One of the most important aspects of seeking the Lord is hearing His voice. Every disciple needs to learn to do this as an essential part of making Christ central. Let's turn to the Scriptures and let the Word of God speak for itself.
Jesus said His sheep would know His voice
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (Joh 10:27). If you are one of His sheep, Jesus said you would hear His voice. It comes with being a sheep, and sheep are not very smart. So don't feel like this is beyond your ability to do.
Moses heard the voice of the Lord
The Lord spoke to Moses on top of a mountain in a burning bush. "When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: 'I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.' Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look." (Act 7:31-32)
Peter heard the voice of the Lord
There was a time when God was about to direct Peter to begin taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Up to that point, they were only preaching to Jews. But God first spoke to a Gentile man, named Cornelius, who sent his servants to get Peter. "On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky." (Act 10:9-16).
Sometimes the Lord speaks to both parties, in order to prepare them for something extraordinary. In this case, He spoke to Cornelius and Peter to prepare them for what He was about to do in their lives, before they even met each other. I've seen the Lord do this over and over in my own life. For example, before and after we were married, the Lord has spoken to both my wife and I about many things, including ways He was directing us to serve Him.
Paul heard the voice of the Lord
When the apostle Paul was on the road to Damascus, sent with authority to persecute the disciples of Christ there, the Lord met him on that road in a vision and changed his life. "And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.'" (Act 9:4-6).
When the Lord speaks to you, sometimes He will ask you a question. He already knows the answer, but wants you to discover it yourself. So don't be surprised if the Lord asks you a question.
We must not harden our hearts when we hear the Lord’s voice
The writer of Hebrews stated: "He again fixes a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.'" (Heb 4:7)
This teaches us that when the Lord speaks, you have a choice. You can either humble yourself and receive what He tells you. Or you can harden your heart. Be careful not to harden your heart. In order to avoid that, you will need to have faith and believe what the Lord is saying.
God’s Word is active and living
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb 4:12)
God's Word is alive. So when He speaks to you, it penetrates deep down inside of you, reaching places that even a surgeon could not reach if he were to cut you open with a knife. The Word is sharper than any scalpel. It's able to get into our soul and spirit and separate the two. It's able to show you your own thoughts and motives.
Israelites perished because they didn’t listen to the Lord’s voice
"For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD, to whom the LORD had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Jos 5:6)
It's true that thousands of Israelites perished in the wilderness, because they did not listen and obey the Lord's voice when He spoke. So we need to be careful that we are not merely hearers, but also doers of God's Word.
The voice of the Lord is powerful and majestic
"Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array. The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful, The voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, "Glory!" The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever. The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace." (Psa 29:1-11)
When the Lord needs to utter His voice, He can make it loud and clear, if He needs to. It's powerful and majestic, and shakes the wilderness. So no matter where you are at, trust more in His ability to speak to you than in your ability to hear from Him.
Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord
Isaiah the prophet had an amazing vision of the Lord. Here is what the Lord said to Him at that time. He wrote: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (Isa 6:8)
You see how the Lord asked him a question, as He did with Paul? The Lord was looking for a voluntary commitment from the heart, and Isaiah willingly offered Himself to the Lord for His service.
Samuel heard the voice of the Lord
Perhaps one of my favorite examples in Scripture of someone hearing from the Lord is Samuel. When he was just a boy, serving in the temple with Eli, the priest, "the LORD called Samuel; and he said, 'Here I am.' Then he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he said, 'I did not call, lie down again.' So he went and lay down. The LORD called yet again, 'Samuel!' So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he answered, 'I did not call, my son, lie down again.' Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, 'Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, "Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel said, 'Speak, for Your servant is listening.'" (1Sa 3:4-10)
As a little boy, when he first heard the Lord's voice, it sounded familiar, and he thought it was the person in the other room. But he quickly learned that it was the Lord speaking. When you go before the Lord, you should pray with an attitude like Samuel, "Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening."
The Lord has enabled us to know the mind of Christ
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ." (1Co 2:16)
Who has ever heard of someone knowing what God is thinking? Yet that's exactly what happens when we are a disciples of Christ. We actually have His mind, and through prayer we can discover what the Lord desires in a given situation.
