Thursday, September 24, 2015

Robert Holmes: Hearing God

Ref:  Robert Holmes

In The Footsteps of Elisha (Part 12)

by Robert Holmes
19.1        Nature speaks

God declares His majesty, beauty and power through creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1,2). Job goes further with this thought: “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;… or let the fish of the

sea inform you.” (Job 12:7-9).

Animals do not ordinarily speak. What Job and the Psalmist point

to, are the truths animals communicate about God in other ways. King Solomon, for example, could point to the behaviour of ants as a lesson in being prepared. 24 The animal kingdom and nature itself speaks and instructs us. It leaves all of humanity without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

19.2        Animate objects

The donkey spoke to Balaam, (Numbers 22:28) which is very different from the comments made by Job about the fish and animals teaching us. In the case of Job, the animal kingdom communicates truths about God to us. We do not know if Balaam was like the “Dr. Dolittle” of his day, understanding what the animal said; or whether the Lord caused the donkey to speak Aramaic. Either way, an animal spoke something from God and it was clearly understood. There are numerous stories of dogs alerting others to the injury of a loved one, or of animals seeming to communicate in a human way.

19.3 Inanimate objects

Animists believe that plants, animals and non-living objects have souls, emotions, and even a collective consciousness – this is not a Biblical view. However, there are a number of references to God speaking through His inanimate creation. Moses heard when, “God spoke from within the bush,” (Exodus 3:4). Jesus stated that, “If the children keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40).  So God can speak through inanimate objects as well.


20.1        Angelic visitation in a dream

Angels can visit us in many ways. Amongst other duties, they can bring encouragement, instruction, direction or warning. For example, “After [ Jose ph] had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” (Mathew. 1:20). An angelic visitation in a dream can be very real. An angel convinced Jose ph not to believe his common sense, but marry Mary.  Jacob met an angel of the Lord in a dream and wrestled with him until dawn. (Genesis chapter 32) That wrestling caused his hip to be displaced!

20.2        Angelic visitation in a vision

Angels may appear and deliver their message in vision. They may appear with wings, or in the form of a man. No matter which way the angel appears, the viewer knows they are seeing one! (Zechariah chapter 1) Peter, “At three in the afternoon had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him.” (Acts 10:3). David looked up and saw in a vision the angel standing between earth and heaven. (1 Chronicles 21:1) Though it was a vision, that angel carried a deadly weapon he was about to use, to destroy many in Israel .

20.3            Angelic visitation physically

Jacob met angels at Mahanaim. (Genesis 32:1) Gideon physically met an angel under a tree, “The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah… where Gideon was.” (Judges 6:11). Angels visiting in physical form often appear as men. Gideon’s angel caused the offering to be consumed with real fire, and only then did he realise it was an angel! The New Testament warns, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).


A person may have a visitation from God, which is more than a reassuring touch from God. This experience is usually marked by being allowed to see God. We are told that, “No man shall see God and live,” (Samuel 6:20) for our flesh would flee (being sinful) before a holy God. In vision or dream, however, we may see the Lord’s form and live. (1 Samuel 6:20). Micaiah saw the Lord in a vision (1 Kings 22:19) and Isaiah saw the Lord on His throne. (Isaiah 6:1) God may visit us at night, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision.” (Acts 18:9). When God visits, rather than only speaking to our spirit, the impact of the message He brings is usually great.  In Isaiah’s case, he was commissioned for ministry. In Paul’s case, he received a promise that no one in that city would hurt him.


22.1        In the Spirit

John uses interesting wording in Revelation to describe his experience. He says, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit.” (Revelation 1:10). His wording is identical to Paul’s in his letter to the Ephesian church, “Pray in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:18).

John repeats this phrase saying, “Instantly I was in the Spirit,” (Revelation 4:2) and talks of being, “Carried away in the Spirit.” (Revelation 17:3 and 21:10). His spirit is alive and he is more aware of the spirit realm than the earthly realm. Reading the diary of Jeanne Guyon or David Brainerd will give ample modern day examples.

22.3 Trance

The Bible owned trances long before New Agers grasped the concept, way before hallucinogens were discovered. A trance may be induced by drugs or false worship of demonic gods, but may also be induced by the Spirit of God. Those who worshipped Baal worked themselves up into a trance-like state and cut themselves with knives. (1 Kings 18:28,29) Christians should never try to “work up” a trance; nor should we practice Eastern methods of relaxation and emptying the mind to go into a trance-like state. Peter “Was praying at the temple, and fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking.” (Acts 22:17 c.f. Acts 10:10).

