The Voice of God

HOW may we know that we have heard the voice of God? Amid all the confusion of religious thought, how are we to know that what we have accepted as truth is in reality the voice of God, and that in, obeying that voice we are fulfilling the divine will? This is a question of vital concern to all of us, but a question, nevertheless which we should be able to answer to our satisfaction, else we are left in a condition of partial doubt and uncertainty. We say we have the truth, but how do we know?

There are many lines of approach to this question. We know we have heard the voice of God because what we have heard is in harmony with the entire Bible. It is also in harmony with what we should expect the character of God to be—infinite justice, wisdom, power, and above all, love. It is also in harmony with all known historical facts and with our own experiences and observations. In short, what we have accepted as the voice of God, the voice of truth, leaves no unanswered questions or problems. It does not tell us that there is no such thing as sickness, when we know there is. It does not tell us that there is no death, when we know people are dying all around us.

There is still another manner in which we can assure ourselves that we have heard the voice of God, and that is upon the basis of his unchangeableness. The Scriptures tell us that God changes not; that in him there is no “shadow of turning.” (James 1:17; Mal. 3:6) This being true, it means that the divine purpose as revealed through God’s prophets of old is still God’s purpose. This in turn, means that if we have heard the voice of God we have heard the same things which that voice made known through the prophets.

True, the working out of God’s plan may vary in detail from age to age, but not the plan itself.

Blessings for All

The great fundamental truth of God’s plan, the cardinal theme which characterized his message through all the prophets, is identified by Peter and recorded in Acts 3:19-23. Here the apostle is telling of the blessings coming to all nations following the second advent of Jesus, and he describes these blessings as “times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” It was to provide the opportunity for restitution that Jesus died.

Ransom and restitution, then, are the dominant chords in God’s great theme-song of love. There are various minor arrangements associated with the outworking of this divine purpose, but the great objective to which these are leading is the blessing of all the families of the earth during the times of restitution. Have we heard and appreciated these great fundamental facts of truth? If so, we have heard the voice of God; if not, then God has not spoken to us.

There are many incidentals of truth which are good in themselves, and many of which are understandable by those not enlightened by the voice of God. Even a natural-minded man or woman can appreciate to a large extent the value of kindness, and mercy, and self-control, as well as other manifestations of righteousness. Those who believe in eternal torture for the wicked may adhere to high principles of righteousness in their daily living. But moral and devotional teachings are only the surface truths of the Bible, and no matter how valuable they may be to us from the standpoint of righteous standards, apart from the theme-song of God’s love for and intention to bless all nations, they do not constitute his voice of revelation.

God Spoke to Noah

As we have already suggested, it is a blessed thing to hear the voice of God, but it is costly. We find this exemplified in the experiences of Noah. Genesis 6:8 informs us that Noah found grace or favor in the sight of the Lord. As the narrative unfolds, it shows divine favor was manifested toward Noah in that God used him to build an ark, and thereby to carry over a few from the first to the second world. God also established a covenant with Noah concerning his intention never again to destroy all flesh. These divinely appointed experiences of Noah are referred to in the New Testament by both Jesus and Peter, and are used to illustrate different features of the divine plan.—Luke 17:26, 27; I Pet. 3:18-22; II Pet. 2:4,5

We read about the building of the ark by Noah, but may fail to realize what it meant in the way of wearying toil through the long years it took him and his sons to build it. It was a difficult assignment, for there was not only the work involved, but there was also the scoffing of the world to endure. Noah preached as well as worked. He preached to an unresponsive public, hence there were no apparent results from his preaching. Those with but little faith, and less appreciative of the fact that God had spoken to them, would have become weary in well-doing, concluding that God did not expect them to continue bearing witness to the truth, for after all, nothing really worthwhile apparently, was being accomplished—only wasted effort on an ark with no evidence of a coming rain or flood of waters.

