God often chooses to speak in strange ways and through unusual means. This is one of the primary reasons why many people do not recognize when God is speaking to them. As we examine how God speaks, let us remember that He is the Creator and that His creativity is expressed in the ways He communicates. In fact, we must recognize that God’s voice is seldom really a voice.
The Voice of God
In John 1:1, Jesus is called the “Word of God.” This description reveals that God is a communicator. He is the Word, and He created all things with the word of His mouth (Genesis 3:8). Fundamental to God’s nature is that He is a communicator. In the same way, fundamental to every child of God is the ability to hear God’s voice. If you are a true Christian, you have already heard God speak. In fact, you cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws you.You must “hear His voice” in order to be drawn to Him. Although you did not literally hear a voice tell you that Jesus was the Son God, somehow you realized that the gospel was true. So, in essence, you were led by the Fathher to the Son.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:44, 45)
God communicates in strange ways for a variety of reasons, but we will only explore the different ways in which He speaks.
“He said, hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings…” (Numbers 12:6-8).
Job 33:14-17 outlines these same ways in which God speaks. Dreams, visions, and “dark sayings” (Psalm 78:2) here mean a riddle or puzzle. God often speaks in parables which require us to do some research in order to discover what He is saying.
Levels of Revelation
Some types of revelation are of a higher order than others. Lower levels of revelation include mental or spiritual impressions or perceptions, gentle internal visions, and the still, small voice of God that we hear in our spirits. Each of these is a valid type of revelation, although at a lower level.
Higher level revelations include open visions, visitations of the Lord, vivid dreams, trances, being caught up in the Spirit, and other prophetic experiences. As a general rule, the less subjective way in which a revelation comes, the higher it is.
Impressions are the simplest form of prophetic revelation. Almost every child of God has heard God speak through impressions. But because of general ignorance about revelation gifts in the church, many do not recognize these impressions as God-given, but discount them as stray thoughts or coincidences.
Most peopl have experienced the phenomenon of suddenly thinking about someone they had not seen or heard from in years, then, “by chance” encountering that person later in the day or week. Others, during the coursr of their day, have, a “stray thought” about something a friend or acquaintance needs to do, later, it is discovered that their stray thought was an accurate insight.
What many people think are coincidences are actually valid prophetic impressions from God. What would happen if you began recognizing the impressions you receive as being from God? He would begin using you to speak to people that He wants to touch.
Scriptural Examples of Impressions
The Bible contains several powerfuls examples of impression-level revelations. In Acts 14:9, Paul perceived that a man who was crippled from birth had faith for healing. When Paul acted on his impression, the man was dramatically healed. Paul did not receive a higher level of revelation such as an audible voice or a vision, but simply had a perception or impression.
As another example, Paul also had a prophetic impression while being transported to Rome for trial. “I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives” (Acts 27:10 KJV). Later, the Lord spoke more clearly to Paul and he received a higher level revelation concerning what would happen, along with a word of wisdom for keeping everyone safe (Acts 27:22-25).
Impressions are the entry-level prophetic revelation for most people, but this does not imply impressions are not significant. Paul, a mature apostle, continued to receive insight and help from God through prophetic impressions throughout his ministry. Today, many seasoned prophetic ministers also continue to receive impression-level revelations, even though God frequently speaks to them through higher level revelation.
Using the model of our five physical senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch-we will discover another way that God speaks to us. He will give us revelation through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching spiritually. Although this may initially sound strange, there is a scriptural precedent for God speaking to us through our “spiritual senses.”
• 1. “Spiritual Sight” – Prophets were often called “seers” in the Old Testament. In Kings 2, we find a biblical example of the gift of discerning of spirits operating through “spiritual sight.” When Elijah was translated to heaven, Elisha received a double portion of the spirit that was upon him, and he also received Elijah’s mantle for ministry. Consider what the sons of the prophets said when they saw him: “Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before
him ‘” (2 Kings 2:15).
These young men “saw” that the spirit of Elijah was now upon Elisha. What did they see? Was there some physical change in Elisha? Or was it a spiritual change that they could see with their spiritual eyes? There was a spiritual presence that was once upon Elijah that they now “saw” upon Elisha. This was the prophetic mantle or authority in which Elijah had walked.
Many times, the Lord will reveal that an individual has a similar calling as the other person. Sometimes they were born in the same province, city, or have the same occupation. In some instances, they have the same name.
• 2. “Spiritual Hearing” – Another way God gives revelation is through hearing. Like spiritual sight, God will give us revelation when we hear a person speak or we hear someone speak a name. By spiritual hearing, I do not mean that we hear when people sound depressed or excited because of the tone of their voice; instead we are spiritually discerning this.
God will also reveal struggles that people are experiencing, encouragements He has for them, and many other things in this fashion. If we will learn to identify when we hear something unusual and ask the Lord, He will give us a powerful ministry for and to people.
• 3. “Spiritual Smell” – God also speaks through the spiritual sense of smell. Just as with sight and hearing, God will often cause us to spiritually smell things that are messages or revelations. God also gives us revelation through smell that confirms His work, not just the enemy’s.