John heard the voice of the Lord
The apostle John recorded his experience on the isle of Patmos. He wrote: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, 'Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.' Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength." (Rev 1:10-16)
John clearly heard the Lord's voice as loud as a loud trumpet, and like the sound of many waters. He also saw visions from God. We have the book of Revelation today because of it. All that happened to him while he was in a lonely, desolate place, being persecuted for his faith in Christ. So when you feel alone, remember that the Lord may want to speak to you during that time when you are free of distractions.
When everyone is hearing the Lord, there is a common sense of expectation for God to move
The prophets Elijah and Elisha both knew God was about to take Elijah. :And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, 'Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.' But Elisha said, 'As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they went down to Bethel." (2Ki 2:1-2)
Not only Elisha and Elijah knew, but the prophets at Bethel also knew God was about to take Elijah. "Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, 'Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?' And he said, 'Yes, I know; be still.'" (2Ki 2:3)
Because Elisha knew the God was about to take Elijah from him, he followed Elijah, so that he could be with him when it happened. "Elijah said to him, 'Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.' But he said, 'As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they came to Jericho." (2Ki 2:4)
Even the prophets at Jericho knew the Lord was about to take Elijah from Elisha. "The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, 'Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?' And he answered, 'Yes, I know; be still.'" (2Ki 2:5)
Elisha insisted on staying with Elijah, knowing God would soon take him. "Then Elijah said to him, 'Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.' And he said, 'As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So the two of them went on." (2Ki 2:6)
I just want to point out that when all these people -- Elisha, Elijah, the prophets at Bethel, and the prophets at Jericho -- were all hearing from the Lord about the same thing, they had a sense of expectation. And the same is true today in the Church. When the Body of Christ is listening to the Lord's voice, we will all be hearing the same thing. Then we'll have a mutual sense of expectation for what the Lord is about to do.
Elijah heard the Lord’s voice in a gentle breeze
The prophet Elijah fasted for forty days after eating and drinking. "So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God." (1Ki 19:8)
The Word of the Lord came to him while fasting for forty days. "Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (1Ki 19:9)
He spoke to the Lord of his zeal saying, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1Ki 19:10)
The Lord was not in the wind or earthquake. "So He said, 'Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.' And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake." (1Ki 19:11)
The Lord was not in the fire, but in the gentle breeze. "After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (1Ki 19:12-13)
At that time, the Lord's voice was not in the tornado, and it was not in the earthquake or the fire. It was in a gentle breeze, and what Elijah heard was a still, small voice. Many times this is the way the Lord will speak to you. It's not dramatic. It's just a still, small voice in your heart. You need to learn to distinguish it. Often fasting will help you hear more clearly what the Lord is saying to you.
Putting it All Together
Moses, Peter, Paul, Isaiah, Samuel, David and John heard the voice of the Lord. So did the Israelites, but they perished in the wilderness, because they didn’t listen to the Lord’s voice.
When everyone is hearing the Lord, there is a mutual sense of expectation for God to move. Elijah and Elisha both knew God was about to take Elijah, as did the prophets at Bethel and Jericho. Because Elisha knew the God was about to take Elijah from him soon, he insisted on staying with him.
The voice of the Lord is powerful, majestic, and shakes the wilderness. John heard it as loud as a loud trumpet, and also said his voice was like the sound of many waters.
The Word of the Lord came to Elijah while fasting for forty days. The Lord was not in the wind or earthquake. The Lord was not in the fire. Elijah heard the Lord’s voice in a gentle breeze.
Jesus said His sheep would know His voice. That means you can hear the Lord's voice. It's not that difficult. The Lord has enabled us to know the mind of Christ. Many times the Lord’s voice sounds like our own thoughts. It will come to us as we quiet ourselves before the Lord in prayer and worship and reading the Word.
God’s Word is active and living. But we need to believe the Lord is speaking to us and act upon what we hear. If we don’t believe, we will not act. If we don’t believe or act, we will harden our hearts. We must not harden our hearts when we hear the Lord’s voice.
Let me encourage you today to listen for the Lord's voice. Get alone with him and quiet yourself. Worship and read His Word, and then wait upon Him to speak. He will be faithful to do it, and it will always agree with the Scriptures. Then just be sure to do whatever He tells you.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading The Voice That Changed Everything, Inquiring of the Lord, Led by the Spirit - Part I, and Led by the Spirit - Part II. You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page. You may also access my blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.