“‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’” – 1 Samuel 3:9
Does God speak to people? There’s evidence in the Bible that He does. But what about today? Does God still speak today? I believe He does. Why then do so few seem to be open to the idea of God speaking? Why do so few hear the LORD speaking? That last question is the issue. It isn’t that God doesn’t speak today, it’s that many people either aren’t listening, or don’t know how to listen or how God speaks. This teaching is about the fact that God Still Speaks -Are You Listening?
In chapter three of 1 Samuel we see young boy named Samuel begin to grow and mature in his faith. He is serving in the precincts of the tabernacle of the LORD. He is under the mentorship of the priest Eli. One night as the two were readying for sleep, Samuel heard a voice. The account of this passage provides us with insight into the Biblical fact that God does speak, and also how we should respond so that we will hear from the LORD.
Hearing From the LORD
1 Samuel 3
Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli.
Samuel is described as a “boy,” (Hebrew na’ar) which could describe a boy from infancy to adolescence. That he “ministered” (Hebrew sarat) to the LORD before Eli means he did menial tasks supervised by Eli in the service of the Tabernacle.
And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.
This describes a low point spiritually for God’s people. The “word of the LORD” was “rare” (Hebrew yaqar) or precious because of its rarity. The implication is that there weren’t any who were either seeking or receiving words from the Lord.
2 And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, 3 and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, 4 that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” 5 So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
God takes the initiative to speak to us. The young boy Samuel hears God calling him. Notice, God takes the initiative to speak to Samuel. Samuel was likely too young to even know how to reach out to the Lord. Eli is old and infirm. That the lamp of God was spoken of as about to go out may be illustrative of the light of His presence leaving. It may also simply be a way of describing that is was evening. Either way, God is the One who takes the initiative to speak. That God takes the initiative to contact His people is an example of His grace. The issue then becomes, will we be receptive to the overture of God’s grace?
When God speaks, we need to be ready to listen. Samuel was lying down, ready for sleep, when the Lord called Him. The Lord sometimes speaks to us when we lay down in the quiet time just before going to sleep for the night. This therefore, wasn’t the most convenient time for God to speak to Samuel, but it was the time of God’s choosing. If you aren’t willing to be inconvenienced, don’t plan on hearing from the LORD. When God speaks, we need to be willing to listen.
The LORD is patient and persistent with those He speaks to. Samuel mistook the voice of the Lord for the voice of Eli. He thought Eli was calling him so he ran to Eli in response. Learning to discern the voice of the Lord is the first step in learning to wait on the Lord and hear Him.
And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.
6 Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!”
The Lord is persistent when He wants to speak to someone. We shouldn’t feel as though we’ve missed out on the opportunity to hear from the Lord. If the Lord wants to speak to us, He will speak until we hear.
So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.)
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.”
Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Our response, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.” The aged Eli, even in his backslidden state, is able to perceive that it is the Lord Who is calling young Samuel. So, Eli instructs Samuel to respond, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears,” the next time he hears the voice. That’s a good response for us to adopt when listening for the LORD. We should invite God to speak to us. We should be ready and eager to hear from Him. And we should present ourselves as a “servant,” in that we are ready not only to hear but to obey what the LORD tells us. The Bible is filled with examples of God instructing those who hear His word to be willing to obey His word (e.g. Exodus 19:5; 23:21-22; Leviticus 26:14, 18, 21,27; Deuteronomy 1:14; 4:30; 11:13, 27-28; Joshua 1:8; 5:6; 23:6; 2 Chronicles 33:8; Acts 5:32; Romans 2:13; 6:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; James 1:21-22).
Observe the continued patience of the LORD in this process of Samuel learning how to wait on the Lord and hear from Him.
10 Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”
11 Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. 14 And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 So Samuel lay down until morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision.
No doubt this was a pretty heavy message for the boy Samuel. The seriousness of the message given by God to Samuel shows us that, while God was patient with Samuel, he did not shelter him. God spoke to a young boy. And God shared some very serious words of judgment concerning Eli and He did so through Samuel. This may also speak of the maturity beyond his age of Samuel. God felt Samuel was suited for this prophetic message to be relayed to Eli. God doesn’t underestimate young people. Neither should we.