But Noah had heard the voice of God and by it was enjoined to continue serving, irrespective of results. The due time had not arrived for a clear unfolding of the divine program for the blessing of all nations. But God used Noah as an illustration of certain phases of his plan, and this was a great honor. The covenant God made with Noah that never again would he destroy all flesh from the earth, afforded a faint suggestion even at that early date of God’s intention that mankind should live forever upon the earth.

Having heard God’s voice, Noah was faithful to it, faithful despite the cost of weariness, persecution, seeming failure of his efforts and cold indifference of virtually all by whom he was surrounded. He had heard the voice of God because God had something for him to do, and Noah responded with his whole heart and life to perform the divine commission faithfully. And was it all for nothing? By no means! Two important results accrued from Noah’s faithful response to the voice of God. Paul mentions them, saying that he “condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”—Heb. 11:7

Noah’s faithfulness in preaching righteousness to his generation proved the justice of God in destroying the “world which then was.” (II Pet. 3:6) When the plan of God is complete, the knowledge of his glory will fill the earth. This means the people will then know that all the acts of God throughout the age have been righteous, and that the suffering of humanity has been permitted for a particular purpose. It will be seen that the great catastrophe of that Flood which destroyed the first world was justified by the lack of response to Noah’s preaching and the altogether too prevalent evil of those times. Thus, while none but his own immediate family then gave heed to his message, his seemingly fruitless preaching will, in the coming age, be esteemed for what it was worth, and will help to fill the earth with God’s glory.

In addition to this satisfying result of his efforts, Noah’s faithfulness made him an “heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Among other things that heirship includes a “better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) Psalm 45:16 also indicates that those who obtain this promised better resurrection are to be made “princes in all the earth.” Did Noah, then, waste his time? Surely not! He heard God’s voice, he obeyed it, was blessed in his obedience, and will yet be more than fully compensated for every sacrifice which he made.

God Speaks to Abraham

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of they country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 12:1-3

In God’s message to Abraham we have the first definite statement of his purpose to bless all the families of the earth. Here the melody of the divine plan anthem began to sound forth with a definiteness over and above the incidental and harmonious accompaniment which, throughout the ages, has been associated with it. ‘Surely Abraham was favored to hear such a message. But, as with Noah, it cost him much.

There was no other reason why God spoke to Abraham than that of inviting his cooperation in the outworking of his plan: so the message and the invitation, or call, were heard together. God said to him, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” but I want you to leave your own people and your father’s house, and go into a land which I will show you. “Thou shalt be a blessing.” God had said. But the patriarch discovered that in order for this promise to become a reality to him it would cost the uprooting of his whole way of life.

God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth was unconditional. That promise will be fulfilled regardless of what any individual may do about it. But when it was made to Abraham there was coupled with it the invitation to cooperate. Those since to whom the purpose of God to bless all nations has been revealed have likewise been invited to cooperate. This is God’s method of dealing with his people. First he reveals his plan, and then invites cooperation therein.

Has it not been so with us? How sweet was the voice of God telling us of the great hope of restitution for the sin-cursed and dying world. It appealed to us as being just like God, and we rejoiced to think of all mankind walking over the highway of holiness, and finally inheriting the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. But we soon realized that there was more than that to it. Together with God’s sweet voice of love for all mankind, were the words of invitation to us asking our participation in the divine plan. We, too, like Abraham, were asked to leave our own people and our father’s house.—Ps. 45:10,11

‘Our father’s house’ is the Adamic household. God’s invitation to leave this house we recognized as a call to give up the hope of restitution for ourselves, and in its place to run for the prize of the high calling—to set our affections on things above and not on things of the earth. (Col. 3:2) But this meant more than merely to exchange an earthly hope for a heavenly hope. It meant following in the footsteps of Jesus—steps of sacrifice and suffering even unto death—until that which remained of our present earthly life was wholly consumed in the service of God.

Yes, it was grand to hear the voice of God but if we continue to respond to it faithfully it will finally cost us our lives! For if we properly appreciate the message of God’s love we will realize that we do not belong to ourselves, but to him who loved us, and died for us. (I Cor. 6:19,20; Col. 3:3,4) We will endeavor not to live for ourselves, but to live for God by participating in the sacrificial work of this age, presenting ourselves and devoting our bodies to God’s service—keeping our sacrifice on the altar until it is wholly consumed.

