Can someone really hear God speak?
When you hear people say things like, “The Lord told me…,” do you wonder how this happens or if they really hear from God?
Do they have some mystical connection with God or are they just hearing voices? Or, is this just some spiritual sounding talk?
I’m really skeptical of anyone who says to me, “The Lord told me to tell you….” And yet, throughout the Bible, we read of God speaking to people.
This is a test…
Years ago, when I took courses to be certified as a substance abuse counselor, I needed to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Several questions dealt with hearing voices and God speaking.
The clinical bias of the test was that if you heard God speak, or heard any other voices, your mental stability was in question.
Since I understood this, I carefully picked my way through the test. And if you’re wondering — yes, I passed the test and my courses.
So, how is it possible to hear God’s voice and be in your right mind?
An unexpected encounter
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, two followers of Jesus have an encounter with Jesus as they head out of Jerusalem on their way back home. It happened on the same day He rose from the dead but they hadn’t realized it yet.
Their heads hung low as they walked and discussed the previous days' tragic events—the one whom they trusted to be the Messiah—the Hope of Israel—was arrested, condemned, and put to a gruesome death by crucifixion.
So absorbed in their conversation, they didn’t realize Jesus Himself joined them on the road. In fact, they didn’t even recognize Him. Jesus asks them what they’re talking about which shocks these two men.
They wonder if Jesus was some stranger who missed all that went on during the Passover Feast. So, they begin to tell Jesus their sad tale (Luke 24:13–24).
To their surprise, the “stranger” chides them for not believing the women saw Jesus resurrected and alive at the tomb. Jesus then reminds them of all that’s said about Himself in the Scriptures (Luke 24:25–27).
Something real but not physical
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32 NIV)
As Jesus walked with these two men on the road to the village of Emmaus, something happened inside them. It wasn’t physical, though it seemed that way.
This is why they exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us…?”
What did they mean? They were describing God engaging their hearts — their spiritual essence — by His Spirit (Romans 8:16).
God was speaking to them but they didn’t realize it because they didn’t recognize Jesus — the risen Son of God.
Jesus was training them to know His voice.
They heard Him with their physical ears when they followed Him before His death and resurrection. Now they were learning to hear His voice with their hearts but in a spiritual way.
Jesus was training His followers to hear and know His voice
What was the reference point to know His voice? It was God’s written word, the Scriptures. As Jesus explained the Scriptures about Himself (as Messiah), the Holy Spirit sparked their hearts to understand what He said.
The truth of God revealed by the Spirit of God
How can we hear God’s voice?
This is how you and I can hear God’s voice. It isn’t mystical in some strange sense but it is spiritual. God speaks to a person through His written Word—the Bible—via the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10, 14).
We also need God’s written word stored up and treasured in our heart and mind (John 15:7). God’s Spirit will ignite God’s word so our heart can also burn with the truth, just as with these followers.
When the truth of God’s Word is retained in our mind, God uses that to remind us as well (John 14:26).
We need to give the Lord something to work with so we can learn to hear and know His voice. Just as with any relationship, it takes time to get to know the Lord in a more intimate sense—a heart to heart sense, if you will.
But how will you know when you’re hearing God’s voice? Whatever the Lord wants to reveal to us can be proven out by what is written and revealed in the Scriptures about God’s nature and what He’s already made known.
Here are some questions and encouragements to help you learn to hear and know God’s voice—
How much time do you spend reading or listening to the Scriptures?
Is at least some of God’s Word stored up in your heart and mind?
Do you pray and ask God for insight while you read the Bible?
Make a point this week to pray for understanding before you read God’s Word. Ask God to reveal His truth to you, then trust Him to do just that.