As I told you in the last Nugget, I am nearing the end of this series on Hearing God’s Voice. I found it interesting that during this last week I had covered the next 100 Gems, working my way through the past Gems I have written and edited them to fit the format and features of the new website. I am closing in on the completion of this task. But as you know from what I sent out a few days ago, I came across the Gem I had written on the Holy Spirit’s guidance of Phillip during his encounter with the Ethiopian Finance Minister under Queen Candace (or Kandake) – Bible Gem 1501 – Holy Spirit Guidance and Philip’s Transport (Acts 8:27, 29, 39-40). I had already chosen a different Gem to share out of the 100 Gems I had covered, related to Stephen’s Speech but once reading Gem 1501 I knew I had to choose that one. It fitted this series of Nuggets so well. I will investigate for you the matter of how we “hear” God’s voice. Is it an audible voice or is it a voice in our head, strong thoughts which come to mind? And how pray tell, do we differentiate those thoughts in our head from our own thoughts? Most of us struggle with knowing the difference between God’s voice or God’s thoughts or principles and our own thoughts, will or intentions. Help me Lord gain understanding in this maze of confusion.
I have shared my two experiences of hearing the audible voice of God in the last Nugget (HGV 16). I deliberately held those two experiences back until the end of the series. It is rare that one hears the audible voice of God. Most of us would say we have never heard the audible voice of God. At best we might have a strong voice or thoughts in our head which we imagine come from God or perhaps that’s our own thoughts. Therein lies the dilemma for all of us. Over the 47 years since I became a Christ Follower, a Christian, a believer in Jesus being the promised Messiah of God, I have only heard the audible voice of God twice. I told you about both occasions in the last Nugget. I have been a Christian 47 years. It was my spiritual birthday (my born again anniversary) on Wednesday last week. 47 years since God gave me the privilege of becoming a child of His on the 19th of August 1973. In all that time I have heard the audible voice of God twice. Do you understand what I am emphasizing here? If we were dependent on God speaking in an audible voice we would all be in trouble. It is rare that God speaks that way.
God speaks in many different ways (Hebrews 1:1). Many of which I have listed and or explained in this series, taken from my own experience of how God has led Tania and I over these 47 years. I have just two more experiences to share. One is my own and the other is the experience of a dear friend. These two will be the last experiences I share with you in this series. Following this Nugget I will sum it all up for you. Feel free to ask any questions or explanation you like if you think I have omitted something or if you would like further clarification. I try to make the Gems and Nuggets as practical as possible as well as being biblically based.
In the Gem I sent to those of who receive the Gems direct by email I wrote:
How did Philip know to go to Gaza? Quite simply Philip was told by angel to go south by way of the desert road to Gaza. – “As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” We are not told exactly how the angel spoke to Philip but it seems he heard or perceived words including the clear information within. But those words could have been delivered inwardly, perceived by Philip within his head or heart or they could have been via an audible voice as one normally hears speech. We are not told which.
What I wrote in Gem 1501 was a response to the questions from two readers:
- How can we tell if we are talking with the Holy Spirit or the angel of the Lord?
- Is one more important than the other?
- Should I pay more attention to the Holy Spirit than I should to the angel of the Lord? Does it even matter?
How do we distinguish God’s voice from that of an angel, or a word from the Holy Spirit or from the voices inside our own head, i.e. our own thoughts. Is it audibly as one person speaks to another or does the communication take place in our minds and it seems as though God talks to us but no one else standing nearby would have heard anything?
I wrote in Gem 1501 that I had not entered into a discussion of the difference between these two ways God could speak. I offered the readers of the Gems the option of asking more questions or seeking clarification back when the Gems on Acts were live and interactive. I am now offering you via the Nuggets the same opportunity if there are questions you have that I haven’t covered in either Gems or Nuggets.
I want to share with you now my final two personal experiences for this series.
