I have seen books and teachings and entire courses dedicated to the subject of, “How to Hear the Voice of God”, but I know of no better teacher than, “The Wilderness”. You see, not only is God speaking in the wilderness, but also He is teaching us to hear Him better. When He is speaking comfortably to us in a still small voice our ears become attuned to His words.
Since I travel around the world quite often, I am constantly coming into contact with people who speak foreign languages (you might be one of them). I will often try to pick up a few words here or there and can usually tell from the grins and grimaces on the faces of the locals that I am not pronouncing it right. I am reproducing exactly what I hear, but because my ears are not attuned to the subtle nuances in the pronunciation of particular words, there are certain sounds and inflections that I simply do not hear. The good news is that there is nothing wrong with me. If I had enough time and patience, I could eventually train my ear to hear these distinctions with ease.
Dr. Christophe Schreiner of the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California says, “We go to a foreign country, hear what people are saying, but we can’t make subtle discriminations of syllables in order to establish the border between words. With time and experience the brain is adjusting to this, our neurons are becoming more discriminative, and we can distinguish words in what initially just appeared to us as an unbroken stream of sound.”
The moral is this: if you listen closely, over time, your hearing will become more sensitive. We are often awed by the fabulous stories of someone hearing the “audible voice of God”, but the real prize goes to those who learn to hear the subtle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
My father is a pastor, and I think it is fair to say that I was raised in church. I can still remember how my father could be on the platform, behind the pulpit, singing or preaching while I was doing something mischievous. He didn’t need to shout through the microphone at me, all he needed to do was catch my eye. With his eyes he could give me a stern warning that would impress me enough to change my ways.
In Psalms 32:8 God promises, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Could there be a more striking illustration of sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit? The contrast to this is found in the following verse, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Some people’s spiritual perception is about as sensitive as mule. When God wants to get their attention He has to break out a 2×4 and smack them between the eyes. These people require a bit and a bridle. They need constant external stimuli and are always looking for a sign. The reason is simple…”they have no understanding.”
The wilderness is part of God’s cure for the “bit and bridle believers.” In the wilderness He will break the bucking broncos and bring each of us to a place where we are so sensitive to His Spirit that we can sense and respond the subtlest cue. Don’t fight the wilderness…embrace it and cultivate sensitivity to hear God’s “still small voice”.