How loud is God’s voice? When God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, all two million heard it. According to Jewish tradition, the sound of the voice of God stopped at the entrance of the sanctuary and went no further. Why, “It is G‑d’s desire that Man serves Him out of free choice, and that “G‑d’s voice”—His call, message and teaching—be brought into the world by man’s service.”(cf, Lubavitcher Rebbe, Naso 5725 (1965).
In Luke 10, Jesus extends God’s voice to the 72 disciples and offers every villager the choice to serve God.
How do you know its the voice of God? In Matthew 14:22 -33, shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to the twelve, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Like Peter, we see Jesus on the horizon. Like Peter, our default view is something other than Jesus. Peter and the twelve believe in ghosts. But only Peter hears Jesus’ voice.
When your boat is about to go under, who do you trust? A ghost or Jesus?
We hear God’s voice through His sent ones. Jesus tells the 72, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me.” (cf. Luke 10). The only caveat in Jesus’ formula is the messenger needs to be sent by God. Jesus compares the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs but asks His disciples to honor their message (cf. Matthew 23, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”)
If you are sent by God and called to teach, “do so as one who speaks the very words of God” (cf. I Peter 4:11). We are listening to the voice of God.
Hearing God’s voice is not always easy (ask Elijah). Because of Jezebel’s death threat, Elijah flees and eventually spends the night in a cave. God asks Elijah three times, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Regardless of God’s answer, Elijah uses his stock reply: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Even if you are an Elijah, God’s not interested in stock phrases or vain repetitions. Famously, God’s voice was once a donkey (cf. Baalam). Later in Luke 10, God’s voice will be the Good Samaritan. What is it today?
The new wineskins of God’s kingdom are too elastic for Pharisees of any generation.
Hearing God’s voice is a matter of life and death. Jesus promised, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5) Adam and Eve and the nation of Israel discovered, hearing God’s voice means obeying God. (cf. Baruch 1:18, “we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.”
“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” (Hebrews 12:25)