India fascinated me. I had always wanted to go. I finally had a chance for an all expense paid trip, but I heard the Lord saying it was not the right time for me. So, I passed on the offer. It was clear later that I really needed to be home during that time, so I was thankful I heard God and obeyed. And I did get to India a few years later!
God speaks in many ways. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush; to Elijah in a still small voice; and to Saul through a blinding light. He spoke to Mary through the Angel Gabriel; to Nebuchadnezzar through dreams, to Isaiah through visions, to the people of Israel through prophetic words and of course, His written Word. He still speaks to us today, corporately and individually. The question is, are we listening?
I am reminded of a story about two friends who met again after many years. One had attended college, and was very successful. The other had not. The successful one said, “How has everything been going with you?”
The other replied, “Well, one day I opened the Bible and dropped my finger on a word. It was oil. So, I invested in oil, and boy, did the oil wells gush. Another day I dropped my finger on another word. It was gold. So, I invested in gold and those mines really produced. Now, I’m as rich as Rockefeller.”
The successful friend was so impressed that he rushed to his hotel, grabbed a Gideon Bible, flipped it open, and dropped his finger on a page. He opened his eyes and his finger rested on the words, “Chapter Eleven.”
Humorous, yes, but sometimes in our desperation to hear from God we may resort to this type of random approach. In God’s mercy, occasionally He may speak to us through the “pick and point” method. But what God really desires for us, is intimate on-going fellowship with Him like a parent and child, husband and wife; like best friends. He wants us to know Him. How do we get to that kind of a relationship, hearing God clearly in all areas of our lives?
Are We Eager?
In 1 Samuel chapters 1-3, we read about the early life of Samuel. He was sent to serve God under Eli, the priest, when he was just a young lad. One night as he was sleeping, young Samuel heard someone call his name. Even after a long day of service, he hopped up and ran to Eli (I Sam. 3:5). “’Here I am,’” he said. ‘Here I am; you called me.’” But Eli had not called, so Samuel was sent back to bed.
Again, Samuel hears his name. A second time he goes to Eli saying, “Here I am, you called me.” But again, it wasn’t Eli. So, Samuel went back to bed.
A third time the voice calls Samuel. And a third time he went to Eli. Finally, Eli, realizes that Samuel is hearing God. He instructs Samuel, if he hears the voice again, to say “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
God called Samuel a fourth time, and knowing now that it was God, Samuel responded to Him. Because Samuel was eager to serve Him, God chose to tell young Samuel some weighty news about judgement coming to Eli’s household. In 1 Samuel 2: 11, we read that Samuel “ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.” While Eli’s wicked sons were defying God’s commands and oppressing people who came to present sacrifices to the Lord, Samuel “grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men (I Sam. 2:26).
When we are eager to minister to the Lord, we learn to tune our ears to His voice so we can hear Him.
Do We Follow?
I’ve seen many people who are eager to get a “word” from the Lord. They flock to the latest prophetic encounter hoping for some word that will change their life, instead of drawing close to God to hear His voice for themselves. When they do “get a word”, if it is not to their liking, they discard it and look for another.
Jesus tells the disciples in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
I do not discount the value of prophecy in our lives. I’ve heard several that confirmed what I already sensed from the Lord or encouraged me during a trying time. But seeking a prophetic word instead of seeking God, is idolatry; making it very hard to actually hear God’s voice.
When we hear from God, through a prophecy or other means, it is incumbent upon us to FOLLOW what the Lord says so we continue to hear Him.
After Samuel’s conversation with God, he had a choice to make. Would he tell Eli, his priest and mentor, what God had said? That must have been a very hard conversation, but Samuel, who reverenced the Lord above any man, told Eli everything.
Because of this, “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” (I Samuel 3:19 -21)
When we say “yes” to the Lord and follow His voice, our relationship with God deepens. The more we obey His voice, the more clearly we hear Him.
Tuning Our Ears To Hear God
Sometimes, for all of us, the voice of the Lord is not as clear. At times God uses silence to increase our yearning for Him and prepare our hearts for something new He is planning to speak.
Other times, we are the cause. If you are not hearing from the Lord, consider His last Word to you. It might have come while reading the Bible or listening to a sermon. It might have come in a still small voice, or through wise counsel. Did you follow it? Are you walking in obedience to all that God has previously spoken to you?
God’s written Word, the Bible, is applicable to us all. Are you living in obedience to the truths revealed in His Word? Or, are you walking according to the flesh, as Paul spells out in Galatians 5:19-21? Are you living a sexually immoral life? Dabbling in sorcery? Harboring envy? Or?
