Fireworks or Faith: Finding the Still, Small Voice of God
How do we define the “still, small voice of God?” This particular phrase is reminiscent of the scene where the prophet Elijah said that God appeared to him not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12) The adjectives can also mean a gentle whisper. The quiet whisper we receive will definitely reflect His personality and will be identifiable to us. This holy communion from Spirit to human spirit becomes the “candle of the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:27)
Many believe the Spirit-led life is full of heavenly fireworks-dramatic visions and revelations. God can absolutely work in this way. But many believe that such misconceptions have caused widespread confusion and mistrust. In dispelling these mistaken beliefs, there must be balance. God Himself is “light” (1 John 1:5) and we are His “children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) Paul teaches us that we are “saints in light.” (Col. 1:12) We should not discard the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit because of satanic counterfeits.
The presence of God speaking in our lives, or the “still, small voice,” is God’s most frequently utilized method of revealing His plans and purposes to us. When we walk in spiritual maturity in intimacy with our Creator, He will reveal the reality of His kingdom to us and through us. Let’s examine some of the Divine encounters recorded in Scripture. God spoke to and through His people in countless ways. Because we are His children, we are no different from these biblical heroes. We should live every day believing that God could act in our daily existence no differently than He would in their experiences. Even great men of faith like Moses and Gideon struggled with insecurity and wondered how God could use someone like them. Occasionally our Father may knock us down to the ground like Saul or show us a burning bush like Moses. (Exodus 3:3) However, one thing is sure. God promises to be found by those who seek Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Let’s explore the biblical accounts of men and women who heard God speak: a supernatural manifestation accompanied by God’s voice, a Divine messenger or angel, visions and dreams, an audible voice, a human voice or the “still small voice” of God’s Holy Spirit to the human spirit.
The first is the miraculous manifestation of the Divine accompanied by His Word. When God’s fiery blaze burned up Abraham’s sacrifice and Jehovah pledged to the patriarch to bless him and multiply his seed, we see the miraculous demonstration of God’s fire in conjunction with His Word of promise. (Genesis 15:7-8) Moses’ flaming bush that would not be consumed (Exodus 3:3-6), Ezekiel’s mesmerizing wheels in the sky (Ezekiel 1-2) and the opening of the sky at Christ’s baptism (Matthew 3:17) are all such instances of the numinous combined with God’s spoken Word.
God often spoke through angels in Scripture. An angel is simply a heavenly messenger on a mission from the Lord to deliver His Word. These divine messengers do not always reveal who they are-some are called the “angel of the Lord.” The divine messengers at the trees of Mamre (Genesis 18) and the emissaries who warned Lot (Genesis 19) are Old Testament examples of angels who spoke blessings and warned of impending judgment. God’s messages through angels are so numerous, that I can simply list a few: Balaam, Gideon, Samson’s parents, Daniel, Joseph, the father of Jesus, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, Mary, the women who came to Jesus’ tomb on resurrection morning, Peter and Paul.
Dreams and visions were also the means that God used to speak to His children. They were given to people while awake or asleep and occasionally occurred with a trance-like state. The dreams God gave to Bible characters often needed to be explained by another. Gustave Oehler writes that “…the principle that a clear consciousness when receiving revelation is placed higher than ecstasy or other abnormal states of mind.” This is an essential precept to consider when we evaluate our own experiences with God and His speaking to us.
God, in the historical accounts in Scripture, has also spoken through an audible voice. When Father Abraham raised the knife to kill Isaac, God intervened by speaking to him directly. (Genesis 22:11-12; 15-18) The clearest, simplest picture of God speaking in a voice that could be heard is the story of little Samuel. The little boy was sleeping quietly in the Temple when God spoke to him. In 1 Samuel 3:9-10, the priest Eli instructed his young assistant to respond to Jehovah with the words, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Young Samuel began a remarkable career as a prophet because of his ability to hear and respond to God’s voice.
The human voice is obviously one of God’s primary means of speaking to us. God speaks through human beings. The Lord and the person He chooses to use speak “conjointly.” We can say that God speaks through us as long as this is not understood as automatically ruling out our speaking with God and even through God.
Samuel Shoemaker describes this phenomenon in this way:
“Something comes into our own energies and capacities and expands them. We are laid hold of by Something greater than ourselves. We can face things, create things, accomplish things, that in our own strength would have been impossible….The Holy Spirit seems to mix and mingle His power with our own, so that what happens is both a heightening of our own powers, and a gift to us from outside.”
In our weakness and inadequacy God uses us, just as Moses and Paul admitted their inadequacy as being spokesman for God. As Paul confessed, “I did not come proclaiming Christ with lofty words of wisdom, but in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
The last method through which God speaks to us is Holy Spirit to human spirit. I believe this is the principle way that God speaks to us. This is such a fitting way for God to reveal Himself because this is in line with Divine redemptive intentions. It most engages the faculties of free, intelligent beings involved in the work of God as his co-laborers and friends.
Russ Johnston, in his book Knowing the Will of God, emphasizes how significant recurring thoughts are in the Heavenly Father’s communication with His children:
“We would see wonderful results if we would just deal with the thoughts that continue in our minds in a godly manner. But most people don’t….As thoughts come into your mind and continue, ask God, ‘Do you really want me (or us) to do this?’ Most of use just let those thought collapse—and God looks for someone else to stand in the gap.”
Paul teaches us in Romans 12:2 that we do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we are surrendered to the Lord should be treated as if God were walking through one’s personality with a candle, showing us different parts of our “home.” As we become used to the idea that God is eager to lead and help us, that He wants to guide, teach and correct our course for our welfare, and to comfort, bless and love us, then we can pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)
Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (Downer’s Grove, Ill. InterVarsity Press, 1999), pp. 87-102.
Gustave Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, n.d.), p. 143.
Russ Johnston, How to Know the Will of God (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1971), p. 13.
Samuel Shoemaker, With the Holy Spirit and with Fire (New York: Harper & Row, 1960), p. 27.