The Biblical Assumption that God Speaks

In a previous post, I described the idea that some things are presented in Scripture as if they are “simply true”, without any sort of proof or justification given. I’m not sure how technically “theologically sound” that approach is, but it does give some interesting insights. One of the ideas is that God speaks, and in particular, that He speaks to us. In this post, I’ll describe a selection of passages that seemed to be written with that truth in mind. Simply seeing these all together is enlightening.

We can start fairly early, soon after the Israelites have left Egypt:

There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” Exodus 15:25b-26

When the Israelites encountered some bitter water, Moses called out to the Lord on their behalf, and He showed him what to do to purify the water. Right after that, the Lord made the first direct commandment upon being delivered from Egypt, the verse above. They were to “diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God…” Obviously in the Old Testament this was manifest primarily through prophets, but might not this apply to the individual today? Consider the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy at Pentecost, regarding the coming prevalence of prophecy, and Paul’s statement that all should seek prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). To me, the direct repetition of God’s expectation to be listened to is pretty telling.

One of the ways this seems to translate from Old Testament prophet to New Testament disciple is to consider discipleship as “hearing and obeying”. Then a lot of passages will jump out, such as Isaiah saying that God “awakens my ear to hear… and I was not rebellious” (Isaiah 50:4-5), or Jesus saying “I do as the Father has commanded Me” (John 14:31), and teaching that disciples are to become like the master (Matthew 10:25a). Isaiah seemed to directly point to the future listening in Isaiah 30:21: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying…”, in a passage that clearly points beyond the physical restoration of Jerusalem.

Line that up with Jesus’ statements in John: “And I have other sheep … and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16) and “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). Add to those the fact that each of the Transfiguration accounts ends with God saying about Jesus: “Listen to Him!”. Did these statements only apply to the people who were physically with Him?

Also in John, the Spirit is described as speaking to us: “whatever He hears He will speak…” (John 16:13). This is presumably part of Him teaching us “all things” (John 14:26), not just things explicitly mentioned in Scripture. And our sanctified walk is described as being “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18).

For example, consider the cases of Isaiah’s spiritual “interruption” when leaving Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:4-5), or Paul being limited by “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7), or the Jerusalem Council writing that “it has seemed good the the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28). These don’t seem like dramatic imposed-upon visitations, but rather the quiet guidance of the Lord. They are exactly the kinds of things I would expect people to say who are listening to the Spirit. (Actually the Council’s statement is interesting, because it presents a wise balance of seeking Spiritual guidance, and combining that with human thinking.)

All in all, these passages seem to paint the picture of God actively speaking to His people, even though they may not describe that explicitly.

There are many other examples, and a list is started below. I hope to keep this list growing, and to post more examples in the future, but then also add them to this single collection.

“And God said…”
(Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29)

In this simplest example, the most repeated statement in the creation narrative describes God speaking. Not to humans of course, but this is directly followed with Him conversing with people. This particular observation is developed further in an earlier post.

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!

Psalm 119:33–40 (ESV)

These verses describe the Psalmist’s desire to understand and apply God’s Word, not to learn it in the first place. These statements raise the question, what exactly was meant by “teach me”, “give me understanding”, “lead me”, etc? Was the expectation to be vague guidance that the Psalmist didn’t consciously recognize, or did he expect some other type of communication from the Lord? It’s clear that he expected something, and if we were talking about another person teaching, leading, and so on, it would certainly involve speaking. And since God speaks so many other times in Scripture, it would seem to be a very possible choice here. Not explicitly stated, but as we are considering here, perhaps just assumed.

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