GOD SPEAKS, from Genesis to Revelation BIBLE STUDY: From Scripture’s beginning to its end, the message is clear: God speaks. The Bible opens with “and God said” (Gen. 1:3) and closes with, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches” (Rev. 22:16).
Yet we can become so familiar with the words God said that we never stop to ask, How did God speak? Did people hear Him audibly? See Him? Somehow “know” that something in their hearts was from Him? Looking at scriptural examples of when and how God spoke can give us insights into how we continue to hear Him today.
Ways God Spoke
When we look at biblical passages to discover how God spoke, we find the following categories.
a. “God said.” Sometimes, we don’t see an indication of how God spoke, just that He did. We’re only told “God said” (Gen. 6:13) or “the word of the Lord came” (1 K. 16:1) or “the Lord appeared” (Gen. 26:2).
b. Face to face. In Gen. 3:8–9, we get a hint of one way God communicated—face to face—when we read that Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
c. Audible voice. Some people didn’t see God, but they did hear an audible voice (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:16–18). Often this audible voice was accompanied by a physical phenomenon such as a light, storm, cloud, or fire.
d. Angel. God often sent angels as messengers. In fact, the Hebrew and Greek words translated in English as angel mean “messenger,” “representative,” or “envoy.” (Note: In some passages, such as Judges 13, the name “the angel of the Lord” might refer to a physical appearance of God Himself.)
e. Dream or vision. Often people heard God, or talked with Him or with angels, in dreams or visions. God also showed people pictures or scenes in dreams (Daniel 7). Sometimes the person who had the dream or vision needed help interpreting the message he had just received (Daniel 2).
f. The Holy Spirit coming upon or moving in a human. Another form of communication occurred when the Holy Spirit “came upon” a man or woman, and the person began to speak out, prophesy, praise God, or speak in tongues (1 Sam. 10:9–11). At other times, God or the Holy Spirit moved “inside” a human’s mind or heart (Ezra 1:5).
g. Message or prophesy through other humans. Just as God sent angels as His messengers, He also sent messages through other people (1 K. 12:22–24). Sometimes the messenger is identified as a prophet or prophetess (e.g., Moses and his sister, Miriam, in Ex. 15:20 and Dt. 34:10) and the message as a prophecy or oracle.
h. Urim and Thummim/casting lots. We also see God answering people’s questions through the Urim and Thummim and the casting of lots. We know little about the Urim and Thummim, only that they were physical objects (see Ex. 28:30). We’re also not told the mechanism people used to “cast lots.” An interesting variation occurs in Josh. 7:14, where, after God speaks clearly and directly to Joshua about sin in the camp, He stops short of revealing the troublemaker. Instead, the guilty man is “taken” through an unspecified process of identification.
For the following passages, record whom God spoke to and check the appropriate column to indicate the method He used. (Match the categories to the descriptions above.) Sometimes you’ll see multiple methods in the same passage.
Though this list seems long, it’s only a brief overview. Because we had to draw the line somewhere, we’ve mostly drawn from the Old and New Testament historical books, skipping the Old Testament prophetic books entirely.
WAYS GOD SPOKE
a. “God said”
b. Face to face
c. Audible voice
e. Dream or vision
f. Holy Spirit came upon or moved
g. Human messenger
h. Urim and Thummim/casting lots
WRAP IT UP
After you’ve finished looking up the passages, here are some questions to consider.
• What observations struck you as you looked up these passages?
• Did anything surprise you or challenge assumptions you held about how God speaks?
• Did you see any differences between how God spoke in the Old Testament and how He spoke in the New Testament?
• Did you sense God saying anything to you personally as you read these passages?
• Is anything you read likely to change your own conversations with God? If so, how?
• Write a summary statement of what you most want to remember from this study.
GOD STILL SPEAKS! How is that effecting me?