Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hearing the Voice of God

Samuel heard it and mistook it for the voice of the priest. It was an audible voice, just like a human voice (1 Sam. 3). Moses heard it too. Elijah had to go all the way to Mt. Horeb to hear it, and then it came in a still whisper. Jesus heard it at his baptism in a vision and so did Paul, and we could go on. Throughout the history of God's people and even unto today people have been hearing God's voice. What characterizes most, if not all these direct communications (without aid of cellphone) is that they are brief and direct, and often they involve the direct calling by name of the human being involved.

One of the reasons this phenomenon interests me so much is that it happened to me--- once and only once. It was in the turbulent times when I was at Carolina at the beginning of the 70s. Our national support for the Vietnam war was waning or winding down, but still we were being drafted to go and fight. I remember vividly watching TV in Graham Dorm with my friends when they showed the draft lottery for that day. One of my friends was drafted no. 1-- he put a chair through his TV and went off and joined the Peace Corps immediately. Me, I was just praying hard. My number was 192. I had real issues with this whole involuntary process. I had even gotten the papers to file to be a conscientious objector on religious grounds, but then I never filled them out. I was in a lot of internal turmoil and I was pretty distant and alienated from God. I was even angry with God some, because of the war and what it was doing to my friends.

But God was coming after me it seems, in the person of several of my roommates and friends, most of whom were devout Christians. At this point something strange happened. No, I was not smoking dope, nor dropping acid. I didn't ever do those kinds of things anyway. I was a musician and drugs mess with your voice and abilities to play. I liked having a clear head, so I mostly didn't drink either--- just the occasional glass of wine or beer with a friend at a meal. Like I said, I liked being clear headed.

But pressure was building up inside me. I went to the UNC clinic one day because my ears were ringing and I was having a bout of high blood pressure. When they couldn't find anything wrong with me, they sent me to the counselor. After a superficial chat he decided that what I needed was a girlfriend. That wasn't the problem-- I needed God. One night, late one night, I was walking across the quad mulling my life over when I heard a voice. Now at first I thought it was a friend shouting across the quad at me-- the voice kept saying "Ben, Ben". I looked everywhere, and there was absolutely no one around. I do mean no one. No human soul was there at that hour in the wee hours of the morning but me. This experience was unsettling. I was not expecting it, it literally came out of the blue. I wasn't in a time of prayer or anything like that. My memory is I was heading out to go get one of my favorite North Carolina doughnuts--- Krispy Kreme, which originated in Winston Salem. That's my story and I'm stickin to it--- I went looking for a doughnut and found God.

Later on when I was puzzling about this experience a friend pointed me to a Bible verse. I really didn't know the Bible all that well. The first time I tried to read the whole thing front to back I got stuck in the early 'begats' and Levitical rules and gave up. What a weird book, I thought. These particular verses however seemed to have been written just for me--- John 10.3-4- "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...and his sheep follow him because they recognize the sound of his voice." I have to tell you when I read those verses it freaked me smooth! You see, my name 'Ben' means 'son' in Hebrew. And when I heard that voice it sounded so much like a familiar voice calling my name, like it could almost be my Daddy calling me, which was impossible since he was in Charlotte working away. Hearing that voice, set me on a different path, one I am still treding today.

I have been enjoying reading Don Miller's popular book Blue like Jazz of late. There is a wonderful passage in it where he tells a story about his friend Penny who was born to two hippies (who named her Plenty-- which she managed to change later). She grew up in an atheistic environment and went to perhaps the most 'free thinking' non-Christian college in America-- Reed College in Portland. She met Don there however and she told him an amazing story--- Don and Penny were having a chat and then she said: (Blue like Jazz pp.48-49)

"Now you have to promise to believe me."

"Promise what?" [Don said]

"Okay but I'm not crazy." She took a deep breath. "I heard God speak to me."

"Speak to you?" I questioned.
"What did he say?"

