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HEAR: The Voice of God

HEAR: The Voice of God

At thirteen, I attended a Jewish friend’s bar mitzvah. It was a joyous occasion with an elaborate feast following the ceremony. Though outwardly extravagant, the bar mitzvah signified the coming of age for this adolescent. He was now a full-fledged member of the Jewish community, with all the privileges and responsibilities that came with it.

In Hebrew, bar mitzvah means “son of commandment.” As one subject to the law, my friend was now obligated to observe the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. He studied diligently, memorizing significant parts of the law in the weeks and years prior to that day. At the ceremony, he read from the written Torah while also giving an oratory discourse on the law.

Since the time of the patriarchs, the oral Torah was passed down from generation to generation before finally being written down. For Jews, listening to the law was vital to committing it to memory. They listened to every statute, law, and legal interpretation with keen ears. Not only did the Jews hear the law but also they were subject to it.

In the Old Testament, God appears as a burning bush, a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. While revealing Himself, He speaks to Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and Moses. Though not always seen, God is heard by those He speaks to.

Sometimes God’s followers responded with an abundance of faith. On other occasions, they disregarded His voice. In Genesis 2:17, God instructs Adam not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet Adam and Eve cannot resist the allure of that fruit. Their cardinal sin leads to the fall of humanity.

In Exodus 3 and 33, God speaks directly to Moses. Having seen the misery of His people in Egypt, He calls Moses to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh. At first, Moses is reluctant to obey. He offers various excuses, vehemently protesting his calling.

As the Lord’s anger rises, Moses finally responds in faith. He leads the Israelites from exile to freedom. Though he never entered the promised land, it is extraordinary to witness the transformation of his relationship with God. Early on, Moses is distant and afraid to encounter the living God. But in his final years, he listens to God’s voice as if speaking to a friend (Exodus 33:11).

Similarly, Abraham responds in faith each time he hears God’s voice. When the Lord calls him to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering, he does so without hesitation. Abraham carries forth the command that most of us would never think of doing in faith. Because of this, the Lord blesses him and promises him offspring as numerous as the stars in Heaven and the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17).

Throughout the Scriptures, hearing is instrumental to faith. Only when we hear the voice of God can our lives be transformed.

John compares the people of God to sheep who recognize their shepherd when He speaks (John 10:27). For him,

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. — John 8:47

Yet when God speaks, we don’t always recognize His voice. Even the prophet Samuel heard God’s words as a boy and yet did not recognize Him. When the Lord calls him, Samuel runs to the priest Eli and says, “Here I am, for you called me.” Yet it is not Eli who calls. God speaks to Samuel three times before Eli instructs Samuel that God is calling him (1 Samuel 3:1–10).

How can we differentiate God’s voice from the world’s chatter? The first step is pursuing God with our whole hearts. The Lord shares this simple truth in Jeremiah 29:13:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

  • Only the greatest of devotion allows us to hear and understand the longings of loved ones.

Second, we must renew our minds. In Romans 12:2, Paul urges us,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Sometimes God speaks through audible words that vibrate the tympanic membranes and hair cells in our inner ears. At other times, he communicates directly to our minds through the Holy Spirit. When we constantly renew our minds with the Word of God, we develop the psyche of Christ.

Finally, we need to set aside time to listen to God.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. — 1 Peter 3:12

By devoting time to prayer, we prepare our senses to receive the Lord’s communication. Listening leads to the expectation of response. In those moments, we become friends of God, like Moses.

Excerpted with permission from Faith Embodied by Stephen Ko, copyright Stephen Chii-Ming Ko.

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Your Turn

Do you want to be a friend of God and known by others as a friend of God? You can! Pursue God with your whole heart, renew your mind by the Word of God, and set time aside just for Him! ~ Devotionals Daily