Eli is an example of wrong waiting on the LORD. He waited when he should have been restraining his sons from their blasphemy against the Lord. His conscience must have convicted him about the debauchery of his two sons. He rebuked his sons (1 Samuel 2:22-26). But Eli didn’t do enough to correct his sons and remove the perversity they were perpetrating in the precincts of the tabernacle of the LORD. Eli should have been working to discipline his sons, not waiting and doing nothing about this unacceptable situation.
16 Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
17 And he said, “What is the word that the Lord spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you.” 18 Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
When God speaks, we must be willing to obey, even if it means sharing a convicting word. The important point here is not that Eli responded with surrender to the will of God even if it meant God’s judgment on him and his sons. The important point here in learning to wait on God is that Samuel faithfully shared the truth of the prophetic message God had given him. This couldn’t have been easy for Samuel to do. Undoubtedly, serving with Eli as his mentor, Samuel must have been somewhat endeared to him. Samuel was hesitant to share the serious word of judgment from the Lord against Eli. But he did so anyway when asked by Eli. This was an instance of speaking truth in love (e.g. Ephesians 4:15). If we are going to hear from the LORD, we need to be willing to deliver His message to His recipients.
Samuel therefore, demonstrates character and courage even at a young age. If you are going to hear from the Lord you need to be ready and willing to share the word the Lord gives you, even if it is a difficult word that effects the destiny of others. We might say here that waiting on the Lord helped to prepare Samuel to receive and share the word of the Lord.
19 So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
From this point on, Samuel grew, “and the LORD was with him.” The LORD nurtured him and drew him closer and deeper into a relationship with Himself. That the LORD, “let none of his words fall to the ground,” tells us of God’s anointing on Samuel. And that was because Samuel made sure to speak not from a ground level of this world, but from an elevated perspective that took into account the LORD and His will. This speaks of “his words,” not likely the words of the LORD. But his words were influenced by the LORD. The LORD was with Samuel and the LORD gave him favor with the people, establishing his reputation as one to whom the LORD revealed His word.
In 1 Samuel 3, we have seen an incidence where God took the initiative to speak to a person. This passage raises a number of questions about God’s speaking. What follows is a consideration of some of those questions.
In 1 Samuel 3:1 it states, “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days’ there was no widespread revelation.” This raises a question for us. What prevents or deters us from hearing from the LORD?
Impediments to Hearing from the LORD
- Sin impedes us from hearing the LORD – If we regard sin in our heart the LORD does not hear us and this implies, He will not be speaking to us either (e.g. Psalm 66:18; Prov. 15:29; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15; James 4:3). Eli and his sons are examples of this. Eli didn’t hear the voice of the LORD because he did not discipline his sons.
- People can refuse to hear – Pharaoh refused to hear what the LORD through Moses was trying to tell him (Exodus 7:16). God’s people, in the wilderness, refused to listen to the LORD (Deuteronomy 1:43).
- People who are disobedient to the voice of the LORD do not hear Him – God’s people wandered in the wilderness and suffered great loss because they would not obey the voice of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:20; 28:62).
- People don’t hear God because they forget about Him – The LORD through Jeremiah said, “Because My people have forgotten Me” (Jer. 18:15). When you forget about God, it’s not likely you will hear His voice.
- People don’t hear from the LORD when those entrusted with sharing God’s word are corrupted – God indicted the false prophets because they spoke their own words instead of the LORD’s words (Jeremiah 23).
The first verse of 1 Samuel 3 says the word of the LORD was rare and there was no widespread revelation, but it doesn’t say there was no revelation or word of the LORD at all. How does God speak?
God Still Speaks
In Hebrews chapter 1 it states that God speaks to us “at various times and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1-3). One of the ways God speaks to us is through prophets.
The prophet Jeremiah is a good example of God speaking through a prophet. In Jeremiah 32 we see the phrase, “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD,” and this phrase is repeated eight times in all in the book of Jeremiah (7:1; 11:1; 25:1; 30:1; 32:1; 34:8; 40:1; 44:1). In all except one of these instances (34:8) a chapter or message of Jeremiah is begun with these words.