He said "Penny I have a better life for you, not only now but forever." When Penny said that she put her hand over her mouth, as if that would stop her from crying.

"Really,' I said, "God said that to you"

"Yes" Penny talked through her hand "Do you believe me?"

"I guess."

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me or not." Penny started walking again. "That is what happened, Don it was crazy. God said it... I should read you my journal from that night. It was like, oh my God, God talked to me. I am having this trippy God thing right now. God talked to me. I kept asking Him to say it again, but He wouldn't. I guess its because I heard Him the first time, you know."

Don then asked her if that is when she became a Christian. She said no, and he asked why.

She said "I was drunk and high, Don. You should be sober when you make important decisions."

"That's a good point." I agreed But I still thought she was crazy. "So what happened next?"

"Well" Penny started, "A couple of nights later I got on my knees and said I didn't want to be like this anymore. I wanted to be good, you know. I wanted God to help me care about other people,because that's all I wanted to do, but I wasn't any good at it." And that's when Penny became a Christian.

The thing I find so striking about this story is the similarities to my own, minus the drugs and booze. God spoke to her once to get her to or past the point of crisis and decision I suppose. The same happened to me. I haven't heard from Him in that way sense. But then, I wasn't reading his Word then--- I've been doing that ever since and both the Word and my life make much better sense now :)

Rob Bell tells a quite similar story as well. He was teaching water skiing in Wisconsin one summer and they had Sunday chapel at the camp and he found himself volunteering to do the sermon-- out of the blue. The day came and he says he heard a voice deep in his soul, not an audible outer voice say "Teach this book, and I will take care of everything else." (Velvet Elvis, p.40). Now this is a call story, not really a conversion story. The same can be said of Samuel's story and Elijah's story and Jesus' story. Sometimes they are call experiences, sometimes conversion experiences. And to be sure, everyone Jesus converts, he calls to do something.

So how about you? Have you ever audibly heard the voice of God? I would like to hear from you if you have. After the posting I did a few weeks ago about the phone call from God one of my fellow NT scholars in the guild Dale Allison sent me an email with a book title-- turns out lots of folks have gotten actual phone calls from the deceased, and they are not all certifiably crazy. Indeed most of them are quite sane-- Here's the book title--- "Phone Calls from the
Dead", the authors D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless.

Are you listening????


Matt said...

I have never heard God's voice audibly, usually God has chosen to speak in other ways to me (mainly Scripture, occasionally supplemented by other means).

I do know of one other academic who had such an experience as part of his own testimony, Joseph Cumming of Yale University, who notes in his fascinating online testimony that, "Weighed down under a crushing load of guilt and self-hatred, I was sitting one evening on a high window-ledge preparing to jump off and kill myself, when Jesus spoke audibly to me and rescued me from self-destruction.

What he told me was that I should get a Bible and read it. What I read there about Jesus changed my life. I learned there that God understood my feelings of guilt and self-loathing, and that God loved me – as a father loves a son – no matter what I had done."

The other such testimony I've come across was that of Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Loren recounts an experience in which he and his wife Darlene had a severe auto accident out in the desert. Their van was destroyed, their belongings strewn around, and his wife appeared to be dead or at least mortally wounded. He heard a voice speak, "Loren!", and then ask if he would still serve Him. He then instructed him to pray for his wife, who recovered. They later discovered that at that very hour, a ladies' prayer group in Los Angeles who knew them had felt to intercede for them, as well as had another friend of theirs in Northern CA. (c.f., Loren Cunningham, Winning, God's Way (Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 1998), pp. 13-15)

Obviously, this is not a commonplace thing or the norm, but it's certainly Scriptural. Of course, there will always be people who make claims of such things falsely or delusionally as well, so one must also be discerning.



Rev.Kev said...

I have heard God speak twice. The first time it happened I was 12. I was at church camp at Lake Texoma in OK. One morning during our prayer time before breakfast I was stunned by the experience. I told the camp director Jesus said I would be a preacher someday.

