Can we really know the voice of God?
"And so, my children, listen to me, for all my ways are joyful." (Proverbs 8:32)
Anyone who owns a dog knows that they can often run.
Some bolt any time the door opens, some stray too far when on a walk and some get distracted by natural distractions, like other dogs or potential prey and end up lost.
Princess, our dachshund, loves her Mimi and Papaw, but her natural instincts drive her to run at times.
If I open the front door and she smells a squirrel, she’s off.
Her intense focus to fulfill her desires can get her in serious trouble.
She could run into traffic and get sideswiped by an unseen car.
She could catch her prey and find that it’s not a squirrel, but something more vicious and powerful.
Or she could simply pursue her quarry to the point where she no longer knows where her home is.
Oftentimes, it is only my voice that keeps her from getting into trouble.
If she listens and obeys, she will come back to the safety and provision of her home.
If not, all manner of trouble awaits.
The prophet Isaiah pointed out, "All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
"We have left God’s paths to follow our own." (Isaiah 53:6)
In his time, the people understood the analogy of a sheep.
That is why shepherds were so important.
Not only did they fend off predators, but they led the sheep to green pastures for food and clean water to drink.
Smart sheep (relatively speaking) learned to listen to their shepherd for their own good.
Even so, sheep had a tendency to wander.
The same is true with people.
Really, the question is not whether or not we will stray; we will, because it is in our very nature to do so.
But what will we do when God calls us back into his care?
Or even more importantly, will we know God’s voice when He does call?
I can promise you if Princess took off to pursue something that she should not be pursuing and you called her, she would not respond to your call.
She does not know you and does not recognize your voice.
I suppose there is a small chance that she might pause, look in your direction and wonder, "Who is that?"
But then she would turn and continue down her own path.
You might think that if your voice is similar to mine deep and booming then you might be able to get her attention and convince her to follow your instructions.
Princess knows my voice.
She does not know yours.
Jesus, in identifying himself as one with God, also related to the shepherds of His time.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
"No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me and he is more powerful than anyone else.
"No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one." (John 10:27-30)
Our pets, like a shepherd’s sheep, learn our voices.
We, too, can learn to hear the voice of God.
The first step is to enter His fold.
This is salvation.
We become new creations and, in the process, get "new ears."
Our spiritual rebirth enables us to hear things we did not hear before.
Like a baby born into the world, new sounds reach our ears.
But like a newborn, we cannot always discern the noises.
We must mature, learn and develop a keen sense of hearing.
Jesus laid down this principle when he defended His use of parables and quoted the prophet Isaiah: "To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given and they will have an abundance of knowledge.
"But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.
"That is why I use these parables, for they look, but they don’t really see.
"They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
"This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
‘When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
‘For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." (Matthew 13:12-16)
So we learn to hear His voice by hearing his teachings, found in scripture, and understanding them.
Just like Princess’ familiarity allows her to discern my voice, familiarity with our spiritual shepherd allows us to discern His voice.
If we choose to ignore His voice, we become dull of hearing.
When we choose to listen and act on His words, we are blessed, because we hear.
So clearly it is possible to discern the voice of God in our lives.
If an animal can hear the voice of its caretaker, people can hear the voice of our heavenly caretaker!
When we know and respond to His voice, He promises to lead us down the path of life.
When we stray, He calls us back and we return to his security and care.
Nobody can take us away from His protection and presence, if we will only learn to hear and heed His voice.
Learn to hear God’s voice by becoming more familiar with His Word. Ask Him to supernaturally open your ears so that you can better follow Him.
"Father, thank you for speaking to me. Help me learn Your voice above all others. Give me the gift of wisdom and understanding as I seek to follow Your ways."