Hearing the voice of God is critical in these end times. When we choose not to hear God, He will cease to speak and will leave us to follow false prophets.
Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! (Psalm 81:13)
In today’s verse, we can hear the cry of the Father’s heart resonating with a sense of loss and mourning. As I read this verse, I was stirred with a poignant sense of grief over an ongoing, self-repeating pattern. Prompted by the Spirit, who reminded me of the role played by the Old Testament prophets as the voice of God to His people, I did a quick Google search. My search phrase was ‘true prophets’ because I felt the Spirit was guiding me to something specific relating to the existence of real prophets of God. What I found shocked me. There are any number of ‘lists of false prophets’ out there. In contrast, I could not find a single list of ‘true prophets.’
While there may be many reasons for this, the Spirit reminded me of the ‘lost years’ in Israel. For some 450 odd years following Malachi, Israel had no prophet of God until John the Baptist. The message is clear: When God’s people cease to listen, He ceases to speak.
Do we truly listen to the voice of God?
As I mediated on today’s verse, I was struck by the truth that the second phrase qualifies the first. This last part of the verse is actually the measure of whether we listen to the voice of God or not. Jesus Himself confirmed this in Luke 11:28: More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! Jesus also warned us that in the last days, we should beware of false prophets and those masquerading as Him. Yet, interestingly enough, He doesn’t mention true prophets. He doesn’t say watch out for the false ones and listen to the true ones. The reason for this is that the office of a prophet as defined in the Old Testament is no longer necessary.
God no longer uses a single voice to speak to His people. For one thing, His people now inhabit the whole world so it’s utterly impractical. More importantly, though, every single person has, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the prophetic ability to hear and understand God’s voice. We no longer need a prophet to tell us what God is saying to us. At Mount Sinai, the people chose not to hear God directly after He had spoken to them from the mountain. Since then, God always used a prophet as an intermediary. In Jesus, however, we have full access into the presence of God and are able to hear the voice of God for ourselves. For this reason, those who call themselves ‘the true prophet of God’ or ‘God’s prophet to the nations’ need to go back and study the Word.
The voice of God and the gift of prophecy.
There is no doubt that there are those who have the gift of prophecy and a call to use it to the glory of God. But this is not the office of the prophet as defined by the Old Testament. Anyone who claims a calling of this nature is not a ‘true’ prophet. The gift of prophecy is for the edification, exhortation, and encouragement of the body of believers. This is a blessing over and above the prophetic ability given to every follower of Jesus to listen to the voice of the Lord with the purpose of obeying it. Unfortunately, ‘we all like sheep have gone astray,’ following the loudest voice instead of listening to the still, small voice within. There is an erroneous assumption within the body of Christ that those who are bold to declare themselves prophets must be prophets. We have forgotten what the Word really says.
Today’s voice reminds us that the measure of truly hearing the voice of God is whether we obey it or not. The self-styled prophet, by claiming to be the anointed voice of God, carries a greater responsibility of obedience. The man who obeys the Word is the man who truly hears the Word. If we carefully examine the lives of those on the endless lists of ‘false prophets’ we can discern who does and who does not obey and walk in the Lord’s ways. The problem, however, lies with the believers rather than the false prophets. If every man and woman of God exercised their God-given prophetic understanding to hear and obey, none of us would be fooled. The vast majority of believers, however, are like those early Israelites. They want someone to hear God and pass on what He says.
The spiritual consequences of not listening to the voice of God.
There is a distinct parallel between Israel’s ‘lost’ 450 years and the condition of the church today. When we choose to hear the voice of God only from an intermediary – preachers, teachers, pastors, and prophets – God will cease to speak. He is not going to continue yelling in the wilderness in the hope that He is heard above the hype of modern Christianity. But there is an even more sobering truth here. Those lost years preceded the coming of Christ. Before the Son of God came, God left His people without His voice. He left them to live out their choices. They followed after the Pharisees and Sadducees and teachers of the law with their hypocrisies and error. As a result, they rejected the real Messiah, the Son of God Himself. Why should the Church imagine that God will deal any differently with us?
At this point, we can argue that we haven’t rejected Jesus. We’ve chosen salvation. That’s all well and good, but the cry of God’s heart is that we listen to His voice and walk in His ways. We cannot do this if we chase after the latest feel-good gospel or skewed teaching. When we listen others, we don’t hear the voice of God. It’s significant that all believers agree we are in end times. We all agree that the Son of God will return. We are in the same situation as Israel before Christ’s birth. The tragic truth is that when the voice of God is replaced in the pulpit with the voice of man, God will cease to speak. When His voice is silent, we are left to the mercy of other voices. We are led out of the ways of God and into the ways of man.
The voice of God and the great apostasy.
The parallel is frighteningly real. Jesus spoke of false prophets and teachers, and we know that many will fall away. In these end times, we cannot waste time looking for ‘true’ prophets and teachers. We must apply ourselves and listen to the voice of God and walk in His ways accordingly. This is the cry of God’s heart. The Bible shows us clearly that in any time of apostasy, God retained a remnant. These were those who were faithful to hear the voice of God and to obey. The Church does not have some kind of special dispensation that excludes us from God’s judgement. We are not the ‘special second bride’ who is pandered to and allowed to behave as she pleases. As God’s people we have greater accountability. We cannot escape simply because we claim the name of Jesus.
Christ presents us with a harsh and sobering truth: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23) To do the will of God – to walk in His ways – we must first hear the voice of God. Those who do not face judgement. We cannot claim the ‘good bits’ of unconditional love and mercy without receiving the full truth. God does not speak selectively. He has no favourites. If we no longer hear His voice for ourselves and obey, Jesus doesn’t acknowledge us.
The time to hear the voice of God is now.
Let us learn from Israel and recognise the sobering parallel between the first and second coming of Christ. We have time to return in confession and repentance. His heart’s cry is that we hear His voice, and He will respond. There may not be a tomorrow for any of us. The choice for every believer is right here and right now. Will we choose to listen to the still, small voice of God and walk in His ways? Or will we follow after the clamour of popular prophets and teachers that lead us to perdition? He will raise up a faithful remnant. It’s up to us whether we are counted among them or not. God’s response to and love for His people hasn’t changed. If we no longer hear God’s voice, it’s time to turn back to Him. If we continue to refuse to hear, He will cease to speak.
Gracious Father, we hear Your heart’s cry and return with humble and contrite hearts. Forgive us for allowing the voices of others to crowd You out. Help us to be still and listen, to hear Your voice, and to obey. Keep us safe in Your ways so that we are not deceived and seduced by those false prophets who abound in these last days. Raise up Your remnant, Lord, a people wholly devoted to You with the courage to hear and obey Your voice alone.