The second experience happened while I was in Jerusalem in 1996 (14 years after the 1st experience). One night I suddenly woke up and though barely audible I heard the Lord say, "Speak my Truth, now!"

The most significant memory I have from both experiences is how my ear felt for a couple of days after each experience--it kind of buzzed. It hard to describe the sensation. In my journal from the Jerusalem trip I decribed the experience as a thunderous whisper.

SJBedard said...

A number of years ago, a friend (from a Pentecostal background) told me of staying up through the night hearing from God. I really was not sure what to make of her claims. That night I woke up in the middle of the night and I could not get back to sleep. I had been advised by others to take advantage of that time and pray (I often fall asleep in prayer anyway, so it couldn't hurt). Remembering my friend's experience, I strongly requested the same experience. I told God that I was not going back to sleep until I heard from Him. As I waited, I heard one word: "Haran." I am not sure it was a audible voice but it was far clearer than any other impression or leading I had experienced. At the time I was disappointed. "Haran?" I was looking for something like: "Behold my servant in whom I am well pleased." I looked up Haran in the Bible and found it to be the place where Abram's family stopped (and stalled) on their way to the Promised Land. As soon as I saw that, I understood that this was definitely from God. A year or so before I had been called into ministry while on a mission trip. I even announced to my friends that I was going to go to Bible College. I said "yes" to God but then I stalled. I did not apply to any schools and I got comfortable in my job and my apartment. I saw in that one word, the kick that I needed to go the full journey to where God was calling me to go. Within a few months I was enrolled in McMaster Divinity College. It was a strange experience in that I do not normally think about biblical place names and I had not heard a sermon on that passage. The only explanation is that God spoke to me to move into ministry. That reminder continues to encourage me in my present ministry.

Kurt M. Boemler said...

I can't help it...

Imagine that, you went out to get a donut and you found something Holy.

I too heard God's voice once. I had just been injured in Basic Parachuting School at Ft. Benning, GA and was feeling very lost and scared. One weekend, while I was waiting for the next class to begin so I could resume training, I was walking down the street to Burger King and I heard a voice say, "Be a pastor." I wasn't a very committed Christian at the time, so I didn't know what to do or who to talk to about it. It wasn't until seven years later that I understood what that voice was. While visiting my former pastor in her office as the DS where I was attending university, she asked me to be a pastor (lay missioner). That was four years ago, and I've been living out that call ever since.

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Ben Witherington said...

Thank you one and all for these marvelous stories... they ought to be compiled into a book some day. Something funny is going on in the blogosphere because both my post and some of yours has gone double.... I guess the testimony of two witnesses is happening spontaneously :)

Brother Maynard said...

Ben, thanks for sharing your experience, and for bringing up the subject. I've posted on my blog with some thoughts in response. I believe that experiences like these are very personal and I've hesitated to speak of my own... but I have heard him call my name as well.

Mike Mitchell said...

I did have an experience like that described in the blog. When I was about five, sitting in my bed one night I heard my name, very audibly: "Michael. Michael." I remember the clarity of the voice and the blue airplanes on the wall paper.

Though I was not raised in a Christian home, I did have a certain reverence and sensitivity for God before I became a Christiain. I've often wondered if this experience was a big factor in that.

Provocative post.

Leanne said...

"Go." is what I heard.

I said yes. 3 years later after a deployment to the Middle East I am married.

He heard "You will marry her and she will be an art teacher."

His mom heard "He will do great things".

My mom heard "Pray." at the same time I was in a car accident.

Our lives have been transformed by what God has said to us, my husband, is in Seminary and has been strongly moved by Liberation Theology.

I, well, I'm still alive and trying my best to be a good support.

Praise Him.

In His Glad Service said...

