How do we hear from God? There are a number of books out there today that provide certain methodologies and different ways to go about it. Some even make it sound as if you have to have a special close relationship with God or be some sort of super Christian in order to hear Him speak to you with the implication being that something must be seriously wrong with your relationship with Him if you are not hearing Him speak. However, it really is pretty simple. To hear God speak, just pick up His Word, the Bible, and read it. God has given us all that we need to know about Him, the salvation that has been accomplished in Christ alone and available to all who come to Christ in repentance and faith, and how to live for His glory. We really don't need anything more and have no reason to go looking elsewhere for a word from God. Martin Luther put it so succinctly, “Let the man who would hear God speak, read holy Scripture.”
The author of Hebrews tells us in the very first two verses of his letter that God, having spoken long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days spoke to us in His Son. Those many portions and in many ways would refer to the means of dreams, visions, audible speech and such we read about in the Old Testament. The various ways that God communicated His message to His people. That was the case then but the author makes clear that now, the way that God has spoken to us is through His Son, Jesus. And how do we come to know about Jesus? Through the Bible which speaks of Him.
In light of this though, so many people seek to look for God to speak to them through dreams and visions and expect to hear some still small voice from Him to direct them what to do all while their Bible remains closed and lays on their shelf or table. But when you think about it, even dreams and visions, as well as that still small voice, were never common ways that God spoke to His people in the past. Throughout all of Scripture, there are only a handful of dreams given to a select number of people that we ever read about. (Only 21 dreams in all given to 9 different people, which isn’t a lot.) And one thing that we notice with all of them was that they were either a prophet or had a special role to play in the ongoing work of God's salvation at the time. Dreams and visions were a primary way that God communicated His Word to the prophets for them in turn to deliver it to the people according to Numbers 12:6. Many times the prophets will speak of their message being what they saw (Isaiah 1:1; 13:1; Amos 1:1; Obadiah 1:1; Micah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1). While Joseph, the baker and cupbearer, and Pharaoh as well as King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel certainly weren't prophets, the dreams that they received from God served to further the working out of His plan of redemption in some way. God speaking directly to an individual audibly has always been a rarity and again we find that it was only to certain individuals. Moses, Samuel, and Elijah are part of that exclusive club; all functioning as a prophet. In fact, such a direct word from God was so rare in his day, that it took both Samuel and Eli the priest a few times to even consider the fact that it was God who had been calling the young boy (1 Samuel 3:1-9). The way that most people heard God's Word was through the mouths of the prophets who had received it directly from God. This is just as true in the New Testament with Joseph being spoken to in a dream four times (Matthew 1:20-21; 2:13, 19-20, 22), the Magi or wise men being warned in a dream not to return to Herod (2:12), and Peter and Paul's visions in Acts (10:9-16; 16:9). The entire book of Revelation itself basically is a set of visions given to the apostle John to reveal to us the consummation of God’s plan and the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, the dreams given to Joseph and the magi all involved the protection of God’s Son so that He could grow up as a man and accomplish the salvation of His people as intended. And Peter and John were apostles. Cornelius is a rare exception of a non-apostle receiving a vision but that his case still can’t be viewed as normative for all other believers since it signified salvation being opened to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Everyone else heard God's Word at that time through the Old Testament writings and the teaching and preaching of the apostles.
So, unless we are a prophet or have been chosen to play a special role in God's work of redemption, there really is no reason for us to expect God to ever speak to us in a dream, vision, or audible voice today. Instead, we should look to the same place that most of the people have always went to find God's Word to them; the prophets and the apostles. It is their words that we have written down and recorded for us in Scripture and God chose them to be the instruments through which His Holy Spirit would communicate His Word throughout the centuries. The fact that we are told in Ephesians 2:20 that the church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and that the foundation of a building is only laid once, indicates that we should not expect any more apostles and prophets with new direct words from God today.
Now, you may be wondering about the prophecy from Joel 2:28-29 which promises that God will pour out His Spirit on all mankind with the result that your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions. Doesn’t that indicate that we should expect God communicating to us more through dreams and visions since the outpouring of His Spirit at Pentecost? Not necessarily. The main point of that prophecy is that God will pour out His Spirit on all of His people, not just a select few of them. He even mentions that point twice in the passage. That’s his focus. Not how it will be demonstrated. And remember that dreams and visions were the primary way that God communicated His word to the prophets (Numbers 12:6). Joel is just simply saying that all of God's people will be like the prophets IN THE ONE SENSE of them having the Spirit poured out on them in a special way which gives them a close connection with God. Knowing the association of visions and dreams with the prophets, Joel’s original readers probably would not have missed this being the meaning, especially with the desire expressed earlier by Moses that all of God’s people would be prophets with God’s Spirit being upon them (Numbers 11:29).
If you want to hear God speak to you today, don’t go looking to interpret your dreams as messages from Him, seeking after visions, or listening for some still small voice. Instead, open up your Bible and start reading. As Justin Peters has said, “If you want to hear God speak to you, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read it out loud!”
Love in Christ,