You are on page 1of 6


Hearing the Voice of God

I think the first thing I want to emphasizewell, Ill come at it by asking a question. There are many
different valid answers to this question. Im not saying one answer is right and others are not. But if I were
to ask you viewing Gods people all through the record of scripture, from the days before the flood, period
of the patriarchs, the period of the law, the period of the church, viewing it in totality, what is the basic
requirement of God in every such age to be the people of God? What is the thing that God asks for?
Hearing Gods voice. I personally believe that runs through every period of Gods dealings with man. I
believe it is the key to success and in fact, I believe success is impossible in a spiritual sense without it. And
I think amongst us there has been a certain tendency to emphasize aspects of hearing but not focus on
hearing as a whole. People said to me when I have spoken on this theme: How do you recognize Gods
voice? And I would answer something like this: If the phone rings and I pick it up and its my wife on the
other end, I dont usually have to ask her who it is. I recognize her voice. Why? Because I know her so
well. So how do you recognize Gods voice? By getting to know God. Thats why its such a crucial test.

I heard about a bank system, probably theres somebody here that knows much better about this than I
dothe main safe in the bank is electronically operated and responds only to the voice of a given person.
So without that persons voice you cant open the safe. And nobody can imitate or actually copy somebody
elses voice. Thats another amazing thing. Every voice is individual. I think that somewhere deep inside
every one of us there should be a safe that only opens to one voice. And there is no other voice that can
copy the Lords voice.

I want to take some scriptures about this. Its really an impressive list. I could double the list if I wanted to
easily, but I want you to just follow with me a whole series of scriptures of which this is the emphasis.
Starting at Exodus 15:26. Im not going into the context at length, this is at the waters of Marah when the
waters had been healed and God used that crisis and situation to give a revelation of himself to his people.
And it always impresses me that it was Gods initiative to reveal himself to his people as their doctor. It
wasnt something that Israel asked for, it was something that God determined. And if Almighty God is
willing to be our personal physician I think we should give the offer serious consideration. Verse 26, he

If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, give ear to his commandments
and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians . . . How
many of you have ever been in Egypt? I spent two years in Egypt in World War II. There are very few
diseases which arent represented in Egypt. It would be hard to find any. . . . for I am the Lord who heals

So theres the revelation. I am the Lord who heals you. In modern Hebrew, I am the Lord your doctor.
Exactly the same word is used in modern Hebrew. But God says if you want me as your doctor, Ill be it on
condition ififand there are four conditions. Number one, you diligently heed the voice of the Lord.
Two, you do that which is right in his sight. Three, you give ear to his commandments. And four, keep all
his statutes.

One brother said what God asks for is obedience. And I said I want to go further back. You understand
what I meant? Because you cant obey God if you cant hear his voice. You can hear his voice and not obey
him but the problem with most Christians is not that they dont obey but they dont hear.

I dont know how your translations go. I know the New International Version uses obey right at the

beginning. What does it say for the first if? If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord. Okay, thats
good. The Hebrew is a repetition of the word hear which is a common Hebrew idiom for being emphatic. It
says if hearing you will hear the voice of the Lord. All the emphasis is on that word hear. When I was sick
in hospital and in need of healing and I came to this passage and I wanted the Lord to be my doctor, I said
what does it mean when you say if hearing you will hear? I felt the Lord answered me, you have two ears, a
right ear and a left. To hear hearing is to hear God with both ears. Many people listen to God with one ear
and another source for the other. And the result is confusion.

Why dont we look at those conditions just for a moment. I think its so important. I would point out to
you that almost every passage of the Bible which states the conditions for being healed begin with what
you hear. That is the key to healing. If you listen listening to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what
is right in his sight. You must be determined that you will do what is right when you discover what is
right. Thats number two. Number three, give ear to his commandments. Notice we go back again to the
ears. Give ear to his commandments. And four, keep all his statutes. Very kind of generally, I believe
statutes are the way God has appointed his people to live. Theyre not exactly legal enactment. I think
there are ways that God has appointed for us to live. I think being healthy is very closely tied to living the
way God appointed us to live. So if you want God as your doctor, theres the conditions. To listen
listening, youve got to do what is right in his eyes, youve got to give ear to all his commandments.
Sometimes were very selective. We listen to the ones that suit us and ignore the ones that dont. And
finally, weve got to live according to his statutes. That governs our conduct in the body of Christ, living
according to his statutes.

Theres one very significant example of the importance of listening to Gods voice. That really, having
God as our doctor is conditional about that. Im not setting aside human doctors. I appreciate them, go to
them whenever I feel its right. But I do want to have the Lord as my doctor.