After my dad died, I read a quasi journal that he wrote for my sister and me. On three occassions during WWII, as a 19 year old soldier raised in a very secular family and without a whiff of introduction to spiritual things, he heard a clear voice say "stop". And he did. He was a platoon specialist or something who often had to "lead out" on a march. When dad stopped, he looked and there was a well-hidden trip wire or other ignitor. My dad said he didn't know what to make of it at the time, never thought of GOD. Only later, when he became a Christian (after my own conversion) did he realize that God's Grace did indeed preserve his life that he might keep it forever. Robbie Castleman

Brad Huebert said...

Yes, I have heard God's audible voice. He simply spoke my name: Bradley. Only God, my late grandmother, and my wife (in romantic moments) call me that.

WHile it was incredible, the amazing thing is that the audible voice sounds exactly like the one God uses in my heart and mind!

If you're interested, check out my website,, where you can download my free article called "How To Hear the Voice of God: Ditching 7 Deadly Myths that Plug your Spiritual Ears."

Brad Huebert

Jake924 said...

I heard his voice once when I was about 16 or so.
I was dead asleep the kind that is pitch black, but you're conscious. Out of the blue, he said "Jacob" in an audible voice, and at that same moment, I woke up as if I'd been awake all day. I recognized his voice just the same as I could recognize my dads voice. There's no mistaking it, you just know who it is. I'm not sure what to make of it. I got up and said "yes lord?", and "speak lord, your servant listens." But that apparently was all he had to say. No one on earth could convince me it was anyone other than god. God wakes my dad up like that too sometimes(not just a one time thing), and my dad just prays when god wakes him up. Through out my life, god has taken care of me. When I was a little kid, I cut the tendon on my right foot going to my big toe. The doctor sewed the tendon back, and put a cast on me. I ripped the tendon and ruined the cast 3 times playing in the mud. The last time, the doctor didn't sew it back. He said maybe in a few years he could stretch the tendon back and sew it again. Then he accused my mother of being a bad mother. The tendon sucked up into my leg causing an awful cramp, and I cried. My mom saw this, and when I asked her what we could do about it, she said "all we can do is pray". A 5 minute prayer, and the next day, I could wiggle my toe. God has sent several people to talk to me when I was loosing faith because of a heart break. He has spoken to me through other people in the church, and given me a vision. These things all happen from time to time, it's not a constant. I'm not sure what god has planned for me. I'm not really a good Christian, but I have a good heart for god. All I know is that I am a work in progress.

James said...
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James said...
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James said...

I heard the voice of God at the end of 2005. I was in the hospital laying in bed dealing with what was at the time a near fatal illness. I could not sleep and was restless and looking out the window of my room. I was not a religious person and to tell you the truth, I thought on some level I would live forever. My life looked like it too. Like there was all the time in the world to clean up the messes I made, and I was making a lot them.

As I was looking out the window at the hospital wing across the way I heard a voice whisper in my left ear "there is only love". I rolled around because I thought someone was in the room. It was dark and I was alone and it was totally out of context to what I was thinking. As I turned back over it was like those words unlocked something in my heart, in my chest. I cannot even begin to explain it. What I knew in that moment was that there was love here and it was and is always available to me, if I chose to see it. I often say these days that I have angels all around me and that they of show up in the strangest places.

I was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve. I was very weak but need to be with my wife and family. It was like no other day in my life. Shortly after Christmas I wrote a letter to all my family and friends telling them that I loved them and that life was too fragile to me to not have them know that.

I was working on a clients computer one day and I noticed that the wallpaper on the monitor was a passage from the Bible. I started talking to my client about what happened to me. I told him that it was like God knew the right combination of words to unlock my heart. The words I told him seemed to be meaningless to everyone else but they were perfect for me. He understood perfectly and said that he received his words from someone he used to sell insurance to. When he got into his car the words hit him and he had his experience.

I am a hard case and have struggled with what happend to me since 2005. I have not become a Christian (yet). There is not a day that goes by that I do not try to be kind to someone, open a door for someone or even just smile and say something funny to make someone's day lighter. I am grateful for everday I am alive and no matter what my day looks like when I pray I am thankful for it. This may sound strange but here goes... When I pray, I get the very real feeling that God takes pleasure when I say "Thank you Father". The word "Father" is what does it. I preface any blessing or help I ask for with "please". I run into too many "coincidences" for me not to understand that he has blessed me and is listening. I am a different person from the inside out than I was before I heard the voice.

I should mention that at the time I was spoken to I was under no medication only an I.V. to feed me.

Tim said...

Hello. It's nice to see others who have an experience with hearing God's voice.

I was blessed in my late teens to have had an amazing experience with an audible voice that cannot be explained, except perhaps to say it was God.

At the time I was looking for a new youth group or club to be involved with, as one I had been involved with had dissolved in recent years.

One night I was on the couch praising God. As I recall, I was not asking for anything at the time, during my praise. In the middle of it (the praise), I heard a direct, authoritative voice like none I had heard in my entire life.

The words were "First Assembly of God, 7:00 tonight."

I was amazed. I had only been to this Church one time as a child.
I also had no idea there was a service that night. Well it turns out there 7:00.

I hesitated to go, because I didn't like going to things alone. I went anyway, having faith in the words I had heard.

Upon arrival to the Church, I sat in the back. I noticed a group of people around my age in front of me and also to the side.

During the service I prayed to God to show me a group or something I could be involved with.

He answered. Shortly after I prayed, a peer around my age stood up, walked across the aisle, and came back to where I was sitting. He invited me to come to youth group.

The story did not end there. Like a coward I did not go. However, I spontaneously ran into a girl online who went to that same Church and was involved in the youth group.

That finally did it for me. I went to the group and became involved.

Looking back, I am not sure why I was called there. I only attended for a couple months or so, before I became involved with a different group. Nothing spectacular happened while I was involved there.

So what was the reason for hearing this voice? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was simply to help me in my faith...and maybe others.

- Tim

Brenden Greenwood said...

I heard His voice a few nights ago.

Just before I went to bed, I said my prayers. I was praising Him over and over again, that's all I felt like doing at the time. I could feel His presence all over my body, it was like a warm tingling feeling like His hands were on my shoulders.

I eventually fell asleep. I can't remember exactly what was going on in my dreams, but I feel like I was teaching or preaching to people and I was quoting scripture. For some reason the Gospel of Mark is stuck in my mind.

Suddenly and all at once the Holy Spirit just poured into me. I was somewhere in between asleep and awake. My entire body was surging with the Spirit. I can't even describe what this feels like. And then I heard His voice. The sound of it was IMMENSELY powerful. All he said was one word...


At the sound of His voice, the surging of energy increased like nothing you could imagine. I felt like I was going to explode. If He would have spoken another word I am sure I would've died. And then I couldn't move. I was just frozen there in my bed for like 10-15 seconds. I couldn't breathe, nothing. Finally I was released.

I still don't know what He meant by "Go." But, what I do know is that His power is unfathomable. I've felt the Spirit surge through me before, but this was immense. I can't even describe the sound of His voice either. The only word I can use is powerful. Powerful in every sense of the word. Immensely powerful.

Praise Him.

BettiCrayons said...

I have been shown, through divine revelation, something incredible.
Take a look...

Jeanie said...