Another phrase in this chapter, which occurs throughout Jeremiah, is “The word of the LORD came to me saying.” This phrase occurs 8 times in Jeremiah (1:4,11,13; 2:1; 13:3; 18:5; 24:4; 32:6).
Another common phrase that introduces words from the LORD is, “Thus says the LORD,” which occurs 149 times in 148 verses of Jeremiah. The shorter phrase, “The word of the LORD,” occurs 52 times in 51 verses in Jeremiah.
All of these phrases are evidence that Jeremiah had an open channel to the LORD. It was as though Jeremiah was able to tap into the heart of God so that the word of God flowed from the heart of God to the heart of Jeremiah and out of the prophet’s mouth. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of line of communication with the LORD? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say along with Jeremiah, “The word of the LORD came to me saying . . .”?
While the 66 books of the canon of Scripture are closed and people are no longer inspired by the Spirit to write the inerrant word of God, God does speak to people today. The LORD speaks to us more often than we might think He does. God’s desire is to go heart to heart with us. The problem is we are not always listening as we should or looking where we should to receive His word. Our hearts are not always in tune with the heart of God. When does God speak to us? How does the LORD speak to us? When He speaks to us, what does He say to us? These are the questions we will now consider.
When Does God Speak to Us?
God often speaks to us during times of personal tribulation. We see this in the book of Jeremiah where the setting is the impending defeat of Judah and in particular the siege of Jerusalem (Jer. 32:1-5). We also see it in the last book of the Bible where John receives the revelation of Jesus while exiled on the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). Further examples of this are:
- God spoke to Abram after he had experienced the emotional departure of his nephew Lot who had likely been like a son to Abram (Genesis 13:14-15).
- God spoke to Moses while Moses was in the wilderness and the people of God were breaking under to oppressive enslavement of the Egyptians (Exodus 3-4).
- When Joshua was in transition taking over for the great Moses, God spoke to him and told him to take courage (Joshua 1).
- When the “word of the LORD was rare” God spoke to the boy Samuel and called him to be the spiritual leader of the day for God’s people.
- When David was disappointed that he would not be permitted to build the Temple for God, God spoke to him of the promise that a descendent of his would be Messiah (2 Samuel 7:4-17).
- In the New Testament the words of the LORD came to Peter during the lowest point in his life (Luke 26:21).
- The apostle John received the vision of the Revelation while in isolation on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1).
So why would it be that God speaks to us during times of trial and isolation? I do not think the answer is that God speaks to us more during such times; rather I think it is because when we go through such times, we are more receptive to God’s word ana in tune to Him during times of trial.
God speaks to people in various ways and at various times, but when we are alone or experiencing a trial that is causing us to be more dependent upon Him for help, then we are more in tune with and looking for God to speak to us. As we mentioned earlier, man’s extremities are God’s opportunities, and when we are alone or have exhausted our personal resources, then we look to God for help and a word.
How Does God Speak to Us?
First, God speaks through confirming circumstances. While in prison Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me” (Jer. 32:6-8) He then goes on to describe the thought of a plan to redeem a field from a family member. Jeremiah may have thought to himself, “Why redeem a field in a land that was about to be taken over by the Babylonians? Why redeem a field in a land that I would likely be out of my reach once the Babylonians removed me? Why redeem a land I could not use? Wouldn’t that be a waste of money?” The word that came to Jeremiah must have caused him to think and question, “Is this really a word from the LORD or is it just me?” How did Jeremiah get from these thoughts to his statement, “Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD”? How did he know God was speaking to him? How can we know what God is saying and when He is speaking to us? How can we discern the heart of God?
Jeremiah had a thought that he thought might be from the LORD. He knew his thought was from the LORD because God confirmed His word circumstantially. Because the thought of Jeremiah was followed by circumstances, which fit the thought, (“just as the LORD had said,” – v.8 – NIV), Jeremiah accepted that the thought he had was from God. God confirms His word to us by bringing life circumstances into alignment with what He is telling us.
In the book of Revelation Jesus told the church of Philadelphia that He had set before them an open door, which may help us in recognizing how God confirms His word through circumstances. In Revelation it states:
- Revelation 3:8 – “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”
Now Jesus may be referring in particular to the door of heaven through which the true church would be raptured (Revelation 4:1). But this verse also conveys the thought that before us are doors, some of which God opens, some of which He shuts. When we receive a “word from the LORD” it will be confirmed by an open door of opportunity to fulfill that word. That is how we know it is from the LORD.