The word he used here is ekstasis, which according to W.E.  Vine means, “A condition in which ordinary consciousness and perception of the natural is withheld, and the soul becomes susceptible only to visions imparted by God.” It is a literal displacement of the mind. We lose our ordinary faculties during the period of the trance, but do not leave the body.  It is a state we can snap out of at any point, by the exercise of our will. One day I was caught into a trance at the dinner table. My wife was unaware that I was “somewhere else” though I could see her, and experience the trance at the same time. She called my name, strongly, and I chose to “snap out of it”. Then I wrote down what I saw. Interestingly enough, I could not “return” to the trance.

22.4 Out of Body

The Bible mentions “out of body” experiences on several occasions. There are two terms used for it. Paul refers to being out of the body (2 Corinthians 12:2) where he “was caught up to the third heaven”. He uses the word harpazo, meaning to seize, catch away, pluck up, pull out or take by force. He heard inexpressible things; things that man is not permitted to tell.

Ezekiel had a similar experience, “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley.” (Ezekiel 37:1 KJV). The Old Testament equivalent is yatsa’, meaning to force out, break out, carry away, extricate. The defining characteristic is translocation. We are physically, or temporally present in another place.


23.1        Thunder

Sometimes God speaks with a sound like thunder. He roars from heaven, and it sounds like thunder or trumpeting in the natural realm. No one present will deny that He has spoken, but no words are understood. “The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him’.” (John 12:29 NRSV).

The effect may be fear, awe and surrender, but usually not frivolity or fun. “The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” (2 Samuel 22:14). It sounds just like thunder and it may have physical repercussions. In 1 Samuel 7:10 we read, “But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines.” The enemy was totally defeated!

23.2        Voice like many waters

Have you ever stood right beside a waterfall as it roared into a canyon or riverbed? Or heard a screaming jet as it took off? This is not background noise – it’s in your face, overwhelming white noise!  This is like the audible voice of God – but its wavelength is jammed somewhere between thunder and the intelligible-audible voice of God. John heard the Lord speaking in this way – and there were distinct words, “Like many waters.” (Revelation 14:2). John was able to communicate what he heard in the waters.

23.3        Intelligible-audible voice

The Lord can speak directly, physically, and audibly to one or more people simultaneously. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’.”(Mathew 3:17). Some will hear and understand, whilst others will not – as with Saul on the road to Damascus . (Acts 9:7)


When God Himself steps down and enters the realm of human life the phenomenon goes beyond sensation or a brief visual encounter. Mountains melt like wax, (Psalm 97:5) thunderstorms arise, (2 Samuel 22:10) the temple fills with smoke, (1 Kings 8:10) or the place is set on fire! “The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai,” (Exodus 19:20) and Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire! It was God’s intention to speak to the people from this state, but they would not have it. It was man, not God, who withdrew from intimacy and communication with God. “When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of Him upon you so that you do not sin.’ Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:18-21).


What a diverse range of ways our God speaks! Impressions, dreams, visions, angels, a voice like thunder... and many other ways.  It takes time to recognise God’s voice, and distinguish it from others, but once we do, another important element is also needed –confidence.

We might find ourselves walking into a room, when the hair on our arm stands up; or we get a shiver down our spine. How can we tell if this is the Spirit, or if it is a demonic presence? That takes the gift of discernment, which we will look at in chapter 18.  We may have a strong impression that someone is in sin, or needs our help. But if we lack the confidence to act on that impression, nothing will happen. Confidence takes time to build up.  We need a track record of successes, to help us be sure we heard from God.

I would caution not to take things too seriously at first. Our ability to hear God is often flawed by sin, skewed by desire or clouded by ambition. We may be asking God about a certain decision and receive several Scripture verses during prayer.

We might be tempted to work hard to make them “line up” as direction from God.

I knew a woman once, whose faith in God was deeply shaken because she got one detail of a prophetic word incorrect. The majority of it was right, but the sex of a child was wrong. She said, “All of it was God, it was all the same voice. If I got that detail wrong, then the voice I heard was not God. And if that was not God... then I never have heard from Him at all!” Don’t throw it all away because of error. Things can creep in along the way (more on that in chapter 22). Just keep trying, keep listening, keep writing and grow in your confidence to hear His voice!


Goll, Jim W. “The Seer.” Destiny Image, 2004.

Guyon, Jeanne. “An Autobiography.” Whittaker House, 1997.

Howard, Phillip E. “The Life & Diary of David Brainerd.” Baker Bookhouse, 1992.

Hughes, Ray. “The Minstrel Series.” Audio Tape 7. EagleStar Publishing, 2000.

Jackson, John Paul. “Dreams Part I.” Article, Streams of Shiloh , 1994.

Ryle, James. “A Dream Come True.” Sovereign, 1999.

Virkler, Mark. “Dialogue with God.” Peacemakers. 1985.

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