From the earliest Hebrew patriarchs through Moses, Joshua, the judges and kings of Israel, the prophets, Jesus and his apostles, we read thousands of messages given to or through various individuals by YHWH*, the one true, living God. Sometimes, he spoke directly to them; sometimes he used other people to convey the messages. Throughout the history recorded in it, the Bible clearly reveals YHWH's continued desire and efforts to communicate with his people, even when his people refuse to listen and obey. Does he still speak to his people, and can people still hear him? In a word, yes. Despite the ignorant remarks of some, he still does. The more important question for us is, do we listen and obey?
The Bible reports that word from YHWH was rare during the days of Samuel (1 Sam 3:1), just as it seems today. But reading that in context reveals that devotion to YHWH was what was rare in those days (see, e.g. Judges 21:22). YHWH continued to send his word, and he still does. Like the people in Samuel's day, humans today have difficulty hearing or receiving his messages, so it seems that he does not communicate, at least not very often. And when we, as hundreds of generations before us, do not like what we have received or do not want to obey it, we reject it.
Over the centuries, YHWH has used many ways to speak to or communicate with his people, including audible words, the written word, dreams and visions, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, prophecies, words of others, signs and wonders, our own words and our own thoughts. As the Bible does, the following sometimes refers to YHWH's communications as words from him.
The Bible reports instances when YHWH spoke with an audible voice: Ex. 33:11 tells us that he spoke to Moses "face to face" (see, also, Num. 12:7, Deut. 34:10). We also read, for example, that he spoke to Joshua (Josh. 1:1) and the prophet Gad (1 Chr. 21:9). Samuel may have heard an audible voice in 1 Sam. 3:1-14. A voice from the heavens was heard when Jesus was baptized by John (Matt. 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22) and from a cloud that appeared when Jesus was transfigured on a high mountain (Matt. 17:5, Mark 9:7). And Paul and his traveling companions heard his voice when Paul was struck blind on his way to Damascus to murder Christians (Acts 9:4).
Although rare, I have heard and read of people living in more recent times who report hearing YHWH audibly. For them, what they heard was utterly reliable and sometimes transforming. For example, years ago, I heard a man named Tommy Ashcraft tell how an audible rebuke from YHWH contributed to committing his life to Jesus. He reported the incident in his book Prodigal Husband. I believe a person can receive such words today, but whether anyone will depends entirely on YHWH, not on the person's seeking them. And before relying on such a word to guide or direct anyone's life, the word should be carefully tested and clearly applicable. (See the section below on testing a message.)
The written word
Except for written messages like those given by prophets to the kings of Israel and Judah or those based on words received by other humans, the Bible offers the ultimate written message from YHWH to those living today. It contains the record of his words and acts for over 2,000 years and represents the most basic and most reliable communication from YHWH. It also provides the line and standard against which all other words or messages should be measured and tested-- to confirm that they agree with it or, at least, do not conflict with it.
Even though the Bible was recorded thousands of years ago, YHWH's words in it still speak to us. The words of his prophets still instruct, guide and direct us. The words of Jesus and his apostles still encourage, comfort, inspire, correct and admonish us. Although we may differ about the meaning and import of some of what we read, YHWH still uses the Bible to convey his will and expects us to hear it. I and numerous others have even heard YHWH, from his written word, tell us how to deal with particular problems facing us, give us wisdom to deal with particular situations in our lives, and comfort us in the midst of particular trials. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God, YHWH, is living and active, and the writer clearly contemplates YHWH's word transmitted to others in the past.
In my opinion, the best way to "hear" YHWH's voice in the Bible is to read it-- regularly and thoughtfully, both Old and New Testament together. Get to know him through the scriptures. Get to know the thoughts he has revealed. Get to know what he "sounds" like and the kinds of answers he gives. Many troublesome situations people face are clearly addressed in the Bible if people will just trust it. And knowing the Bible makes finding the answers a lot easier. I cannot count the number of times a person has called me, thinking they had a legal problem only to find out they really had a spiritual problem. After just a few minutes conversation, the Holy Spirit has reminded me of some passage that directly speaks to the person's situation. My writings do not include many quotes from the Bible because I want people to open the Bible and read the passage there-- in context. There is no substitute for reading and knowing the Bible.
Sometimes, people have reported to me that YHWH spoke to them through a passage that caught their eye when they first opened their Bible without thinking about where to open it. I do not question the validity of such experiences, because I have had similar experiences. But I do not encourage it as a way to seek word from YHWH. And I strongly discourage the practice of standing the Bible on its spine, letting it fall open somewhere and then trying to find a passage that addresses some situation in a person's life. That practice differs only superficially from throwing dice or practicing divination.
Dreams and visions
For centuries, YHWH has used dreams and visions to communicate with people, even those who were not dedicated to him, such as Pharoah's dreams in Gen. 41:1-7. Joseph had dreams from YHWH that foretold future relationships with his brothers. He also possessed the gift of interpreting dreams, such as those given to the cupbearer and the baker (Gen. 40:8-23) and Pharaoh. Daniel had that same gift, interpreting dreams given to the brutal dictator, Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:17-45 and 4:19-27). In Num. 12:6, YHWH informed Moses that he would make himself known to a prophet in a vision and speak to him in a dream. YHWH communicated with Ezekiel in visions recorded in Ezek. 8:3-11:24, 37:1-11, and 40:2-48:35. Daniel received visions from YHWH, as reported in Dan. 2:19 (interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream), 7:1-28, 8:1-27, and 10:1-12:13. The New Testament records visions that YHWH gave to men: Ananias received a vision that sent him to Paul after Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:10-12). The Roman centurion Cornelius saw a vision (Acts 10:3-7) that prompted him to send for Peter. Then Peter had a vision (Acts 10:10-16, 10:17,19; 11:5) that sent him to Cornelius, beginning the spread of the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul received a vision that sent him to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10) with the good news, an event that evidenced YHWH's will for everyone everywhere to hear it. People today receive dreams and visions from YHWH. I have received both and have interpreted others' dreams and visions.
While the nature of dreams needs no explanation, understanding visions does. Sometimes the word is applied to a verbal thought or word picture from YHWH or a prophetic message. Isaiah's prophecies are described this way. I use the word to signify a visual image that the viewer can see but others cannot. In the visions I receive, the image appears in front of me but very few have been vibrant enough to obscure what appeared behind the vision. Most have lasted only a second or less and contain a static scene of some kind, like a photograph or snapshot. When I first began to receive them, I questioned them in my mind, but when I worked up the courage to tell what I thought I'd seen, the person with whom I was praying would tell me how it related to that person's life. More rarely, I receive visions that last longer and are more like movies or videos, in that they progress through an event or move about a place. Typically, I receive them while in a gathering with other Christians in which we are praying or quietly seeking YHWH's word. I test these also by offering them without declaring them to be from YHWH. If I don't receive confirmation of a vision at that time, I put it on the shelf until someone confirms it or something in the Bible confirms it.
We cannot decide whether or when we will have a dream or vision from YHWH, but we can ask him for them. My wife, Laurie, and I regularly encourage people with whom we pray to ask YHWH to speak to them in a dream. She believes it helps to ask just before going to sleep. We also encourage them to have a pad and pen handy to record the dream in detail the moment they awake. Sometimes those dreams have provided significant help for the person's healing. Not all dreams come from YHWH, but when seeking YHWH's help in some way, all should be considered. Seeking visions is more difficult. As mentioned above, I have asked for them when praying with someone or when in a meeting, and sometimes our Father has granted my request. But when I do that, I try very hard not to generate the vision from within my thoughts. And unless I clearly receive an interpretation of it, I try to avoid interpreting it until I've had time to seek and then received the interpretation from YHWH.
Words of wisdom and knowledge
1 Cor. 12:8 mentions words of wisdom and words of knowledge without explaining them. YHWH communicates through a word of knowledge by imparting to the person who receives it knowledge of a fact the person did not know previously. He communicates through a word of wisdom by giving the person who receives it knowledge about how to address a particular situation, even though the person does not know all the facts of the situation. Sometimes such words come as spontaneous thoughts; sometimes they arrive in the person's conscious mind instantaneously, without any thought process producing them. I have received many such words, most often when praying with someone for healing, especially from past hurts. The Bible records events that illustrate such words: In Gen. 41:25-32, Joseph demonstrated a word of knowledge by instantly declaring what Pharaoh's dreams meant without having to take time for prayer or reflection. Then in Gen. 41:33-36, he demonstrated a word of wisdom by telling Pharaoh what to do about the years of plenty and the years of famine revealed in the dreams. In Acts 5:3, Peter had apparently received a word of knowledge when he confronted Ananias about trying to deceive the Holy Spirit. 2 Kings 5:26 reports a word of knowledge that Elisha received about his servant Gehazi. Solomon's handling the dispute between the two women claiming the same baby revealed his receiving a word of wisdom (1 Kings 3:16-27). Paul demonstrated a word of wisdom at work when he healed the lame man in Lystra (Acts 14:8-10). King David received what I would call a word of wisdom when he went into the battle described in 2 Sam. 5:22-25.
I don't know when I began receiving words of wisdom and knowledge. When I was a lot younger, I used to wonder why I found myself so often telling people something like, "I told you so". Although I realized that was obnoxious, I thought it might make them more receptive to some warning or advice in the future. I know better now. That I was receiving words of wisdom and knowledge first dawned on me when my wife Laurie and I were praying for a friend's healing over 20 years ago. He had complained about chronic pain in his knee, so we had laid hands on the knee and were praying. The thought passed through my mind that we should pray for his whole leg, what some people call lengthening of the leg. No sooner had that thought passed through my mind than Laurie said, "I think we need to pray for his leg to lengthen." We did, and it did. I had pushed him firmly back in his chair to confirm that one leg was shorter than the other and was holding both his heels in my hand. The heel of the shorter leg moved out so quickly that if we had blinked at the moment that it happened, we would have missed it. I pushed him back in the chair to make sure I hadn't moved his leg and asked if he'd moved. Neither of us had caused what happened. That event revealed to us one way that YHWH guides our prayers. And, more importantly for us, it revealed that we do receive words from him when we serve him.
Anyone praying with or for someone else should seek words of wisdom and knowledge but be careful not to force the process. If nothing comes, accept that as a word in itself: Our Father is not ready to give or we are not ready to receive what we ask. Or he may have something else in mind entirely. That's what it means to be king, sovereign. He decides, not us. The main caveat I have for those who believe they have received a word of wisdom or knowledge is to test it carefully. (See the section below on testing a message.) If praying with someone, don't declare, "I've just gotten a word from the Lord." Instead, ask the person if it fits or makes sense. And before doing that, try asking YHWH if now is the time to present it. Although the answer to that question is usually, "yes", you may receive either a distinct "no" or what I can call a "check" or "block" in your spirit, a sense that now is not the time. When that happens, YHWH may have given the word for your benefit, or he may not have finished what he is doing in the other person, or something else may be happening.
Some people who pray with or for others have reported feeling some emotion, or some sensation or pain in their own bodies that they were not feeling before they started praying. As just one of many examples, I was leading a group in asking YHWH for words of knowledge when a member of the group felt an unusual pain in his knee, which led us to pray for another member's knee, which then healed instantly. Such feelings and sensations may be words of knowledge, but as with other words, they should be tested and not merely declared as YHWH's word.
Sometimes YHWH gives words of wisdom and words of knowledge as an encouragement to people who are reluctant or afraid to seek prayer for healing or who need to address some spiritual condition. Sometimes he gives words to let people know that he is present, as for example, when he identifies a particular condition that needs healing. Many prayer meetings experience such words. I have received such words, even words about conditions I didn't even know existed at the time (such as "mandibular accretion"). While he may or may not heal the condition, he typically uses those words as a spur to motivate people to act in faith, either to seek him or to address something in their lives.
Tongues and interpretation of tongues
1 Cor. 12:10 lists tongues and the interpretation of tongues as gifts of the spirit. These are two additional means by which YHWH communicates with his people. The word "tongues" merely refers to a language that the speaker has never learned. I have never personally witnessed a message delivered in an unknown tongue that I considered reliable as a word from YHWH. But I have read of individuals who have exercised that gift or who were present when the gift was exercised. As a very skeptical journalist, John Sherrill had heard of the phenomenon and investigated it. He reported his investigation and his eventual conviction of its reality in his book, They Speak with Other Tongues. I have read other books that report messages delivered in tongues. One was delivered in Hebrew at a Pentecostal meeting in Los Angeles for the benefit of a Jewish man from New York who attended the meeting in order to disprove the phenomenon. Instead, it converted him. In another instance, a message delivered in English by a member of a primitive tribe in Africa was accurately interpreted by another member. Neither of them knew English. An English-speaking missionary reported the event.
A Reformed minister named Harald Bredesen received the gift of speaking in several languages that were unknown to him but known to those who heard him. In one incident, he found out that he was praising the Father in Polish from someone who spoke the language. In another, he learned that his praise was in ancient or archaic Arabic from a woman who knew that language. John Sherrill tells about those in his book, and Harald wrote about them himself in a book which I cannot find at this writing. Those and numerous other reports reveal that the gift of tongues is legitimate and active. However, as with other spiritual gifts, flesh and human vanity can corrupt and distort their exercise, so its exercise should be tested. (See the section below on testing a message.)
The word "tongues" as used in this writing does not refer to the prayer language that pentecostals and charismatics have received. Their prayer language is what I believe Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 14:14-15. While it strengthens and empowers those who exercise the gift and may help us receive YHWH's communications, it is not a communication from YHWH, except perhaps to our spirits. More likely, it provides communication from our spirit to him. But during such prayer, it is not at all unusual to receive words from him.
YHWH's most common communications in the Bible were prophecies. Prophecies are words or messages which purport to have divine origin and are delivered by one person to one or more others. They may be spoken or written. They may foretell or predict future events, but most prophecies in the Bible consisted of YHWH's instructions, directions, guidance, rebukes, warnings and other responses to what the people of Israel had done, not done, or needed to do. Prophecies appear throughout the Bible. Some of those were personal to individuals (as in Acts 13:9-11), but most were given for the nation or congregation. Many of them still speak to us. False prophecies may claim YHWH's authority (as in 1 Kings 22:11-12) but do not come from him, as Ahab learned when he trusted the false prophets in that account.
YHWH still delivers prophetic messages or words. Sometimes they appear in or as part of a sermon. The prophetic messages that I receive come as thoughts but in a different way from words of knowledge or words of wisdom. They come during periods of prayer and meditation, usually about a church congregation or organization, but sometimes about the state of the body of Jesus Christ. Some are general in nature, some are specific and directed to those who govern the congregation or organizaion. Some speak to the future, but most address current conditions and YHWH's thoughts about them. Some have been delivered to those in charge, but some are being held until I receive direction about what to do with them. I do not deliver them until I have tested them, first against the Bible, then with people who know me and my personality, who have spiritual maturity, and who will be honest with me.
Before accepting words that purport to come from YHWH, people need to test them. 1 John 4:1 instructs us to test the spirits because many false prophets have gone out into the world. However, John's test in 1 John 4:2-3 has only limited benefit in processing prophetic messages themselves. In the section below on testing a message, I offer some thoughts on how to do that.
Signs and wonders
YHWH sometimes uses signs and wonders to communicate and to confirm his communications. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign (Ex. 31:13), a form of communication. YHWH confirmed the word delivered through Aaron and Moses by signs (Ex. 4:30-31). YHWH protected the land of Goshen from swarms of insects (Ex. 8:22) so that Pharaoh would know that YHWH was in the land. In Ezekiel, the phrase, "so that you may know that I am YHWH", or its equivalent appears over 60 times in conjunction with predictions of what YHWH would do. Mark 16:20 reports that YHWH confirmed the word of Jesus' disciples by signs that followed when they declared him. Balaam's donkey (Num. 31:22-33) revealed one of the many ways in which YHWH uses signs and wonders to communicate. When something unusual happens, we should take care not to ignore the possibility that YHWH may be communicatiing with us. It may be the equivalent of an army trumpet, a police or fire siren, or a ship's speaker declaring, "Now hear this."
Words YHWH puts in our mouth
Sometimes YHWH speaks through his people without their realizing it. This happened to me years ago when I was trying to encourage a young woman who was feeling disrespected and insignificant in the world, including the church she was attending. She was feeling like a nobody. I listened and prayed in the Spirit without trying to think of anything to say. Suddenly, I found myself telling her, "Don't you know that being a nobody is a virtue in the kingdom of God?" Immediately, I realized what I'd said and remembered numerous nobodies that YHWH had used: Gideon, Saul and David. Even Jesus was a nobody in the world's eyes. Moses and Paul were not useful to YHWH until he'd reduced them to nobodies by worldly standards. I have had similar experiences since then, usually when encouraging someone, praying with someone or witnessing to someone.
