I met a former pastor who said he had heard God speak to him while he was alone in church. God had told him to do something contrary to what scripture teaches, but the man believed that audible voice. Who had really spoken? What voice did the man hear? I don’t know. He was excited about hearing (supposedly) from the Lord. My knowledge about the Word could have fit on the tip of a hummingbird’s eyeliner pen at that time. I actually agreed enthusiastically with what he said because it suited what I wanted God to say, but a growing knowledge of the Father since that day more than a decade ago has revealed the lie in what this pastor heard.
I Hear from God Too
I sometimes hear from God. When questioned sarcastically ‘really, how do you hear from God?’ I never reply ‘God said Candice, I want you to [fill in the blank]’ followed by a command. If I had replied ‘I hear His actual voice, I can prove it – His accent is Irish. He sings tenor and bass simultaneously. When he speaks all the lights go off in my house,’ the next question would have been ‘do you get the munchies during this conversation?’ or ‘Can you also see His unicorn?’ Simply put, the Lord has never spoken out-loud into my head.
Certain people in modern history have truly heard from God, including John Piper. He writes ‘There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God.’ (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-morning-i-heard-the-voice-of-god) In Piper’s case, the Lord’s message was a warning and a gift which has transformed the way he sees scripture. ‘The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind — and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5).’ (Ibid.)
Okay, Not Literally
If I’m honest, I don’t want to physically hear the voice of God. He is gentle and loving, but also Sovereign ruler of the entire universe; Lord over all time and space. Piper says God ‘may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand’ and spoken ‘with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love’ (Ibid.) Had this occurred to me, I would have crawled into a small dark box and my family would have had to haul me out with a winch, curled in on myself to the size of my daughter’s lunch bag. It’s a big lunch bag, but still. Sometimes, I really want to hear God’s voice, but would it crush me? John Piper is made of strong spiritual stuff.
Most Christians hear from God in inaudible ways by reading their bibles or heeding the Spirit. Every day God speaks. Some of us even listen. He speaks or has spoken in five ways according to John W. Ritenbaugh (https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/380/Gods-Voice.htm):
1/His actual voice
4/His Saints and Apostles
Maybe every Christian would hear from God verbally if we were not so ‘dull of hearing’ (Hebrews 5:11) and afraid, like me. In the meantime, the Father speaks to us constantly, although I’m sure much of even the inaudible communication goes over (or through) my head.
Creation and God’s Voice
The eponymous hero of Dr. Seuss’s Lorax declared ‘I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongue’. One could expound on the nature of God’s voice in terms of points 2-5, but you want a blog, not an essay, so let’s stick with point number two. During recent weather events, God’s natural voice spoke as rumbling thunder; an echo of the first days of Creation; a reminder that His presence is close. The Lord is no mere energy found ‘in the trees and the flowers, man’ like one hippie once suggested to my daughter, but His power has been made manifest in and resonates from all that He made in the beginning.
Here’s an article about String Theory including quotes from Dr. Michio Kaku, co-creator of the theory:
“By analyzing the behavior of matter at the subatomic scale affected by the semi
tachyon pitch radius, what we call chance no longer makes sense, because we
are in a universe governed by established rules and not determined by universal
chances plane […].” In Dr. Kaku’s understanding, the Universe is possibly a symphony
of vibrating strings emanating from the mind of God, with His cosmic music
resonating through an 11-dimensional hyperspace.
We can draw out a couple of points specific to the topic of God’s voice: 1/our world is governed by a force; it was not created and abandoned to the forces of chaos. Christians would say this indicates an engaged Sovereign, not a removed and disinterested one (i.e., not a father who hides behind his newspaper and ignores his children); 2/after God said ‘let there be light’ and ‘let the land produce vegetation’ etc. (Genesis 1:3,11), He never stopped speaking but is still ‘resonating’ through our universe today.
More than Words
Creation is one of God’s many voices; this writer must remember that He is not limited to a single bass or tenor; one accent or tone; to the limitation of words or the sorts of sounds only human mouths can make. If God wants to speak as the ripples of a stream or the hot breath of a summer air current, that’s up to Him.
The Greek for ‘voice’ is ‘phone’ and the Hebrew is ‘kol’ (https://biblehub.com/hebrew/6963.htm, https://biblehub.com/greek/5456.htm). They refer to the spoken word. Reports from 1Kings 19 indicate that God’s voice was not in the wind or the earthquake, but a ‘gentle whisper (vv.11,12). At other times, God’s voice is most definitely a force of nature: ‘The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.’ (Psalm 18:13).
Testing the Voice
Why do I trust my experience of God’s voice but not that of the Hippie who heard and felt Jesus in nature? Well, for one thing, Christ is more than energy or good vibes. As I said, He is real and present; a person. Secondly, I test what I ‘hear’ against the WORD and the HOLY SPIRIT, not against what I want God to say. Again, this subject deserves more space, but in a nutshell: when I pray for direction, the Spirit seems to speak. God also speaks from His Word. If these two agree with what I know of God’s character, then I’m probably on the right track. If I don’t listen, will I get slapped upside the head with a tree branch? If so, that’s not bad vibes; I should stay away from trees in a windstorm. G