How God Speaks
(The Seven Spirits of God's Voice)
Perceiving God's voice is a pleasure without equal! At that very moment all reality pauses, and suddenly you know there is a loving and intelligent Superbeing that is real and vocal. But how does He speak? And why do so many Christians rarely or struggle greatly to perceive His voice?
The Seven Spirits of God
(The Sevenfold Spirit of God)
Isaiah 11:1-3 say the Messiah would be anointed with the seven spirits of God, or better stated, the sevenfold Spirit of God: (1) the Spirit of the LORD, (2) the Spirit of wisdom, (3) the Spirit of understanding, (4) the Spirit of counsel, (5) the Spirit of power, (6) the Spirit of knowledge, and (7) the Spirit of the fear of the LORD.
To be clear, there is only one Spirit of God (Eph 4:3,4), the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17, 16:13). Isaiah's unusual vocabulary, then, is revealing how this one Spirit has seven dominant workings.
John & The Sevenness of the Spirit
The apostle John, drawing from this very passage in Isaiah, continues the teaching. In Revelation 1:4, he says (HCSB), "...the seven spirits before his throne." In 4:5 he says, "...Seven fiery torches were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God." In 3:1 he quotes Jesus as saying, "...The One who has the seven spirits of God." Jesus is speaking of Himself and His sevenfold Spirit anointing. He, too, is drawing from Isaiah.
In 5:6, John sees "One like a slaughtered lamb...He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth." In this scene, the Holy Spirit is metaphorically manifested on Jesus as seven horns and seven eyes. The seven horns represent perfect authority from the Spirit's seven workings. The seven eyes represent perfect perspective, a function of omniscience, also from the Spirit's seven workings.
John's final statement in 5:6 is this: ...the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. This is important to our subject at hand, God's voice. What could "the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth" mean? It means everything God has done, is doing, and will do on the earth is in accord with the seven workings of His Spirit. Hence, we can learn and recognize God's personal voice by correlating His ways of speaking with the seven expressions Isaiah listed. In other words, everything He says to you will come through one or more of the seven spirits of God. God is a polyglot.
The Seven Spirits of God's Voice
Once again, here are the seven expressions from Isaiah 11:2,3: (1) the Spirit of the LORD, (2) the Spirit of wisdom, (3) the Spirit of understanding, (4) the Spirit of counsel, (5) the Spirit of power, (6) the Spirit of knowledge, and (7) the Spirit of the fear of the LORD. Each one of these presents a method of divine communication.
(1) The Spirit of the LORD
God Speaks Through Creation & Creative Originality
The name LORD (all caps in our English Bibles) or Yahweh (the Hebrew) first appears in Genesis 2:4, portraying God as the personal creator of all things. Even after the creation story, Scripture continues to use the name nostalgically, reminiscing the creation and its Creator (Ex 20:11, Neh 9:6, Ps 104:24, Isa 42:5, 44:24, 45:18, Zec 12:1). The name LORD/Yahweh, then, was the proper name for God derived from the creation miracle. Consequently, the phrase "the Spirit of the LORD" in Isaiah 11:2 is the Holy Spirit's version of the name. It would be somewhat akin to "the Spirit of the Creator".
Notice, in the first sentence above, I said the name Yahweh portrays God as a personal creator. Elohim (Hebrew) is translated "God" and reveals Him as creator only (in Genesis 1 through 2:3). The addition and introduction of Yahweh/LORD (in Genesis 2:4) reveals Him as a personal creator, as one who relates intimately with and through His creation. This is why we see Him functioning personally with Adam, Eve, and humanity from Genesis 2:4 onward.
This background information is important. Yahweh did not create the universe out of perfect boredom. He created it to be a personal self-revelation to both humans and angels (Ps 19:1-4, Job 12:7,8, 38:4-7, Ro 1:20). He designed nature to be a treasure chest of revelatory parables.
God Speaks Through Creation
Technology is blissful, even God-given, but we cannot let it alienate us from nature. For, the Spirit of the Creator will illuminate an aspect of His handiwork to speak to us personally. These illuminations are fascinating and practical.
Spend time in nature, or take time to gaze deeply into it, but do so with prayer. If there is an aspect of nature you especially like or have interest in, study it and pray for illumination. To hear the Creator's voice in breathtaking dimensions, watch National Geographic or The Discovery Channel or Animal Planet with a praying, listening ear. The Spirit of creation will respond.
Some of the articles I write are the working of this particular expression of the Spirit. See Blood Diamonds, God's Flowers, The Spiritual Water Cycle, Insect Manifestations: Flies, and others in the From Nature Catalog (found in the Articles Catalog).
