HOW BELIEVERS HEAR GOD
As stated in the introductory essay entitled Hearing God, general humanity can hear God through Nature, Conscience and Circumstances. We now want to examine how God’s own people can hear Him.
The underlying assumption in this examination is that certain people have undergone a change from being merely human to becoming God’s people. How does this change occur? For now we will just say that through the process of salvation a person can develop “ears that hear” and will be able to hear God better than general humanity.
Now, let’s look at a few examples of how God helps His people to hear:
First, it should be noted that believers also hear their God through Nature, Conscience and Circumstances. In fact, the voice of God in these common experiences is now more fully appreciated. For example, in Psalms 8 it says “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” One of the benefits of being a child of God is a humble sense of awe found in the beauty of the creation.
Likewise, the conscience is made more sensitive in the believer. David illustrates this for us in 2 Samuel when he realizes he has sinned: “David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” Quick confession and repentance are characteristic of a person who is walking in the Spirit of God.
The child of God who has the indwelling Spirit also has the benefit of getting help from outside when the voice of the conscience is not initially heard. For example, when David’s men (1 Samuel 25) were mistreated by a man named Nabal, David took his men to bring vengeance on the man’s household. Nabal’s wife Abigail understood the danger her husband was in and intercepted David. Here is the dialogue of that meeting: “When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey. She bowed down in front of David with her face toward the ground. She fell at his feet. She said, ‘Please let me speak to you, sir. Listen to what I’m saying. Let me take the blame myself. Don’t pay any attention to that evil man Nabal. His name means Foolish Person. And that’s exactly what he is. He’s always doing foolish things. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see the men you sent. Sir, the Lord has kept you from killing Nabal and his men. He has kept you from using your own hands to get even. May what’s about to happen to Nabal happen to all of your enemies. May it also happen to everyone who wants to harm you. And may it happen just as surely as the Lord and you are alive. I’ve brought a gift for you. Give it to the men who follow you. Please forgive me for what I’ve done wrong. The Lord will certainly give you and your family line a kingdom that will last. That’s because you fight the Lord’s battles. Don’t do anything wrong as long as you live. Someone may chase you and try to kill you. But the Lord your God will keep your life safe like a treasure that is hidden in a bag. And he’ll destroy your enemies. Their lives will be thrown away, just as a stone is thrown from a sling. The Lord will do for you every good thing he promised to do. He’ll appoint you leader over Israel. When that happens, you won’t have this heavy load on your mind. You won’t have to worry about how you killed people without any reason. You won’t have to worry about how you got even. The Lord will give you success. When that happens, please remember me.’ David said to Abigail, ‘Give praise to the Lord. He is the God of Israel. He has sent you today to find me. May the Lord bless you for what you have done. You have shown a lot of good sense. You have kept me from killing Nabal and his men this very day. You have kept me from using my own hands to get even. It’s a good thing you came quickly to meet me. If you hadn’t come, not one of Nabal’s men would have been left alive by sunrise. And that’s just as sure as the Lord, the God of Israel, is alive. He has kept me from harming you.’” This sort of assistance to a deaf conscience is the type of help God gives those that want to obey Him.
Likewise in the realm of circumstances a believer can hear the voice of God. In fact, the difference between the punishment of someone who does not know God and the chastisement of a believer is found in the believer’s “ears to hear’ turn to God when adversity comes. For example, when Peter failed to believe the warnings given him by Jesus about denying Him, Peter had to experience failure and shame. This was allowed in order to teach Peter to not listen to his human nature. The circumstance of Peter’s denial produced a man who had learned to listen to God and was therefore able to speak for God, and have the Holy Spirit speak through him, to bring salvation to multitudes of people. Thus, since Peter trusted God in his adversity then God used it for good. It was chastisement rather than punishment.
Fortunately we can also learn from the circumstances of others. Here again though it is difficult to hear God. Often you will hear people say that they don’t believe in God because that would mean that God allows evil. They don’t see how a God of love could allow disease, war, abuse, injustice, etc. The person who knows God, who believes that Jewish history reveals God, and who believes that Jesus is God incarnate, can hear what general humanity cannot hear. Consider this passage from Psalm 73:
“God is truly good to Israel. He is good to those who have pure hearts. But my feet had almost slipped. I had almost tripped and fallen. I saw that proud and sinful people were doing well. And I began to long for what they had. They don’t have any troubles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They don’t have the problems others have. They don’t suffer as other people do. Their pride is like a necklace. They put on meanness as if it were their clothes. Many sins come out of their hard and stubborn hearts. There is no limit to their proud and evil thoughts. They laugh at others and speak words of hatred. They are proud. They warn others about the harm they can do to them. They brag as if they owned heaven itself. They talk as if they controlled the earth. So people listen to them. They lap up their words like water. They say, how can God know what we’re doing? Does the Most High God really know that much?” Here is what sinful people are like. They don’t have a care in the world. They keep getting richer and richer.
It seems as if I have kept my heart pure without any reason. It didn’t do me any good to wash my hands to show that I wasn’t guilty of doing anything wrong. Day after day I’ve been in pain. God has punished me every morning. What if I had said, “I will speak as evil people do”? Then I wouldn’t have been faithful to God’s children.
I tried to understand it all. But it was more than I could handle.
It troubled me until I entered God’s temple. Then I understood what will happen to bad people in the end. God, I’m sure you will make them slip and fall. You will throw them down and destroy them.
It will happen very suddenly. A terrible death will take them away completely. A dream goes away when a person wakes up. Lord, it will be like that when you rise up. It will be as if those people were only a dream.
At one time my heart was sad and my spirit was bitter. I didn’t have any sense. I didn’t know anything. I acted like a wild animal toward you. But I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You give me wise advice to guide me. And when I die, you will take me away into the glory of heaven.
I don’t have anyone in heaven but you. I don’t want anything on earth besides you. My body and my heart may grow weak. God, you give strength to my heart. You are everything I will ever need. Those who don’t want anything to do with you will die. You destroy all those who aren’t faithful to you. But I am close to you. And that’s good. Lord and King, I have made you my place of safety. I will talk about everything you have done.” This man could understand God about the circumstances he saw around him in the world because he could receive revelation directly in his spirit. Note however that this revelation came only after he persisted in searching for an answer.
People can understand God better if they learn from the mistakes of others. Here is a section from 1 Corinthians 10 that explicitly teaches this truth:
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examplesto keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did; and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did; and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did; and were killed by the destroying angel.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Truly we should obey the advice of 1 Corinthians 11:32; “If we judge ourselves we would not be judged”. We can learn about God from the lives of others if we have an educated view of the world around us. Let us interact with God, seeking, doing and listening until we hear Him explain what is happening around us.
Next we will see how hearing God helps us to know God better. We will start by seeing that there are Two Kinds of Knowledge.