Okay. Lets look on in Exodus 19:56. If we look at verse 3, the Lord says to Moses: Thus shall you say to
the house of Jacob and tell the children of Israel . . . [then well miss out the next verse. Verse 5:] Now therefore if you
will indeed obey by voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people. For all the
earth is mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Again, theres a most tremendous offer from God but its conditional. If. And though the translation may
vary, in Hebrew its precisely the same. If listening you will listen to my voice and keep my covenant.
Again, we cannot keep the covenant if we do not hear the voice. And then God says you will be my people
in the fullest sense. You will be my representatives. And I think the highest calling: youll be a kingdom of
priests. I think those are the two highest ministries: king and priest. Theyre offered to those who hear the
voice of the Lord.

And then in Deuteronomy 28, first of all verses 1 and 2. Deuteronomy 28 is one of the longer chapters in
the Bible. And it consists very simply of two kinds of things. Blessings and curses. And at the beginning of
each section it tells you how you qualify for the blessings and how you qualify for the curses. Its very
simple. The blessings take much less space than the curses. Beginning at verse 1:

It shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all his commandments
which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth. [Its very similar
to being kings and priestsin fact, its saying it another way.] And all these blessings shall come upon you and
overtake you because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Notice the condition is stated twice. And again in Hebrew its the same. If listening you will listen. Ive
always said that its so nice to be leading a life in which the blessings overtake you. Its so much better
than pursuing the blessings and seeing them always just a little way out of your reach. I dont think its

really the best way to focus on the blessings. I think it is to focus on hearing and obeying the voice of the
Lord. Blessings God will take care of. You may be traveling at the maximum permitted speed but they will
go faster and catch you up.

On the other hand, now verse 15: But it shall come to pass if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God to
observe carefully all his commandments and his statutes which I command you today, that all this curses will come
upon you and will overtake you.

Curses also travel fast. And notice the basic principle is so simple. If you want the blessings listen carefully
to the voice of the Lord. But, if you dont, then the curses will come. So in a sense, thats the watershed in a
human life. Listening to the voice of the Lord or not listening.

Lets go on to Psalm 95. I was reminded of this psalm as I was sitting here enjoying the worship. I dont
know how it is with you, but as a preacher, when people really begin to worship the Lord, I want to
worship and I do, but my mind becomes so fertile that I have to kind of make room for what the Lord says
to me. And I think this is very true in Psalm 95. We could read really, perhaps stage by stage the whole

O come let us sing to the Lord; let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with
thanksgiving and let us should joyfully to him with psalms.

So we begin with loud jubilant praise. Thanksgiving. For the Lord is the great God and the great king above
all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth, the heights of the hills are his also. The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. He is the creator of the universe. But from that jubilant vocal praise we
move on to worship. And in the Bible, worship is primarily an attitude, not an utterance. O come let us
worship, let us bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

I really believe we dont do enough kneeling. Im not suggesting we do it now but I grew up in the
Anglican church and there are a lot of things I can criticize but you never go through an Anglican church
service without kneeling. And kneeling does something to you, bending your knees before God has got a
definite effect on your attitude. So let us bow down, an attitude. Let us kneel, an attitude, before the Lord
our Maker. . . . for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Now when you come to that second phase, then you are ready to hear the voice of the Lord. It was a very
beautiful illustration here this morning. First of all, there was loud jubilant praise, then there was a silence.
Then the Lord spoke. That, I think, is a pattern that is normal in scripture. Today if you will hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, and as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me,
they proved me though they saw my works. For forty years I was grieved with that generation and said: This is a
people who go astray in their hearts and they do not know my ways. So I swore in my wrath they shall not enter my

Why did they miss the rest of the Lord? Because they did not hear his voice. And they made God very,
very angry and he said this people always goes astray in their hearts. In fact, he said in a sense, theres
nothing I can do for them. They didnt hear his voice.

Now, in that context its interesting to look in Hebrews for a moment. In the third and fourth chapter of
Hebrews, that psalm is quoted three times. It certainly brings the lesson right through into the New
Covenant. Well just look at that. My particular version prints quotations from the Old Testament in a
different type so they stand out. Hebrews 3:7. Notice for the writer of Hebrews the book of Psalms was
what the Holy Spirit said. Therefore as the Holy Spirit says: Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your

hearts . . . So this is carried over and applied directly to believers in the New Covenant. Verse 15 of the
same chapter. While it is said: Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .

And then chapter 4, verse 7: Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

God has certainly got something to say. I mean, thats three times in two chapters. And the key theme of
those two chapters is rest. The word rest occurs twelve times in those two chapters. Whats the way into
rest? Hearing Gods voice. Thats why we have so many restless Christians. They dont know how to hear
Gods voice.

