Chapter 12

                                              TWELVE – Voice Lessons
 
     Listen up!  This two-word command is familiar to all.  Perhaps you have heard it shouted by a gruff Army sergeant or an over zealous high school football coach.  This terse dictate leaves no room for confusion because the directive is clear.  We know what to do:  shut up, hear the immediate assignment, and follow through.  The expectation associated with this command is not an invitation to debate or discuss; rather, it calls for action.    Listen carefully and be compliant.
 
     If the children of Israel had simply listened carefully, they could have avoided their forty-year walking tour of the desert.  Joshua wrote, “For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord . . .” (Joshua 5:6 [italics added].  “They did not listen to the voice of the Lord”—a sober indictment, with forty long years of consequences.  If they had listened to the Lord and exhibited an obedient spirit they would have bypassed the aimless wanderings of the wilderness.
 
     Listening to the voice of the Lord was not some new notion.  This spiritual discipline was not something they were unfamiliar with.  In Deuteronomy 9:23, Moses drew their attention to the decision they made as they stood at the border of the Promised Land:  “And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God, you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice.”  Predating this event and following the Red Sea miracle, which took place shortly after their Egyptian exodus, Moses wrote, “’If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians, for I the Lord, am your healer’” (Exodus 15:26.
 
     Additionally Moses wrote, “If only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.  For the Lord your God shall bless you as He has promised . . .” (Deuteronomy 15:5, 6a).  Indeed, this is not a new concept to these rebellious, unbelieving children.  Hebrews 3 and 4 teaches us these former slaves of Egypt were not allowed to enter the rest and victory of the Promised Land because they did not believe nor trust the Word of God.  The practical result of their unbelief and refusal to “listen up” was forty years of wilderness wandering.
 
     Just before Moses passed the reigns of leadership to Joshua, the grace of God is evidenced once again.  The record of Moses’ remarks is recorded in Deuteronomy 30 through 32.  Now, four decades later, the people were again poised at the entrance to the Promised Land, and their aged leader counsels them to choose life.
 

See I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord you God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.  But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish.  You shall not prolong your days in the land where y0u are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him, for this is our life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:15 – 20 [italics added]).

 

     To this new generation, our God, through His servant Moses graciously reminded the people of His long-standing promise of protection and provision.  The key to their joy would be “obeying His voice.”
 
     Moving to the New Testament, we find in Mark 9 and unusual, but spectacular, event, which occurred during the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.  He took with Him Peter, James, and John to a high mountain and, before their eyes, the Scripture says, He was transfigured.  That is, “His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3).  Also appearing at this event were two Old Testament saints, Elijah and Moses.  Astonished, Peter blurted, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5).  As Peter chattered, the Heavenly Father spoke, “’This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!’” (Mark 9:7 [italics added]).  Using our sanctified imagination, we might conclude Peter, not really knowing what was appropriate to say, was rambling on and on when the Father stepped on his line-—“Peter, that is enough.  Close your mouth and open your ears—listen to My Son!”  My grandmother often told me, “The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth.  You should listen twice as much as you speak.”  That is wise advice not only for Peter, but us as well.
 
     Like Peter and the Hebrews children, we ignore the Father’s word and listen far too little.  If born-again believers are to know and experience the joy of the Lord, listening to and obeying the voice of the Lord is a spiritual discipline, which must be mastered.
 
     According to the Lord Jesus’ message in John 10:1 –18, hearing God’s voice is the Lord’s design for every child of His.  It is normal; therefore, any variation or alteration of this pattern is abnormal.  Jesus said, “’My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me’” (John 10:27).  He did not say, “My sheep will probably hear My voice” or “I hope they hear My voice.”  Rather, He declared this truth is the standard operating procedure for a born-again believer.
 
     People, even believers, may regard others different or perhaps peculiar who have some understanding of this spiritual discipline.  However, reality teaches the believer is in danger who does not have intimacy with God, a close walk, and a sense God is at work in his life.  We have learned the Christian who lives outside of the bottom circle environment has a strained relationship with the Heavenly Father, and this is not the divine intent or design.  The opportune place for a Christian to hear God’s voice is within the bottom circle—the place of divine provision for the believer’s maximum growth, safety, and provision.  Within these perimeters there is clear channel reception.  Outside the boundaries of the bottom circle is carnality, which impairs clarity because of the enemy-produced clutter and interference.  Born-again believers must always realize the adversary will do all in his limited power to disrupt and distract the Lord’s communication with His children (see Figure 11).
 
 
Jesus taught in John 10 His sheep would not only hear His voice but would also properly respond to it.  A proper response to the Word of God is obedience.  Scripture shares many “voice lessons” which, when learned, will greatly benefit the believer.  The following few represent but a sampling of the richness 9f Scripture concerning this teaching.
 
