“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying...(Isaiah 5:9). Oh, I wish I could hear God's voice as clearly as they seemed to in Old Testament days. Was it actually audible? Scripture doesn't tell us. How did they know it was His voice? There are so many other voices bombarding me so that it sounds like static in the ears of my heart.
Yet Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27) Earlier in the chapter He said “they know His voice” and that other sheep which are not of this fold will also hear His voice when He brings them into the fold. Jesus uses the comparison of sheep for His followers.
I've heard that by sheep herding custom several shepherds bring their flocks into a common shelter, a sheep fold, for protection at night. When their own shepherd calls them out in the morning, they recognize his voice and distinguish it so well that each responds to follow only its own shepherd. They have been trained from their lamb-hood days to recognize it. As an elderly “ewe” I ought to know my Good Shepherd's voice since I have been listening to it from my lamb-hood.
There are many other voices that compete for my attention: The voice of my own desires, the voices of other people who seek to influence me, the voice of the evil one who seeks to lead me astray, and the voices of my culture and society. I need the Holy Spirit's gift of discernment to sort them out. Above all, I need continual practice in listening so I will recognize His voice and follow Him when making any decision, in fact for every aspect of my daily living.
In many cases the problem isn't that God is not speaking, but that I am not listening. Or I have neglected to keep tuned to the right frequency. “His ear is not heavy that it cannot hear” but my ears are the problem. The ears of my heart are plugged with earth matters, with temporal things. Or perhaps I am reluctant to hear His voice because I am afraid that what He says might disturb my comfort zone.
God still speaks in our times and to each of us individually through His Word and His Church, through His people, and through the circumstances of our lives. He is speaking constantly through the words of Scripture as the Holy Spirit applies them to our lives. We still might wish that He spoke more clearly like handwriting on a wall, or like Jesus' words in the Gospels in some red-letter editions of the Bible where His words are easy to recognize.
It seems that God speaks more through impressions in our minds and nudges in our spirits. These are nonetheless understandable with practice. We have to invite God to speak, to let Him know that we are listening and are willing to obey like young Samuel did in the Old Testament, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Listening is different from merely hearing.
There are some of us in advancing years who need a little assistance in hearing correctly. Voices in the higher range are not as easy to recognize as those in the lower range. We need hearing aids. The Holy Spirit is “God's hearing aid.” God's voice is “in the higher range” and that is the one that is the most imperative for me to listen to.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts...'” (Hebrews 3:7). It is up to me to keep my heart soft and malleable and open to hear His voice. God might have a “now word” for me personally, and for you, right now, today. I don't want to miss it. I can hear it if I keep tuned to His frequency.