Discerning the Voice of God
In order to understand the Will of God, it is essential that we recognise the Voice of God. We cannot do His Will if we cannot discern His Voice from the clamour of peer pressure, the noise of the world and the cacophony of our emotions.
“Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the Word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread Revelation… Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the Word of the Lord yet revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you did call me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.’” 1 Samuel 3:1-11
Our Duty to Hear
One of the persistent commands in Scripture is for us to listen to God and to hear His Word:
“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord, the God of your fathers has promised you…” Deuteronomy 6:3
“Blessed is the man who listens to Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.”
“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31
“Walk prudently when you go to the House of God and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.” Ecclesiastes 5:1
“Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard …” Ecclesiastes 9:17
“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!”
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who having heard the Word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15
“So then, my beloved brethren let every man be swift to hear …” James 1:19
“He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches …” Revelation 2:11
The Sin of Spiritual Deafness
Spiritual deafness is condemned throughout the Scriptures:
“Behold the Word of the Lord is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.” Jeremiah 6:10
“Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear, but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:2
“But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.” Zechariah 7:11
“And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:4
When last did God speak to you?
What did He say?
Did you obey?
Do not expect God to speak to you again until you have obeyed what He has told you before.
The Purpose of Hearing God
The Conditions for Hearing God
Ways in Which God Speaks
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, that you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the Faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure to the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, of the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-15
Through the reading of Scripture.“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17
“For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Let the Earth Hear His Voice
So God has spoken audibly, and through visions and dreams and through angels and these are recorded for us to study in the Bible. Generally we are guided by our daily study of the Scriptures, through memorised Scripture, through careful attention to the reading of God’s Word, and listening attentively to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. We can further see God’s hand in the circumstances wherein God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The conviction of our conscience and the advice and counsel of dedicated and mature Christians can be used of the Lord to guide us in His will. God has given prophets, teachers, apostles, evangelists and pastors to the church and through their collective wisdom and knowledge we can learn much of the Word of God, the ways of God and the Will of God. Through Psalms, hymns and in spiritual songs, and when we are attentive in worship, we can discern the voice of God.
Beware of Being Deceived
There are many warnings in Scripture against deception. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
We cannot trust our emotions. We must never confuse voices in our head with the voice of God. God guides us primarily through the principles and commands of Scripture. Our duties and responsibilities in the light of His Great Commission determine His will for us on a daily basis. It is easy to become disorientated and confused. Therefore we should seek the advice and counsel of dedicated Christians and learn not to trust our own inclinations.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.”Proverbs 3:5-7
Distinguishing Between Subjective and Objective Guidance
We need to discern between subjective and objective guidance. To use a mountaineering analogy: Your compass readings are subjective. It is relative to where you understand your position to be. A map can be objective, as long as you have a correct perspective of where you are on the map. A boundary marker is objective.
It is easy to be lost while climbing on the mountains, particularly in bad weather and with limited visibility in cloud cover. Following your compass reading is similar to following your conscience. This is subjective and cannot be taken as confirmation of anything. Compass readings can be misleading if interfered with, for example by a magnet. The map is like the Word of God, objective reality. However, we can sometimes be completely lost even while having the perspective that we are making good progress according to our understanding of where we are on the map. You can even be on the right path, but going in the wrong direction.
It helps to have a guide who has travelled this way before. Godly counsel from mature and experienced Christians can be a tremendous help. So too are finding boundary markers. When we come across a cairn, a pile of rocks, perhaps cemented in with the name of the location, ravine, beacon, etc. it enables us to orientate ourself and recognise where exactly on the map we are. If the boundary marker does not accord with where we perceived ourselves to be, we need to recognise that our perception is what has been in error.
In the same way, if we are confronted by a boundary marker of an authority in our life, such as our parents, pastor, mission leader or an employer, who informs us that we are off the path and out of bounds, we need to be humble, teachable and re-evaluate our position in the light of God’s Word. The Scripture encourages us to test all things. We should ask for confirmation, and in major matters we should expect major confirmations.
Questions to Ask
God never guides His people to disobey His Word. When man listens – God speaks!
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness; and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls, but be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was, but he who looks into the perfect Law of liberty and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”James 1:21-25
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa