Pulpit Today Sermons
Robert D. Pace
Does God speak to modern man? If so, how? For most Christians these questions are rhetorical, because we know God communicates with man. But it’s untenable, even impossible, for a secular society to admit God communicates with man. Several years ago, the news media vilified a renowned minister for claiming God spoke to him. Yes, the world admits men speak to God through prayer; but Heaven forbid that God should respond!
It’s amazing how erudite the media is. They report on everything with poised assurance. The media are theologians when they report on religion. They are Professors of History when they report on past events. Their investigative reporting transcends the F.B.I. and C.I.A. When it comes to deciphering societal issues they are Sociologists, Psychologists, and Philosophers all wrapped into one omniscient wonder. Regardless of the issue, the media are always equal to the task.
The fact is, the Sovereign God of Creation communicates with men regardless of society’s denial of the fact! He always has spoken and always will. Job 37:5 says: “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.” The notion that God would leave mankind to grope without His guiding Word is inconsistent with His nature. His love and grace compel Him to communicate with mankind. Let’s briefly trace the voice of God through Scripture:
- From the beginning the Lord conversed with Adam during their daily walk in the Garden of Eden.
He communed with the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
He spoke face to face to Moses.
He spoke through the ancient Prophets.
He spoke by His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
And since that time He has spoken to millions of men in numerous ways.
The surprise should not be that God speaks; the surprise should be if He didn’t speak! It’s correct to conclude that Christianity is primarily a religion of the “ear” rather than the “eye.”
(Transition) The Bible says God has “exalted His Word above the heavens.” His Word is as good as His Name and that’s because His Word is His Name. But how does God Speak? That’s what I want to deal with in point one.
I. How God Speaks
Jesus spoke some interesting words in Matthew 11:13 when He said: “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” That may not sound scintillating but there’s tremendous significance in that verse.
In the Old Testament we repeatedly read the phrase “the Word of the Lord came to” . . . Moses, Micah, Elijah, Ezekiel, or Amos, etc. It’s throughout the Old Testament. It was a powerful experience for these men to encounter the “Word of the Lord.” So much so, that the Biblical Prophets referred to it as a “fire” or “burden.” What’s interesting is the phrase, “the Word of the Lord came to,” is never repeated after John the Baptist! Its last occurrence is Luke 3:2 where it says: “during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.” After this it’s completely absent in the New Testament.
Even though the Apostles were commissioned to preach the Word and wrote the New Testament they were unacquainted with this Old Testament formula of encountering “the word of the Lord.” But it’s not because God terminated His communication with man; He simply supplied a better mode of communication. “The Word of the Lord” didn’t come to New Testament men as it did the ancient Prophets because the Word descended in its fullness through Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”
The Gospel writers never propose that the “Word of the Lord came to” Jesus or that He even spoke it. It didn’t come to Him and He didn’t speak it because He was the Word. His relationship with the Father so transcended that of the Prophets that suggesting the “Word came to” Him would have discredited His deity. In Revelation 19:13 John identified Jesus as being “the Word of God.” That’s His divine title. The Word wasn’t revealed to Jesus, Jesus was/is the Word! That’s why everything flowing from His lips was unfiltered, omnipotent utterance.
- His Word remitted sins.
His Word healed the sick.
His Word raised the dead.
His Word calmed the seas.
His Word silenced His critics.
(Transition) Yes God speaks, but secondly let’s consider why God speaks.
II. Why God Speaks
The Lord has a purpose for everything He does and there are logical reasons that He speaks to mankind today. I want to offer six reasons that God speaks to men.
1. First, God speaks because it glorifies His Name. This is why God does anything. Whether it’s manifesting His love on the Cross, parting the sea, stopping the sun, or thundering His voice at the Jordan, it’s all done for His glory. That’s really all there is to say at this point.
2. Second, God speaks because it’s His fundamental nature. God is a speaking God. Beginning in the first chapter of Genesis the Lord reveals Himself speaking. He created the universe by His Word, and when He spoke nothing heard His voice and nothing became something! You see, things that exist and things that do not exist respond to His voice!
And because man was “created in His image,” we were designed to communicate. We yearn to speak and listen to God because it’s our fundamental nature. Communication is an essential aspect of both God and man.
Where would we be without the larynx, the alphabet, language, or the ability to develop the technology of communication? Some of the greatest inventions of all time have been in the field of communications: the phonograph, telegraph, telephone, television, computer, and fax machine are communications breakthroughs.
(Illustration) Statisticians estimate the average person spends at least one-fifth of their life talking. Most people’s daily dialogue could be used to fill a fifty-page book. Each year the average person’s words could fill 132 books, 400 pages long. It’s been said that men speak about 25,000 words a day while women speak about 30,000 words a day. The problem with that, for most households, is that most men have spoken their allotment before they get home from work while women haven’t even started theirs.
3. Third, God speaks because it reveals His redemptive purpose. Romans 16:25-27 says, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, (26) but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” God communicates to make known His plan of redemption. God announced His redemptive plan beginning in Genesis:
- When Adam sinned God graciously informed him that the woman’s seed would crush Satan’s head.
The Lord’s verbal dealings with Noah were redemptive. Noah escaped the Flood to preserve and pro-generate the lineage of Christ.
Abraham, the father of our Faith, had some fascinating conversations with the Lord, and no Old Testament figure reaped redemptive promises like Abraham.
The Lord communicated with Moses in unparalleled fashion—”face to face as a man speaks with a man.”
And in the New Testament it was Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who disclosed the master-plan of redemption. He came and spoke to save us.
God initially communicated with Adam because Adam was “created in His image.” He now speaks to men because He desires to recreate us through the New Birth into the image of His Son. Folks, God’s voice resonates with redemption. It was the purpose of the Law, the Prophets, and Christ. Their voices blended to announce the ultimate plan of redemption through the Cross. And today God uses His Word through Christian’s voices to declare the message of salvation.
4. Fourth, God speaks to mature Believers. Hebrews 5:14 says: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (13) Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. (14) But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Ephesians 1:17 says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (18) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.”
5. Fifth, God speaks to inspire hope in men. On several occasions the Psalmist said: “In your word, O Lord, I will hope.”
I remember a particularly trying two-year period of my life in the mid-80’s. I can say, without question, the most comforting and inspirational input of my life during that trial was the Word of God. I lived on the Psalms. They were my nourishment, light, life, and hope.
But the Lord also communicates to us through the ministry of others. I’ve seen the dim eyes of hurting people brighten when a prophetic word was ministered to them. And their eyes not only brightened, everything about them was revived. Life was breathed into them. That’s the power of the Word. When there’s nothing else to hang onto—no friends, resources, or earthly support—the Word of the Lord will sustain you. It provides hope to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
6. Sixthly, God speaks to disclose His will. The activity of Satan seeks to blind men from spiritual enlightenment. But the Lord doesn’t want our spiritual understanding recondite. Ephesians 5:17 says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
(Example) Paul informed the Galatian Church how he was supernaturally led to minister in Jerusalem. Galatians 2:2 says: “I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” On another occasion Paul received a prophetic word through a vision about the ministry awaiting him in Macedonia. Look at the Scriptures signifying God’s desire to impart knowledge:
- Philippians 1:9 says: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, (10) so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. . . .”
Colossians 1:9-10 says: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (10) And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. . . .”
If you need direction seek the wisdom of God. The Spirit has the answer:
- Moses was told how to escape Pharaoh’s army while standing on the banks of the Red Sea.
Elijah learned of God’s will from a cave.
Peter heard the Lord’s directive from a rooftop.
The voice of the Lord came to Paul during a Mediterranean storm.
John decoded end-time events while expatriated on the island of Patmos.
(Transition) First, I noted how God speaks, second I mentioned why God speaks, now third, I want to discuss to whom God speaks.
III. To Whom God Speaks
Someone cleverly said: “It’s not who you know that matters, it’s whom you know.” Well, this final point is not who God speaks to, it’s to whom God speaks. And I first want to mention that God speaks to those who listen.