Abraham was asked to give up his home in Ur, and for the remainder of his life he lived in tents, having no permanent home—no “continuing city.” (Heb. 11:8-10; 13:14) Not only that, but God continued to test him, finally to the point of asking that he offer his son, Isaac, in sacrifice, which he showed his willingness to do. Abraham learned to know the voice of God more familiarly with the passing years, and he knew that it was a voice which not only promised wonderful blessings, but also invited sacrifice.

At the Burning Bush

God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, and it meant that thereafter his life was to be wholly devoted to the service of God. Even before this Moses was not unaware of his responsibility to the God of his fathers. The apostle explains that Moses had withdrawn from his position of honor in Pharaoh’s palace because he esteemed the reproach of his people more precious than all the enjoyment he could obtain by remaining attached to the Egyptian court.—Heb. 11:24-26

Moses had fled from Egypt following an ill-timed effort to relieve the oppressions of his people, the children of Israel. Forty years he had been in seclusion in Midian, serving as a shepherd over his father-in-law’s sheep. Doubtless he often thought of his early life in Egypt. Although he was called an Egyptian, he knew in reality he was an Israelite, and that his kinsmen were serving as slaves under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. From his mother, who was hired to care for him as a child, Moses would certainly have learned much about the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—promises concerning the development of a seed and also of the blessings which would come to all nations through that seed.

The God of Israel was far from an unknown God to Moses. Hence, when his attention was attracted by the burning bush, and he heard the announcement, “I am the God of … Abraham, … Isaac, and … Jacob,” Moses knew who was speaking. (Exod. 3:1-6) He knew he was to receive a message which in some way was related to the promises God had made to his fathers. It was even so, for the time had come when the natural seed of Abraham was to be delivered from Egyptian bondage, and Moses had been selected to serve as their leader in this great exodus.

It was in the providence of God that the Israelites had gone into Egypt, for thereby the life of the nation had been saved. Now it was necessary for them to be delivered, and for the same purpose. God was watching over these people. They were the natural seed to whom the promises had been made. Through this nation, the Messiah later was to come. Any service, therefore, which related to this people had to do with the working out of God’s plan for the blessing of all nations.

God told Moses to take off his shoes, for the place where on he stood was “holy ground.” Of course it was holy. God chose the spot to hold a rendezvous with his servant, to commission and empower him to be the savior of his people. That ground was therefore being used for as holy a purpose as has ever been given to man to know. True holiness to God today is represented in a full devotion to him and to the service of that same Messianic cause. We too, like Moses, have the privilege of laying down our lives for our brethren, who are the spiritual seed of Abraham.

One of Moses’ characteristics was that of meekness. (Num. 12:3) He felt unequal to the great task which God was asking him to perform. Meekness is an essential quality of Christian character, but true meekness is not weakness. Moses was meek in that he recognized his own limitations, but when God assured him that all his needs would be supplied, his faith laid hold upon the promise and he was made strong and courageous. God can use only those who rely on his wisdom and strength. “When I think of self I tremble, when I look to Thee, I’m strong,” wrote the poet. This was the experience of Moses, and in the Lord’s strength he courageously took up the task which God had assigned to him.

Yes, Moses heard the voice of God, and now that he was one of God’s servants he was no longer free to think, to choose, to act, or to do as he might prefer. Henceforth the will of God was to be the guiding star of his life. True, God’s presence accompanied Moses, and he had peace of heart and mind; but his way was difficult, his burden was heavy. He had to face and defy the austere and arrogant Pharaoh; hear and bear patiently the murmurings of his own people; put down rebellion against the divine arrangements of the priesthood; and in many other ways bear the load of care and responsibility which was his because of the high position of honor God had given him in the outworking of his plan. It was a blessed experience to hear the voice of God—but it was costly!

