A friend told me about an experience she had recently of hearing the voice of God. Not through reading His Word. Not in reflection through prayer. Not through godly counsel or the wisdom of the church. Not through life’s circumstances. No, she was in a movie theatre lobby when God told her to approach a group of teens and share her testimony with them. So she did.
I was musing on my friend’s experience when I read Jeremiah 7:23-24: “But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts.”
The prophet equates inclining your ear to God with obedience. Surely, there are times when I do not hear the voice of God because I am humming loudly with my fingers in my ears. Yet even when I desire to follow God, when I am listening for his voice, when I am willing to obey, I often am left with no clear word. And when I do hear a still small voice, I can’t be certain whether it is from God, from myself, or from the enemy.
When I was in high school, I went with my parents on a tour of several Christian universities. We visited Lipscomb, Harding, Abilene Christian and Oklahoma Christian in one week’s time. On the road back to our home in Cincinnati, I was driving late in the night praying for God’s guidance in this decision. As I prayed, a song came on the radio: “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever seen….” I took it as a word from the Lord. My brother was skeptical, pointing out that I was, after all, listening to a country radio station, the song is actually about Abilene-Kansas-not-Texas, and there is no song about Searcy. All valid points, I conceded, but I went to ACU anyway.
My desire to hear the voice of God actually began much earlier. One of my favorite Bible stories growing up was about the boy Samuel who, while serving in the House of the Lord, heard God calling to him in the night and mistook it for the voice of Eli. The third time Samuel went to Eli, the priest instructed him to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3:1-21)
Isaiah 30:21 talks about a time when the people of Zion would repent and turn back to him. He gave them this assurance that he would be with them: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Jesus makes a similar promise, saying, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). How I long for that security, to live with the assurance that I am walking in the will and way of God! Yet so often I live with uncertainty.
After some reflection, I have decided that inclining your ear to God involves many things. First, reading his word to better know His heart. Second, obeying His clear commands in scripture. Third, praying for the Spirit’s guidance when the way seems unclear. Fourth, seeking wisdom through godly counsel. Fifth, embracing uncertainty—which I am now realizing is not the opposite of faith, but rather a condition of it. And sixth, stepping out in faith to obey.
Heard any whispers lately?