Hearing the Voice of God from . . .
The record of God speaking to Abraham commences in Genesis 12:1-4 when Abram was 75 years old. It happened after the death of his father, Terah.
Hindered By Family Ties?
It appears that God had already been speaking to Abram while Terah was alive, for the Bible records, “Now God had said unto Abram . . . ” If we read Acts 7:1-4 we see that “the Lord of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.”
Up to that time Abram was a loyal member of his family, where his father would have been the authority figure. Abram would have been heavily influenced by his father. According to Joshua 24:2 , Terah was not a fully committed follower of God. The Bible says he “served other gods.”Terah’s influence upon Abram included his beliefs in those “other gods.” They lived in Canaan, from where much of the occultic world grew out of. It is possible that Terah’s influence on Abram was such that when God had spoken to Abram to break that close day-to-day influence of his immediate family, Abram was unable to do so. His family loyalties kept him “bound” under his father’s influence. It wasn’t until Terah died that we read of Abram departing (Genesis 11:24-32 ; Genesis 12:1-4 ).
GOD SPOKE – Genesis 12:1-4 :
God gave Abram great promises if he would go to the land that God “will show you.” God promised Abram:
The word “bless” (v. 2&3) comes from the Hebrew word “barak” meaning “to declare blessed” (Young’s); “to kneel, to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit)” (Strong’s). The word “blessing” (v. 2) comes from “berakah” meaning “benediction (“an invocation of divine blessing . . . the state of being blessed” – Collins Dict.), by implication, prosperity (“success”) (Strong’s).
THE LORD APPEARED – Genesis 12:7 :
“The Lord appeared to Abram, and said . . . ”
The word “appeared” is used twice in this verse, and means “to see, look; to be seen, to show oneself, appear; a looking, seeing; appearance, form; vision as granted to the prophets . . . ” (Wilson’s). It comes from the Hebrew word “raah.”
THE LORD SAID – Genesis 13:14-17 :
In this passage God told Abram to use his eyes to see what was all around him – he could have what he could see! “Lift up now your eyes!”
He promised to greatly multiply his off-spring.
He told Abram to walk through the length and breadth of that land. What he could see he could claim as his inheritance.
THE WORD CAME IN A VISION – Genesis 15:1-3 :
God came to Abram in a vision. Abram saw Someone or something from the heavenlies that made him to know it was God. That “vision Word” told Abram not to be afraid because God was his shield and his “exceeding great reward.” Abram received a greater revelation of Who God is.
“Fear not!” God knows that fear is one of the biggest hindrances to our recognizing and receiving the fulfilment of the promises of God. We must not fear, because GOD is our shield of protection!
The Word of the Lord came in a vision. “Vision” means “vision, night vision or dream; prophetic vision; oracle or prophecy; a vision, revelation” (Wilson’s).
“Exceeding great reward” means to exceed beyond anything you can imagine – “exceed” meaning .
The one big desire in Abram’s heart was to become a father. He and Sarai had endured many years of living without children. In the eyes of the people it was like they were cursed of God. By that time Ishmael had been born (between a union of Abram and Hagar), but God assured Abram that he would have a true heir out of his union with Sarai (v.4).
THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME – Genesis 15:4-6 :
Again God told Abram to use his eyes, “Look now toward heaven” . . . God challenged Abram to count the stars if he could, for that’s how big his family would be. As Abram obeyed the Word of the Lord and looked heavenward, something was sealed in his spirit. His discouragement was turned into a positive believing of the spoken Word of God! That released Abram into a place of righteousness before God.
THIS LAND IS YOUR INHERITANCE – Genesis 15:7-17 :
God continued speaking to Abram. He told him the reason why He had brought him out of the land of his father. God was saying, “I personally want to give you this land. It is your inheritance to occupy and possess.” In a deep sleep God spoke to Abram and revealed that this inheritance was for a time to come.
GOD COVENANTS WITH ABRAM – Genesis 15:18-21 :
God had promised Abram the land, but it was for a future generation to possess. So God made a covenant with Abram – it was (at least) a verbal, binding agreement that day, that He would keep His promise to Abram. God displayed His heart and His willingness to fulfil all that he had promised.
GOD APPEARS TO ABRAM – Genesis 17:1-8 :
(This is the same word “appeared” as in Genesis 12:7 ).