I've been in other situations in which I've heard others make statements without realizing what they said. I surprised them when I pointed out the significance of what they'd uttered and how YHWH had used them to speak his word. Many people don't realize the full significance of the story of Balaam's donkey (Num. 31:22-33). If YHWH can give a donkey the ability to see an angel and to speak, we should not be surprised that he can speak through his people when it suits him, whether they realize it or not.
In fact, that YHWH sometimes puts words in someone's mouth finds a confirmation in Balaam's own story. Without explaining how YHWH did it, Num. 23:5,16 reports that YHWH put his word in Balaam's mouth so that Balaam blessed the children of Israel rather than curse them as Balak, Moab's king, desired. Balaam had warned Balak that he could only speak what YHWH gave him to speak, but the report does not tell us that he knew in advance what he was going to say.
Thoughts from YHWH
The Bible tells us that the word of YHWH "came" to certain individuals, such as Abram (Gen. 15:1), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:10), Solomon (1 Ki. 6:11), Elijah (1 Ki. 17:2), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:2), and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:3), to cite just a few of the numerous times that statement appears. In almost all of these, we are not told how the word came. The record's not reporting them as spoken reveals that they probably came in a different way. Based on my study of the Scriptures many times during a period of over 30 years, I've become convinced that YHWH's word came to them as thoughts in their minds. Part of this conviction arises from the Hebrew and Greek words translated as "word", which signify not only spoken words but thoughts, ideas, concepts.
In my lesson on spiritual warfare, I report receiving a word from YHWH in my thoughts. On the home page of this web site, I have begun to report other such words, and I have begun to collect them in a record titled merely Words. Some of those are words intended to guide, instruct or direct me personally, but further reflection revealed that many of them can benefit other Christians. Although I report such words and others that I believe YHWH gave me, I do not expect other people to accept them as his. I leave that to them and YHWH.
Other people have told me what they believe YHWH has told them. Several have stated that they received such words in their spirit, but further questioning revealed that they had a thought they believed was from YHWH. I discerned that they invoked their "spirit" as a way of insulating the thought from scrutiny and giving it a higher authority and greater validity. However, many such thoughts come from our own emotions, desires, attitudes, beliefs and other motivations and have proven false.
YHWH may speak to us through our thoughts and sometimes does. But we have many more thoughts of our own. Therefore, we should test every thought we think might be from YHWH to verify its source and reliability. (See the section below on testing a message.)
How to hear or receive words
The Bible and the experiences of countless individuals affirm over and over that YHWH loves us, desires an intimate relationship with us, and wants to communicate with us. So how do we "hear" him or receive his communications? Because he deals with each of us according to our individual nature and spiritual condition, the records reveal that he uses different ways to communicate or speak to each of us. I have described above how I received many of the words that have come to me, but I do not follow a particular method. If this experience is new or foreign to you, my wife Laurie has some insights that might help. First she reminds us of Jesus' promise in Matt. 7:7: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (NASB)
Laurie has reminded me that when we began receiving his word, YHWH's messages were simple, mostly expressing his love for us. He wants his children to know that he loves them. He gave all of us his only begotten son as a sign of his love, but sometimes we need to hear it personally. She sees him as the lover of our souls who woos each of us in a special way before he starts telling us what he wants us to do or not to do. It is important also to believe that he wants to communicate with each of us. My analogy is to think of a radio or TV station that transmits its signal for everyone to receive. The signal is available to everyone, but not everyone turns on their receiver. Some turn the sound down so they won't hear. The analogy begins to break down at this point, but if we remember that YHWH is infinite and that his abilities transcend our puny abilities and imaginations, we can appreciate that the creator of the entire universe, who created each of us and "in whom we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28), can certainly communicate with each of us on our own wavelength.
On the practical side, Laurie offers the following method that helps her hear YHWH: To begin, get quiet before him. Try not to let cares and concerns of this world intrude. This phase may take time, but with practice, your ability to do it will improve. Then ask a question, the simpler the better at first. She and I have learned, and others have confirmed, not to ask "why" questions. You might begin by asking about some passage in the Bible. Or ask, "what do you want to say to me?" For some it helps to meditate on a Bible passage or psalm.