I have heard God's voice several times. The first time I was about 16 years old. My personal acceptance of Christ was about 18 months old, but I had been raised in a Christian home, so I had fairly good understanding of scripture. Anyway, I had been fasting for a month, and praying for a woman in our church who had brain cancer. I was on my knees for about 30 minutes in prayer, and I heard an actual voice say "Your faith is not enough." It frightened me so badly I jumped off the floor and into the bed, and covered my head with the blanket. Then, as I thought about it, I thought God was telling me I wasn't "good enough". That I was not a good Christian. After YEARS of thinking this, I finally realized what He was saying was that I couldn't do it by myself. It takes several praying together and in agreement with the Lord to accomplish this type of healing. I also found out later that everyone else in the church was praying for her to die because she was in so much pain and they belived she could not be healed.
Then, when I was in my mid 20's, my husband and I were traveling along a 4 lane highway that had been snow plowed to the edges of the road, and the snow was about
4 feet high, and it was snowing fairly hard. There were few cars on the road, but we had been folowing one for quite some time, and finally were going to pass it. My husband was driving and this time, it wasn't really a voice, and not really a "vision", but I felt a very strong urge to get away from that car. We were side by side with it at this point, and I told my husband "Pass this car NOW! Get away from it." He started to argue with me, and I said "Just DO it! I will explain in a minute." He passed them and got several car lengths ahead of them, and I said....."Watch, that car is going to hit the snow bank and spin around...." Nothing happened and he said "UMM HUM." I said "Just watch" Sure enough, about 2 minutes later, the car hit the snow bank on the right side of the road and spun around twice, sliding in to the lane where we would have been, both times! "My husband stared at me and said "How did you know that?" He was AMAZED! We went back and made sure the folks were OK, and their car was working OK. But several times that night, my husband, who was a non-believer, asked me "How did you know that was going to happen?" He was almost frightened. I told him "God told me." He never did believe me....
Later, we divorced, and I was beginning to date a man that I had serious questions about. At one point, when I was with this man, I again heard an actual voice say "He will bring you only sorrow and pain." Unfortunately, I didn't listen, and God was most DEFINITELY RIGHT!! Because of my involvement with this man, I ended up losing my life savings and entering a severe depression.
Now, you may think that because I disobeyed God, that He had no further use for me, and would no longer speak to me....NOT true!
Several years ago, I ended up taking care of a woman who was very ill. She envisioned herself as a good Christian, however she believed in talking to the dead, and other things which are against scripture. She was always berating what I believed and got me to the point I began to doubt some of my beliefs, including if I had salvation, and if God loved me. I was thinking about this one morning. I wasn't really actively in prayer, but was thinking about God, and wondering about His Love for me. I heard Him say "_____ speaks OF me, but she doesn't speak FOR me." I had a feeling of great peace and I knew my Savior had answered my questions.....
Don't you just LOVE the LORD....He is SO AWESOME!!

melody said...


huck davis said...

hi ben

the first time god spoke to me in an audible voice was in 1999...these are his exact words...listen to me carefully you will be preaching in the power of the holy ghost..

i next heard him was in 2004...he nows speaks to me on a 24/7 basis

tug said...

Thanks for sharing Ben. I too have heard an audible voice call my name three times. My son was killed in an auto accident in 2007. Not long afterwards God called my name. It was the sound of my Dad's voice. I've been a Christian all my life. I'm an avid church goer and Bible student. I love the Lord. I'm not sure what He's calling me to do. I'm looking into taking some seminary courses soon. I pray that I hear His voice again.

Rob said...

I have heard the audible voice of God 3 times and each time they were perfectly in line with scripture. I believe a few of the accounts here are credible but certainly not those that contradict scripture (like God calling a woman to be a pastor, PLEASE). A lot of crack jobs out there, I think a few have posted here.

llinton said...

I have always heard GOD speak to me. Quite a few times.It is quite easy. All you have to do is ask him. At first it was a really quiet voice in my left ear. But, at times I ask him to speak louder and then I can hear him clearer. I still feel that because we on earth are on different vibrational frequencies it is still difficult to come through, but also because it is GOD and he is huge so he has to lower his vibrations a lot to come through without blowing out your eardrum. I believe that HE does talk to us like in Moses time and I think that those stories in the Bible exist in order to remind us to speak to HIM and listen for HIM as well. You don't necessarily have to go on your knees or wait for the right conditions. I speak to him either in my head or aloud. If I don't hear his voice right away, I will look at other clues that come up. Somehow my prayers are always answered.