God Speaks with Ongoing Creative Originality
Yahweh did not stop being creational after Genesis 1 and 2. He cannot stop being what He is. Yahweh's creative trait appears not only in nature, but in His ongoing creative originality. Regarding Him speaking to us, that means He will occasionally speak in ways that are authentically and entirely original, in ways for which we have no frame of reference and no one else can say they had that same experience.
Let's gaze into God's perpetual creativity for a moment, to further establish our understanding of this particular attribute of His. Read the following scriptures with this attribute in mind, while noticing the recurrent mention of new, newness, new thing, create, etc.: Numbers 16:30, Psalm 104:30, Song of Songs 7:13, Isaiah 42:9, 43:19, 48:6, 65:17, Jeremiah 31:22, Matthew 13:52, 2Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:5.
Think of how Jesus healed the man blind from birth (Jn 9). He could have simply spoken the word or laid hands on him, like He had done numerous times, but He did not. He wanted to heal this blind man, not only as a manifestation of His power, but also as a manifestation of His creative originality, almost sarcastically playing on "the saliva of the firstborn" myth in Rabbinic Judaism. He spit on the ground, made mud, rubbed the mud on the blind man's eyes, then told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. After this entire drama, he was healed.
Scripture is filled with stories of God doing things like this--oddly creative, entirely original. A burning bush that did not burn. A rock that gushed water. An ax-head that swam upward. A prophet grabbed by his hair and suspended in the air (Eze 8:3). A large leafy plant that grew up instantly to shade a prophet from the heat (Jnh 4:6). Miraculous healings through Peter's "shadow". Worship songs that created a great earthquake, opened a prison's doors, undid everyone's chains.
We often think of these and other unique acts of God as flowing from His omnipotence, however, less appreciated is how these acts flow from His ongoing creativity. God cannot stop being what He is. He must and will keep creating, both in what He does and in how He speaks.
God Speaks Through Creation & Ongoing Creative Originality
Isaiah says, the first working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of the LORD" (Isa 11:2). This phrase is akin to and synonymous with "the Spirit of Yahweh" or "the Spirit of the Creator" or "the Spirit of creativity". This name, LORD or Yahweh, was introduced in Genesis 2:4 to convey that God is not only creative, but personally creative. He relates with and through His creation in a personal, meaningful way.
Regarding the voice of God, in practical terms, this means God will speak through His initial creation (nature) and He will speak with ongoing creative originality (messages that are truly unique and original for the person or group He is sending them to). Of all the ways that God speaks this is the least predictable. All we can do is seek Him in passionate daily intimacy, obey His general will in Scripture, and expect that He will, when He wants to, speak through some aspect of nature or in some uniquely creative way.
(2) The Spirit of Wisdom
God Speaks Through Providential Happenings
Many scriptures tell us God reveals Himself and His voice through providential happenings in our life. This means He both indirectly permits and directly ordains certain happenings to us and around us. Read the following scriptures with that concept in mind: Deuteronomy 32:39, 1Samuel 2:6-8, Job 33:14,19, Psalm 75:6,7, Isaiah 45:7, Daniel 4:35, Matthew 10:34, Luke 12:56, Acts 16:6-10, 1John 2:19, Revelation 3:7.
The Spirit of wisdom illuminates these happenings and their revelatory applications to us. Through this mechanism the Holy Spirit enables us to "see through" situations and wisely interpret their divine messages. He causes us to see what is not obvious and hear what is not audible when things happen to us or around us. He gives us the upper hand, the advantage. He keeps us one step ahead. Eventually, He leads us to the winning move. Of all the ways the Lord speaks, this might be my favorite. This is the Spirit of wisdom.
Without constant prayer and tuning into this mechanism of the Spirit, we start losing or keep losing in our daily life. We keep getting stuck with the lower hand, the disadvantage. We are consistently one step behind. We never reach the winning move.
The Spirit of wisdom speaks through five main providential circumstances. We could call these dialects or "sublanguages". Certainly there are more than these five, but Scripture comments on these the most.
Relational Fulfillment or Frustration
The fulfillment of our relational desires comes with a divine message (1Sam 25:38-42, 2Co 7:5-7). Relational frustrations, however, also come with a divine message (Gen 21:9-13, Ac 15:36-41, 1Co 11:19). Whatever our state of relationships might be, God has something to say within each of them. Relationships are possibly the most predictable, discernible platform for the Spirit of wisdom (Pr 13:20). Here are a few other scriptures on God's activity and voice within our relational biome.
