You may be able to recall a time when someone said “God told me …” or “God spoke to me …” Perhaps you have said this in sharing about something from your life. The phraseology seems to be used more and more: in Christian fellowship, testimonials, books, and even classes on “How to hear the voice of God.” Often, “God spoke to me” can carry a variety of different meanings. For example, a person may mean that God spoke through the reading of the Scriptures in an impactful way. The phrase is also used of fellow Christians who spoke wise counsel; maybe life circumstances directed one down a particular path. “God spoke to me” language is often used, I believe, because God’s children genuinely want to hear from God. That is to be celebrated—praise God! In a world that does not desire to neither speak to Him nor hear from Him, what an encouragement to fellowship with other Christians who do seek these things. So, how do we process this “God talk.” Did God speak to me? How should I speak about God?
In the Bible, God “speaks” to His people in a number of different ways.* Here, I am referring to the definition of “speaks” that has deals with a vocal, audible, articulate sound—using the term in its traditional, normal sense. I am not referring to a spiritual impression, inner voice, etc. A few examples from the Bible include Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3), Samuel in the night (1 Samuel 3), and Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3). Each heard the audible voice of God speak: each could say “God spoke to me …” Each case represents particular guidance by the Lord God for the advancement of His kingdom purposes or redemptive plan in this world (there are more than listed above). When God spoke it was all about God and the glory of God.
When we consider this matter Scripturally, we can make at least five points of application.
God can still speak.
Job declared “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). In the years spanned by the Old Testament, the audible voice of God was rare. (In the Exodus, God spoke to Moses and Aaron: two out of two million … not great odds.) In the New Testament it grew even less frequent. False teachers espouse the claim regularly on their shows and in their writings. However, that does not mean that God cannot speak. He still can—when He wants to whomever He wishes.
Seek a renewed fear of God.
Revere God. Stand in awe of God. Be careful how you talk about God. Treat Him as holy. In the third commandment God said You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (Exodus 20:7). To obey this command—to be ever so careful in how they speak of God—the Jews refrain from using His name at all. When writing, the name appears like this: “G-d.” Though they miss the Messiah, we can still learn something about reverence of God. The more we fear God the more we will be careful, respectful, and thoughtful in how we speak of Him.
Speak with the end in mind. (When you speak)
In light of the previous point, we might be better off discarding this kind of language altogether. It is imprecise, inaccurate, and inadvisable in light of Who the One is we make claims about. If we do wish to state “God spoke to me” or “God told me” be 100% certain that it was God. If we are 99%, it is better to choose better language in how we speak of the Holy One. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). This includes statements about what God did and said.
Be discerning. (When you listen)
Don’t be manipulated. “God spoke to me” claims can be abused to bring about a result that benefits the one making them. If someone is asking for money or favors, be discerning. Do the claims align with Scripture? Do they put God on display or is the intent to elevate the one declaring “God told me”? False teachers appearing on televisions shows or running internet ministries in particular use this language. They attempt a “one upmanship” in their spirituality or shut down any conversation about their claims. Who can object to “God spoke to me?” … right? Use wisdom and be discerning.
Hear from God.
Read the Bible. The Scriptures are the place to “hear” from God. We call it the “Word of God,” after all. It is the place where God speaks to everyone. The Bible is not just old stories or stagnant history. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:12–13). That is one potent Word; the Bible is alive. You can even read the same passage in different seasons of life and glean life-giving truth. God “speaks” in His Word. In conclusion, we will continue to hear statements like “God spoke to me” or “God told me.” The goal here is to equip us to think more carefully about making these statements—as well as how to process them when we hear them. One day, we will hear the voice of God when we stand before Him. May it be the beginning of an eternity where we will hear His voice every day.