God is capable of speaking to man in dramatic, supernatural ways. He spoke to Abraham by voice and by angels, He spoke to Joseph in dreams, and He spoke to the Israelites from thunder. In Numbers 22:28, God spoke to Balaam through a donkey, and in the desert God spoke through fire on the mountain and to Moses through a burning bush.
The Bible teaches us that the Lord can communicate through a variety of means, including through an audible voice at times, but more often the Lord speaks through nonverbal means. The Bible teaches us that since Jesus has appeared, God no longer speaks to us apart from communicating through Jesus Christ:
Heb. 1:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
Heb. 1:2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
So how does the Father speak to us through His Son? First and foremost, God speaks to us through the Bible, which is the Word, the written revelation of Himself in Christ:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Lord uses His word to communicate timeless spiritual truths to us, and as we submit ourselves to all that scripture teaches, we will inevitably grow closer in our walk with the Lord. Though the Bible may not speak in specific terms about every issue we face in our daily lives, the word of God transcends daily life and speaks to principles of godliness, holiness, obedience, and love that regulate our thinking and actions under all circumstances. As Paul says:
Ephes. 1:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
Ephes. 1:26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Ephes. 1:27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
If you are endeavoring to hear from God but you are not regularly and consistently studying in His word, then you may be missing what the Lord has already provided to you in His word. God will rarely give us a “personal word” much less a burning bush when the answers we seek have already been provided through Christ’s word. This is why Paul reminds us to seek the scripture for all our needs:
2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2 Tim. 3:17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Secondly, God can speak to us through the example of Jesus living as a man. Men heard God in the form of Jesus and saw His heart and understood more of who He was. By observing the examples Jesus provided, we gain a better appreciation for the Lord’s desire for how we live our lives. As John tells us:
John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him
Thirdly, God speaks to us through nature and His Creation. We can “hear” God’s voice through the details of His creation and better understand His infinite power and divine plan. The more we understand about God’s greatness and power the more we will see our own unworthiness and weaknesses, which will help contend with pride. As Paul wrote:
Rom. 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Fourth, God speaks to us through other people. We can “hear” God’s voice through the counsel and teaching and prayers of other believers. Throughout the New Testament, the Lord uses His disciples to share His message of truth. By this community of workers, we can gain a clearer understanding of Christ’s will for our lives. As Paul commanded:
Ephes. 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Ephes. 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Ephes. 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ
In a personal way, we can sense the Lord’s leading in our prayer life. The Bible talks about the importance of prayer and fasting to clear our minds and prepare our hearts for God’s voice. Often, the Lord’s direction can come in the form of prayer requests we never expected to make but they came to mind as we prayed:
Rom. 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
Rom. 8:27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
These moments of personal revelation are made possible by the Spirit. God’s Spirit was with God in the very beginning waiting to breath life into His creation, and now the Spirit serves as an advocate for believers and gives them direction.
John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
John 14:17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
1Cor. 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you
Finally, the Lord can speak to us through our circumstances. The Lord is sovereign over all that transpires in our life. Every event comes under His hand and His control, so we must recognize that everything that happens is according to His will. As you witness the events of life pass by, do you stop to consider what God is telling you?
Consider the example of the Prodigal Son in Luke 16. After leaving his home and taking his inheritance in a shameful act of selfishness, he enters a downward spiral of sin and debauchery. As he bottoms out eating the food of pigs, the man comes to his senses, repents and returns to the father. The circumstances of his life trigger an awareness that he should change his ways.
Similarly, we can learn many things about God’s will by observing our circumstances carefully and making wise, biblically-informed conclusions about what we see. For example, are you suffering from the consequences of sin? Perhaps the Lord is speaking to you about the need to repent. Has the Lord brought you through a sickness or financial trial? What did you learn as you persevered through the trial? Did you receive a financial windfall? How does the Lord want you to use it for His glory?
Sometimes God speaks so loudly and clearly through circumstances, prayer, other believers or His word that we are tempted to think we heard God’s voice, but even if we think we’ve never heard from God, you can be sure that the Lord is not silent. Our Lord is a Lord who delights in revealing Himself to His people, reflected by the name He gave Himself in the Gospels: the Word.
Usually, our inability to hear God isn’t a issue of God’s silence. Instead, it’s a problem of overlooking the many ways and times God does speak to us, because we’re searching for something more dramatic and supernatural. Practice the routines of healthy Christian discipleship, and you will hear the Lord more and more, as He guides you into all righteousness. This is the full sense of living by faith and not by sight.