In the book of Acts during the second missionary journey at one point it says of Paul and his missionary group:
- Acts 16:6-8 – “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.”
In these verses it says, “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit, “and “the Spirit did not permit them,” which I believe indicates that the Spirit did not open the door of opportunity for the missionaries to minister in these areas. The apostles apparently had a thought about going to preach in Asia and Bithynia, (otherwise why would it even be mentioned?). When the apostles came to a closed door, they moved on accepting that the circumstances did not confirm the word they had thought was from God. They did not pout but saw rejection as God’s redirection.
When the LORD called me into ministry, I soon believed He was directing me to go to seminary. You might say, “The word of the LORD came to me saying,” “Go to seminary.” I had been married about three years and my wife and I prayed about the will of God in this situation and if indeed it was the will of God for me. One of our concerns was the cost of a moving and completing a seminary education. We were relatively newlyweds and we very little money. How was I going to pay for a seminary education? As I began to walk by faith in this call, I believed the LORD was telling me that, “Since this is of the LORD you will not have to go into any debt to complete your seminary education.” In effect God was going to show me whether or not this actually was a call from Him or not by the circumstance of how our financial needs would be met. God was teaching me the important principle of, where God Guides, God Provides. My wife Dee and I sold about everything we owned, (and it wasn’t much!). We sold our cars and bought a 1968 Ford Econoline Window Van (this was in 1983, so the van was already 15 years old!). We packed the van with our clothes, my books and some other personal items and left for the Midwest. When we got to the school, we had just enough money for the first semester. What would we do now? If this was of God, we didn’t believe it would require even a loan! We prayed, and sure enough my wife and I found jobs and the LORD blessed with some scholarships and upon graduation three years later, we left debt free! The word of God was confirmed through our life circumstances. It’s true, Where God Guides, God Provides.
God confirms His word to us by circumstances, which verify fully the word that He speaks. There are other means besides the one shown here in Jeremiah 32, by which God speaks to us. They are important for us to know about.
Second, God speaks to us in various ways. In the opening verses of the book of Hebrews we read the following:
- Hebrews 1:1 – God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets”
God has a number of ways by which He speaks to people. We should be open to receive whatever means the Spirit chooses to use to get our attention and share the word of God with us.
Third, God speaks to us through everyday life illustrations. Earlier in the book of Jeremiah we see that Jeremiah received direction and the word of the LORD as he observed a boiling pot (1:13); a dirtied sash (13:1-11); droughts (14:1-9); and the potter’s house (18:1-10). In all of these instances God brought to Jeremiah’s mind and heart a word that He wanted spoken. The same can be true today. We can be walking the streets of a city or caught in traffic on the way to or from work and observe the faces of a lost world. There is a message God is speaking to us during these times. How many smiles do you see? How many scowls to you receive? It all is speaking to us from God. Listen and receive His word.
Fourth, God speaks to us through nature. The psalmist wrote:
- Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”
As we look at the creation around us, we see the work of a Designer, a Creator and when we do, we are receiving a word from the LORD. The apostle Paul in the New Testament said God reveals Himself in nature.
- Romans 1:19-20 – :because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”
God speaks to us in nature and we need to hear what He is saying. Jesus used nature as a means of communicating His word (Matthew 6:25-34). If we fail to observe the natural surroundings we pass through each day, it just may be that we will miss a word from the LORD.
Fifth, God speaks to us through dreams. The Bible indicates that God speaks though dreams. In the Old Testament God spoke by dreams to Jacob (Genesis 31:11); Joseph (Genesis 37:5-11); a pagan butler and baker (Genesis 40:5); Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1); and many others. Joel’s Pentecostal prophesy promises that believers will “dream dreams” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:19). In the New Testament God spoke by dreams to Joseph (Matthew 1:20); and Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19). These are only a sampling of instances where God spoke to people through dreams.