If so, don’t harden your hearts like the Israelites did in the wilderness (Psalm 95:8). Instead, repent, and change course. Stop doing whatever you are doing, and live according the Spirit. When you sincerely ask, the Holy Spirit will empower you to live rightly. “If we live in the Spirit <right living>, let us also walk in the Spirit,” which means hearing His voice and following! (Galatians 5:22-25)
The Lord also gives personal instructions unique to each of us. Have you been obedient in those areas? Has He asked to you give a donation that you have not given? Is He convicting you to abstain from alcohol, even though other Christians have some freedom in that area? Has He directed you to stop watching a TV program you love? Simple areas of continued disobedience can cloud our hearing. Obedience in those areas, re-tunes our ears to hear His voice.
Inquire Of The Lord
Remember, God desires intimate on-going fellowship with us. He wants us to walk with Him, and talk with Him. He wants us to dialogue with Him, enjoy His presence, and invite His counsel in our lives.
Throughout Scripture there are examples of people who had this type of relationship with the Lord. Consider how Abraham conversed with God regarding the judgement on Sodom (Genesis 19). Think of how Moses laid out his fears and concerns before God at the burning bush (Exodus 3), and many times after that during the wilderness journey. When the Lord told Mary she would have a child by the Holy Spirit, she asked how that could be. And God answered her (Luke 1: 26-38).
God is not put off by our questions, our concerns or our wrestling with what He tells us. He wants us to lay them out before Him so He can answer and allay all doubt and fear.
He also wants us to invite Him into our daily lives and decision making. We can inquire of the Lord at any time, for any reason. When Rebekah was pregnant, the babies jostled within her and she was worried. So, in Genesis 25:19-24, she asked the Lord, “Why is this happening to me?” And God explained it to her.
When the Danites were still settling in the Promised Land, they sent out men to spy out the land. The spies inquired of the Lord about their journey, and learned it would be a success (Judges 18:1-6).
I can give plenty of examples from my life as well. God’s counsel has saved me grief; lead me to purchase good cars; given me strategies for addressing issues with our children; directed me where to find lost keys; and much more. God loves to help us with everything!
However, if we willfully and continually go our own way, we may find ourselves in a predicament like King Saul. God had directed him to destroy the Amalekites with all their flocks and herds. But Saul did not do it. When confronted about his disobedience, instead of repenting, Saul lied. In I Samuel 15:23, Samuel tells Saul, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
Saul was wise in his own eyes. He did not inquire of the Lord, even though he encountered the Lord many times throughout his reign. Once he chased David to Ramah to kill him, but God’s spirit came on Saul so that, even in his rebellion, Saul prophesied (I Samuel 19:18-23). But he did not repent or seek the Lord. Instead he made one bad decision after another, bringing trouble on the people, and causing his demise (I Chronicles 10:13-14).
There are other examples in Scripture of people who did NOT inquire of the Lord. Trouble always followed. For instance, when the Gibeonites sought to make a treaty with the Israelites, they did not ask the Lord about it. They relied on their own senses and agreed to the treaty. Shortly after, they had to go to war to defend their new allies. (Joshua 9 and 10).
Jeremiah says, “the shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered (Jer. 10:21).
Yet, even when we are in trouble, God promises to save us if we call on Him! Psalm 50:15 says, “call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 107 recounts again and again how God’s people “cried to the Lord in their trouble and he saved them from their distress.”
Fellowship With God
How much better our lives are, when we have on-going communication with our wonderful God and Savior! He longs to share His heart with us, to explain His mysteries to us, to guide our decisions great and small. When we are eager to hear the Lord, and reverence Him, He can tell us all manner of things.
Remember how eager young Samuel was to hear God and obey. This continued throughout his life and God spoke to Samuel with great detail. Just read what He said through Samuel after Saul was anointed king (I Samuel 10: 2-7). And later on, when God directed Samuel to anoint David king, He also told him how to do it without attracting the wrath of Saul (I Samuel 16).
Daniel was another who communicated intimately with the Lord. They talked daily, no matter what the cost. Because of this, God revealed many mysteries to Daniel, and saved lives through him. When Nebuchadnezzar ordered all the astrologers to be put to death when they couldn’t interpret his dream, Daniel sought the Lord and God revealed the dream and interpretation to him. Daniel made sure to tell Nebuchadnezzar, “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries (Daniel 2:28)” when he interpreted the dream and saved the astrologers.
As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. He is waiting to speak to us, if we have ears to hear what He is saying. Revelation 3:20 promises, “if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” We have a standing invitation for open, intimate communication with our Heavenly Father. You can hear Him for yourself! Just ask, expect, and follow His voice. The more you do, the clearer you will hear His voice!
Dr. Jodie Chiricosta is vice president of Somebody Cares America/International. She is teaches and consults on a variety of Christian living and leadership topics and is a host of the podcast Her God Story https://somebodycares.org/hergodstory/which is available on major podcast streaming services.