At 99 years of age Abram receives a further revelation of Who he is serving – “the Almighty God.” He is serving One (and in personal communion and relationship with that One) Who is far above every other god! This Almighty God tells Abram to walk – assiduously (“hard working and perseveringly”) and carefully – before Him, to be perfect. The word “perfect” here means “to be complete, to make full; to finish; without blemish; blameless, upright, righteous; the proper notion is that of simplicity, sincerity, absence from guile or evil intention” (Wilson’s).
At 99 years of age Abram is still working on being refined in his character!
God again talks covenant with him – a personal covenant where God commits Himself again to greatly multiplying him – to the point that Abram will become “a father of many nations.”
God changes his name from Abram (meaning “father of height”) to Abraham (meaning “father of a great multitude”). At the same time God speaks increase, enlargement, many nations, exceeding fruitful, making nations of him, producing kings, etc. All amazing statements coming from Almighty God to a 99 year old man with no heir at that point in his life! The land of Canaan is again promised. All Abraham had to do was to keep the covenant God made with him. That was simply living according to the voice, Word and revelation of God to his own heart and life!
“KEEP MY COVENANT!” – Genesis 17:9-14 :
There are responsibilities to hearing the voice of God and being in covenant relationship with Him. God wants His covenant to be kept by those who follow us. Our lives must be lived in such a way that we impact others for God!
In Abraham’s day covenant involved the participating (for the men) in the act of circumcision – a sign that God’s people were different. Today covenant means we participate in living a “spiritual circumcision” – a separation from the life of serving the world, the flesh and the devil. It is circumcision of the heart and in the spirit (See Romans 2:28-29 ).
GOD SPEAKS TO ABRAHAM ABOUT HIS WIFE – Genesis 17:15-22 :
God reassured Abraham that his heir would come from Sarah. Her name was changed from Sarai (meaning “Jehovah is Prince”) to Sarah (meaning “a princess”). God was committed to blessing Sarah and making her “a mother of nations.”
God even gave to Abraham the name he was to call his son from Sarah – “Isaac” (meaning “laughter”). God would establish His covenant with Isaac as well. God promised to bless Ishmael – but His covenant would be with Isaac.
God gave Abraham the timing of the birth of Isaac – “at this set time in the next year” (v. 21). Then God stopped talking with Abraham and “went up” from him. When God speaks to us, He “comes down” to us.
THE LORD APPEARS AGAIN – Genesis 18:1-15 :
(The word “appeared” is the same meaning as the previous ones).
This appearance of God happened in broad daylight, at the hottest time of the day. Abraham was sitting in his tent door, most likely enjoying a bit of shade. He lifted up his eyes and looked. There before him were three men (most likely angels). Notice that Abraham addressed them as“My Lord.” He knew God was there, revealing Himself through those men (angels). Those three men all spoke together to Abraham – “they said” (v. 5, 9). Then in verse 13, we read “And the Lord said to Abraham.” Again the timing was given to Abraham and Sarah regarding the birth of Isaac – “At the time appointed, according to the time of life, Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah could not orchestrate the birth of Isaac, even if she wanted to. Her child-bearing days were long over, and it was naturally impossible for her to conceive! And Abraham was well passed it too! (See Romans 4:17-20 ). No wonder God asked the question, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14 ).
THE LORD SHARES HIS HEART WITH ABRAHAM – Genesis 18:17-33 :
“Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?”
What a statement!
God wanted to share more revelation with His “covenant man.” God knew He could trust him with revelation others were not privy to. He knew Abraham would keep God’s ways and command his children after him. Abraham’s actions and life-style enabled the Lord to “bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19 ).
Then followed the amazing account of Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrha, progressively discovering how God will spare wicked cities, even if only a few righteous people are in them (20, or less??).
THE PROMISE OF ISAAC FULFILLED – Genesis 21:1-5 :
In these verses we see the fulfilment of God’s spoken promises to Abraham over a 25-year period. For 25 years Abraham had believed the Word of the Lord regarding Isaac, without any natural, logical evidence to prove he was on the right track. He simply trusted God – and God never let him down! Exactly as He had promised, so it came to pass. Isaac was born, even though it was naturally impossible for it to happen.
