Sound is important in understanding how God communicates. And so we see, at the very beginning of the time, that light and matter were brought in to existence by the voice of God.
“Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
In other words God spoke, he uttered sound – creative words, that brought light into existence! And, as we have said, matter itself was formed by the creative word of God. No less than 9 times in Genesis 1 do we read the words – “God said!”
Now at first reading, amazing and as awesome as the creative sound of the voice of God must have been – we can at least get our heads round the concept of what is going on. God speaks and things that are not are! But there is a problem here – and I don’t know if anyone, far less me, has a real answer to it. And the problem is this. We can only hear sound – heard words because of the existence of air. It is when sound waves reach the eardrum causing the eardrum to vibrate that we hear sound. It is a natural and physical phenomenon. Where there is no air there is no sound which is why here is no sound in space. Which then begs a number of questions – how does God speak? How do I hear God? How does God reveal himself? Oh someone will say God reveals himself through the written word. But do you actually know in the history of mankind how many people could read?
I don’t know if you have ever had somebody say to you – “God told me to tell you.” I used to feel like asking, although I have never did, “How did God speak to you? Did he speak audibly – or in some other way?” So here is my question – what kind of sounds does God use when he speaks? That is an important question – because the answer to it will determine how and at what level I listen!
Perhaps the first thing to say is that God speaks through his created realm –
“God’s splendour is a tale that is told; his testament is written in the stars. Space itself speaks his story every day through the marvels of the heavens. His truth is on tour in the starry vault of the sky, showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship. Each day gushes out its message to the next, night with night whispering its knowledge to all. Without a sound, without a word, without a voice being heard, Yet all the world can see its story. Everywhere its gospel is clearly read so all may know.”
Psalm 19: 1– 4 [TPT]
We could probably stop here for a long time! For in a very real way God speaks through his creation. And, as this this Psalm reveals, God can speak without a word – without a voice being heard. That’s very interesting!
But when people, wither prophetically or in vision ,have heard God speak what does it sound like? Thankfully we have earwitness testimony!
“Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory.”
“His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.”
“The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The Lord thunders over the mighty sea. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars; the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with bolts of lightning. The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare. In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
Psalm 29: 3 – 9
But then we move from the voice of might and majesty – to the sound of intimacy and song!
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
I don’t know if these songs are in the languages of earth or heaven – perhaps we don’t need to know.
I have a friend who was a really bad boy in his younger days. He knew nothing about God or Christianity but one night his life was radically changed when he heard angelic singing in the rafters of a church to which he had been invited!
So there is the thunderous voice and the voice of melody but we also have the still small, almost silent voice! And audible words are not always used!
We all know the story – God was not in the earthquake or the fire – but in the silence. And in the silence – the still small voice. I think for most of us that is where we hear him most. In the time of quiet, stillness, reflection and contemplation. Many in our Highland Presbyterian tradition will say that God speaks exclusively through the written word – the Bible. But however much we treasure the words and revelation we discover in the bible – such a theology is simple not tenable. The Gospel of John records some very interesting words of Jesus –
“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also.”
How is he going to bring them? The truth is he is going to speak to them!
“They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Now that was simple enough when Jesus walked this planet, although even then he was limited to a very small area. But how does he do that today? Listen again to what he says a little later –
“The Holy Spirit is coming. He will lead you into all truth. He will not speak His Own words. He will speak what He hears. He will tell you of things to come.”
It is the Holy Spirit who speaks today! Even with the written word we need the Holy Spirit! Sure, I can read and study the Bible but until the Holy Spirit speaks it is only a dead letter! Again I like the Passion Translation of John 16:13 –
“But when the truth-giving Spirit comes, he will unveil the reality of every truth within you. He won’t speak his own message, but only what he hears from the Father, and he will reveal prophetically to you what is to come.”
The PTL adds this footnote to the verse –
“The Greek word for “truth” is “reality,” not “doctrine.” It is the application of truth that matters, not just a superficial knowledge.”
Notice also where the truth is revealed – “Within you.” Not in the head, or should I say not primarily in the head, but in the heart!
So back to the question – how does God speak? He can and does undoubtedly speak in nature If he wants to he can also break in to our zone of time and speak audibly. But, for the most part, I believe he speaks to the heart by his Holy Spirit! And I will hear the sound of His voice only insomuch as I listen.