His Master’s Voice.
Intro If you are old like me you will remember when we heard music not on MP3 players, CD or DVD – there were these large discs made of acetate (some of you may remember wax 78s). One of the early recording companies, which I think still exists today, was HMV – or “His Master’s Voice” – they had this iconic trade mark [P]. It captured what their product was meant to be – so great was the fidelity of their recording that the dog mistook it for the real thing – he recognized his master’s voice. That is what I want to talk about today: hearing our Master’s voice.
The vital necessity of hearing God’s voice [P] Duncan Campbell was a man greatly used of God in the Hebrides revival back in 1949 – his favourite message was on the difference between the sheep and the goats. Certainly a different fate awaits the sheep and goats [P]: [Matthew 25:31-34 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:41 Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;] So what marks the difference between the sheep and the goats? In that parable it was the way that they treated Jesus – which is seen by the way we treat our fellow human being in need. But in John we read of the hallmark of the sheep, the ones that follow Jesus: [P] [John 10:2-3 He who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice, and He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:24-30 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. “I and the Father are one.”] There is security for Jesus’ sheep – He watches over them. The thing that marks them as His sheep is that they hear His voice. They know their Master’s voice. If you don’t hear His voice, how can you follow Him? It is vital that we hear God’s voice. We need to be sensitive to the LORD’s voice, to hear Him. Repeatedly Jesus says to the church in the book of revelation – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says”. We need to hear His voice, to be sensitive to respond to His call. That’s what makes us His sheep. A preacher who had a great influence on my life was a man called Art Katz – he was preaching at a university once on this theme of hearing God’s voice, and it was a hostile and godless audience. A student yelled out in cynical fashion, mocking him: “How can you hear God’s voice? How do you know you have heard God speak?” Art was speaking outside in an open amphitheatre on the campus, and at just that moment a dog walked purposefully through the students who were sitting around. Art Katz said, “Do you see that dog, it’s just a mutt, but it knows when its master calls.” So not only do you need to hear God’s voice you need to know it.
The vital necessity of Knowing God’s voice [P] You can take almost any character from the Bible and use them to demonstrate this necessity of hearing God’s voice. I’ll use one of my favourites: Elijah [P]. Elijah suddenly bursts on to the scene, there is no word of him until he suddenly appears before wicked king Ahab and announces that there won’t be any rain until he says so! What audacity! Funny thing though, no rain fell – how could he do that? He heard God’s voice. Let’s read [1 Kings 17:1-4 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As יְהוָה, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of יְהוָה came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. “It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.”] See, the word of יְהוָה came to him; he was directed by יְהוָה’s voice. He heard that voice and acted upon it. So Elijah went to this brook and was provided for by יְהוָה; then, with the continuing drought, the brook dried up. [1 Kings 17:8-9 Then the word of יְהוָה came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”] Again, the word of יְהוָה came to him, telling him what to do. Elijah stayed with a widow in Sidon until: [1 Kings 18:1-2 Now it happened after many days that the word of יְהוָה came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.]. Do you get the pattern? Elijah heard the word of יְהוָה and this directed all that he did. Elijah heard יְהוָה’s voice and obeyed. He went to Ahab and called for a show-down with the prophets of the idol Baal – that famous encounter on Mount Carmel, where the 450 prophets of Baal prayed all day and nothing happened, then Elijah made a sacrifice, prayed to יְהוָה and the fire fell: [1 Kings 18:36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O יְהוָה, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.] You get it over and over again! Elijah heard the word of יְהוָה and acted as יְהוָה said – he did all these things according יְהוָה’s word. Elijah was a man of God who heard His voice and acted upon it. Here was a man who was in the habit of hearing יְהוָה’s voice – he knew the voice of his God. Nowhere is this seen better than the time when יְהוָה led him to Mount Horeb – to Sinai where the covenant was originally made, the covenant that Israel had violated – all that יְהוָה had done through Elijah had made no difference to the people of Israel, their hearts were far from Him. So Elijah, supernaturally fed, came to the mountain. Let’s pick up the account in: [P] [1 Kings 19:9-18 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of יְהוָה came to him,(again he heard that voice – some portray Elijah as backslidden but he was still in communication with יְהוָה, not only heard Him, he had a conversation with Him and did what He said) and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very zealous for יְהוָה, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant (here he was at the place where that covenant was instigated), torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before יְהוָה.” And behold, יְהוָה was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before יְהוָה (now that is impressive and dramatic); but יְהוָה was not in the wind (Elijah knew, he was not taken in by impressive show). And after the wind an earthquake, but יְהוָה was not in the earthquake (now that is awesome power! I think I would be trembling before God, but not Elijah, he knew the voice and this was not it). After the earthquake a fire, but יְהוָה was not