Sixth, God speaks to us through visions. A “vision” is a means of divine revelation similar to a dream. The difference between a dream and a vision is that dreams only occur while a person is asleep, visions can occur while a person is awake (Daniel 10:7). In the Old Testament much of what is written in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel (Daniel 8:1,17) are the result of revelation from God received via visions. In the New Testament we see God giving His word by way of visions in the life of Ananias (Acts 9:10-17); Peter (Acts 10); Paul (Acts 16:9-15); and John (Revelation 1).
Seventh, God speaks to us through an audible voice. God called Moses to ministry by speaking audibly to him out of a burning bush (Exodus 3-4). When Samuel was called to the priesthood the LORD woke him up out of his sleep with an audible voice (1 Samuel 3:1-10). God spoke to Elijah with “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:8-18).
When my wife Dee was pregnant with our youngest son Stephen, eleven weeks through the pregnancy she experienced complications. One late summer evening she sent me out for some provolone cheese and salami she had been craving. When I returned, we made sandwiches and sat down to watch TV. No sooner had we sat down than she said, “Oh my God! I’m bleeding!” And sure, enough her light-colored shorts were covered in blood. I immediately tried to call our doctor but he was unavailable and we were told to go to the hospital and wait for him. I knew we were in for a long night so I began to pack some things. I didn’t want to go through this without the word of God so I stepped outside and walked down to my car where I kept my favorite handy small pocket Bible. (This was before IPhones that can hold not only your Bible, but your entire library of study helps!)
As I walked to my car, “The word of the LORD came to me saying,” “Against all hope Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations,” Romans 4:18 – NIV). The LORD spoke to me as close to a heavenly audible voice as I have ever experienced in my life. As I returned to Dee, I told her what the LORD had told me and we laid hands on her stomach and prayed. When we got to the hospital, we waited for what seemed like an eternity and then the emergency room doctor examined my wife. When the examination was completed, I rejoined Dee who was alone in a room on a bed. We were all alone and in the most difficult time of our lives. I looked at the clipboard attached to the foot of her bed and read what the diagnosis indicated. It read, “Aborted fetus.” I was shocked. I hesitated to tell Dee. But I did. I felt the LORD guiding me to do so. It was as if He was telling me we needed to know all the facts in order to experience the fullness and truth of what God was going to do.
I was a bit taken back by the diagnosis and wondered, “But LORD, you told us to hope against all hope.” I chose at that time to “hope against hope” and take God at His word. That night my wife was admitted and the next day she would have a sonogram to determine if indeed she had lost the baby. After a night of prayer, I returned to the hospital to find that Dee had already been wheeled down to the sonogram room. As I made my way down the hall and entered the room, I called out Dee’s name to determine where she was. She responded, “I’m over here.” I walked into the room and drew the curtain aside and at the same moment Dee continued, “And the baby is all right!” Sure enough, there was our son Stephen on the sonogram screen, reclined, hands clasped behind his head, legs crossed as though saying, “What’s the big deal dad, Jesus has everything’s under control.” As I wept with joy, God’s words came back to me, “Against all hope . . . believe,” and “Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.”
Eighth, God speaks to us through angels. As early as Abraham we see God communicating to people through angels (Genesis 18). In the New Testament God announced the birth of Jesus with Angels (Luke 1-2). In the book of Hebrews were given the interesting words:
- Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
One of the most popular TV shows today is Touched by An Angel, which depicts the intervention and sharing of God’s word with people in the dire straight of life. It is possible that God would choose to speak to you via an angel. God chose to use angels in the Bible and apparently, He will continue to do so today.
Ninth, God speaks to us through other people. It may seem unexciting to us but it is true, God speaks to us through the people He brings into our lives. God gives people within the church spiritual gifts to communicate His word to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12,14). An example of God speaking through a person is found in the book of Acts where twice God used the prophet Agabus to warn the flock, once of a famine and later to warn Paul of the imprisonment that lay ahead of him (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11).
Tenth, God speaks to us through His inspired written word. This is probably the most common means God uses to convey His word to us. The Bible is God-breathed, meaning the words written in the 66 books of the canon of the Old and New Testaments are straight from His heart, they are His words and are completely without error and dependable. Since these words are God-breathed by the Holy Spirit, God applies His word to our life situations in very practical and personal ways. As in my case above with my young son Stephen, as I was entering a trial, He spoke to me a word of assurance that got me through the trial.
