Knowing God’s voice….

How do we know it’s his voice? How do we know when it is not just some thought that has come to our head that we are thrilled with?

Samuel was one of the greatest prophets in the scripture, he was one f the last judges of Israel before the era of the kings, and he led the nation trough the transition by the voice of God, but even Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice when he first heard it.

1 Samuel 3
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 [1] 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.”

There may be times that God is speaking to us and we just don’t know it because we don’t recognize the voice.

We begin to recognize God’s voice in Scripture.

The scriptures are the place where the voice of the shepherd is most likely to be heard.
2 Timothy 3:16
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

How to hear God’s Voice in Scripture

Read the Word
Most of us here graduated high school, some of us even have some letters either behind or in front of our names. We are an educated people. And because we are an educated people, we have been trained how to read. We have been trained not just how to take the symbols of from the page and convert them into the language that we speak, but we have been trained how to master the text. Particularly in university, we have been taught how to get into the book, find out what we need to know and get out fast. We live in an information society, and books are full of information that we need to get, so we read them in order to get more information

Most of us tackle the Bible in the same way. This is a book of facts, and it is our job to read it find out the facts install them into our data base.

There are times when I can go overboard. When I’m writing, I get out as many commentaries as I can find, I get out my dictionaries, and my Greek text and my tools to help me read the Greek text. And then I rightly divide the word, I take it apart, and do a word study on this word, find out the exact verb tense of this word, find out the cultural significance of this phrase, and somewhere along the line out comes a message, but not before I have collected a great mountain of data and information.

There is nothing wrong in studying the Bible in this way: it is the way that we have been taught, and for many of us, because of our culture it is the easiest way to function.

But it is not the only way to approach the Word.

M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. in his book, “Shaped by the Word” makes a distinction between reading the Bible for information, and reading it for formation.

In reading the Word for information we seek to master the text, to get what we want out of it, so that we can speak to the situation that we find ourselves in.

An extreme example of this is the little boy spread out on the floor with his Bible in front of him, and he says to his sister, “Would you please be quiet, I’m trying to find a passage to back up my pre-conceived notion!”

In reading the word for formation we seek to have the text master us.

Informational reading often seeks to find the objective universal principle, whereas formational reading seeks to hear subjectively what God is saying directly to me through this passage. We need to come to the word with the question, where is God’s voice to me in this passage.

Read the word to recognize the voice of the Shepherd.

David and Nathan after David’s sin

What has happened is that David, the king stays home while all of his men are in battle. One day he goes up on his roof and looks down on Jerusalem where he sees a beautiful woman bathing on her roof. He lusts after her, and finds out that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men. He still calls her to himself, they sleep together, and she becomes pregnant. David finds out and calls Uriah back from the front so that he will sleep with his wife and cover up their sin. Uriah refuses to visit his wife because “how can I sleep under a roof when my men are under canvas in battle. David tries everything – he gets him drunk, but Uriah will not go to his house. Finally, David sends Uriah back to the front with his own death warrant in his pocket. He tells his general to put Uriah where the fighting is most fierce and then to pull back from him, letting the enemy do David’s dirty work. Uriah is killed, and David takes Bathsheba as one of his many wives.

Later, The prophet Nathan visits him
1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: ’I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

David exegetes the passage well “All rich men with lots of sheep should never steal their poor neighbour’s only sheep for their parties – on penalty of death, or at least they should pay back 4x as much”
a wonderful universal principle!, but David misses the point of the story until God hits him over the head by saying to him “That man is you”

We too can read the Word, and miss the point – miss the voice of the Shepherd

“We need to read (the Bible) for the right reasons. C. S. Lewis wrote that we when come to the Scripture it’s not a “question of learning a subject but of steeping ourselves in a Personality.” In other words, our primary purpose for reading the Bible and meditating on it should be to meet Christ, to hear his voice, and to see him more clearly that we might love him more passionately. Scripture reading is meant to aid in the process of “forming Christ within us.” – Jack Deere in “Surprised by the Voice of God”

I think that there are times in our life when we are desperate to hear God’s voice for us and our lives. We cry out to him and say, “O God why won’t you talk to me!” and God says, “You haven’t done anything about the last time I talked to you!”

Although there are times that God speaks to us just to show us that he loves us and is a comfort to us, he can also give firm direction – in following that direction we give him the go ahead to continue to speak.

It can become very easy to read the Bible for everyone else in our lives – we read a passage and say: “Boy do I know who should hear this verse!” This is what David did. Jesus tells us not to try to remove the speck from someone else’s eye until we deal with the plank in our own!

In my position, I can move quickly from reading the text to thinking about how I can communicate it. I need to hear this instruction as much as anyone – If I am going to hear the Shepherd’s voice in the Word, I need to be open to him speaking to me first.

Just Read it. Big portions, small portions, medium…

I heard a story of a man who made his decisions in a similar way. He wanted to know God’s will for his life and opened the bible, put his finger down and found Matthew 27:5 “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” He said “Oh that can’t be right and tried again only to fall on Luke 10:37 “Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” He tried again and came across John 13:28″What you are about to do, do quickly,”

The Bible is not a sanctified ouji board – you cannot tell fortunes with it, but God will speak specifically to people and into situations using His Word.

That said, there are times when a piece of scripture almost jumps off the page and grabs us by the throat! There are times when we cannot take our eyes off a certain passage – this often means God is speaking to us through His word.

It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the scriptures to us and speaks to our hearts through them. The holy Spirit is called the comforter, so often times when a specific scripture gives us comfort in a specific situation – that is God’s Spirit comforting us.

There are times when the Spirit uses the Bible to convict us, like Nathan and David. Or there is an area in our life that needs to be brought to the surface to be healed. Or a mindset that needs to be changed. When a passage hurts – convicts us, or cause pain we don’t understand, or we just can’t believe that God put that in the Bible, stick with it, ask God what are you trying to say to me through this painful piece?

Being prayerful while reading the word will also give clarity and wisdom from the passages you are reading. Ask God to open your heart and mind to the meaning and direction he is showing you through his word.

So to sum it all up if you want to hear the Shepherd’s voice – read his word!