The Greater Than Moses

Moses, who under God, was the great deliverer and law-giver of Israel, prophesied that one greater than he would be raised up for the blessing of Israel and the world. (Deut. 18:15,19; Acts 3:22,23; 7:37) Thus he pointed forward to the coming of Christ, and to the establishing of his kingdom. The deliverance which will come to the people under the leadership of Christ awaits the inauguration of the kingdom. He came at his first advent to lay the foundation for that kingdom by the sacrifice of his life as man’s Redeemer.

In Galatians 3:8,16, Paul explains that the seed which God promised to Abraham—the seed through whom all nations would be blessed—was Christ. The entire ministry of Jesus was therefore related to the loving purpose of God to give life and peace to all nations. It is in keeping with this that at the outset of his ministry he dedicated himself to God, agreeing to do all that was written of him “in the volume of the Book.”—Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:7

The apostle explains that whatsoever had been written by the prophets was written for “our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4) If this is true concerning the followers of Jesus, how much more true it was of him! Yes, much of what all the prophets had written constituted the voice of God to direct Jesus in performing his part in the divine plan.

Not only was Jesus blessed by the revealing testimony of the prophets, but he heard the voice of God speaking to him directly, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) What a blessed assurance this must have been to Jesus! Yes, he was honored and he was blessed; but nothing short of the complete sacrifice of his perfect humanity could discharge the responsibility which this honor and blessing had placed upon him. God had spoken to his Son by the mouth of all his holy prophets, and Jesus agreed to do all that they had spoken.

Thou Art the Christ

When Peter identified Jesus as the foretold Messiah saying, “Thou art the Christ,” Jesus explained that this knowledge could come only from the Father. God had spoken to Peter, and he was to be widely used in the divine service, but at a great sacrifice of himself and his earthly interests. Peter was given the “keys” of the kingdom, and he used them in opening up kingdom privileges, first to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles.

Surely this was a high honor, and it was a joy thus to be used in the service of God and of his people. But Peter was no longer his own—he belonged to God whose voice he had heard. When, after his resurrection, Jesus conversed with Peter, he said to him, “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”—John 21:18

The Apostle John explains that this statement to Peter was an indication of the death that he was to die. Very true! It was to be a sacrificial death. He was to be “crucified with Christ”—“planted together in the likeness of his death.” (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:5) Before he had heard the voice of God, Peter was free to choose for himself, to plan his own life, but now it was to be different. From henceforth he was to be led whither his own natural inclinations would not wish to go. The will of God was from that time forward to be the guide of his life, which was to be a life of sacrifice. He had heard the voice of God!

“Who Art Thou, Lord?”

When, through Jesus, God spoke to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, this devout Israelite realized at once what it signified. Saul first made sure who was speaking, and, assured that he was receiving a message from the God of Israel, through the Messiah of Israel, he responded with the inquiry: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) Saul was acquainted with the manner in which God dealt with his servants in the past. He knew that an experience of this nature implied more than merely that he was being enlightened concerning the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. God allows people to continue on in darkness until he has a place for them in his plan. Saul knew this, and now that he was enlightened he realized that God was calling him into service.

Yes, Paul was a chosen vessel. He had been selected to bear the Gospel to the Gentiles—even to Gentile kings—and also to the “children of Israel.” What an honor! But at what great cost! The Lord said, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15,16) Here again we find the same principle operating: God had spoken; truth had been revealed; a commission had been given; and great things were to be suffered. The record of the apostle’s ministry demonstrates the sincerity of his question, “What wilt thou have me to do?”

“In These Last Days”

In our text the apostle explains that in “these last days” God has spoken to his people through his Son. That was true of the Early Church, and it has been true during the entire Gospel Age. But it is true in a very special sense at this end of the age. In Luke 12:37,42-44 is recorded a promise by Jesus that at the end of the age he would return and through a faithful servant serve the household with “meat in due season.”

God has given us the truth! Through present truth he has spoken to us. His voice has enlightened us. His truth has girded us, and by it he is leading us forth as lightbearers for him—ambassadors of the kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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