The Bible is unlike any other book because it’s Author is God. This is what the Bible state:
- 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
- Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
- 2 Peter 1:19-21 – “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
When my son Stephen was born, he was 10 pounds and 1 ounce (Dee delivered him by natural delivery!). But during his first night of life out in this world, it became apparent that there was something wrong with him. He wasn’t breathing normally and in fact he was blue in color. Our pediatrician, (God bless him), informed Dee of the issue and had Stephen transferred to a better equipped hospital.
Immediately Dee called me to tell me of the problem and I rushed to the hospital to which Stephen was transferred for diagnosis. When I arrived at the hospital, I was unable to see Stephen or the doctor for about an hour. While I waited, I prayed. As I prayed, I searched the Bible for a word from the LORD. “Lord, I need a word from You.” And God is faithful; He always is.
The word of the LORD that came to me was, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15). I believed the LORD brought that verse to my sight particularly for my situation. (With Stephen, I had already learned firsthand in the earlier placental tear circumstance that God speaks and is true to His word.) To make a long story short in less than 48 hours my wife and I traveled with Stephen to four hospitals, two ambulance rides and one air ambulance ride from Long Island to Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts. Once in Boston we spent two weeks while Stephen had open-heart surgery and recuperated. Open-heart surgery on an infant is serious business. But through all of our trial Dee and I clung to Psalm 50:15.
And as we endured our time away in Boston, it became apparent God had plans for us even in the midst of this trial. During our time in the hospital with Stephen, God opened doors to minister to other parents whose children had similar problems. The Lord confirmed His presence with Christian nurses and a visit out of the blue of a close pastor friend of mine who months before had transferred to the area and just happened to be doing a hospital visit on one of the days we were there. God is so good.
Stephen is now a strong, healthy married father of two wonderful children. He’s actually a certified personal trainer! (That pediatric cardiological surgeon did some fantastic job on our son. Thank the Lord for equipping him to do so.) Now, every chance I get I glorify God because of the way He delivered us through it all. God speaks through His word. What has He said to you lately? Are you in an overwhelming trial? Why not dust off that Book and see what he has to say to you?
Eleventh, God speaks to us through His Son Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:1-5,14). In the Old Testament Jesus appeared to people in what are referred to as Theophanies or Christophanies, pre-incarnate manifestations of Jesus. We see this in the life of Abraham (Genesis 18); Jacob (Genesis 32); Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15); Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40:1-4); Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:25); and Daniel (Daniel 10:4-9) to site a few. In the New Testament we see that Jesus is incarnated in the gospels and beginning of the book of Acts and later gives the apostle John a full revelation of Himself and the Divine plan for humankind (Revelation). In the book of Hebrews, it states:
- Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
Knowing Jesus is the key to hearing anything from God. If you don’t know Jesus, you won’t hear anything other than God’s word that you need to know Him in a saving way. Jesus is the living Word of God. If you want to know what God desires to say to you. Look to Jesus.
Twelfth, God speaks to us through the inner presence of the Spirit. When we admit our sin and accept that our sin has separated us from God, we discover such sin is a big problem in our life. There’s nothing we can do to solve our sin problem. But God who is rich in grace and mercy, has made a way through Jesus for our sins to be forgiven. The just penalty for our sinfulness is death. We are all under an eternal death sentence. But God sent His only Son Jesus to reveal Himself to us and to show us the depth and breath, and incredible nature of His love through the cross (Romans 5:8). On the cross, Jesus paid our death penalty for sin. Therefore, when we turn from our sin and ask God’s forgiveness based on believing in Jesus as our Savior and Sin-Bearer, God forgives us. Prior to this decision, we are dead spiritually. But as soon as we ask and receive God’s forgiveness in faith, God regenerates us, He gives us a second birth, a spiritual birth. He does this by indwelling the believer with the Holy Spirit.
When a person is saved from their sin, they become a new creation and the Holy Spirit comes to reside within them (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). People are trichotomous creatures made up of body, mind and spirit. Before salvation and regeneration, a person’s spirit compartment is dormant and dead and their body and mind govern the person. Fulfilling the lusts of their flesh or sinful nature drives the unsaved person. Once saved by Christ a person is given spiritual life and the Spirit residing within becomes their Guide for life.
