How to recognize God's voice

Bible Issues

At no point in history was God ever silent. God has always communicated with his people in some way or another. We can be rest assured that if God wants something said, it will be heard. It thus behooves us not to determine whether God speaks today, but how He does it.

How God Spoke in the Bible

The Old Testament

In the OT God spoke to his people through his chosen prophets. Whenever the King wanted to know something, he would request that the prophet consult God. God used a diversity of means to communicate with his prophets. Sometimes he did so through dreams, visions, an audible voice, an antiphony etc. There were also occasions when the Bible just stated that God spoke to a prophet without saying how. All we know is that however God did it, it was unmistakable. There was no doubt in the mind of the prophet or his audience that God had indeed spoken through him. The only exceptions were those who had political reasons not to hear God’s prophets. But the bottom line is that there was no formula to dictate how God spoke, and neither is there any today.

The New Testament

In the NT, God has spoken to us through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2). Afterward he continued to speak through the apostles. The was recognized by the early believers who continued in the apostles doctrine (Acts 2:14). Jesus had promised his apostles that there were things he could not reveal to them at the time he was on earth, but would do so later through the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15). There really is not a vast record in the Bible of God speaking to the average citizen X in a direct manner. Most of God’s speaking as recorded in the Bible pertains to the plan of salvation – from the formation of Israel to the establishment of the church.

The Inter-Testamental Period

There was a period of about 400 years between Malachi and Matthew in which there were no prophets. This is called the inter-testamental period. So how did God speak during those times?

The Jews had canonized the writings of the Prophets and had a complete list of OT writings. They studied it. They memorized it. They taught it to their children. There was a great awareness of the written Word of God during Jesus’ time on earth. In the absence of a prophetic voice, the people turned to the written word for divine insight. In fact, in Proverbs 29:18, where there is no vision the people perish, the vision was referring to the written word of God (in context).


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How God Speaks Now

We can learn a lot from the people of God who lived during the Inter-Testamental period. They no longer had prophets running around prophesying to them. Similarly today, the vast vast vast majority of those who call themselves apostles and prophets are fakes. Yes that's what I said.

Just as they turned to the word of God during such times, so should we. There are numerous passages which employ a present continuing tense when citing other scripture (Matt. 22:43; Acts 2:17; 7:48; 8:34; Rom. 10:11-21; 15:12). God speaks to us (present tense) through his Word. In the Word, we find his thoughts and ideas, and as we study it and meditate on it, they become ingrained in us. We no longer need a voice, we have God’s mind. The Holy Spirit helps us in this regard, to remember the word and apply it when we need it. Sometimes he causes certain scriptures to stand out at particular times. This is how God speaks to us today. God thinks to us.

But Don't We Have the Holy Spirit?

Many think that because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, we hear directly from the throne room of God. This is not true. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit brings the word back to our remembrance (John 14:26). Yes the Holy Spirit speaks to us, but not in a vacuum. He speaks to us through the Word.

Some preachers use the Holy Spirit to justify the most bizarre of revelations. How I wish the average charismatic Christian could develop just half a brain so they can see through some of their fallacious and malicious leaders. Here are the exact words of one of Benny Hinn’s “revelations”:

When questioned about these statements, Hinn conceded, “That was a very dumb statement…. I told my church the very next week that the statement was wrong.” So was it the Holy Spirit who give him that dumb revelation? Hinn acknowledged that God had nothing to do with his revelation, rather it was something he had read somewhere.

I give this example not to say that Benny Hinn is of the devil or that he will never change, but much of what people claim were revealed to them by God, may very well have been something that they heard or read previously and was stored in their subconscious. Others use the “voice of God” conveniently to manipulate others or outdo fellow ministers. Then again much of what happens in charismatic circles is a spectacle designed to educe applause from the crowds, which they call anointing.

A Bible school student once asked me for advice concerning God’s plan to provide her with a husband. I instructed her that there was no scripture in the Bible where God made any such definite promise to every individual believer. God promised to give us guidance but finding a spouse is our job. “No” she interrupted, “God revealed this to me personally.” I then cautioned her to be sure it was really God who revealed that and not her imaginations playing tricks on her.

Now it was very possible that God did reveal this to her, but I know so many people in her situation who were mistaken in that regard. Does the "little voice inside" always tell us exactly what we want to hear? If it did, wouldn't that suggest it is the voice of the flesh rather than God?

Jeremiah lived at a time when there were many false prophets telling the people that there was no danger, God would grant them peace (Jer 14:13,14). On one particular occasion, the false prophet Hananiah prophesied that God would deliver Israel from the Babylonians, and everyone loved his message. Even the prophet Jeremiah said, amen. But after he left, God revealed to him that Hananiah had prophesied a lie (Jer 28). The word of Hananiah had contradicted the written word of God, which clearly stated that if the people rebelled against God, God would deliver them into the hands of their enemies (Deut 28:25). God does not always tell us what we want to hear. Very often God tells us the exact opposite of what we want. One sure way of knowing that a voice is not God's, is when it says everything that everyone wants to hear, especially the sinners in Zion (Isa 33:14).

We often look for God to move in an out of the ordinary manner. We often miss the supernatural looking for the spectacular. God speaks to us today through His written Word. We must read it, study it, meditate on it. When we do so, logically we learn more of His mind. Then the Holy Spirit makes that Word applicable to us at the right times.


The condition of many Charismatics today is epitomized by their misinterpretation of Proverbs 29:18 – “where there is no vision the people perish: but he who keeps the law, happy is he.” They think they need to see some elaborate vision or they would perish. But the term “no vision” is contrasted with “keeping the law” in the second half of the verse. It is obvious that the vision spoken of is an enlightenment of God’s written Word. That is how God speaks to us today.

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Are apostles and prophets still for the church today?

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© 2002 Denver Cheddie

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