GOD SPEAKS EVEN IN CONTENTION – Genesis 21:9-14 :
It wasn’t too long before the contention between Hagar and Sarah became a real problem. Ishmael delighted in taunting Isaac, which upset Abraham considerably. God spoke to him, telling Abraham to listen to Sarah’s voice. That meant he had to let Ishmael go. In obedience to the voice of God, Abraham was able to release Ishmael into God’s hands, knowing that God’s covenant blessings and promises were with Isaac.
THE TEST OF LOVE AND OBEDIENCE – Genesis 22:1-18 :
Several years passed, and Isaac is now most likely a teenager. Abraham is about to face his most heart-wrenching test. He has had approximately 10-18 years of enjoying his child of promise – the child God gave to him and Sarah. Then, one day, God speaks and says, “I want him back!” Abraham, by this time, is a very mature man of God. He had grown to know the voice of God with great clarity. There was no mistaking that voice! He knew it was God speaking. Even though it brought contradictory thoughts and questions rushing through his mind, like “How can the covenant be fulfilled without Isaac?” He was committed to a total trust that his Lord knew what He was doing. Abraham had such faith that he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19 )!
In total obedience Abraham set off.
In total obedience he followed the guidance of the Lord’s voice. That voice led him to Mount Moriah.
In total obedience he took Isaac up that mountain to “worship God, and come back again” (v. 5). This is the first time the word “worship” is used in Scripture, and means “to depress, i.e. prostrate in homage to God; bow self down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship” (Strong’s). (Abraham’s understanding of worship was quite different to that we know today.)
Isaac then asked that heart-rending question, “Where is the sacrifice?” How do you think Abraham felt at that point? This was the son he had believed God for - for 25 years! And now God wants him back! Abraham had every right to say “No!” based upon the very promises of God Himself. But he had learned not to question Almighty God – He always knew best, and things always turned out right when he obeyed Him. In total obedience he built an altar, laid the wood in order . . . bound up his very precious son . . . then laid him on the altar. He then took out his sharp knife to offer the sacrifice unto God – as he raised his hand to do the deed, a voice called to him out of heaven. It was the angel of the Lord, crying out, “Abraham. Abraham.”
Abraham knew that voice!
God provided His sacrifice – a ram caught by the horns in a bush.
Abraham responded quickly – the ram was sacrificed, Isaac was spared! Abraham passed the test!
The angel spoke again the second time – it is also the last recorded time that God spoke to Abraham – “I, the Lord, have sworn by Myself, that because you have obeyed Me and have not withheld even your beloved son from Me, I will bless you with incredible blessings and multiply your descendants into countless thousands and millions, like the stars above you in the sky, and like the sands along the seashore. These descendants of yours will conquer their enemies, and be a blessing to all the nations of the earth – all because you have obeyed Me” (Genesis 22:16-18 , TLB).
What blessings! Incredible blessings!
What a statement!
Abraham’s obedience to the voice of God released the blessings of God on his descendants and every nation on earth!
Surely the “key” to Christianity is a simple walk with God that teaches us to recognize His voice when He speaks to us, knowing that it is our obedience to Him that releases His hand to do what He promises. Surely this is also the “key” to revival?
There is no record of God speaking again to Abraham. He had fulfilled his purpose in God. He lived for several more years, actually married again (after the death of Sarah), and had six more children! (Genesis 25:1-2 ).
As we look over the life of Abraham, we see that God spoke to him on a number of occasions. It was not a “once only, then no more.” The voice of God has to be cultivated. We have to learn to know how and when He is speaking to us.
God did not speak to Abraham the same way every time. Sometimes it was “the Word of the Lord,” sometimes it was “a vision (appearance), dream, or in the heat of the mid-day sun, sometimes it was the voice of God, or through an angel (or angels). Abraham learned to recognize the voice of God in whatever way it came. That voice became more real than his natural, logical reasoning and learned knowledge. He had learned to obey that voice of God!
There are approximately 17 recordings of God having spoken to Abraham over the course of maybe 40 years (?).
KNOW WHAT GOD IS SAYING TO YOU TODAY!
“FAITH COMES BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD (Greek is “rhema” meaning “an utterance, saying, word” – Strong’s; “that which is spoken, a sentence; saying, speech, discourse, a declaration, command or promise” – Bullinger’s) OF GOD” (Romans 10:17 ).