In Psalm 29, David wrote about listening for God. In verse 4 he says: The voice of the Lord is powerful. David touches on something all people of faith seek to experience – hearing God’s voice.
David was not a systematic theologian, but rather a broken and redeemed shepherd-become-king. A heart-on-his-sleeve guy. A man whose writings are grounded in life experiences. So the voice of God wasn’t just a powerful symbol for David. Psalm 29 wasn’t just an allusion to Exodus 15 — though it likely is. It wasn’t just a temple song praising God through nature. David heard God! He was singing about reality. God’s voice was as personal as it was powerful, and it was all around him like the thrashing of a storm.
In Scripture, people were regularly led by God, and they describe it in terms of God’s speaking to them. Abraham. Moses and Aaron. Gideon. David. Samuel. But God doesn’t just speak to important people for special works of redemption. He speaks to normal people like Hagar (Genesis 16) and Ananias (Acts 9) … and us.
In Revelation 3:20, we hear Jesus describe our very conversions: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” Christ describes our coming to faith as hearing his voice and responding. The result is an intimate picture of communing together over a meal.
A favorite hymn of mine is “Lord, Speak to Us, That We May Speak (in living echoes of your tone)” – ELW #676.
So, How does God speak? The primary means is through the Scriptures. We call the Bible the “Word of God,” and believe it to be God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). But beyond the words of Scripture, people may be led by God’s Spirit in some specific ways. An internal voice. A sense of conviction. A seemingly inspired reflection. The sage words of another. Experiences that undoubtedly defy coincidence. People often describe these experiences as “God speaking” or “hearing God’s voice.”
The “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” (an Anglican/Methodist approach to understanding faith) describes four sources in developing theology. The primary source is Scripture, but it is supported by the Tradition of church history, our Reason in thinking and interpreting, and lived out in Experience — the most personal of all forms of support. We could say that someone’s Experience — hearing God’s leading — should be in harmony with what is confirmed by Reason, demonstrated in Tradition and primarily revealed in Scripture.
The voice of the Lord is powerful and awe-inspiring in Psalm 29, but still and small before Elijah. So what would God’s voice be like for us?
Philosopher Dallas Willard notes three qualities by which we can know God’s voice from others.
1-Quality. God’s voice carries substance and makes an impact — bringing peace, inclining us toward ascent and inspiring compliance. 2-Spirit. It is rarely loud, flashy or dramatic. It doesn’t argue, but calmly assures us of itself. 3-Content. Words from God will always conform to God’s nature, God’s Scripture, and his heart as revealed in Christ. God’s voice will never tell you that you’re worthless, encourage you to lie or mislead you about God’s character.
In other words, when a voice consoles us — brings peace, calm, assurance, worship — it’s more likely from God because it draws us toward him. When a voice leaves us desolate — confused, chaotic, anxious — it’s rarely from God because it pulls us away from God.
As we continue our journey as Easter people, stay tuned to God through Scripture, prayer, worship, and faith conversations with others. Listen for God’s voice. Receive God’s peace. Let your own voice be a “living echo of (God’s) tone.”
In Christ+ Pastor Hill