The Holy Spirit within us then becomes our Illuminator. He leads us into all truth. He reveals God’s truth and the truth about our existence to us. He reveals things to us that can’t be seen or known in any other way. The Holy Spirit speaks to us. In 1 Corinthians this role of the Spirit is explained as follows:
- 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – “But as it is written: 1 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
This passage tells us that the Holy Spirit conveys the mind of God to us and the last verse tells us that God’s thought conveyed to us by the Spirit constitutes the “mind of Christ.” Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would guide believers into all truth and teach the believer from within what exactly is the will of Jesus. We see this in the following verses:
- John 14:26 – “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
- John 15:26 – “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
- John 16:13 – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
It needs to be pointed out here that without the Holy Spirit residing within you, a person cannot know the heart of God. The Spirit will strive with the unbeliever to lead them to salvation, but the personal daily walk with God where He leads and guides and bears His heart, is only for those who have received Christ as their Savior and have experienced the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit within us that communicates the nature of the intimate personal relationship we have with the Father through Jesus (Romans 8:14-17). It is the Holy Spirit within us Who is the Agent Who writes the law of God on our hearts according to the New Covenant promise (Hebrews 8:10-12). It is the Holy Spirit with Whom we communicate when we pray as He translates our prayers according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
But there is a problem. Obviously not all the thoughts we have are from the Holy Spirit even after we are saved. Therefore, how do we discern which thoughts are from the Spirit and which are not? How to we come to the point as Jeremiah did and say, “Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD”?
How Can We Discern the Word that is from the LORD?
This is the million-dollar question. How do we know if a thought that comes in to our head or heart is from the LORD or not? The Spirit is there and leading us into all truth, but sometimes we aren’t sure of which way the LORD is directing. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what thoughts are form God and what thoughts are from me. So, what do we do?
There are basically three tests to determine whether or not a thought or word in your head is or is not from God. The three questions we need to ask to determine if a word is from God or not are: Is the word COMPLIANT? Is the word CONCLUSIVE? Is the word CONFIRMED?
First, is the word compliant? God will never give us a word that contradicts or is out of compliance with His written word. God will never contradict Himself. Therefore, first question and the predominant question we need to ask is, how does it coincide with the Bible? In the book of Deuteronomy, the LORD states through Moses:
- Deuteronomy 13:1-5 – “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,2 “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’3 “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.4 “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”
Notice the phrase, “and the sign or wonder comes to pass,” indicates that a confirming circumstance only confirms that a word is from God if and only if it complies with the written word of God. For example, say you are working overtime to pay some outstanding bills and you have been praying for God to help you with your finances. One night while working late you find that the companies petty cash drawer filled with money is accidentally left unlocked. A word comes to you, “Go ahead, I left the drawer open for you. Take the money. No one will know. Go ahead take it.” In that situation there is a word and a confirming circumstance. You have prayed for financial help and now here is an opportunity to get some money, i.e. the unlocked and open petty cash drawer. BUT that would be stealing and that does not comply with the word of God. Therefore, it must be rejected as being the word of God.
If such a word is not from the LORD where is it from? It could be a word originating from our fleshly desires. Or, it could be a word from Satan much the same as in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Remember, in the Garden of Eden Eve received a word. There was opportunity to follow through on the word she received. But since that impression or word contradicted God’s word, she should have rejected it. In the wilderness Satan came against Jesus to tempt Him. He brought some words to the mind of Jesus but if you examine that situation you see a perfect example of handling the temptations of Satan. Jesus viewed all things through the lens of scripture. And each time He responded to the temptation s of the devil with God’s rightly divided word; God’s word in context (cf. Matthew 4:1-11).
Every time Satan struck out at Jesus, Jesus responded, “It is written.” We should do the same. We should note also that it is the right application of God’s word that is important. Satan misused scripture in his attempt to draw Jesus into sin. We should not twist scriptures to get by these criteria of determining if or if not, a word is from the LORD. We should apply the word rightly (2 Timothy 2:15).
