One of the most fun things about the Christian life is learning to hear the voice of God for ourselves. It’s one thing to sit in church and listen, but it’s another to actually sit alone with the Lord and his Word and learn his voice for yourself. And it’s just so fun! It’s scary when you feel him nudging you to go speak to someone. It’s comforting when you hear words of grace and love after making a mistake. It’s wonderful to know that he is leading you with peace even when a situation is uncomfortable. But it’s our honor and privilege to learn to hear and respond to his voice as we grow and mature in the Lord.
Nehemiah had been walking with and serving the Lord for years and knew what God’s voice sounded like. So he wasn’t about to be fooled when he was presented with words that sounded good but were out of line with God’s character.
“Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me.” Nehemiah 6:10-13 (ESV)
There are so many things out there that sound good but don’t sound like the Lord, and this was one of them. Of course the Lord would want to protect Nehemiah and would warn him of trouble and danger, right? And hiding in the temple where he was certain to be safe sounded like a really good plan.
Except it wasn’t the Lord.
Now there were plenty of moments in the Bible where God warned people in dreams or through prophets that they were in danger and needed to flee, but this wasn’t one of those times and Nehemiah knew the difference.
There have been times when someone has had an encouraging word for me and it didn’t sit well with me. While I don’t believe these people had a malicious intention like the prophets in this story, I didn’t accept what they told me. Either it didn’t resonate with my spirit, it didn’t sound like Jesus, or it didn’t line up with the Word, so I was able to walk away.
In a day and age where we can get encouragement, advice, prophetic words, and more from a thousand different sources, we need to take extra care to make sure that everything lines up with the Word. With so many sources out there, we need to do our due diligence and determine if the words really are from God or if they just sound good. Thankfully, the voice of God is always one of faith, hope, and love. He will never sound like condemnation or shame. He speaks the language of grace.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (ESV)
May we listen to and follow him well today.
What does God sound like to you?
How do you know when a message is from God? Or from someone else?