When I was teaching high school in the seventies and early eighties, as a Social Studies teacher to the junior school, a part of the curriculum in that last subject concerned units on Social Control and Social Change. There were set units to teach on Victorian England, South Africa under Apartheid which introduced the idea of how societies are controlled. These units were coupled later in the course with how social change occurs. I developed some of my own units within the overall course related to mass media, music and advertising as a medium for social change. The students loved investigating their own music they listened to in order to gain an understanding of how change occurs. Among other things we looked at repetition (sound familiar), subliminal messages and even backward masking when it was revealed and much talked about.
When I was at Bible College in 1982 and 1983 I ended up giving a presentation on some of the ideas from the music unit I taught at school to the youth of a church where we were assigned as a team for an evangelism week. They loved it. Soon after Brian Winslade, who was the Director of Baptist Youth in NZ, asked me if I would share that same material I had shared during evangelism week at the Baptist Youth meeting in Auckland and they would video it. So I duly went off from Bible College to share what I had shared with the youth of the one church with a Baptist Youth gathering. It was awful! It didn’t go well at all. There were some glitches with the technology and other minor things but basically I did not feel the Holy Spirit with me that night as I had felt Him there on the previous time I shared the material. I just felt that God was not with me that night. All the way back home in the car to BCNZ I was disturbed in my spirit and asking God what happened? Why didn’t I feel His Presence? What went wrong? The difference between the two meetings where I had essentially shared the same things were light years apart.
When I got home late that night I went straight to bed but found it hard to sleep. I was tossing and turning and still troubled and thinking about the outcome that night. Going over in my head aspects of the evening and talking to God about it in my head so as not to disturb Tania. After an hour or more of this the words maher shalal hash baz popped into my head. Not once, not just for a few minutes but to the extent where I couldn’t stop those words repeating over and over in my brain. I tried to shut it out. I tried to substitute the words with something else. Singing a song in my head so as not to wake Tania, praying about other things. Anything to get my mind off those crazy words.
- You might ask, “Why were you thinking nonsense words Ian?”
- “Where did these words come from?”
- “Was this just gibberish or were these words related to something?”
Oh I knew exactly where these words came from. You will find the words “Maher Shalal Hash Baz” in your Bible in Isaiah 8:1. Maher Shalal Hash Baz was the name of Isaiah’s second son. You may ask why on earth was that name in your mind at that time? That’s exactly what I was asking too. God, why am I thinking of that name? Why can’t I stop thinking about that name which has just popped into my mind? These four words were not at all like “isopsethia”, a word that I had never heard before. I knew immediately where these words came from. My mind is filled with Bible trivia like that. I was asking God why am I thinking about Isaiah’s second son? I just want to go to sleep now. Suddenly I heard the words “Get up! Go into the lounge. I want to talk to you.” I wrote it that way I heard the words intentionally. Because that is what we Christians often do. We couch our communication in Christian jargon. But what does that mean, “I heard the words “……” It doesn’t matter whether it was the words “maher shalal hash baz” or “Get up! Go into the lounge”, “Ian what are you doing?” or “Stop and listen. I have brought him here for you”. What we need to do is to explain to people what we mean by “I heard”. We often talk glibly about hearing God. But what do we actually mean by that? What do you mean you heard God. Or worse yet, “Thus sayeth the Lord . . . “ We need to make the source of our input from God clear for others to understand what we mean.
Listen up! I will tell you. This experience back in at Bible College that night was not like the two occasions I heard God’s voice audibly. It was quite different and yet very similar. It was not that it was hard to differentiate between the two. I heard clearly, an audible voice saying “Ian, what are you doing?” and “Stop and listen. I have brought him here for you. Listen to what he is saying.” It was so clear and so audible that I turned around to see who was speaking partly because each time I heard the audible voice behind me it was surprising because I was not aware of anyone behind me. So I turned around on both occasions to look. It was that clear and heard just like any other time in my life that someone has spoken to me audibly. The words “Maher shalal hash baz” and “Get up! Go into the lounge. I want to talk to you” were not audible. I knew at the moment I perceived them (there, that’s a better word) that I had not HEARD them. They were in my head; internal communication. Thoughts which came instantly, spontaneously to mind. Yet somehow they were different from the normal thoughts I get in my head. It was not ME thinking those thoughts. They were intrusive, overpowering, all pervading. Almost piercing and taking over my thoughts. They were not part of my thinking process, either conscious or subconscious thought. The words were somehow spontaneously in my mind “with volume”. The words overshadowed what I had been thinking and were just there clearly understood. But I knew I had not heard them audibly. I had been struggling to supplant “maher shalal hash baz” with something else and rid those four words from my mind, but I hadn’t been able to. Oh now they were gone. Well and truly and I knew I had to get up and go to the lounge. I sensed that God was calling me.