1. God speaks to those who listen. According to the Prophet Joel and the Apostle Peter one of the chief characteristics of the last days is the ability of God’s people to discern His voice. Acts 2:17-18 says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. (18) Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” The Lord promised that His voice would be known by His people in the last days.
(Example) When my children were young, like most parents, I tried to get my children to “hear” me. I could ask them to clean their room or finish their homework and they would look at me like I had spoken a foreign language. On the other hand, they had the keenest sense of hearing when I whispered something I didn’t want them to hear. It’s called, “Selective hearing.” Then there’s the flip side to how kids hear parents. Have you noticed how easily kids can misquote you? I sometimes think children can block out the most important chunks of words in the statements parents make. “Don’t do that!” mystically becomes, “Do that, please! I’m begging you; do it!”
Perhaps the “Children of God” have “Selective hearing” too. Just remember: Each command, principle, and precept the Bible discloses is important. So, pay attention!
2. God speaks to those who spend time in His presence. Jesus said in John 17:25-26: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. (26) I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
When you examine those two verses closes you discover how the Apostles “learned” of Christ. You discover how they came “to know” Him. They spent time with Him! They walked, talked, and lived in His presence. Thus, they “heard His voice.”
I can testify, from personal experience, that God has spoken to me as I have maintained a close and prayerful relationship with Him. As you pray, read Scripture, and meditate on the Lord He will open your heart and disclose His counsel.
There is a reason many people don’t hear God speak more often. It’s called “Environmental Distractions.” It’s difficult to hear God speak when your environment is filled with noise, clamor, chatter, and unnecessary distractions. In some fashion, you must provide God with an environment into which He can speak.
(Illustration) I heard Jack Hayford recount how he wrote the song, “Majesty.” It was at the close of a lengthy season of fasting. In the middle of the night he was awakened by the Lord with his hands lifted in praise and singing the words to the song. Fasting flushes away the sins of the flesh and permits the entrance of God’s Word.
3. God speaks to those whom He sovereignly chooses. There are many times, due to no human solicitation, God sovereignly chooses to disclose His will. It’s His autonomous prerogative. Such was the case when He spoke to Saul of Tarsus—Christianity’s chief first century persecutor. At that moment, Saul was an odd candidate for seeing a vision and hearing the voice of the Resurrected Lord. Saul was imprisoning Christians because they worshipped Christ.
(Illustration) I remember the first time the Lord spoke to me. I was nine years-old and shooting basketball on a school playground. I looked up and, from a distance, I saw two older boys walking toward me. Suddenly, the Lord said “Those boys are coming to fight you.” Since the schoolyard was fenced, the boys would have to walk around it before they could reach me. That’s when a flash of divine inspiration supplied me with the perfect strategy to win this battle. I’m sure it was a word of wisdom: I would keep shooting basketball until the boys arrived at the last turn in the fence and then outrun them to freedom. Whoa! What bravery! But it worked! I eluded a massacre because of the voice of the Lord. Praise God.
God spoke scores of times in the Bible without any human solicitation. Out of His wisdom and sovereignty He simply chose to speak. And I’m glad He speaks according to His sovereign choosing. This releases us from trying to twist His arm until He talks. We don’t have to convince Him we are worthy of hearing from Him or that the world will end if He doesn’t speak. The “ball is in His court” and He knows how to Coach us. The responsibility rests upon Him to communicate and we are under no condemnation if He chooses to remain silent. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:7 that “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” And there are times when God sovereignly applies His silence to our lives.
At the beginning of this message I noted that God’s goodness and grace demand that He communicate with man. He speaks by His Word and His Spirit, through Prophets and angels, in dreams and visions, by gifts of the Spirit, through circumstances, in the multitude of counselors, and believe it or not, through preaching and teaching. Are you listening?
Job 33:14-16 says: “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. (15) In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, (16) he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, (17) to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, (18) to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.”
Here’s my prayer for you. It’s taken from Colossians 2:1-3: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. (2) My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”