Expecting to Hear God
This is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.(Psalm 48:14)
People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to. Rightly understood, this can be abundantly verified in experience. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the Garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face to face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of mankind. Aside from their unique historical role, they are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling His people through personal presence and fellowship. Given who we are by basic nature, we live- really live- only through God’s regular speaking in our souls, and thus “by every word that comes from the mouth of God”(Matthew 4:4).
Should we expect anything else, given the words of scriptural record and the heritage of the Christian church? As Christians we stand in a millennial-long tradition of humans who have been addressed by God. The ancient Israelites heard the voice of their God speaking to them out of the midst of fire (Deuteronomy 4:33). A regular place of communion and conversational interchange between the high priest and God was established in the mercy seat over the ark of God (Exodus 25:22, Luke 1:11-22).
But the individual with faith among the Israelites also cried out expectantly to be taught by God: “ Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (Psalm 143:10) Israel’s experience led the prophet Isaiah- who also had firsthand experience of conversing with God (Isaiah 6)- to describe conditions of the faithful this way: “ Then you shall call,and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am….And the Lord will guide you continually.”(Isaiah 59:9,11)
If there has ever been a time that God’s people need to hear God, surely it is now. While many would agree with that thought, few believe that God would actually speak. The cynical and skeptical would attribute the idea of God speaking to His people as a myth and certainly not in keeping with rational humans. I’m sure that during the 400 years between the Old and New Testament the silence of God must have produced this same perception. But as we open the Gospel of Luke, we find God and angels in open communication with humans. Matthew records that at the baptism of Christ, God the Father spoke audibly from heaven to the crowd that was gathered. Paul heats the voice of Jesus at his conversion on the road to Damascus and John not only hears the voice of God but sees the visible manifested Christ. To hear God there are barriers we must break and our expectancy and belief must embrace the idea that God not only can speak to us, He wants to. The first barrier we must break is the idea that God only speaks to certain special individuals. Many who don’t believe that God still speaks today will say they absolutely believe that God spoke to Moses and Paul and the prophets. While they acknowledge these have heard the voice of God, they are skeptical that God would find “qualified” candidates today. Here’s my question. If we don’t believe that God will speak and respond to our prayers, then why pray? If we speak to others, do we not expect them to speak to us in return? If so then why would we not expect the same from the God who created our vocal chords? If God is our Father as much as He is Moses’ Father, would He show favoritism and speak to Moses but not to us? We must denounce this idea that God only speaks through some delegated being(i.e., the pastor). God’s desire for Israel was to be in their midst and to speak individually with them, but they chose to have Him speak to them through Moses. Certainly God should and does speak through pastors, as a matter of fact that ought to be a requirement for the office, but that is not to be a substitute for God speaking to us as individuals.
The second barrier is that of faith to believe that when God speaks, it’s really God and not our imagination. It’s believing we really are hearing voices, a voice, the voice of God. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and another they will not follow.” How could the sheep know His voice if He never spoke? Sometimes we need to approach our faith with reason. If we take Jesus’ words literally, and I think we can, how can we derive at any other place than that of Him speaking to us in light of these words?
The third barrier is that of separating the voice of God from the clatter of the world. “Have you ever tried to have a conversation in a noisy atmosphere? If so you understand this principle. How great it is when you are alone with the person you are conversing with and every thing spoken is heard and understood.
Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.”
1 Corinthians 14:10-11
The fourth barrier is the barrier of the veil of separation. In the OT only certain individuals could come near the presence of God. All the others were outside the veil. But Christ has torn the veil and we now have full access to the throne of God. Many of us are still trying to speak to God through the veil. Like a new relationship, we speak of surface things and have light conversations. We live as though God goes home after every encounter. O how awesome is a relationship when we can convey our feelings without words, when you are so close you actually can read the other person’s thoughts and feelings. O beloved, we are not far from God as to not hear His voice. We are no longer separated from Him because of our sins. We draw near to Him and He draws near to us. We speak and He hears and He speaks and we hear.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
How can God answer unless He speaks?
Dr. John Thompson