There is no better chapter to commence our study on the voice of God than Genesis chapter 1. Nine times in thirty-one verses we read, ‘And God said’.
The first spoken words in creation and in inspiration are in verse 3, ‘And God said, Let there be light’. When God spoke, even though light takes over eight minutes to reach the earth from the sun, the dawning of light in a dark world was instantaneous, ‘and there was light’. The sun and moon were not created until day four; God created light before He created the source of light. The sceptic may say, ‘that could never happen’, but the believer accepts it exactly as scripture records.
That word, when creation was shrouded in night,
Drove back the dark curtains, and lo! there was light.
His voice o’er the vast waste of waters was heard,
And lo! the creation in beauty appeared.
Albert Midlane (1825-1909)
There are three scriptures which speak with simplicity and power of the work of creation. As a young believer, I found it helpful to think of them together.
Who is the Creator of the world? ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’, Gen. 1. 1.
How was the world created? ‘For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast’, Ps. 33. 9.
How can we understand it? ‘Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God’, Heb. 11. 3.
At the sound of His voice on the first day of creation, God caused light to shine out of darkness. There would come another day, when at Calvary the voice of the Son of God was heard after the darkness as He cried with a loud voice, ‘It is finished’, John 19. 30. At that moment, darkness was dispelled, and light shone once more.
The first occasion that we read of man hearing the voice of God was in the garden of Eden. It was a perfect environment, a garden planned and planted by the heavenly Gardener. Every tree that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food, the Lord God caused to grow, Gen. 2. 9. That which was pleasing is mentioned first, before that which was necessary for food. To complete the idyllic scene, ‘a river went out of Eden to water the garden’, v. 10. It was a garden of perfect order. Adam was still alone, and the Lord God gave him the responsibility to dress it and to keep it. It is worth noting that, even before the fall, it was God’s intention that man should work day by day.
We are not told how long Adam and Eve enjoyed daily communion with God during the period of innocence. Sin robs us of the enjoyment of fellowship with God, and for Adam it changed sweet fellowship to fear. ‘And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’, 3. 8. When the Lord called him saying, ‘Where art thou?’ Adam responded, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid’, v. 10. This was a new experience; an emotion he had never known before. For the first time in his life, he knew what it was to be afraid. In spite of its beauty, Eden became a garden of defeat and failure.
In glorious contrast, scripture speaks of another garden near Jerusalem, John 19. 41, where the Lord Jesus arose early in the morning of the third day from Joseph’s new tomb, Matt. 28. 6. It was a garden of victory and triumph.
Psalm 29 has been called the most vivid description of a storm in the English language. It rises over the sea, ‘The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’, v. 3. It breaks in the north, over the land in Lebanon, felling the great cedars in its path, ‘The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars’, v. 5. The storm moves south, ‘The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness … of Kadesh’, v. 8. Seven times we are told that the voice of the Lord is the force behind the storm. It is described as powerful and full of majesty, ‘The God of glory thundereth’, v. 3.
There is comfort for God’s people in the storm, ‘The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever’, v. 10. He is in control and His authority is unchallenged. He who in the storm displays such awesome power, ‘will give strength unto his people’. Even when the storm is raging, ‘The Lord will bless his people with peace’, v. 11.
How fitting it is that David begins the Psalm by exclaiming, ‘Give unto the Lord … glory and strength’, v. 1. As believers, storms may come in each of our lives. How reassuring it is that the Lord (Jehovah), who is mentioned eighteen times in the psalm, is in control when the storm is raging. As on Galilee, He is able to say to the raging billows, ‘Peace, be still’, Mark 4. 39; cp. Nahum 1. 3.
Elijah, the man who stood unflinching on Mount Carmel and fearlessly challenged the 450 prophets of Baal, ran for his life from Jezebel, 1 Kgs. 19. 3. He began to look inwards, instead of upwards to the Lord. He had become self-absorbed, and when the Lord asked him, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?’, four times he used personal pronouns, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts … I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life’, vv. 9-10, 14.
But the Lord was at work to restore His servant. He had sent an angel to him, who touched him and twice brought him food and water. He went in the strength of that food forty days. Then the Lord spoke directly to him, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord’. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains … but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire … and after the fire a still small voice’ [“a sound of gentle stillness”, KJV margin]. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he … went out … And behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? … Go, return’, vv. 11-13, 15.
He heard the voice of the Lord in the stillness and received correction and direction. We too need to find a quiet place, away from the noise and clamour of the world, where we can tune our ear to listen to the still small voice of God. ‘Be still, and know that I am God’, Ps. 46. 10.
Queen Elizabeth II was given a copy of the scriptures during her coronation ceremony in 1953. The Moderator of the Church of Scotland made the presentation with these words, ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God’. It is not sufficient to say that the Bible contains the word of God; the Bible is the word of God. It is God breathed: it is warm with the breath of the Almighty, 2 Tim. 3. 16. This is known as verbal inspiration, and God’s thoughts are conveyed to us with infallible accuracy.
The writer to the Hebrews begins his letter, ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets’. The voice of God is heard through the written word. The phrases, ‘the Lord commanded’; ‘the Lord spake unto’; ‘Thus saith the Lord‘, together occur a significant number of times in the Old Testament. Nowhere do we read of the thoughts or concepts of men being inspired. They were neither authors nor commentators, but channels through whom the voice of God was heard.
In the New Testament, Paul speaks of his writings in the same way. ‘Which things also we speak … in the words … which the Holy Ghost teacheth’, 1 Cor. 2. 13. The Lord Jesus affirmed the inspiration of scripture, extending to the smallest Hebrew letter, the yod, and the smallest distinguishing mark, the tittle, ‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’, Matt. 5. 18.
As we read the scriptures, may our ears always be open to listen to the voice of God, and respond like Samuel, ‘Speak; for thy servant heareth’, 1 Sam. 3. 10. May we be mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’, Matt. 4. 4.
‘God … hath in these last days spoken unto us by [in] his Son‘, Heb. 1. 1, 2. It may be that God has allowed this letter to remain anonymous to emphasize that He Himself is speaking. ‘God, who spake … hath in these last days spoken‘. The challenge is, ‘To day if ye will hear his voice‘, 3. 7; ‘The word of God is living, and active’, 4. 12 RV; ‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh‘, 12. 25.
God has spoken (in) the One who is ‘Son’. The aorist tense is used, indicating a completed action. It is God’s final word; He has nothing further to say. All is revealed in Christ. The other Epistles too, written after the ascension of Christ, reveal further the glories of ‘the Son’.
A brief summary of some of the glories of the Son is presented in Hebrews chapter 1: His unique relationship; the greatness of His person; the perfection of His work; the duration of His throne; the sceptre of His kingdom; the immutability of His character; the triumph of His cause.
God delights to speak of His Son as: My King, Ps. 2. 6; My Servant, Isa. 42. 1; My Shepherd and My Fellow, Zech. 13. 7; My Son, Matt. 3. 17. He introduces us to the pleasure He finds in His Son, so that we too may find our joy in Him, ‘thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures’, Ps. 36. 8.
The gospel message was heard first from the lips of Christ, ‘which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him’, Heb. 2. 3. He said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live’, John 5. 25. ‘The hour’ extends to the present time, when the gospel is preached, the voice of the Son of God is heard. Hearing in this verse is ‘the hearing of faith’, Gal. 3. 5. It is not merely hearing the words but receiving by faith both the message and the person it presents. The hearers are described as being ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, Eph. 2. 1. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life’, John 5. 24.