Today's blog post is all about listening to God. As Christians, we should take our direction for life from God. The only way we can do that though is we are listening for God. To be listening for God, we must know how he communicates to us. So how does God communicate with us? What does it sound like? My thoughts after the jump.
When it comes to listening for God, what I hear most from Christians is something to the effect of being still and listening for the "still, small voice of God." This idea comes from a passage found in 1 Kings when God is speaking is his prophet Elijah. Here is how the New King James Version puts it.
Then He [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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”--1 Kings 19:11-13
The way most Christians take and apply this Bible is that they'll say we need to clear out thoughts and minds of distractions so that we can be able to hear God's voice over everything else, and that we need to be listening carefully and closely. There is certainly truth to this. If we are always listening to ungodly advice, seeking out worldly wisdom, and not spending time with God, then listening for Him, hearing Him, and listening to Him can be much more difficult.
There are Christians though, that will take this idea too far, into something not Biblical. When they see "still, small voice" they begin to think that the voice of God is small, quiet, and that God will whisper to us and gently nudge us when He is trying to tell us something. Sometimes God, in the Holy Spirit, does whisper to us and nudge us. Sometimes He will gently bring things to our minds. That does not mean that God always communicates with us that way though. On the contrary, God speaks in many different ways and manners.
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible says that the people there heard an audible voice coming from Heaven, telling them, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased." That's certainly not a "quiet" voice. In Revelation, the Bible speaks of God's voice as a trumpet. Trumpets are anything but quiet. In the Old Testament, God spoke through many prophets. Prophets were to speak the words of God, so it was as if the people were hearing God himself. Again, audible, loud, not quiet. Finally, also in the book of Revelation, it describes many judgements which are going to come upon the world. All of these judgements are ways in which God is crying out to humanity that He is there. There is nothing quiet about those coming judgements.
So you see, God doesn't always speak to us in a "small, still voice". You might ask how God does speak to us then, especially since there are no longer any (true) prophets around. First and foremost, God speaks to us through his divine word in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is God speaking to us. We can take instruction and insight for our lives from its pages. God will also speak to our spirits. The Holy Spirit does indeed bring things to our minds, helping us to recall scripture, bring clarity to us, nudge our consciences, and even give us knowledge about things. Often times, this will be a quiet voice, that can be easy to miss. God will also speak to us through other people too. There may no longer be prophets of the Old Testament variety, but God can still speak to us through others. People may give us a word of encouragement or wisdom when we need it. They may also point out to us when we are sinning or need correction. This can be God trying to get your attention through them.
God speaks to us in all of these ways, but it is still up to us to be willing to listen to Him. We must be careful to not be too prideful to think that we are always in tune with God and know how to listen to Him as well. We must remember that God doesn't always and only speak to our spirits and minds in a quiet voice in our quiet times. Sometimes he tries to speak to us loudly and clearly through other people.
Let me give you an example. I know of a person, a Christian, who has been living in sin for a while now. They do not believe, however, that what they are doing is sinful. There reason for this is because they say they feel no quilt, they feel that what they have done and are doing is righteous, and that if they were sinning, God would tell them in their quiet time. This person said that they were hearing nothing from God, so everything they were doing must be ok.
Being on the outside, however, knew that this person was and is indeed sinning. So I confronted them about their sin, trying to show them how it was wrong, not just simply telling them they were sinning. In this case, God wasn't speaking to them in a quiet voice, He was speaking to this person via me, telling them, "Yes, you are sinning. You do not hear My voice because you are not listening. Listen to this person." Unfortunately, this person refused to listen, leaving still thinking that they were righteous.
This person is not the first to think like this. In the Bible, how many times did Jesus confront the Pharisees? The Pharisees thought they were righteous, doing God's work, and that what they were doing wasn't wrong because they felt no guilt and they weren't hearing from God otherwise.
Jesus told them differently though. Jesus rebuked them, even going so far as to call them broods of vipers and servants of Satan! He was saying to them, "God is speaking to you, He's telling you that you are wrong, but you are so self righteous, that you are not listening."
Always remember to listen for the voice of God. And always remember that it will come in different forms and in different manners. Remember that you are no more righteous than God, and you are not perfect. If a person comes to you and tells you that you are sinning, listen to what they say, because they might be right, and it is actually God telling you through them.
An edit to hopefully help clarify something based on a comment received:
Excellent question. Allow me to clarify what I meant. First off, I'll say that I do believe in the gift of prophecy as it is discussed amongst the various spiritual gifts, and that it is still given out today by God to whomever He deems have it. To prophecy essentially means to speak out God's word, to proclaim it. Generally speaking, people with this gift are granted boldness in their proclaiming God's word, and are able to communicate it efficiently and effectively. Many modern day pastors, evangelists, and missionaries would be considered prophets. Also, a prophecy from a prophet does not necessarily include a prediction of some future event, but there have been times in the Bible when this did happen.
It would also not be unusual for a modern day prophet to be led by the Holy Spirit in what they should prophecy (proclaim/preach). Indeed, I hope this would be the case. Just because somebody claims to be speaking on behalf of God, or preaching his word, or is led by the Holy Spirit, does not mean they actually are though. We are admonished as Christians to test prophets. There were many false prophets in the Old Testament as well.
This brings me to what I actually meant in my blog post. I was referring specifically to prophets of the Old Testament type. By this I mean, people who were specifically anointed and charged by God to speak on His behalf to the nation. In the history of ancient Israel, the prophet (generally there was only one prophet at a time) was charged with the spiritual leadership of the nation. They would give direction, directly from God Himself, to the whole nation (or to the King, who was then charged with leading the nation in the right direction. If the nation were doing wicked in God's sight, the prophet would usually have a warning from God and a way to correct themselves (repent, get rid of idols, sit in ash, etc). Remember that in the Old Testament, the people had to rely on priests to intercede for them to God, and they relied on the prophets for direction from God. Israel did not always have a prophet at all times. Often times, when they were in a state of rebellion against God, they would go through a period without a prophet. It is this type of prophet specifically that we no longer have.
Hopefully that helps to clarify what I was trying to say. There are modern day prophets, but they are not quite the same thing as the prophets of the Old Testament.