• 4. “Spiritual Touch” – Another way that God speaks is through the sense of touch. Some people receive revelation concerning touching an individual.
• 5. “Spiritual Taste” – This is similar in nature and application to receiving revelation through spiritual smell. We need to consider that Jesus healed people in some instances by spitting on their tongue, or by spitting on their eyes, or putting mud in their eyes. Remember, if we are to read scriptures honestly, we must conclude by agreeing with God’s word to Isaiah: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
The Voice of the Lord
God does speak to us in plain words at times. In general, when we talk about God speaking to us, we mean God has communicated with us through an impression, vision, or some other means. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that He also simply “speaks” to us by His voice.
But even within hearing the voice of the Lord, there are different levels of revelation and different ways in which He speaks. While I have not provided clear scripture for these different designations, scripture does mention the “still, small voice,” and God speaking audibly at times. Some of the designations we make here are described in nature.
• 1. Still, Small Voice of God – This is a lower level revelation for the most part and probably all Christians have heard the Lord speak to them in this fashion. This is a soft and gentle voice of God which comes as we wait on the Lord in prayer or meditation. God speaks this way for personal instructions or encouragement. It is a highly subjective way to hear God, since it comes internally and quietly. It is a valid way that God speaks, but it must be judged in light of the desire of our own hearts.
• 2. Audible Voice, Internal, Voice of God – This is a higher level revelation than the still, small voice because it is less subjective in nature. This is often a loud, booming voice, not coming in our thought, but instead cutting through and interpreting them. Although this is not really audible, it seems to be because it resounds so loudly within us.
• 3. Audible Voice of God – This is obviously a higher level of revelation than hearing God speak internally. The audible voice of God is difficult to describe, except to say that if you only think you have heard God speak audibly, you have not. When He speaks in this manner, all thought and doubt is removed. It is not so much that it is loud in volume, but that it is immense in nature.
There are many different ways in which God speaks to us, which are included under the general category of visions. There are glimpses in the Spirit, gentle internal visions, strong internal visions, and open visions. We must remember that God not only spoke in visions to the Old Testament Covenant saints, but He did this with the New Testament believers as well. He continues to speak this way to many today. On the scale of prophetic revelation, visions are generally a higher level of revelations than in different types of visions, some of which are described below:
• 1. Glimpses in the Spirit – These are the lowest level visions and are fleeting internal pictures that we receive from the Lord. They are brief in duration and usually contain only a small picture, not a scene or a story line. Although a lower form of revelation, God can speak powerfully through these gentle visions. Many of these glimpses are symbolic in nature. When praying for people, a person may see glimpses or still pictures in their spirit that have nothing to do with them personally, but are shown that they may pray for a certain individual, or intercede for a situation.
• 2. Gentle Internal Visions and Strong, Internal Visions – Internal visions are much stronger than simple glimpses although they are still “seen” internally. As a rule, these visions are more than just still pictures; they include a “story line” of transpiring events. This type of vision can be interrupted by distractions, and good focus is needed to keep from missing them. Since strong, internal visions are clearer and more pronounced than gentle internal visions, they are a higher level of revelation.
• 3. Open Visions –These are of a considerably higher level revelation than impressions, internal visions, or the internal voice of God. These visions are received when your eyes are open and are not stopped by distractions. These visions can start and continue even when you are involved in an attention consuming activity, such as driving a car. The experience is similar to seeing a scene acted out physically as on a cinema. Open visions are a higher level of revelation than internal visions, again because they are less subjective in nature. While an internal vision could come from our own mind, like a daydream, your mind will not cause an open vision that is seen externally and cannot be stopped. These are obviously from the Lord. Additionally, open visions may be seen by more than one person at the same time.
Do not be afraid of this designation.Trances are found in the New Testament. Peter fell into a trance in which God profoundly spoke to him. Through obedience to the instructions he was given in the trance, Peter received a revelation that was to open the way for the Gentiles as well as the Jews (see Acts 10:34). When he acted on this message, the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles.
During a trance, most, if not all awareness of your natural surroundings are obscured, and you are transfixed on the events in the trance as opposed to an open vision where you observe something transpiring. In a trance, you participate in a scene through your actions. They can last any length of time – from a few seconds to several hours. The history of the Church is filled with accounts of God speaking through trances.
Trances are a higher level of revelation than dreams or visions, again because they are less subjective in nature. You cannot make yourself have a trance; they come from the Lord and do not stop until He stops them.
The Lord also speaks to us in dreams, of which there several types. These include: Literal and Symbolic dreams. somtimes dreams can only be interpreted or revealed by the Holy Spirit. Discernment is also a major component of uncovering the meaning of dreams.
Caught Up in the Spirit
God also speaks to us when we are “caught up in the Spirit,” through angelic visitations and visitations from the Lord. This immediately brings to mind the experience of Jesus’ beloved disciple when he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos for the Word of God. The apostle John was “in the Spirit on Lord’s day,” and received revelation from none other than Jesus Christ himself.
I hope and pray that you have been thoroughly blessed by reading this page, and hopefully, have learned how to recognize the voice of God when He speaks to you.
Please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about hearing God speak, or understanding the voice of God.