Today many people are clamoring (mostly religious leaders) that they regularly hear the voice of God, and that, through their special relationship, He speaks to them intimately. Not only do they claim to have an intimate relationship with God, but they also insist that He verbally instructs them both in difficult life decisions and in the most simple and mundane tasks; such as selecting a turkey for Thanksgiving. As a result, a tremendous amount of ink has been used in the printing of countless books on “how to hear the voice of God.” The vast majority of these books are an incredible waste of time and money, as they endeavor to instruct readers in various ways to listen for God’s voice outside of the pages of Scripture rather than encouraging them to inductively study the Word of God. Which is to say that they believe that God speaks quite regularly today just as He did to individuals like Abraham and Moses. But is this accurate?
Throughout God’s Word we see several individuals that experience God speaking to them. For instance, Adam and Eve heard the voice of God in the Garden of Eden, Cain heard the voice of God while he was allowing his bitterness to ruminate within him, Noah heard the voice of God instructing him to build the ark, Abraham and Moses both had the opportunity to hear the voice of God on multiple occasions, in which they received instruction to leave pagan environments and to trust in God through a series of trying events which enabled them to witness God’s faithfulness. A handful of others also had the blessed opportunity of hearing God verbally speak to them, and yet, there are far more individuals in Scripture that never heard the voice of God. Which is to say that these individuals (Adam, Cain, Noah, etc.) are the exception, not the standard. This is not to say that God does not lead and guide those that do not hear God’s audible voice, of course He does. But the question then becomes, how? The answer simply is through God’s special written revelation a.k.a. the Scriptures.
For instance, in neither of the books of Esther or Nehemiah do we witness God speaking at all. Not once does Esther claim to hear the word of the Lord come to her, in fact God’s name isn’t even mentioned in the book of Esther, and yet she is still guided along by Biblical truth to make God-honoring decisions. Furthermore, the prophet Nehemiah never claims to have heard the voice of God. That’s right, a prophet of God that never once mentions hearing God speak to him. Does that mean that God is not in these books? No, of course God is in these books. God wrote these books through the leading of His Holy Spirit. Does this mean that God does not love Esther, Nehemiah and the countless others that never heard God speak to them as much as those that did hear the voice of God? Does it mean that Esther and Nehemiah did not have the faith of Abraham and Moses? The answer to both of these questions is: absolutely not. The standard way for God’s people to hear His voice is not through His speaking audibly from Heaven, but through the Scriptures; the authoritative Word of God. This is especially true for today, as we have in our possession the complete revelation of the Bible. It is solely through the closed canon of Scripture that God speaks today. There simply is no need for God to verbally speak to anyone when He has given to us all that we need to know in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation God has spoken to His creation and He is presently illuminating the truths therein which serve to guide His people. Hebrews 4:12 states:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Some will say that what God says today is still important just not as important as the Word of God. But here is the thing, God cannot speak less authoritatively on one matter than another. All of God’s words are equally authoritative. If God tells Moses to go demand that Pharaoh release His people from bondage, and then tells you to go to Walmart to buy a 24 pound turkey, both of those statements are as equally authoritative because God said them. Can you see how ridiculous it is to say that God spoke a word to you? If someone claims that God gave them a word, they are essentially adding to Scripture whether they see it that way or not. To say that God told you something is to claim that there is more to be added to the Word of God. Here’s the problem with that, Revelation 22:18–19 states of God’s Word:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
Today numerous false teachers want you to believe that God is presently speaking to you things that are outside the Word of God. They want you to believe that God will give you direction for your life, not through the pages of Scripture, but some supernatural, extra-biblical (outside of the bible) revelation. And why? Because they want to fool you into believing that God speaks to them in ways which are contradictory to Scripture. For instance, the health and wealth prosperity preachers are notorious for claiming that God personally speaks to them. Wealth is their idol, and seeing as how there is not a single passage in Scripture which can justify their obsession with material gain, these gnostic self-proclaimed soothsayers have to say that God spoke to them to justify their sinful indulgences. 2 Peter 2:1-3 states:
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."
The Apostle John also warns against false teachers which promote and propagate their false revelations from God in 1 John 4:1 which states:
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."
How does one “test the spirits to see whether they are from God?” Through the clear authoritative Word of God. When the Apostle Paul was instructing Timothy, a young Pastor, to shepherd God’s sheep he tells him in 1 Timothy 6:20-21:
"O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith."
Furthermore he states in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
In a sinful and fallen world, where people are starving for self-worth while battling with depression and anxiety it is easy to be led away from the hard but necessary truths of Scripture. The Word of God declares that the human race is sinfully rebellious, and that it is only through the power of the gospel that life is transformed. It is the gospel message of dying to self and living as Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the believer that one can have the peace of God.
The desire of God’s people ought not to be to hear some special revelation from God so that we might feel significant, but our desire ought to be a devotion to bringing Him honor and glory and knowing that our significance is found in that very task.
The prophet Nehemiah did not plead with God to speak to him while he was mourning his captivity, rather he cried out to God in Nehemiah 1:5-11:
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Nehemiah was not looking for some “fresh revelation” from God, he was repenting of sin and standing on the authority of God’s Holy Word. The vast majority of those today that wish to “hear from God” are those that are not satisfied with the Word of God. For instance, one of the most popular Christian books today is a small devotional entitled Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This book is the result of a woman who was dissatisfied with hearing from God through the Bible and wanted more. In this work Young claims to have received revelations from Jesus through dialogue journaling (something she learned from the authors of a book entitled God Calling). Young states in response to the authors of God Calling, “I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more…” If you have ever read Jesus Calling then you are well aware that Young writes her book as if Jesus is speaking messages directly to the reader. This is nothing short of blasphemy as she is essentially writing new scripture.
In closing, is God speaking today? Yes, He most certainly is speaking through the pages of His Holy Word. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, once said, “No one ever outgrows the Scriptures. The Book widens and deepens with our years.” If you want to hear the voice of God, read and study the Bible, for if it cannot be found in the 66 books of the Bible, you can rest assured that God did not say it. In the words of Justin Peters “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read it out loud.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.