By Johnny O. Trail — At the close of World War II, there was some concern that Japan would not surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had already been devastated by atomic bombs, and America continued to bomb various regions of Japan as the USA prepared a third nuclear bomb. To further encourage the Japanese to surrender, Americans dropped pamphlets from airplanes.
When the Japanese emperor, Hirohito, came on broadcast radio to announce the surrender, it was the first time that many of his subjects had ever heard his voice. Many of Hirohito’s followers believed he was a “demi-god.”/1 Some who heard him surrender to the Americans were hearing the voice of their “god” for the very first time.
For a moment, one might consider what it means to truly hear the voice of God.
For one thing, people need to be careful that the voice they are hearing is really God’s. In the book of Acts, Herod was giving an oration and the people claimed that he was god based upon his speaking ability. Luke records in Acts 12:20-22,
“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.”
Evidently Herod went along with their categorization of him. An over-inflated ego seemed to plague many rulers of Jesus’ age and ours too.
Because of his blasphemy, Herod suffered a horrible death. Acts 12.23 says, “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms,/2 and gave up the ghost.” Some study of this manner of death reveals that it was a particularly nasty way to die. Suffice it to say that we want to give God the glory for all things.
Still, there are those who were likened unto a god, but they understood their true domain before Jehovah’s throne. Paul and Barnabas were called “gods” at Lystra. Acts 14:11-15 says,
“And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein.”
Paul and Barnabas understood that they had no business wearing any title that likened them unto God.
How does one hear the voice of God in our age? While it is true that God is no longer speaking to us in a miraculous fashion (I Corinthians 13.8ff), He still speaks to humankind in various ways.
First, God speaks to us by what we observe in nature. Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” From an intelligent design, one realizes that there must have been some precipitating first cause. That is, someone had to create all of the things we see in the natural universe.
Furthermore, God speaks to us today through His word. II Timothy 3.16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” It is amazing to consider that God would even reveal Himself to humankind.
Those who are interested in the truth hear and obey the voice of Jesus. John 18:37 says, “Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” As a matter of fact, God has spoken to us in these “last days” through His son. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
One must be careful about the voices that he hears and obeys. If any would be a follower of Jesus, he must listen to Him and no one else. John 10:3-5 says,
“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
Scripture reveals the true voice of the Chief Shepherd.
Moreover, there are voices that will attempt to deceive humankind. Satan and his minions are described as “deceitful workers” by Paul. In II Corinthians 11.13-14 he says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Simply stated, Satan tries to display himself in the bests possible light to accomplish the most in his deceptions.
Later, John describes certain deceivers as “antichrists.” II John 1.6-7 says,
“And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
Many scholars believe that the “deceivers” in this passage were the Gnostics. Regardless of their identity, we need to be careful of people who would seek to deceive us in our attempt to follow Christ.
One must hear the voice of God and obey it for eternal life and righteous living. While some may profess to be deity, God’s true characteristics and will are revealed in Scripture. We should always use scripture as the litmus test for any doctrine, teaching, or person who claims to speak on God’s behalf.
/1 Burgess, John (1986). Emperor Hirohito as Demigod and Living History. Washington Post. “Hirohito came to power in 1926, revered by millions of Japanese as a demi-god…. In 1945, he was demoted to mortal being, his property was confiscated and he narrowly escaped prosecution as a war criminal.”
/2 Boles H. Leo (1968). A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, 2nd ed., Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, TN, pg. 197. “Worm” is from the Greek skolex, and was used of “intestinal worms”; there are several cases recorded in ancient history of such deaths. Josephus says that Herod Agrippa lingered for five days and says that the rotting of his flesh produced worms; this is in harmony with Luke’s description. It is recorded that Herod died in August, A.D. 44. Herod died a most revolting death, and much more shocking than a sudden stroke of death.”