Psalm 68:6 (AMP): God makes a home for the lonely; He leads the prisoners into prosperity, only the stubborn and rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Matthew 10:34 (NKJV): Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
1John 2:19 (NKJV): They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
Social Favor or Disdain
God's activity and voice are often present in social favor (1Sam 2:7,8, Esther, Job 34:24, Ps 75:7, Ac 2:47, 1Ti 3:7), but also social disdain (1Sam 2:7, Ps 75:7, Ac 8:1-4, 2Ti 3:12). We must seek to penetrate the Spirit of wisdom's mind when we are publicly exalted or publicly disdained. Two scriptures seem to summarize nicely this particular working of the Spirit of wisdom.
1Samuel 2:7 (NIV): ...he humbles and he exalts.
Psalm 75:7 (NIV): It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Opportunity or Stagnation
Jesus said no one can shut what He opens and no one can open what He shuts (Rev 3:7). He is the One who opens and closes windows, doors, and gates of opportunity for His people. Shut or open, the Spirit of wisdom is speaking, He is saying something specific and personal through opportunity or stagnation.
Acts 16:6,7 (NIV): Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
Revelation 3:7 (NIV): ...What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Success or Failure
It is God's will that His people overcome and flourish in every area of life (2Co 9:8,11, 3Jn 2). However, multidimensional success is learned progressively through temporary failures, flops, and fumbles (Jdg 20:18-48, Ro 8:28). The Spirit of wisdom illuminates the meaning of every significant failure and every significant success experienced on the journey with Him.
Isaiah 45:7 (NIV): I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
3John 2 (AMP): Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health [physically], just as [I know] your soul prospers [spiritually].
Financial Plenty or Lack
The Lord sends poverty and wealth, Hannah said (1Sam 2:7). This scripture, and others like it, frustrate prosperity extremists. It is in the Word and cannot be amputated, so how do we understand this verse and others like it?
To be clear, it is God's desire that we eventually and ultimately abound economically (Deu 8:18, 15:4, Pr 13:22, Ecc 2:26, 2Co 9:8,11, 1Ti 6:17, 3Jn 2). However, if and when we experience deserts of "not enough" or "barely enough", we need to dig into the Spirit of wisdom to discover what He is saying and doing through the "not enough" or "barely enough". On the other hand, promise lands of bounty and plenty also come with God's activity and voice.
1Samuel 2:7 (NKJV): The LORD makes poor and makes rich…
Isaiah 45:7 (NIV): I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
The Language of the Spirit of Wisdom: God Speaks Through Providential Happenings
Isaiah says the second working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of wisdom" (Isa 11:2). God reveals Himself and His message through providential happenings in our life. When things happen to us or around us--whether He allowed them indirectly or caused them directly, whether positive or negative or neutral--the Spirit of wisdom illuminates what God is saying through them. The Spirit of wisdom enables us to "see through" situations and interpret their divine meaning. We can perceive these circumstantial illuminations if and only if we are seeking Him daily and proactively praying about things that happen to us and around us. If we do not, situations and moments will impact us, but we will not realize what God is trying to say to us.
(3) The Spirit of Understanding
God Speaks Through the Scriptures
God inspired over forty authors to write and establish the Scriptures, in three languages, on three continents, over fifteen hundred years. After Jesus and our salvation inheritance in Him, the completed Bible is God's next greatest gift to humanity. It is the one and only body of divinely authoritative, unchanging spiritual truth. It is the outline of God's redemptive program from beginning to end. It is the summary of His general will for humanity. It is a treasure chest of many different kinds of precious and costly jewels I can barely begin to describe. When we deprioritize the Word we have been lured away by the spirit of humanism that arrogantly snarks, "I can define truth for myself, I am my own god."
No you cannot. No you are not.
Scripture does not travel alone, though, it is twin siblings with the Holy Spirit. To help us understand what is written, Jesus said the Spirit will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13). In Isaiah's verbiage, this is "the Spirit of understanding" (Isa 11:2).
The Scriptures Need the Spirit
The Bible was never intended to be read as a book only, because it is not a book essentially. It is a 1500-year word from God, the revealed and recorded mind of Christ. Therefore, we need the Spirit of understanding to bless our comprehension to grasp and assimilate its content into our being. Colossians 1:9 says (NIV, underline mine): We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. But how does He do this practically?
Illuminations While Reading
The Spirit lights up and makes us understand specific portions of Scripture while we are reading it. Daniel 9:1-3 is a tremendous example of this happening to Daniel. Notice especially verse 2, written out below. When these flashes of understanding happen within we say something like, "This verse/passage/story/character jumped out at me and made perfect sense...It was exactly what I needed at the moment...It addressed my situation with such clarity and meaning…"
As you patiently read and study the Word, ask the Spirit for understanding and expect words, phrases, verses, stories, characters, and even entire books, to light up and come alive in ways that directly address you individually.
