Hearing from God
I didn’t tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem. – Nehemiah 2:12
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,
29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
21st-century research suggests that good communication is often the foundation of a good relationship. Good communication enhances relationships. But it is not a panacea. Dr. John Gottman, a clinical psychologist and the founder of the Gottman Institute, has observed that a couple’s communication pattern can predict a successful relationship and marriage. (Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).
The epicenter of our Christian experience is intended to be our personal relationship with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. All children of the King are invited to know and experience the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Any barriers or chasms between them and us have been eliminated through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ begins we hear His voice and respond in faith by coming to Him.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.
However, “hearing the word from God” is often inherently cause for concern. Why is this so? There are many competing voices in the spiritual world. How can we be sure that the voice we hear is indeed from the Father?
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because there are many false prophets in the world.
Regrettably, we have more than our share of “enlightened masters,” gurus, and the new super spirituality of the church of Oprah. When we seek to hear from the Father, we must make sure that it’s His voice we are hearing and not our own thoughts or someone else’s ideas.
So how can we know when God is speaking? We have clear and concise guidelines. “God’s voice is always consistent with His Word. Any message must agree with what the Lord has already said in the Scriptures. His voice is quiet. God speaks to our hearts through His Holy Spirit in an inaudible but compelling way. The Lord speaks clearly. If we’ll tune our hearts to Him by setting aside time to read His Word and listen for His Spirit to speak, He will give us clear guidance” (Stanley).
REFLECT & PRAY
Psalms 37:5 Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
Father I long to hear your voice and follow. Keep my heart open and responsive. Remind me not to draw attention to myself but rather to you.
Some definitions are helpful.
Inspiration – In modern English, we use the term “inspiration” in two entirely different ways. First, “inspired” has the sense Of being “fired up,” motivated. People are inspired, and this type of inspiration moves or animates our minds, emotions, or wills. Biblical inspiration is quite different.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
Paul teaches that the Scriptures are the inspired work or product of God. Paul focuses on the Bible, which is inspired, not the Father’s people used to write it.
The Greek word translated as inspired is theopneustos. Theopneustos literally means inspired by God or God-breathed. Theopneustos is made up of theos – God + pneo – to breathe.
Illumination – There are times when we read the Scriptures that “God speaks to us.” It is as though what we read was written just for us at that moment in our lives. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He came to help us to understand the Scriptures.
John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.
Revelation – Revelation is “God’s disclosure of Himself.” In a technical sense, revelation is disclosing information not previously known or known only to God. The Bible is the revelation of God to man, par excellence.
2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,
21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
There is a common thread for each revelation found in the Scriptures, regardless of the means or method by which it came. It was a personal communication from the Father to the individual that received it. The nature of this personal interaction between the Father and people is explained and defined in a rather unlikely place, the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a man with a mission, a calling from God to restore the defenses of Jerusalem and boost the morale of the returning exiles. Nehemiah writes,
Nehemiah 2:12 I didn’t tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem.
Nehemiah states that the Father laid/put on his heart what He wanted him to do. The Father was directing or guiding his path in a very specific fashion. This is the essential core, the baseline, of what it means to listen to God. The Father wishes to communicate with us. When He does, He places thoughts, ideas, feelings, and even plans into our minds and hearts.
“Nehemiah felt that God had put into his heart what he had planned . . . He felt that he was led by God to what he was to do. God ‘had inspired’ (GNT) him, ‘was prompting’ (NEB) him, or ‘had put the thoughts into his heart about what he should do” (UBS).
This verse provides the what and the Who, but not the how. “What my God had put in my heart is a translation that veils the process by which an inspired plan was developing in Nehemiah’s mind” (Schoville).
“The immediacy of the action expressed by a present participle, ‘what my God was prompting me to do.’ He was forming the plan in his mind as he went, convinced that his thoughts were being framed by God” (Williamson).
The Hebrew word translated as laid or put is nathan. Nathan primarily means to give, put, set, or set up. Nathan marks the act, which sets something in motion.
To complete the task of rebuilding would take extraordinary leadership, confidence, and determination. “Nehemiah was to face many problems and much opposition, but his sense of divine direction would give him confidence. He was humbly aware that it was God who had entrusted the project to him and would give him the wisdom by which it would be accomplished (Breneman).”
What does this imply? “This suggests that God leads people step-by-step as they respond in obedience to earlier directions. He guides them as they understand the circumstances and face the dilemmas of each new challenge” (Smith).
When we “hear from God,” we run the not-so-subtle enticement to draw attention to ourselves and not to the Father who was behind the message. Nehemiah, however, stipulates quite clearly that “the project was not his. It was from God and ‘for Jerusalem’ – not from Nehemiah nor for his prestige” (Kidner).
To hear from the Father and follow Him requires a soft and open heart.
Hebrews 4:7 Today, when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
© Dr. H 2022