Going back to the Old Covenant, I want to look in Jeremiah 7 for a moment, verses 2223. God is
unfolding the way he dealt with Israel. And this is a very unexpected statement. For I did not speak to your
fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or

Now historically, thats correct. Israel did not get out of Egypt by the sacrifices of the law. In fact, it was
quite a substantial period later when God began to talk to them about those sacrifices. But this is what I
commanded them saying: Obey my voice and I will be your God and you shall be my people.

Again we go back to Exodus 19, if you will listen to my voice, keep my covenant, you will be my people.
Its important to see the relationship. God did speak to Israel about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but it
wasnt primary. What was primary was obeying his voice. And so, it doesnt mean that it was wrong for
them at a certain period to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices but what it means is merely offering burnt
offerings and sacrifices without hearing his voice was of no avail. And what he was reproving them for in
the period of Jeremiah was that they offered the burnt offerings and sacrifices but they didnt hear his
voice. And so whatever we do in the religious life, it is only acceptable if it springs from hearing Gods
voice. I believe thats just as true properly applied in the Christian life. Anything we can do can be good if
it springs from hearing Gods voice. Its fruitless if we do it without hearing Gods voice. I think that to me
that is the shortest summation in scripture of what is required to be the people of God. Obey my voice and
I will be your God. I think that runs all through the Bible. Obey my voice and I will be your God.

Now I just want to emphasize in moving on to the New Testament that the basic requirement doesnt
change. John 10:27. Jesus is speaking and he says: My sheep hear my voice: I know them, and they follow me.

Again, I think thats the simplest statement of what it is to be a Christian. To hear his voice and follow
him. Its not a matter of denomination, not primarily a matter of doctrine, its a matter of relationship
thats based on hearing the Lords voice and when you hear, follow it. But as you know with the customs of
shepherds in those days, they couldnt follow the shepherd unless they heard his voice. That was the way
they related to the shepherd.

For me there is nothing more important in my Christian life and my relationship with God than hearing
his voice. And one thing that that requires is sensitivity. It requires also having the right priority. We are
a very earnest group of people. And earnest people have their own problems, one of which is being so
earnest in doing the right thing that you dont hear the Lords voice. Other groups have other problems.
We can become, without intending it, very much involved in self effort. We have our list of duties,
principles and were going to do it. We are going to do it. We are disciples. Well, thats fine. But if you
dont hear the Lords voice it wont work. I think all I can do really in speaking to help you is to point out
to you this is a priority. Make room for it. I find the Lord speaks to me in the most unexpected times and
places. When Im on my knees and agonizing I frequently dont hear from God. But when Im looking in
the mirror and shaving, God speaks to me. I think one of the keys is being relaxed. I was looking in the
mirror and shaving in l966 and for some reason which I can never interpret, looking at myself in the

mirror I said, "Of course, youre not an evangelist." And instantly God said very quietly, "You can be if
you want." So I thought to myself, "Okay." Thats all there was!

Now I certainly do not regard my primary ministry as that of an evangelist but since that time there have
emerged in my ministry basically the things that characterize the ministry of Philip: casting out demons,
healing the lame and getting people baptized.

Another remarkable example of hearing Gods voice in an unexpected moment: Years back, about l943,
when I was a relatively new Christian, I was a soldier in the British Army. I was in the Sudan and I was
traveling in a train in which certain compartments were reserved for the military. Traveling north from
Khartoum and I got to a small, very, very crowded station. And if you have never traveled in the third
world you wont be able to picture this but the platform was totally covered with living creatures. Men,
women, children, nursing infants, old men and then donkeys, camels, goats, chickens . . . Everybody was
bustling, making a noise. And I looked out of the window in my splendid isolation and I said to myself, "I
wonder what God thinks about all those people." I didnt expect an answer. But I got an immediate
answer, "Some weak, some foolish, some proud, some wicked and some exceeding precious." That, I felt,
was Gods categorization of the human race. You can think it over. Theres four basic reasons why people
dont come to Christ. Some weak, some foolish, some proud, some wicked and some exceeding precious.

One of the things about what God says is it has a quality of permanence. You have many impressions
which may be very important at the time but they dont have that quality of permanence. But when God
has written something on your heart, its there to stay. In that context let me offer you this thought in 2
Corinthians 3:23. Paul is writing to the people to whom he had been ministering.

You are our epistle [or our letter] written in our hearts, known and read by all men. You are manifestly an epistle of
Christ, ministered by us, written not by ink but by the Spirit of the Living God not on tablets of stone but on tablets of
flesh [that is, of the heart].

