Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Four

God loves to surprise us! God will sometimes surprise us through an unexpected revelation from Him. By now, it should not surprise us that God has many, many options to speak to us.

Sometimes God will surprise us and speak through something we would never expect. For example, there is a story in the Bible of the Lord speaking through a donkey to Balaam the prophet (Numbers 22:21-34). At the time, Balaam was out of the will of God and trying to walk through a door the Lord had closed to him. So the Lord sent an angel to block Balaam and his donkey from continuing on. The donkey saw the angel, but Balaam did not. That is, until he beat the donkey to try to make it move, and the Lord caused the donkey to talk! Not only were Balaam’s ears opened, but his eyes were opened as well. He saw an angel with his sword drawn in their path. God rebuked the greedy prophet in the quite unusual way to keep him from making a serious mistake. Sometimes God’s surprises will keep us from making the wrong move in our lives. 

Although rare, God may surprise us by speaking through an audible voice. God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments on occasion heard His literal, audible words. We know about Adam, with whom God walked in the Garden of Eden. God also spoke audibly to the prophets, the patriarchs, and Noah. 

In the New Testament , people heard God’s literal voice on a few occasions. Peter, James, and John heard God’s voice during the transfiguration. God spork to Jesus at His baptism, a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

In Acts 9, at Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, Christ spoke directly to him, and those around him also heard Jesus speaking.

It is interesting to note, however, that although the Acts 9 account mentions that others also heard, in Acts 22 when Paul is describing his conversion experience, he says those with him “saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.” Bible scholars attribute this seeming contradiction to the Greek translation of the word “hear” in the first account which actually means they “heard something without understanding.” When Paul describes his experience later, he is referring to the fact that those with him did not ‘discern’ the voice of the Lord. They heard the sound, but couldn’t make out what was being said.

A similar occurrence takes place when Jesus was teaching one day and God spoke audible (John 12:29). Although the disciples heard God’s audible voice and understood exactly what He spoke, some people heard God’s voice as “thunder” and some thought an angel spoke. Apparently most people did not hear discernible languages but only sound of some kind. 

How could people hear the same voice and hear it differently? Could it be that it depended on the spiritual state of the person’s hearing? Not everyone was in a spiritual position to hear the voice as God’s. Some probably thought it was just their imaginations.

Not surprisingly, it is important for us not only to hear, but to hear with understanding. It is quite possible that to hear God’s audible voice, we must be in a position to hear it. Our hearts must be open to hear God just as little Samuel’s was when he finally recognized the voice he was hearing as God’s and responded in childlike faith, “Speak, I’m listening.” In other words, it is easier to discern God’s voice when we are in a close relationships with the Lord, like Samuel who “continually ministered before the Lord.” 

It may surprise you, but God can also speak through unsaved people to get your attention. God spoke through a heathen king of Egypt to send a message to the godly King Josiah, telling him not to go to battle. King Josiah ignored this pagan’s claim to be hearing from God; he went to war anyway and was killed (2 Chronicles 35:20-24). God does not limit Himself only to using Christians or spiritually perfect messengers to communicate with us. When you think about it, if that were the case, He would’t use any of us as His messengers!

Probably the most likely way God will speak to you through a non-Christian is through those who hold positions of authority in your life. For example, God can speak through your unsaved boss, parent, or teacher. 

Discernment is the key to knowing if you are hearing God’s voice through a non-Christian’s message. The truth is, the same goes for hearing God through a godly person. Either way, we have to trust we will recognize the source. Because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us helping us to recognize God’s voice, we usually can discern the advice or message as coming from God or not. 

God loves surprises and wants us to grasp His purpose and message no matter how or through whom He gives it. The Bible encourages us to trust Him to direct us, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left’” (Isaiah 30:21 NAS). He is faithful , and will direct your path one step at a time. God will get us to the place He wants us to go if we tune our ears to hear His voice without preconceived ideas as to how He will speak in different situations. 

Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him … the only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness is expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have.”

Expect the unexpected. At time, God may speak in surprising, dramatic, and unpredictable ways!