in the fire (not only natural power but supernatural, fire from heaven, that is how יְהוָה had demonstrated Himself to Israel on Mount Carmel – Elijah knew His God, this was not Him); and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave (that was the voice Elijah knew! That was the genuine article – he not only heard the voice – he knew it!). And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for יְהוָה, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (you notice that יְהוָה and Elijah both said exactly the same words as they had before – Elijah had correctly heard and discerned the voice – none of the dramatics had changed anything in Elijah’s assessment of the situation, despite all that awesome power, the heart of Israel was unchanged, they had not changed when fire fell from heaven – the situation was irredeemable and יְהוָה agrees with his assessment and decrees judgement but reserving a remnant for Himself) יְהוָה said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”] Elijah not only heard the voice of יְהוָה but knew the voice of His God. There was an awesome supernatural demonstration of power, but Elijah responded not to it but to the voice he knew. These days so many voices clamour for our attention – we are surrounded by many voices, we are bombarded by advertising, by politics, by philosophy and world views – save the whales, the planet, global warming, social injustice, even religious views. There are so many voices; we must not be distracted by them. There are so many voices; but which one is God? How do you know that it is God that is speaking? I have attended fellowships where I have encountered the supernatural, powerful spiritual things were taking place. But I began to realize that the spirit was not in character with the Holy Spirit. Are we going to taken in by the impressive? We need to know His voice in order to discern what is of Him and what is not. [2 Thessalonians 2:9 one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. ] Even in churches you will hear voices that are not of Christ – not in keeping with His character. He is meek and laid down His life, completely selfless – but a vast amount of teaching in the church is exactly the opposite! It encourages selfishness, assertiveness. “Bless me!” “Heal me!” “Prosper me!” “Self esteem!” “you are King’s kids” “claim your blessings” etc – it is all selfishness! That is not the voice of Jesus! There is a vital necessity to discern the true voice of our God. It is not enough to hear, we must know Him. There are so many voices, how do we know that it is God that we are hearing? – It is through relationship, not theology. Our analytical, intellectual approach has reduced faith to an accepting of a set of key concepts! If you say “Ahah” at the right place, you are saved. Doctrine is important but it is not just concepts, ideas to be understood and agreed with – it is vital, it is LIFE – not theory [John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.]. It is a knowing of the heart that is needed – you know the voice of the one you love. If you go to church for a while, you end up doing many things you never thought you would – and I have done my fair share of crèche duty. You have a room full of kids making a racket, there are babies crying. Of course this is all in a room separate from the meeting so that the preacher doesn’t get disturbed. But the cry of that baby will filter through and the mum instantly recognizes it and comes rushing out to the crèche to attend to her darling. It’s amazing – they know the voice of the one who is dear to them
The vital necessity of knowing Him. [P] Elijah knew יְהוָה’s voice, he knew the voice because he knew Him. Knowing comes from relationship – from love, from the heart. There is a beautiful incident where you see this: [P] [John 20:11-16 Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).] Mary’s world had fallen apart. She believed in Jesus, He was the Messiah, the hope of Israel, He had delivered her; she loved Him dearly. Then tragically it had all fallen apart. He had been killed. All her hopes were at an end. But still she loved. She did what she could. She went to the tomb, heart-broken, weeping. Completely distraught, she was not seeing straight, she was not thinking straight; reason was not her strength at this point! Then she met Jesus – but even meeting Jesus face to face was not enough. To her Jesus was dead! This person could not be Jesus; she took him to be the gardener. Then He spoke! One word! “Mary!” That was enough! She knew the voice! He called her by name! That is all it took. You know, Jesus appeared to His disciples, told them who He was, ate in front of them and still they doubted. But Mary heard Him call her name; that was enough! She knew the voice, because she knew Him. It was the voice of the one she loved! There was a sentimental hymn we used to sing based on this incident:
“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses.
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
”You don’t come to know through studying and swatting, you come to know through loving. You can recite your doctrine and creeds, get it word for word correct, get your Bible college diploma; but still not know Him. Before I married Rhoda I could have researched about her, found her favourite colour, favourite food and pass-times, her height, weight etc. Maybe I could reel off a whole load of facts and not know her at all – until we were married, become one, only then do I begin to know her. Knowing is from the heart. Knowing is for lovers. I never thought I’d ever use Song of Solomon in a message, but in [Song of Solomon 5:2-4 I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, my locks with the damp of the night.’ “I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, how can I dirty them again? “My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him.] There she was in bed she couldn’t be bothered getting up, but she heard the voice of the one she loved. The passage goes on to describe how she searched the city for him. Mary knew the voice of the One she loved, He called her by name.
