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Hearing the Voice of God

Is hearing God’s voice even possible? And if it is, what does it look like?

Throughout the Bible God spoke in many ways. He spoke through a burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3), through the voice of a donkey to Balaam (Numbers 22:28), and through an audible voice and bright light to Saul (Acts 9:1-5). Clearly, God can speak any way He wants to speak, but some of the most common ways He speaks today include speaking through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and other godly believers.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to His people through prophets and leaders, but He promised that someday that would change: “‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them’” (Hebrews 10:16). Rather than having God’s laws on tablets (10 Commandments), He would speak to the hearts and minds of His people through the Holy Spirit.

God’s Voice Never Contradicts the Bible

God’s voice always coincides with His Word: that’s why reading the Bible and knowing what it says (and what it doesn’t say) is so important. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” When we don’t know what is right or wrong, we can search the Word of God for answers.

When the voice of the enemy lies to us, or our own voice confuses us, the Word of God brings truth to guide us. If we don’t know what the Bible says, we can easily be deceived by the devil, ourselves, or thoughts or opinions around us.

God’s Voice Never Contradicts His Nature

Knowing God’s nature is very important because the Bible doesn’t give specific, clear direction about every situation. For example, should we watch a particular television show or movie? The Bible doesn’t specifically address this, of course. But if we know God and His nature, what He likes and doesn’t like, then we will be able to discern whether a specific movie or show would honor God or not.

The more we know God and His word, the more easily we can sense inwardly in our spirit whether a particular activity or habit is God-honoring. The Holy Spirit will not allow us to have inner peace about something that doesn’t honor Him. Likewise, we will have inner peace about a situation that honors God.

The Holy Spirit’s Voice

Jesus knew that He would be crucified and raised from the dead, and then He would go to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. But He wouldn’t leave His disciples alone. Jesus said in John 14, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

Jesus was confined to a human body, so He could only be in one place at a time. But the Spirit of God can dwell within all believers, speaking to each one, teaching them about Jesus, and guiding them to understand God’s ways.

In John 16 Jesus says, “… when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak … He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Whatever Jesus or the Father say is what God’s Spirit says to us. God’s Spirit speaks God’s truths to our hearts and spirits during prayer, worship, or any other time we are willing to listen.

Like with many other things, hearing God’s voice takes practice. When the Holy Spirit speaks to us, it’s like an inner nudging or sense that guides us; this will always line up with the truth of the Word of God. Will we get it right 100% of the time? Probably not, but God is patient with us, and He knows that we are doing our best to hear Him.

The Difference between Hearing and Listening

When Jesus taught people about the Kingdom of God, He said over and over again, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This may seem like a silly statement at first, but what Jesus really meant was “Just because you’re hearing what I’m saying doesn’t mean you’re really listening.”

In the Bible, listening meant obedience. In Psalm 81:13, God says, “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” God didn’t want people to just hear Him, He wanted them to do what He was saying.

If you have children, you know exactly what God meant. Your kids can hear you but not really be listening. That was the case with God’s people: they heard God, but they weren’t really listening and obeying. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Following Jesus means knowing His voice and doing what He teaches.

God Speaks Through People

Although God is capable of speaking audibly, truly hearing God speak with His voice is not as common today as it was in the Old Testament. Moses talked face-to-face with God as friends speak to each other (Exodus 33:11), but few people had this kind of relationship with God.

However, just as Moses was God’s voice to His people Israel, God uses people today to speak to us. Pastors, teachers, and other godly people who are mature in their faith and have experience hearing God’s voice can guide us in recognizing His voice too.

Proverbs teaches, “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Seeking godly wisdom is invaluable, yet we must be careful whom we listen to. For example, if you need marriage advice, you wouldn’t ask for advice from a couple whose marriage is terrible! Although there are no perfect people, you can seek wisdom from godly people who have success in the areas that you wish to improve.

Other Voices

Besides the voice of God, there are other voices that can try to confuse us. Our enemy is Satan, and he comes to kill, steal, and destroy God’s people (John 10:10). He also tempts us to deny Christ, serve our own desires, and love worldly things.

Likewise, our own voice (or the voices of other people) can distract us. When our thoughts line up with what the Bible teaches, then we can “trust” our voice. But when our thoughts don’t agree with God’s, we must cast “down [those] arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Our own voice is swayed by feelings and circumstances. Satan will only lie; he’s the father of lies, so we can never trust his voice. We must know the Word of God and what it says so we can identify when Satan, our own voice, or the voices of others contradict what God says. Today, the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and we can trust what He says because “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19).

~ by Jennell Houts

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