(I just realized that the title of this post makes me sound like I am claiming to be the voice of God. This was not my intention, nevertheless…. Funny :P)
It only takes a few days in the Keogh house to know that both Tom and Nutie are in love with God. They seek His face continually, listening intently for His voice, and their lives are full of stories dripping with His clear direction.
After a day full of those stories, one of the house guests staying with us asked Nutie a genuine, honest question that I myself have asked many times: How do you hear the voice of God?
In response, Nutie called a Bible study the next morning, the first “English Bible study” we’ve had since I’ve been here in Waspam. And since she has a Bible school grad living under her roof, she asked if I had any wisdom to impart. Instantly, my mouth went dry, my pace started to quicken, and I found myself in an ironic position. At a loss for words, I instantly responded in prayer: Lord, help me. I know I hear Your voice, but I don’t know if I can describe it in a way that would make any sense. Praying a prayer about how to listen, which requires listening to know what to say. Go figure.
But God answered, like He always does. As we were sitting around the table, studying the Scriptures, memories of people and stories across the Scriptures flooded my mind. In order for one to listen to God’s voice, one must be able to recognize that it’s Him speaking. And what better way to do so than to hear how He’s spoken in the past?
-Abraham shows us that God doesn’t always give us the whole picture/plan. Instead, He sometimes works on a need-to-know basis, only voicing steps 1 and 2, calling us to step out in obedience, trusting God to guide us all the way through as we go. (Gen 12:1-4, Heb 11:8). We also see this idea in the life of Moses; God gave him direction in the desert, and then again in Egypt, and then again at the Red Sea, and then again on Mount Sinai, and then again through the wilderness wanderings, and then again on Mount Nebo. Each interaction was preceeded by his obedience of his given direction (Exodus and Numbers).
-James tells us that God can speak through trials. He never enjoys our pain, but instead offers us the chance to draw closer to Him through it, stepping up into our Father’s lap to hear the answers He will give as we ask Him. (James 1:2-8)
-Moses’ life shows us that God can speak through supernatural, unforgettable experiences. Through one burning bush, God took hold of Moses’ life in an unmistakable way, and his life was changed forever. (Ex 3-4)
-Saul/Paul’s life shows us that God can speak through “closed -door seasons”, making His will obvious through deliberately eliminating all other options. God took away Saul’s freedom (he had to be led around), his worldview (thinking that Jesus was just a cult leader), his mission, and his vision, all to make His one purpose for this man clear: serve Jesus. (Acts 9)
-I have heard God speak to me in ways similar to those seen in Nehemiah. God can speak through opportunities. When Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem’s condition (Neh 1), he immediately responded in prayer, not asking God if He wanted him to do something, but asking for His guidance as he responded. He clearly heard God’s voice when he saw this opportunity/need presented, one that specifically fit his passions and skills, and trusted God to overcome his own weaknesses.
-James also teaches us that God can speak through provision. To those financially hurting, God says, “Trust me. I will provide”, and to the well-off, God asks for generosity, open hearts/houses/hands, and submissive, joyful stewardship. (James 1:9-11)
-One of the ways I have heard God speak to me is how He spoke to Ruth: through influential relationships. While I’m sure Naomi instructed both Orpah and Ruth in the ways and laws of the Lord, it was her relationship with Ruth that led her towards the Lord. “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Though she was really clinging to the Lord through this statement, she clearly recognized His leading through Naomi.
-Through Elijah, we remember that God can speak through a still, small voice. Sometimes I think this phrase is annoying, because it’s almost cliche in Christian circles. Nevertheless, God chose to speak to Elijah in this way, showing that hearing God’s voice requires patience, a desperation for His guidance, and faithful, unswavering persistance. (1 Kings 19:9-13)
-Through Daniel, we see that God can speak through His Word. God has used the Bible countless times to speak directly to my heart. Daniel was just reading the prophecies of Jeremiah (which he acknowledged to be God’s Word), being faithful in His pursuit of the Lord, and through those words he clearly heard God’s voice of conviction. Through this conviction, and Daniel’s humble, prayerful response, God spoke incredible prophecies into Daniel’s ear, ones concerning both the deliverance of Israel from Babylon and the future deliverance (and judgement) of the whole world. (Daniel 9).
-And then we come to Samuel, who clearly heard God’s voice. I’ve always thought this was a funny story, though. One of the few people to audibly hear God’s voice, and it takes him three seperate times to identify the Speaker. (Not that I can say I’d be any different). How incredible would it be to audibly hear the voice of God?!?
One of the best ways to identify the voice of God is revealed in Hebrews 1:1-3.
“And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”
Jesus is the clearest expression of God’s character, the best way to identify the voice of God, being the His very Word. Through the Gospels we can not only read the actual words spoken from God, but we can see what He cares about, how He approaches situations, and what His relationships look like. What better example can we ask for?
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. I could have written many more examples, and God speaks in many other ways, but I was greatly encouraged by these few stories that popped into my head. Not only did they help me see the fruits of my year at GCBI, but I they also reminded me of one other way God speaks: in response to prayer. He heard my simple, heartfelt request for help, and answered with a resounding “Yes!” by providing story after story after story demonstrating His deep desire to interact with His beloved creation.
What an awesome God we serve, amen?