Next, Laurie emphasizes believing that he will answer. That means, expect him to answer. She says that believing after you ask is a very important part of receiving. Look and listen for the answer. Sometimes he answers with a memory, maybe a scripture, maybe something someone else said. Then he may expand on that. Try to be aware of what Jesus is doing or saying. Laurie likes to look and listen with her eyes shut. The final step, of course, is to receive. She and I believe that YHWH has already communicated with each of us long before we became aware of it. He has done that in our thoughts, as well as in the other ways I've listed above. He often speaks in what the King James Version calls a "small, still voice" 1 Kings 19:12. That is the thought that is almost not even there. It does not intrude on the conscious mind, and typically passes through the mind so quickly that we usually reject it as irrelevant.
We need to snatch those thoughts and meditate on them, because those thoughts, the thoughts that seem to enter our mind almost subconsciously, have the greatest potential of being from YHWH. Hearing or receiving words from YHWH takes practice and persistence. I sought to hear him for years before I became aware of how he was communicating to and through me. After giving up on hearing him audibly, I tried blanking my mind, visualizing a blackboard, thinking he might write some message on it. I then tried excluding every thought, crushing those that intruded, expecting him to overpower my mind and put something there. Unfortunately, some of those intruding thoughts were almost certainly from him, but I did not recognize them because of my own expectations.
In my experience, I often find those thoughts coming to me as I study and meditate on some portion of the Bible, some comment or report I've heard or read, or some experience I've had or am having. I have learned that I have to separate myself from the worldly and open my mind to receive his understanding, wisdom and instruction. Sometimes, I "talk" with the Father in my mind, asking for an explanation of something. My favorite place to do that is in our little den while I'm reading and studying the Bible. Often, I look at the trees in our back yard as a way of redirecting my focus to him and what he might want to communicate. No two experiences are the same, so I never know when or what I will receive. But years of practice and faithful Bible study have greatly improved my ability to receive YHWH's communications.
Jesus said that his sheep know his voice (John 10:3-6). However, even sheep have to learn the shepherd's voice, which requires hearing the shepherd over a period of time. With practice, increasing familiarity with the Bible and testing what we believe we have heard or received, we can learn to recognize Jesus' voice, the voice of YHWH's Holy Spirit, who lives and works from inside of those born of him and into Jesus. And we can learn to distinguish his voice from our own thoughts and the voices that intrude from outside our being, at least well enough to know we have something that ought to be tested.
And that brings us to the point of verifying the origin of thoughts we believe might have come from YHWH, testing them to confirm that we have heard from YHWH.
Testing a message or word
Testing whether YHWH is telling us something will help us avoid not only embarrassment and painful or costly experiences, but the more serious risk of offending him. 1 John 4:1 teaches us to test the spirits, and although John clearly contemplated false prophets, his instruction can also apply to those spirits at work in us personally. We humans tend to like any word that reinforces what we already believe or want. That means we must test every word that appears to support, for example, what we already want or what we may already have decided or may hope for. I have warned many people against trusting the "word" that they claimed had come from YHWH, especially those I knew to be false or highly suspect. I encouraged the individuals to test them. When they proceeded in reliance on their "word", most experienced something different from what they expected. Their disappointment often devastated them. One even became angry with YHWH because she believed her own thought, ignored my warning and counsel, and then blamed YHWH for the disastrous outcome.
I strongly encourage testing every word that we believe we have received, especially those that confirm what we already want or a decision we already favor. We should test words that we believe we have received when we are experiencing emotions or are influenced by a strong bias or attitude. Our first and most reliable test is whether it is directly confirmed in the Bible. If the word conflicts with the Bible, we can reject it, but absence of conflict does not confirm the word: Our ability to distort anything we read is so strong that we should seek other confirmations. Even Gideon asked for confirmation despite the fact that YHWH spoke directly to him and promised that he would lead Israel to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:14-40).
Gideon used a fleece to test whether he really heard YHWH. Some people like to use a similar test, what others call the "open door" test, typically invoking Gideon's fleece. Personally, I've seen that one explode too many times to consider it reliable in any way. If you ask YHWH to open a door to test whether something is his will, remember that Gideon devised a reverse test. If you want to have the same level of certainty Gideon had, ask that YHWH also close the door.
