Hear God’s Voice As You Read His Word
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
God wants a relationship with us where we speak to Him in prayer and hear His voice when we study His Word, the Bible.
Just let that sink in: we can hear God’s voice every time we read the Bible.
Now, I’m not talking about hearing an audible voice. However, you don’t need to hear a voice to know that you’ve been spoken to. Imagine receiving a letter from your mom. You don’t need to hear her voice to feel the weight of her words or to know her thoughts and feelings. Similarly, when we say that God speaks to us through the Bible, we are saying that He shares truths about Himself and how He loves us.
And God’s promise is that every time we read the Bible, we are privileged to His self-disclosure.
Unfortunately, many of us not only fail to hear God’s voice when we read the Bible, we barely understand what the Bible is saying!
If that’s you, it’s most likely because you’ve never been taught how to read the Bible. You’ve been told, “READ YOUR BIBLE!” Probably many times by many different people. However, very few of these people have walked alongside you to teach you how to hear God’s voice when you read His Word.
In this article, I want to share the Seven Arrows Bible Study by Matt Rogers and Donny Mathis. As a church, we have adopted this method into our Bible Reading practices. I admit that this is not the only way to read your Bible so that you can hear from God. Rather, it is a structure that helps us to both understand what the Bible is saying and to prayerfully discern God’s voice through the words we’ve read.
The Seven Arrows Bible Study method is pretty simple. Read the passage once and answer the following seven questions.
- WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE SAY?
“Understanding spiritual truth does not lead you to an encounter with God; it is the encounter with God. You cannot understand God’s purposes and ways unless the Spirit of God teaches you. If God has revealed spiritual truth to you through this passage of Scripture, you have encountered God Himself working in you.”
- Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God
The first step in your study is to identify the big idea of the passage and to summarize it using your own words. This step requires the most scholastic work because in order to extract the big idea, you will need to understand the genre of literature, historical and literary context of your passage, and historical or Scriptural references. You may also need to look up words that are unfamiliar to you. A helpful way to gain all of this information is to study your passage with a Study Bible.
The temptation is to disassociate “Bible Study” from our devotional times. But, if we fall to this temptation, our summaries will end up being a few sentences on our thoughts about this passage. If we want to hear from God, we do need to faithfully study His Word so that we know what His Word means.
The emphasis on scholarship should not lead us to believe that this is not a spiritual exercise. All spiritual information is spiritually discerned. Therefore, we must also be prayerful as we study, where we ask God to reveal His truth to us in a manner that we will be able to understand.
Once we have studied His Word, we are able to summarize the big idea in 2-3 sentences.
- WHAT DID THIS PASSAGE MEAN TO ITS ORIGINAL AUDIENCE?
“A text cannot mean what it never meant. Or to put that in a positive way, the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken.”
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
Every author was inspired to write for a particular audience for a particular purpose. The question you are seeking to answer is: “What was the author seeking to communicate to his audience?” In many ways, this arrow is a way to ensure that the summary you wrote in Arrow 1 is in line with the author’s intended message.
- WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT GOD?
God is the main character of the Bible
- Matt Rogers and Donny Mathis, Seven Arrows
Humankind is not the main character of the Bible; God is the hero of the Bible.
There’s a temptation for us to want to quickly read and apply what we read.
“GOD, TELL ME WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO!!!”
However, God’s primary purpose in giving us His Word is so that we can know Him and His purposes.
Whenever we are reading the Bible, we ought to be prayerfully asking your Father, “What do you want to tell me about you today?”
- WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT MAN?
Specifically, what are the practices whereby we can become people who hear God’s word and see ourselves in it properly? The first point he makes is that we are not to focus on the mirror of scripture itself, but on seeing oneself in the mirror. One way we can go wrong is by making God’s word simply an object of scholarship to be studied, rather than reading it to hear God speak to us.
- Stephen Evans, Kierkegaard on Human Spirituality
The Bible says that we can use Scripture as a mirror so that we will be able to see our reflection (James 1:23-25). This means that we get to see how we are fearfully and wonderfully made, as well as how we have fallen to sin, as well as how we are to live as redeemed people.
If helpful, we can categorize God’s speech as what He is teaching us about ourselves, what sins He is reproving, rebuking, and correcting us, how He desires to train us towards righteousness, complete us, and equip us for good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE DEMAND OF ME?
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
- Matthew 22:36-37
When God speaks, His desire is that we respond to Him with genuine and holistic repentance, meaning that we experience a change in our head, heart, and hands.
Head: God demands that we believe His Word to be true and that we ground our lives in His truth. In this section, write out the new information/truths that the passage is calling us to adopt.
Heart: God demands a change in our attitudes and feelings towards Him. In this section, state how the Scriptures call us to feel and desire, and honestly reflect on whether our feelings and desires align with the Scriptures. Honestly reflect on any struggle that may exist between God’s Word and our desires/feelings.
Hands: God demands both an internal repentance and the fruit of repentance, which is the change in our behaviour. In this section, write about how our lives will change as we appropriate the Scriptural truths in our lives.
This is the step that demands quite a bit of prayer and patience. Take time to prayerfully ask God how He specifically wants you to adjust your life to His Word. If we rush through this part, we’ll end up with generalities like, “I need to love more.” While that’s not bad, it’s also not helpful.
Ask God, “Who do you want me to love? How do you want me to love? What needs to change in my heart so that I can love?” Don’t rush this part or else you will just leave with generalities. Be patient in prayer.
- HOW DOES THIS PASSAGE CHANGE THE WAY I RELATE TO PEOPLE?
This question is an extension of the ‘hands’ question. God’s demands on our lives will inevitably impact how we treat others (1 John 4:7). Therefore, we ought to always set aside time to listen to how God wants us to love our family, our faith family, and those who are far from God.
- WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE PROMPT ME TO PRAY?
“There are parts of our calling, works of the Holy Spirit, and defeats of the darkness that will come no other way than through furious, fervent, faith-filled, unceasing prayer.”
- Beth Moore
Through the first 6 Arrows, you have heard God speak to you about who He is and what He demands of us.
Close your time with God with prayer so that you will be able to respond to His voice with heartfelt love and humble obedience.
If it is helpful to you, you can organize your prayer using the PRAY acrostic where we praise God, repent of our sin, ask Him to fuel our repentance, as well as the repentance of our family and other believers, and yield to His Word.
“You come to know God by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through you.” – Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you – James 4:8
You may feel overwhelmed with the prospect of having to study God’s Word in order to hear God’s voice. However, I do want to share that this instruction to study comes with a promise: as we grow as students, we will grow as sons and daughters of God. We will be better equipped to hear our Father’s voice, and as we respond to Him, He will draw near to us, and we will experience His presence and witness His power.