                                                              VOICE LESSONS
 
     More often than not, God’s voice is small, but always faithful and consistent.  It is the perception of many believers the more we listen to His voice, the better able we are to distinguish and identify His voice.  Loved ones or others to whom we frequently speak by telephone need not identify themselves—we instinctively know who’s on the other end of the phone conversation.  Why?  Because we have learned to identify them by the sound of their voice.
 
     Our God never forces Himself upon His children, yet He faithfully deals with His own.  In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said to the born-again believers at Laodicea, “’Behold, I stand at the door and knock . . .’”  He stands at the door awaiting an invitation to enter into a more intimate fellowship.  In comparison, our enemy might paraphrase Jesus’ statement thusly, “Behold I stand at the door and kick it in.”  Satan, the adversary, does not graciously wait for an invitation.  He rather comes to believers with loud, gaudy, pushy tactics—right in our face screaming and demanding his way; he continually seeks to intimidate and control.  By the way, he is never to be trusted for he very often counterfeits God and His gifts.  It is not below him to counterfeit God’s voice, seeking to fool the believer and mislead.  On the other hand, our gracious God approaches His own with sensitivity, gentleness, truthfulness, and the strength of a still, small voice.
 
     First Kings 18 records the details of a “contest” on Mount Carmel between the godly prophet Elijah and the Baal priests.  Through His servant on that occasion, God demonstrated His might and power to all.  When wicked Queen Jezebel learned of God’s victory and the details of her priests’ defeat and humiliation, she vowed to find and destroy Elijah.  Frightened, he ran for his life.  According to 1 Kings 19, the Lord met His prophet several times along the way to encourage and meet his needs.  At the entrance of a desolate cave, Elijah regained his spiritual bearings as he heard the still, small voice of God and responded obediently.  The enemy came to him there with the flash and terror of natural phenomena, but this was not God’s method.  Seeking to mislead the frightened, weary, and discouraged prophet the enemy sought to counterfeit the Lord’s work at Mount Carmel.  Elijah was spiritually savvy enough to realize this was not God speaking; therefore, he waited for the familiar and faithful voice and responded obediently.
 
     Another important voice lesson born-again people need to learn is when we choose to resist God and refuse to listen to Him, by default, we listen to another voice.  Any voice other than God’s is a strange voice, which is energized by the enemy or the enemy himself.  In 1 Corinthians 14:21 Paul wrote, “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me.’ Says the Lord.”  Moses also wrote concerning strange gods, strange fire offered before the Lord and strange incense on the altar.  These are all warnings against following any other than God.  Isaiah 28:11 and 12 additionally offers a warning to the Jews.  When they heard foreign, unknown tongues of Gentiles among them and in their land it was to serve as an indicator to remind them their condition was so because of their willful disobedience and the Father’s discipline.  Joy and contentment are replaced with sorrow and dissatisfaction.  Paul applied this truth to the Corinthian believers, warning them of listening to wrong voices—any influence other than God.
 
     By our very nature, we are followers (“sheep” – John 10:27) and need a leader.  If we refuse God’s leadership our disobedience interferes with and shuts out God’s voice.  When there is a leadership vacuum, we naturally look to someone or something else to fill the void.  Following anyone other than God is disobedience and that is sin.  Jesus said, “’No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon'’ (Matthew 6:24).  When Jesus spoke about the shepherd and the sheep in John 10:5, He spelled out the divine design, “’A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.’”
 
     Voice lessons continue as we learn that when a born-again believer chooses to harbor sin or refuses to confess sin, God has only one thing to say:  repent.  God’s message to a disobedient, rebellious child is clear:  confess the sin, cleanse your heart, and deal with it the way God desires.
 
     After David’s illegitimate extra-marital relationship with Bathsheba and the hideous plot to murder her husband, God lovingly dealt with His sinning son.  He had only one message for the king:  confess and be cleansed.  Second Samuel 12:1 – 15 is a very interest9ing narrative.  God used the godly prophet Nathan to speak to David—our Lord will often use others to speak to us.  David agreed with God, “’I have sinned against the Lord’” (12:13).  Then, too, Jesus’ message to the erring church at Ephesus was, “’Remember, therefore from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the deeds you did at first’” (Revelation 2:5).  Sin in the believer’s life interferes with and may block or distort God’s voice.
 
The account of the disciples’ action in John 21:1 – 7 illustrates yet another voice lesson.  Following the Lord’s crucifixion, His followers felt deep discouragement and even despondency.  Peter and the others went back to their former lives and to the things they knew before their association with the Savior.  Peter told the others, “’I am going fishing’” (John 21:3).  They fished all night long with no catch.  Come morning, Jesus stood on shore and called to them, “. . . Yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4).  Their recognition of the Master’s voice and obedient response to Him once again brought blessing and stability to their lives.
 