In the lounge I started praying and asked “Why am I thinking those four words LORD?” I thought the thoughts / sensed God saying to me, “That is your new name. I am calling you Maher Shalal Hash Baz. It is your new name because you were swift to booty, quick to plunder.” God didn’t need to say anything else. In that moment I knew what He was saying to me. It all came to me in a nanosecond. I didn’t need to ponder on it. I didn’t need to ask more questions. It just all became clear and I began to weep at the realisation. God was showing me that although I hadn’t dwelt on it or voiced the thought deep down, at a subliminal level, I was thinking, “Oh wow a video for Baptist Youth nationwide. That’s cool.” I hadn’t voiced it. I hadn’t said anything to anyone, even Tania. I hadn’t been going over it in my mind – thinking . . . thinking about it. But I had to confess that God was looking into my heart and checking my heartfelt motivation. I couldn’t defend myself. I just started weeping and weeping and asking for forgiveness. “Above all else guard your heart, for out of it comes the well spring of life.” Proverbs 4:23.
That happened to me 37 years ago and I remember it as though it was last night. Oh I know that I heard the voice of God that night. Oh not an audible voice. Rather perhaps I should say that I had those thoughts come to mind at that moment. But to say that would not capture the importance nor that way in which those two comments came to me. I might say I felt God speaking to me and saying . . . Then to leave it to you to question me if you wanted to know how I could say that I felt God speaking to me.
That is exactly what happened with the other story I want to share with you. This also happened in 1983. The two events happened closely together and gave me valuable insights into the way God speaks. We would have times together with some other Bible College students and would share what we felt God’s Word had to say on a particular subject. On occasions one brave soul in our midst would venture forth with a “word from the Lord”. Not necessarily claiming it to be a “word from the Lord”. Sometimes prefaced with “I sense the Lord has a word for you on that matter” whereupon they would share what was on their mind. It was all free and unpretentious and not in any way super-spiritual. Just friends who were open to the gifts of the Spirit sharing together. One of those among us was a dear friend of ours and at times she would come out with things that were quite amazing. Very often if there were words spoken related to someone’s personal situation that she felt she was to share, the things spoken were unerringly accurate and were so of God it was uncanny. I noticed this several times and finally on one night after everyone else had gone and only Tania and me and her husband were left, I asked her how she got these Words from the Lord? I was keen to learn from everyone’s experience in hearing the voice of the Spirit.
I half expected some deep explanation sourced from long hours in prayer, or an overwhelming burden for the person which birthed the words which came as a result. All of those deeply spiritual explanations which show us how far short of the mark we ourselves come.
She simply said, “Oh it’s easy I just read the screen.”
I asked, “What do you mean “you just read the screen”?
She said, “Just that Ian. It is like I am seeing a TV screen with the words scrolling across the bottom and I just read them. Like teletex on the TV.”
I was stunned. Oh my goodness, I want that gift. Oh Lord please show me what you want me to share with others by way of prophetic words or words of knowledge by teletext. Lord show me what to say like you show her. I asked that for a period of time in 1983 and on intermittent occasions since but the LORD in His wisdom has not chosen to give me that gift. I guess I have to be content in the fact that “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)
I will watch to see if there are any questions or comments I receive to follow up. Then with the next Nugget I will begin the process of drawing the threads together but not before I share what I promised I would from the Deeper Bible Experiencing the Bible input.