Hearing God’s Voice
Judges 6:21-23, “…Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, he said, ‘Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.'”
Wow!!! What a monumental change in just a matter of minutes!!! With regard to the text it happens so quickly that for years I simply read over it. Didn’t even begin to notice what a landmark event had just occurred in the life of Gideon. It’s actually one of the major hinge points on which the rest of this story will turn. Up until verse 23 Gideon had been speaking with the Lord face to face. Their communication had been entirely visible, the same as anything that any of us would experience in our daily interactions with other people. Gideon saw the angel of the Lord. Gideon heard him speaking. But Gideon also saw him speaking. But then in verse 22 the angel of the Lord vanishes. And for the very first time Gideon hears God’s voice apart from a visible manifestation. Look at it in verse 23. “The Lord said to him,…” The angel had left but God was still speaking. More importantly for us, Gideon was still hearing His voice.
“The Lord said to him,…” I cannot begin to explain the importance of that statement for Gideon. That phrase will appear 7 more times in the text in the days leading up to the battle. In Gideon’s life the voice of God would become increasingly specific as God spoke to him on a variety of topics ranging from the destruction of his father’s idols to the reduction of Israel’s army. Repeatedly, the Lord would speak to Gideon. So much so that it almost became commonplace. Words of comfort. Words of instruction. Words of direction and guidance. Always they were straightforward and simple without any ambiguity. For Gideon there was apparently never any question regarding the source. Gideon heard God’s voice and he responded accordingly in faith and obedience.
So, how do we explain this ability to hear God’s voice? More importantly, how do we relate it to our own present circumstances and need? I imagine that every last one of us would love to hear from God with such clarity. Surely, I’m not the only one who is longing for such a concise word from God? I want to take just a minute to make two brief observations about Gideon and his ability to hear God’s voice. Hopefully, these simple points will serve as a source of help and encouragement for each of us as we seek to develop our ability to hear and discern the voice of God in our own lives.
- Familiarity. Gideon recognized God’s voice because he had just spent time in close fellowship with Him. Bottom line? Most of us just don’t spend enough time with God. Apart from an hour on Sunday morning we have very little interaction with Him during the week. 20 years of walking with the Lord have taught me that there is a direct correlation between time spent in His presence and the ability to hear His voice. Longing to hear Him speak to you with greater frequency and clarity? Start by spending more quantity time in His word and in prayer. Too often we treat God like a stranger and then complain that He seems distant.
- Faith. Gideon had to walk in faith. He had few precedents and even fewer people to confirm what he was “hearing.” There was no Bible available to him as we currently understand it. His parents and friends? He couldn’t ask for their counsel. They were all idol worshippers. At some point Gideon had to just accept God’s words in faith and then respond in obedience. It’s really not that different for us. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. And as long as we live on this side of eternity there will always be that sense in which we will have to walk by faith. Yes, there will be times when you will wonder if it was really Him. But eventually we have to believe that He is able to work all things together for the good… even those times when we get it completely wrong.
Familiarity and faith. Yes, I know there is much more to hearing the voice of God. If you are interested, there are entire books that have been written on the subject. Because of limited space I can only focus on the two things that proved to be crucial for Gideon. The voice of God became familiar to Gideon because he walked with God and because he talked with God. Their dialogues in Judges read like any normal conversation. Secondly Gideon put his faith in God. He believed that God wanted to speak with him and that God would speak to him. Those two things became the basis from which Gideon developed the ability to hear and discern God’s voice. The same holds true for each of us. We have made hearing God’s voice too mystical, too difficult. He is our Father, one that loves and longs to speak with His children. Spend time with Him. Become familiar with His voice. And then, step out in faith when He speaks. God is speaking. All the time. We just need to learn to listen.