How to Hear God
How to Hear God
When I saw him coming down the street I would cross the road in order to avoid him. I had met him in my first week at university. He had a shiny, smiley face. I had also met one or two others like him who had that same look on their face. It made me very suspicious!
A few months later, I encountered Jesus and discovered that these people’s faces were shining because they had been spending time with Jesus, hearing God speak. Like Moses, when he came down from the mountain after hearing God speak to him, their faces were radiant.
Jesus said that ‘people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Just as we need physical food, so we also need spiritual food. Spiritual food comes from hearing the words of God.
Hear the guidance of GodPsalm 25:8-15
When we try to force our own agenda or strive to do what we want to do, there is a sense of spiritual discomfort. Joyce Meyer uses the analogy of the discomfort that comes from wearing a pair of shoes that don’t fit.
When we are living a life of worship and obedience and following God’s way, he promises that we will be ‘at ease’ (v.13, AMP). That does not mean that life will be easy. But when we start following God’s plans for our lives, it is like finding a pair of shoes that fit comfortably.
Again and again in this psalm we are reminded of how God guides us. He ‘instructs’ (vv.8,12), he ‘guides’ (v.9a), he ‘teaches’ (v.9b), he ‘confides’ in his people (v.14).
- The people he guides
Amazingly, David explains that God’s goodness leads him to want to teach even sinful people; ‘therefore he instructs sinners in his ways’ (v.8). Even though David’s ‘iniquity’ is ‘great’, he knows that he can be forgiven and put right by God (v.11).
Thankfully, you do not need to be perfect in order to hear God’s guidance but you do need an attitude of humility: ‘He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way’ (v.9). ‘God-friendship is for God-worshippers; They are the ones he confides in’ (v.14, MSG).
- The purpose of his guidance
You can be sure that God will only ask you to do ‘what is right’ (v.9a). The test of whether the guidance comes from God is whether what you are being asked to do is ‘loving and faithful’ (v.10a). God will never ask you to do something that is unloving or unfaithful. ‘All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful’ (v.10a).
Lord, I pray for your guidance – that you will instruct, teach and confide in me today.
Hear the word of GodMark 7:1-30
Jesus says that the word of God takes priority over all our traditions (v.8). There is nothing wrong with tradition. Traditions can be very important and valuable. However, tradition should never take precedence over the word of God. Jesus attacks the Pharisees for using tradition to avoid obeying the word of God: ‘You get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions’ (v.9, MSG).
For example, supporting elderly parents can sometimes be inconvenient. It can be tempting to find excuses why we should not need to do so. The Pharisees said it was permissible not to support your parents financially if you had given the money as a gift to God (v.11). Jesus said that in doing this they were disobeying the command to ‘Honour your father and mother’ (v.10a). ‘Thus’, he says, ‘you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down’ (v.13).
The Pharisees honoured God by what they did outwardly (vv.1–5). It is relatively easy to do the right things or even say the right things. We can obey all the rules of the community and yet our hearts can be far away from God (vv.6–8).
God is not so concerned about the outward appearance but about the heart. Jesus says, ‘For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person’ (vv.21–23). These are the things that pollute our lives and spoil our relationship with God.
Jesus says, ‘listen to me’ (v.14). This is the key to life – listening to Jesus.
Jesus goes on to draw out what is in the heart of the Syro-Phoenician woman. As John Calvin put it, Jesus intends ‘not to extinguish the woman’s faith’ by his apparent coldness ‘but rather to whet her zeal and inflame her ardour’.
Jesus came for the Jews first, then the Gentiles (vv.27–29; see Isaiah 49:6; Romans 1:16). The greatness of the woman’s faith is shown by the fact that she not only recognised who he was and his heavenly power, but, as Calvin goes on to say, she ‘pursued her course steadily through formidable opposition’. She is a great example for us of un-cynical and persevering faith.
Lord, thank you for the power of the word of God to challenge the attitudes of my heart. Cleanse my heart today, I pray, and give me a passionate, un-cynical and persevering faith.
Hear the plans of GodExodus 33:7-34:35
You can be a friend of God. Jesus regards those who follow him as his friends (John 15:15). Moses was God’s friend. If it was possible for Moses then, the New Testament tells us, it is possible for you now.
God revealed his plans to Moses. Moses had an extraordinary relationship with God. He would go into the Tent of Meeting to enquire of the Lord. A pillar of cloud would come down ‘while the Lord spoke with Moses’ (Exodus 33:9). ‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (v.11a). This describes the closeness of God to Moses and the immediacy of hearing his voice. Moses prayed, ‘Let me in on your plans’ (v.13, MSG).
It is clear that they were not physically face-to-face (v.20). God’s presence was so glorious and holy that no one could see him face-to-face and live. It is a metaphor denoting very close contact and communion. This is what we need daily; to hear God speak ‘face-to-face’ and grow in our friendship with him.
What Moses wanted more than anything else was the ‘Presence of God’. This is what we all need so much in our lives – his presence and his peace. The Lord promises him, ‘My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest’ (v.14). This is what God promises to you as well.
Moses says, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here’ (v.15). It was the Presence of God that distinguished the people of God from everybody else (v.16b). It is this above all else that distinguishes you from the world around you.
When Moses had spent time in the Presence of the Lord, ‘his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord’ (34:29). This is the background to Paul’s extraordinary words in 2 Corinthians 3. He says that we can enjoy something far greater than Moses experienced.
‘What was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!’ (2 Corinthians 3:10–11).
You can be even bolder than Moses, ‘who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away’ (v.13). Paul writes, ‘Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (vv.16–18).
It is an extraordinary privilege to be involved in the ministry of the Spirit. On every Alpha Weekend we watch people experiencing the presence of God and being filled with the Holy Spirit. I have often noticed the radiance on people’s faces at the end of the weekend. But this is not meant to be a one-off experience that fades like Moses’ radiance.
Through the Holy Spirit you can experience the ‘Presence of God’: ‘Our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him’ (v.18, MSG).
Lord, thank you that you promise, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’ (Exodus 33:14). Help me to hear your voice, speak to you face to face as a friend, to reflect your glory and be transformed into your likeness with ever-increasing glory.
What an extraordinary training it must have been for Joshua. He had the privilege to learn from Moses, the greatest man of God in the Old Testament. It is important to find good Christian role-models who you can learn from and they can help and encourage you on your journey of faith.
Verse of the Day
‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’ (Exodus 33:14).
John Calvin, as quoted by The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary, Ed. C. F. D Moule, (Cambridge University Press, 1957)
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
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Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.