Discerning God’s Voice

Russian icon of prophet Elijah. Илия пророк с ...Image via Wikipedia

I suspect that many who earnestly desire to hear God’s voice in answer to their prayers long for that still small voice that Elijah heard. Now and then it happens, but I’m inclined to believe much less often than claimed. If there is anything at all that is normal about God’s ways, it is that God’s voice is most often heard through the lips of another human being. But how is one to discern?

I thought about that this morning when reading from the Second book of Kings about the prophets Zedekiah and Micaiah. Each was known as a prophet. Zedekiah did a credible job of dancing around with horns on his head assuring King Ahab that victory in the upcoming battle would be his, all in the name of God. Micaiah was suspect from the start, a real party pooper of a prophet, and started out with some lame sarcasm before unleashing the word of God in very plain unadorned language. Which one was the truth teller? Ahab wasn’t sure so he hedged his bets by going into battle disguised as an ordinary charioteer.

The Zedekiahs and Micaiahs are out in force these days. The Internet, radio, television, editorial columns, sermons and religious gossips have a lot to say, all in strident voices and all in the sure and certain name of God Almighty. Is God present in some of it, any of it?

My own guess is that the more one stridently claims the authority of God in the words they utter, the less likely God has anything to do with them.

When I look back at the times I later came to recognize as moments of God’s presence in the words of another, they were all moments of quiet conversation with the other not even aware of how powerfully God spoke through them into my life. Some were pastors, some colleagues, some friends, and a few total strangers. In each case I was not immediately aware that God was speaking, but was aware of an enfolding and comforting love that drew me in toward goals that I could not see along paths that I did not know.

In today’s clamor of competing voices all around I can find a real kinship with the psalmist who wrote:

Psa. 55:4 My heart is in anguish within me,

the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

5 Fear and trembling come upon me,

and horror overwhelms me.

6 And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest;

7 truly, I would flee far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness;

8 I would hurry to find a shelter for myself

from the raging wind and tempest.”

But, perhaps like Elijah listening at the mouth of the cave to that still small voice, I would only hear the words, What are you doing here? Go back and do the work I have given you to do. Maybe discerning God’s presence in the words of another begins with ignoring the one dancing around with horns on his head spouting sure and certain proclamations that seem very unlike the words of God made flesh.

4 thoughts on “Discerning God’s Voice”

  1. In my experience it is often difficult to tell the still small voice apart from the other voices. It often seems that even among my immediate circle of colleauges that the \”still small voice\” is telling people polar oppoiste type things…though I believe that God is at work in all of us, I often suspect that the still small voice is the voice of our own will versus that of God's…the best indicator I have found to determine what is God's voice versus my own voice, or the own voice of another is time…it seems God's will has a way of working itself out over time.

  2. The words and actions of God made flesh are the counter weight to the voices we hear.The deceiver is active tempting us, using our pride and self importance to tempt us to other goals but we have the Word made flesh, unconquered by death, releasing us to be free of fear, to live with the law written on our hearts, unafraid, servants of those we are sent to serve in His name.Master or servant?What is the purpose of our following the one sent to redeem the world?Do we claim the name out of fear? promise of reward? Love?Do we live with a God \”is\” mentality, or a God \”was\” mentality?Do we live as if we may encounter God just around the next corner, or behind the next tree, or have we safely relegated God to a structure or place we visit on our own timetable, terms?These are my filters

  3. Ahab going into battle disguised as something he was not…….discerning God's message through the voice of another sometimes requires me to check out the disguise before contemplating the words.Beautiful icon!

  4. In that very extraordinary story in I Kings 22, Zedekiah represents the false prophets who tell the king, Ahab, what he wants to hear-that he will win the battle-and Micaiah, rather reluctantly, tells him what he hates to hear, that he will lose. But Micaiah says that the lying prophecy actually was authorized by the LORD! Because He wished to destroy Ahab, and so a \”lying spirit\” is sent to give Ahab false confidence. There is an interesting parallel in Homer's Iliad, where Zeus sends a \”lying dream\” to king Agamemnon, with the same purpose! These examples are very interesting theologically! Dr B

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