The compliance with the word of God takes priority over the confirming circumstance. The primary determining factor as to whether a word in your head, heart or coming from someone else, is from the LORD is whether it complies with God’s written word. That is why in the New Testament it states of the Bible:
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In this verse from 2 Timothy, the term “reproof” is elegmos and literally means, “a reproof, a proof, proving, testing.”  One of the primary purposes of God’s word is to determine what is and what isn’t from God. So, know your Bible, it’s indispensable to discerning what is and isn’t from the LORD.
Second, is the word conclusive? Does the word you hear come to pass? A word might come to you saying, “Today is the day I am going to rapture you to heaven.” Now if the day passes and you’re still here, it wasn’t from the LORD. Many false prophets have been exposed by this test. Does the word conclude as it purported to?
In Deuteronomy God is preparing His people through Moses to ward off pagan false teachers and so He forgives a very simple and clear test for determining if a word is form God:
- Deuteronomy 18:20-22 – “‘But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’21 “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—22 “when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
This test is not only for false prophets but is all encompassing in that if you receive what you think might be a word from the LORD, you will know it actually was from the LORD if and only if it comes to pass and conclusively fulfills all it claims.
Third, is the word confirmed? In Jeremiah 32, Jeremiah was able to discern that the thought was from the LORD because it was confirmed by circumstance. Sometimes it takes longer for a word to be confirmed than it did in the case of Jeremiah. When my wife first met me, she felt as though the LORD told her that she would marry me. I didn’t get that word at first, but she did. Well, three years later after we met, the word she heard was confirmed as from the LORD because we were married.
What do we do when we have a word that doesn’t contradict God’s word but has yet to be conclusively confirmed? We wait on the LORD. That’s what Jeremiah did and that’s what we need to do. We have to give the situation and ourselves to the LORD. That is what the word of God states:
- Psalm 27:13-14 – “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (cf. also Psalm 37:34; Isaiah 49:23b; Lamentations 3:25; Habakkuk 2:3; Luke 12:35-36; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Thess. 3:5).
So, you see, if the confirmation does not come it may be that the word you received is not from God or that you need to wait for God to confirm the word. If you can’t wait, it may be an indication that the word was not from God.
How Can We Talk to God?
We’ve seen God speaks to us in various ways. But how do we speak to Him? Good communication is a two-way street. The way we speak to God is in prayer.
There are many examples of prayers in the Bible. Prayer is God’s means for us to communicate with Him (cf. 1 Samuel 7:1-8; Jeremiah 32:16-27; Daniel 9:3-22).
When we pray we need only talk to God. We don’t need to approach God through a human intermediary (living or dead). We approach Him in the name of Jesus. And we then follow the leading of the Spirit to help us in our prayers. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray (Romans 8:26-27). Some further points on prayer are:
- Jesus said pray this way – Matthew 6:5-13; Luke 11:1-13
- Pray for God’s will to be done – Matthew 26:36-46
- Pray for the Holy Spirit – Lk. 11:13; Acts 1:4-5, 8 and 14
- Pray in the Holy Spirit – Jude 20-21
- Pray with the help of the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:26-27
- Pray always – 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:1-8
- Pray for knowledge and power – Eph. 1:15-21
- Pray to know the love of Jesus – Eph. 3:14-19
- Pray when anxious – Phil. 4:6-7
- Pray for open doors to minister – Col. 4:3-6
- Pray with thanksgiving – Col. 4:2
- Pray with great expectations and for the glory of God – Eph. 3:20-21
Yes, God still speaks. Are you listening? And God wants to hear from you. Are you speaking to Him in prayer? “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.” Are you listening? Are you ready to obey? God is speaking and He has a word for you. I pray we all hear and live out in the power of the Holy Spirit; all that God has to say to us. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
 New King James Version – Jeremiah 1:2,4,11,13; 2:1,4,31; 6:10; 7:2; 8:9; 9:20; 13:2, 3, 8; 14:1; 16:1; 17:15, 20; 18:5; 19:3; 20:8; 21:11; 22:2, 29; 24:4; 25:3; 27:18; 28:12; 29:20, 30; 31:10; 32:6,8 (2x), 26; 33:1, 19, 23; 34:4,12 (2x); 35:12; 36:27; 37:6; 39:15; 42:7,15; 43:8; 44:24,26; 46:1; 47:1; 49:34.
W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.