwise encouraging and uplifting) is: let us not become fixated upon our own ministry or gifting, as was Balaam; but fixated, rather, upon the Word of the Lord (Jesus Christ), as was Elijah.  Don’t get hitched up on the method through which God speaks (whether through signs, or dreams, visions, audible voice, etc.), but on the still small voice, the Word of God (Christ) within you, itself (himself).

Be blessed in your venture to go deeper in hearing His voice!  Christ is speaking… do you hear Him?

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