Hearing and discerning God’s voice
For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it.
–Job 33:14 NIV
God is always speaking, but we must learn to perceive, recognize, and listen to His voice.
This process is illustrated in the life of the young prophet Samuel.
1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.
3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.
9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
–1 Samuel 3:1–10 NIV
The voice Samuel heard, he at first did not recognize. It takes faith to recognize and acknowledge that the Lord is speaking. It takes practice to build confidence in hearing the Lord’s voice.
God does indeed speak, so when we ask Him to communicate with us, we must believe and then practice hearing His voice.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (NIV). If you earnestly seek the Lord to hear His voice, He promises to reward you.
If we would have the Lord to speak to us, submission is key. Pray for a clean heart and ears to hear. Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then, you must really listen with expectation.
What does God’s voice “sound” like?
What will you hear? An audible voice?
Most likely, it will not be audible. Rather, it will be God’s “still, small voice.”
11 Then [God] said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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;
12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
–1 Kings 19:11–12 NKJV
We may miss hearing God’s voice because we’re expecting something dramatic. While God can speak in dramatic ways, He usually speaks in a quiet whisper. To hear that whisper, we must still our hearts and minds to selectively listen to Him.
How will He speak? Where will His voice originate? Not in our ears, for it’s usually not audible.
Remember that God speaks through the Son, who speaks through the Holy Spirit. Where does the Holy Spirit live now?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells IN you?
–1 Corinthians 3:16 NASB
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is IN you …
–1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB
You will hear God’s still, small voice in your heart (spirit), because that’s where the Holy Spirit dwells. That inner voice is very similar to your own thoughts.
Can you recite a Scripture or sing a song inaudibly, inside your head? That’s what the voice of the Lord sounds like. It sounds like the voice of your own thoughts.
Tune in next time to learn how we know it’s God speaking and what we should do with what we hear.