When someone has received what they believe is a word in response to a specific inquiry, I recommend having others, preferably mature, Godly brothers and sisters, present the same inquiry to YHWH without telling them the word. If the others come back with the same answer, that gives a higher degree of certainty that YHWH has indeed spoken. What Jesus told his disciples about two or three in prayer pointed me to this approach (Matt. 18:19-20). The key to this approach, however, is that those consulted honestly seek YHWH's will and suppress any desire to please, comfort or even encourage the person who has asked for confirmation.
If the word or message has a general nature, then after testing it against the Bible, I encourage testing it by asking mature, Godly brothers and sisters to meditate and pray about it. Those with prophetic gifts might be preferable for such testing, but nothing in the Bible tells us that they alone can help test the message. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26) and lead us into all truth (John 16:13). So all of us have the potential to test such messages and should not hesitate to do it. Regardless of the authority or prestige of the person delivering a message, if we cannot confirm it, we should not accept it. But we also should not reject it. Instead, we should put it on the shelf waiting for a confirmation.
Testing also requires considering the person who delivers a message that purports to have divine origin. How a person lives makes a difference. Does the person's life show fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? Does the person manifest maturity and humility in the way the person lives? Does the person know the Bible well and acknowledge its authority in the person's life? Does the person glorify Jesus and YHWH? If a person's message coincides with the person's own self-interest or the person's agenda, that should raise suspicions and certainly justifies greater scrutiny. Who benefits, and who is glorified? These are just some of the types of tests that can be applied. Itinerant "ministers" and "prophets" (including the television and radio variety) may mean well, but they do not have to live with the consequences of the messages they deliver. Their messages should be weighed very carefully.
Laurie emphasizes that no one should do anything drastic or extreme based on any word or message without confirmation of the message by at least two or three people who are tuned to the Holy Spirit. It may be impossible to confirm any word or message without some nagging doubt or question, but experience has taught us and others that seeking confirmation from others is not only wise but godly (see, e.g., Prov. 11:14, 12:15, 15:22).
The Bible and our experience confirm that YHWH loves his people as much as ever and that he still communicates with his people, despite the contention by some that he does not speak to us today as he did in the past or that we cannot hear him as his people did in the past. The Old Testament promise of a new covenant relationship with his people did not change him or his obvious desire to communicate. Nothing in the Bible supports the notion that he went silent just because we have the Bible. Indeed, we are expressly told that YHWH does not change (Mal. 3:6) and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
Denying his gifts or communications that could be from him risks blaspheming the Holy Spirit-- as those did who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Matt. 12:24-32). We also risk missing so much in our relationship with him, just as we would if we had a close friend who did not talk with us. Those who find it hard to believe that other mortals still receive or hear words from YHWH should investigate further, applying the tests above and any others they find in the Bible. I was once one of those, but investigation, studying the entire Bible, and an open mind led me to accept what is now obvious. And hearing from YHWH has enriched my life and my relationship with him beyond anything mortal words can say. I believe it can do the same for everyone.
*YHWH or YHVH is the English representation of the four Hebrew letters that spell the name of the God of the Bible, the one true, living God worshipped by Jews and Christians. YHWH was the name by which he identified himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14. According to references that I've read, the exact pronunciation of YHWH's name was lost in antiquity. After much study, I prefer to pronounce the name "Yahu-wah" (the "h" being aspirated as in "hay", emphasis on the last syllable), but the generally accepted pronounciation in common English is "Yah-weh" or "Yah-way". Some translations of the Bible, such as the KJV and NASB, substitute "the LORD" for his name, following a practice begun before Jesus' birth.
YHWH revealed himself in various ways to the children of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He also revealed himself in and through his son Jesus Christ and acts, among other ways, in and through Christians by the Holy Spirit. Because the word "God" is being used today to designate all kinds of human inventions, although accepted for centuries in English as a name for YHWH, I prefer to use the name that YHWH chose for himself rather than "God" or "the LORD" as I did in early versions of my writings. Please read The Name of the One True, Living God for a fuller discussion.
|Remember who He is and whose you are|