On vacation this summer I read a novel called Betrayal. It is a novel about the great French reformer John Calvin (whose 500th birthday is this year.) The novel is written from the perspective of a contemporary of Calvin, Jean-Louis, who had a life long hatred of him. One of my favorite parts of the book is at the beginning. Jean-Louis and another boy hide in a tree knowing that Calvin often comes to the river bank to pray. They want to play a trick on Calvin. When Calvin arrives, Jean-Louis, rolling a piece of leather into a cone and “making my voice sound as far off and bishop like as I could manage” begins to speak out words like I have heard your signings and You are a chosen vessel set apart to serve me. The want to trick and humiliate Calvin. But Calvin is not fooled and walks away. The dialogue continues:
“That did not go so well,” said Martin, his eyes following the disappearing figure. “I am not sure that you got God’s voice precisely as it is.”
I turned on him. “And you know what God’s voice sounds like?” I growled.
“I do not,” he admitted. “But Calvin seems to.”
What a wonderful imagine – Calvin knew the voice of God and so when a rival or even false voice sounded he knew that it was false.
Which begs the question, do we know the voice of God that well? Can we distinguish what is God’s voice and what is not God’s voice?
The Bible is full of exhortations to obey the voice of the Lord – Exodus 23 – Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice, Deut 13 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, Deut 30 – loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, John 10 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice and John 18 Everyone who is of the truth listens to my (Jesus) voice.
This is just a tiny sample of the some of the verses in scripture. We are to be a people who can hear the voice of the Lord, both personally and as a community. How do we learn what the voice of the Lord sounds like? Through his word, the scriptures. As we read the Bible we learn about his character, his promises, what he asks of us and what he dislikes, and how he wants us to live and how we can be in his presence. Through reading ABOUT God and how God deals with humanity we begin to understand something of the character of God. But if we leave it there we simply have a detached knowledge about God. Prayer draws us from knowing ABOUT God to KNOWING God personally and intimately. When we spend time praying to him, talking with him, we will begin to cultivate a living relationship with him, giving God the opportunity to speak to us. It’s the combination of knowing what the Bible teaches and our own times of speaking with the Lord that helps us to learn to know and recognize his voice.
John 10:4 who When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.