The vital necessity of a personal encounter with the person of Jesus [P] I will never forget the time that I heard Him call me by name. I came to the LORD when I was three, grew up in a Christian home, was taught well at home and at Church. My theology probably was fairly sound. I read my Bible and prayed every day but I knew that I was not close to God. I was not in fellowship, I read my Bible but it was just habit. Then one day God said to me, “Paul, do you love me?” It was not an audible voice but it just as well as have been – it was that clear! I knew it was God and He spoke to me by name! When that happens you are never the same! When God speaks you do not give glib or trivial answers. I thought and searched myself before I said, “Yes Lord, I love you” It was genuine and true – you cannot lie before Him! Immediately He said, “Enough to get baptized?” And in a few words He cut through to the heart of the issue – it was a stumbling block with me, a point of my resistance and disobedience that had held up my relationship with God for years. Again, I probed heart and answered “yes”. Not a long conversation, but a life changing one! After that I took immediate steps to get baptized – what else can you do when you hear His voice but obey? That is always what is required when you hear His voice. That step of obedience was the start of a miraculous transformation in my life as I was filled with the Holy Spirit. You see, it is not enough to know and believe your doctrine, though that is important. But it is only important if it is from the heart and not just a mental process. Doctrine and theology are dead until you have a personal encounter with the person of Jesus. There are many in churches today who hold correct doctrine, who believe, but they have never had that personal life changing encounter with the person of Jesus. Until you do, you do not know Him. Maybe there are even some here today of whom that is true. You need a personal encounter with Jesus. That is my personal testimony but it was same with another Paul [P]. He gave his testimony before the Jews: [Acts 22:3-16 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, (Paul pursued knowledge of God and was proud of his learning of the Scriptures – but he didn’t know God) being zealous for God just as you all are today (being keen, having zeal and sincerity is not enough, zeal without knowledge) . “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ (Paul heard the Master’s voice, and He called him by name! Here he was opposing Him but He knew all about him and was interested in him personally) “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ (he had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ!)“And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. (the voice was to him alone – the others were there but they did not understand or discern the voice)“And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ “But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus. “A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. ‘For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. ‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’] Paul heard God’s voice, had a personal encounter with Jesus – previously he had known about him, knew the Scriptures, but now he began to know Him.
The vital necessity of responding to His voice. Paul related this same testimony to King Agrippa in [Acts 26:19-20 “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.] He not only heard the voice, he responded to it. [P] We must respond to that voice. [P] [Hebrews 4:7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice,(that’s us! – me!) [P] do not harden your hearts.”] What is the point of God speaking, of us hearing His voice, if we do not respond? If we aren’t changed, turned from our own ways? The Jews of Jesus day claimed to know God, seemed eager to hear from Him, but they failed to respond when His Word came in the flesh! [Isaiah 58:2-3 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.] [Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—]. If we are His people, His sheep then we must hear His voice. Do you know His voice? We are never the same after we have been called by name. We need to know Him who speaks to us – we are so concerned with having our theology correct; the “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed – but what matters is hearing His voice – knowing that voice. I have a friend called Lyndon, back along we both went to the Apostolic church. Lyndon is a neat fun guy but he is no great intellect – in many ways he is a big kid. Now the church had a super-cool youth group – Lyndon didn’t quite fit in. He wanted to study the Bible – something the youth group didn’t do – but he is not too good at reading. They didn’t quite know what to do with Lyndon, and they didn’t quite know what to do with me, so they paired us up – could I do Bible study with Lyndon? Now, Lyndon could never master theology, you could tie him in theological knots easy as. He would have difficulty explaining his faith – but he knows Jesus. He has heard his voice. He has a knowledge of the Lord that many lecturers at Bible colleges don’t have. I am not decrying doctrine, it is important – but only once you know the One it is about. My Dad used to say: “We all need a vision of Jesus!” We need a personal encounter, a personal revelation of Him by the Holy Spirit. As Paul said: “that I may know Him!” [Philippians 3:10-14 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.] [Hosea 6:3 “So let us know, let us press on to know YHWH. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”] It is vital that we know Him and respond to His voice. This is what marks us as His people.