     When we choose to reconnect with the former experiences and people; or when we prefer to concentrate on anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ, His voice begins to blend with the other voices and clutter of life. Making this choice, we become less aware of His presence and less sensitive to Him; as a result, we become confused and lose our bearings—our ability to identify the Lord’s voice.  James 1:5 advises when there is confusion; the believer must listen more carefully.  When we lack wisdom and direction, we must go to God.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  The best reception of God’s voice is found in the bottom circle environment of the book’s illustration (see Figure 11).
 
     In Acts 7, we happen upon another voice lesson; this one involves Stephen, the first martyred believer for the cause of Christ.  In Acts 6:8 Luke described Stephen as a man “full of grace and power (and) was performing great wonders and signs among the people.”  The Sanhedrin Council (a body of Jewish religious leaders) had Stephen arrested and conspired against him.  Acts 7 records Stephen’s testimony before these men—it is powerful and laced with truth.  Verse 57 gives their response to this Christian’s testimony, “But they cried out with a loud voice, covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse.”  They “covered their ears” and purposely chose not to hear God’s message.  Do not make the mistake of resolutely choosing not to listen.  Rather, our response should be like the one expressed b the psalmist—“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, the work that Thou didst in their days, in the days of old (Psalm 44:1).  Jesus repeatedly said, “’He who has ears, let him hear’” (Matthew 13:9, 15; Revelation 2, 3).
 
     Another blessed voice lesson involves the Father listening for our voice.  Just as He expects us to hear Him, He is listening for ours!  Isaiah addressed God and wrote, “Give ear and hear my voice” (Isaiah 28:23).  David wrote, “Give ear to my words, O Lord . . . heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray.  In the morning O Lord, Thou will hear my voice . . .” (Psalm 5:1 – 3).  Again David wrote “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).  The Old Testament musician, Asaph, also affirmed this truth as he wrote—“My voice rises to God and I will cry aloud, my voice rises to God, and He will hear me” (Psalm 77:1).  What a magnificent and comforting truth—our God is listening for us.
 
     Another valuable voice lesson teaches us God does not speak to us on our schedule.  After all, He is the King and sovereign One, and the King may summon one of His servants at His pleasure.  He often summons us during the night hours—in the quiet and dark of night.  David wrote of this experience in Psalm 63.  As the Lord’s loyal and loving servants, we must be ready at all times to hear His voice because our times are in His hands.
 
     A final voice lesson we cite, basic to hearing His voice, is to possess the desire to know Him better.  The more one grows in this spiritual discipline, the deeper the desire and need to hear Him. We love to hear His voice because we long for Him.  The intimate presence of Him in one’s life brings stability, peace, and joy.  “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).  What a thrill it is to hear His voice in life, to know He cares for me as an individual, and to know I am important to Him.
 
     May each of His children exhibit the attitude and action of the boy Samuel, who said to God, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9).  Oh that we may we learn to be listening sheep who lovingly obey His voice.  As we continually understand more about this vital spiritual discipline, our spirits will be content and will overflow with His peace and joy.  The Scripture abounds with voice lessons; the ones noted here are but a sampling.
 
     The Heavenly Father has a full and wonderful plan for each of His children.  It is a victorious life that satisfies the soul—a life that goes beyond mere existence to soar in the heavenlies where we are positionally seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:4 – 6).  It is a divine design, which has the power to produce joy which beyond explanation.  It enables us to meet the challenges of this world and prepares us for the world to come.  Paul wrote, “Our words are wise because they are from God, telling of God’s wise plan to bring us into the glories of heaven” (1 Corinthians 2:7 TLB).
 
     To the Author of such magnificence we bow our knee and eagerly answer with worship and an obedient spirit motivated by loyalty and love.  In response, He graciously fills us with His eternal joy.
 
 
 

                                                          ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), copyright © The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988.  All rights reserved - International Copyright Secured; other references are from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), and copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  All rights reserved; The New King James Version (NKJV), copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers; and The Living Bible (TLB), copyright © 1971 owned by assignment by KNT Charitable Trust, All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

THANKS TO --

 

Deepest appreciation and thanks must be expressed to some very important people who helped make this project a reality.  Thanks to:

- Stephen Fox, Debra Paul, Georgia Payne, and Dr. Jay C. Fernlund, who each lent their recommendations, expertise, and editing abilities;

- the many friends and family members who prayed for this undertaking, especially members of our Friday evening Bible study group;

- to my dear extended family, the Paynes, who never miss an opportunity to love, encourage and pray for me;

- and finally, to my immediate family, Sue, Steve, and Adam, who believe in me, and more importantly, believe in the subject of this book.              

 

                                                                    - jmf

Copyright © 2010 by J. Michael Fox

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