We all desperately want to hear God speak to us, don’t we? Those moments, rare as (we might think) they are, when Holy Spirit speaks to us clearly and we know beyond any doubt at all that it was the Spirit of the risen Christ, dwelling in our inner man by faith, speaking.
For many of us, our attempts to tune in to what He is saying, on any given day, can feel more like wishful thinking, or listening into a sea-shell for notions of oceans inside, rather than the thunder-clap voice of the God that we love and long for. We have a deep fear of God not speaking. (For further reading, Chapter 6 of A W Tozer’s The Pursuit of God offers an awesome section on the voice of God.)
The notion of an ocean being inside a sea-shell is the stuff of fairy tales; it’s beach-side banter that we tell our children for fun. But the voice of God isn’t make-believe and discerning what He is saying as believers is essential for our health and growth and protection.
We can discern His voice by observing the fruit of a thought train (Matthew 7:16) or another spoken voice, or a dream or a ‘word’ or application, perhaps – if there is true and lasting peace, joy and righteousness, it will be of Him. If there is anxiety and striving, worry or uncertainty, it simply will not. Let’s not complicate this in mysticism or superstition – the Spirit of God will never lead us into anxiety or fear or double-mindedness. He casts such things out.
If we sense His peace and joy and righteousness we can expect Him to confirm and (re)affirm us in that way so that it is clearly the lasting fruit of His indwelling Spirit. This may be through other Godly people or the Bible directly (Isaiah 30:21). Equally, we should be deeply aware of anxiety, striving and uncertainty especially when it is prolonged. Joyce Meyer says, “It is frightening how easy it is for me (us) to suppress the voice of the Holy Spirit”
The Bible gives us pictures by which we can better come to understand the voice of God. In John 10 Jesus says that ‘…My sheep hear My voice” – this is a beautiful picture of the daily recognising of the simple voice of our Shepherd-King as we follow Him as closely as we can.
But we want more than the Shepherd’s voice, don’t we? Don’t we want more than hearing Jesus tenderly calling us to come closer? Don’t we want to experience the voice of our Warrior God closer than the skin on our bones and with great power? I do.
Psalm 29 provides my favourite picture in the Bible to depict what God’s voice can be like to us at times. Where John 10:27 is more of a picture of God’s daily voice in our lives, (the gentle, comforting, guiding nudges of the Spirit), Palm 29 captures something of the majestic, awfulness of God’s voice.
For Elijah (1 Kings 19) there were natural manifestations outside his cave to show, almost ironically, how it was anticipated that God might speak to the prophet – through the drama of fire and storm – but God’s voice came to Elijah in the still, small, voice, just like Jesus comes to us from John 10. (A side point but I think God might prefer conversational tones with us rather than booming shouting episodes).
Unlike John 10 and 1 Kings 19, Psalm 29 paints a picture of another dimension of the voice of God being like a furious force stripping and shaking forests to their root and stripped bare. The Nations of the world are going to hear His voice like this.
Psalm 29:9 is a beautiful collage of these two pictures from John 10 and Psalm 29: the serene picture of pastures and sheep and shepherds (a deer being born tenderly) blended with the frightening picture of cosmos-creating power that strips the forests bare with fire – all are brought to their knees, all are silenced, all cry out “Glory!”.
The same voice that tenderly speaks to us day-by-day of our Shepherd-King is the very same voice that is sitting sovereign over the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22). The still, small voice that gives birth to a deer is the same voice that bellows through creation to bring all the Nations to their knees.
The voice of our God is more than a vague impression or faintly-heard oceanic notion; His voice is meant to strip us to our core so that we can discern what He is saying and doing. He longs to guide us:
- through all our own bent motives/interpretations,
- the schemes of the devil and
- other well-meaning (or otherwise) voices in our world
When our hearts kneel before Him and truthfully can say, “what are You really saying, Jesus?” then we will hear the Voice. From personal experience I can advise that we especially guard from the voices of our own heart in dreams that we have at night (when our sub-conscious minds mutter away and effect our waking moments) rather than the dreams of heaven that God absolutely means to be distinct from the cocktail of our fleshy emotions.
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
I John 3:20