Theres a deep principle there I believe. The only person who can write on the hearts of Gods people is the
Holy Spirit. When he writes, its permanent. If we merely exhort people and preach at people and lecture
people, apart from the Holy Spirit, it isnt written on their hearts. But that which the Holy Spirit speaks
and writes becomes permanent, becomes a part of us. Thats one of the things I felt would be important to
share. Now these are kind of taken at random. Theres no special logical order except that I feel what I was
saying about hearing Gods voice really is primary and its so neglected. Many, many times if I preach on
hearing Gods voice, people who have been in churches for years will come up and say how do I hear Gods
voice? My answer is usually, how did you get this far without hearing Gods voice? The answer is get to
know God. When you know God youll know his voice.

And I would also agree when there are times when we are liable to be confused. There are times when we
think weve heard Gods voice and it wasnt Gods voice. But thats a risk we have to take. If you want to
go through the Christian life without taking any risks, youll never exercise any faith. Theres always a risk
involved in exercising faith. So if you want to exercise faith and thats the only way to please God, you
have to be prepared to take risks. The most dangerous thing you can do in the Christian life is play it safe.
Really. Because what youre doing is eliminating faith. When you eliminate faith you eliminate life. The
just shall live by faith. Dont resent the challenges that God gives you to your faith. Because every time
you respond positively you increase your measure of life. Thats the way God keeps us living and moving
on. I think most of you would agree we tend to move on a certain spiritual plane and then God says youve
been on that plane long enough. I want you to come up to a higher plane. But if you want to come up to
the higher plane theres only one wayfaith. And God always has a specific step of faith to get us onto the
higher plane. And if we dont take the step we stay on the same plane.


Ill give you a very simple example of that. In 1970 my first wife and I were living in a very nice house on a
double lot in Fort Lauderdale, a far nicer house than weve ever lived in before. Four bedrooms, three
bathrooms, we put in central air conditioning. I mean, to us it was a palace. And then we began to feel that
God wanted us to move. It was just that feeling of restlessness. Not that there was anything wrong with
the house, the payments were minimal. If anything, it was too easy. Thats probably the problem. And so
we started to contact real estate agents and inquire. Then I was away preaching somewhere, phoned Lydia.
She said, I think Ive found the house that God wants us to have. Well, being a husband you know
exactly the first question I asked. Whats the price? When she answered I said, That is out of the price.
Impossible. Well, when I got back she said at least let the real estate agents come. There were two ladies,
rather sort of hard boiled, ladies in their 40s who probably had a home and children grown up or else they
were divorced or something. It was a comical situation. There they were sitting on the sofa. And as you
remember Lydia, she was very seldom conventional. Thats an understatement! They were sitting there
really giving us the hard sell and it was all so business. She looked at them and said, You know, I think
your legs are unequal! And they stopped in the middle, got embarrassed and said, Oh, are they? Would
you like my husband to pray for you? Before she really knew what was happening I crawled over to her,
held up her legs, they were quite distinctly unequal and her short leg grew out. I tell you, she was
astonished! Then I went to the lady beside her on the sofa and did the same thing. Then I said to the
second lady, Would you like me to check your arm? She said, Oh, no, thats quite enough! They were
scared. But what happened was the atmosphere changed totally and in five minutes they were telling us
their deepest sorrows and problems. We had penetrated that hard businesswoman shell. God had moved.

Well, from then they took us to see the house and of course you know the end of the story. Not only did we
buy the house but we bought a vacant lot next door because we thought wed build another house for some
of our family. We never did build the other house. And it was a fantastic step of faith by my standards at
that time. Within a few months I observed my income had doubled without any clear practical explanation.
I had taken the step. Well, in l978 or 79 I sold that house. Meanwhile I had added on to it. But just to give
you an example of how practical God is as a businessman, when I sold the house, just because of the rise in
the value of property, I sat down and calculated that I had lived there nine years free. Now thats not a bad
deal by any standards. But if I had turned that challenge down, who knows what Id be living in today? Im
not living in it any longer, I dont miss it for five minutes. But it was a stepping stone in my walk with
God. And a good part of the money we got out of the house we put into the house we built in Jerusalem.
And looking back and knowing Lydias heart about Jerusalem, I realize nothing would have pleased her
better than to take that money and use it that way.

Thats an example because there was no urgent need. We were very satisfied where we were. But it was
Gods time to move up. And you cannot move up without a step of faith. So when the next step of faith is
set before you by God then dont resent it because hes enlarging your capacity. Hes lifting you to a higher
plane. There is no way to progress in the Christian life but by faith. There is no other way it can be done.