Daniel 9:2 (NIV): ...I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD…
Romans 15:4 (NIV): For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Illuminations From Memory
The Spirit of understanding will also speak by reactivating specific scriptures embedded in our memory, and, granting deeper or entirely new understandings of them. Luke 24:45, quoted below, captures this mechanism perfectly. The two disciples talking with Jesus were illuminated to understand scriptures they already knew, but in a new, updated, more profound, more relevant way.
Luke 24:45 (NKJV): And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
Luke 24:45 (Young's Literal Translation): Then opened he up their understanding to understand the Writings.
Illuminations From Teaching & Preaching
While the Scriptures are being proclaimed in our hearing, the Spirit of understanding will illuminate statements or portions of what is said to give us immediate understanding and speak to us. This is why it is absolutely critical and non-negotiable that we connect with a congregation or ministry that proclaims the Word faithfully, responsibly, and powerfully. As Peter preached, the Spirit came upon the listeners (Ac 10:44). As the people heard the Book of the Law read and taught, the Spirit's understanding came upon them (Neh 8:2,8).
Acts 10:44 (NKJV): While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
The Language of the Spirit of Understanding: God Speaks Through the Scriptures
Isaiah says the third working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of understanding" (Isa 11:2). This phrase zeroes in on how the Spirit is our intellectual assistant in spiritual things, i.e., He helps our mind understand and assimilate Scripture. This supernatural understanding happens when we read and study the Word, when the Spirit reactivates scriptures in our memory, or when we listen to quality teaching and preaching. This is the Spirit of understanding guiding us into all truth.
(4) The Spirit of Counsel
God Speaks Through Other Christians
To safeguard our perspective and perception, the Spirit of counsel will speak to us through other born-again believers who also walk with Him. These objective friends in the Spirit are like a testing ground; they help us pray through and think through and interpret what God is saying to us. Distancing or isolating oneself from this protective system is one of the stupidest, most dangerous things a Christian can do. Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV): Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
God's Voice & An Array of Counselors
The Spirit of counsel will occasionally introduce, confirm, or add to His personal voice to us through an array of objective spiritual friends, or "counselors". It is important to clarify that "counselor" is used loosely here to mean one who gives meaningful input, not necessarily a professional, but not excluding professionals either.
Any Word-Filled, Spirit-Filled Christian
The Lord will occasionally speak through any Word-filled, Spirit-filled believer, whether we are in a close relationship with them or not. Ephesians 5:18,19 and Colossians 3:16 tell us, if we will hang around these kinds of spiritual brothers and sisters and conversate with them beyond the surface, the Spirit will come through them and address us, whether they realize or not.
Good or Great Spiritual Leaders
The Lord will occasionally speak through good spiritual leaders. He will speak even more frequently and more cogently through leaders who are notably more advanced spiritually than others. Hebrews 13:7 says leaders in the kingdom speak the word of God to us. Ephesians 4:11-13 say the five most significant leadership types in the kingdom repair, prepare, and mature the church so that she attains the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. What a serious truth. This is one of the most important scriptures in the New Testament.
You cannot be at odds constantly with spiritual leadership and expect God to be happy with that. Some Christians are not enjoying the personal voice of God--or greater, more specific, more frequent dimensions of it--simply because they are constantly disrespecting, alienating, or writing off spiritual leadership. What if the Spirit of counsel wants to say something important to you through a counselor-leader you scoff at or do not have time for? God will not shift into another revelatory language just to accommodate your issues. Deal with your immaturities, deal with the root causes, be purified and transformed, and snuggle up to whatever leader(s) your spirit and gut know the Lord wants to use.
The Spirit of counsel can and will occasionally speak through just about any human medium within His kingdom: the speaking gifts (1Pet 4:10,11), spiritual music (1Chr 25:1-7, Eph 5:18,19), a professional Christian counselor, anointed Christian literature or other media, etc. The driving concept here is that the Spirit is using a human middleman within His kingdom to communicate to us. Once again, this is why we cannot forsake the assembly, we cannot isolate or distance ourselves from the born-again community. It is not perfect, you do not need to be best buddies with everyone, but you must be involved in God's family enough to be within reach of the Spirit of counsel trying to speak to you through others.
The Caveat on Counselors
Always keep in mind: counselors must be kept in their proper container. They are not God. They are not your Holy Spirit. They are not your Messiah, no matter how helpful or accurate they might be. They are never to think for us or make decisions for us. We approach the potential voice of God through others with discretion and emotional independence.
The Language of the Spirit of Counsel: God Speaks Through Other Christians
The fourth working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of counsel" (Isa 11:2). This phrase captures how He speaks to us through a diverse array of human go-betweens or "counselors": any Word-filled, Spirit-filled believer (Eph 5:18,19, Col 3:16), good or great spiritual leaders (Heb 13:7, Eph 4:11-13), the speaking gifts (1Pet 4:10,11), spiritual music (1Chr 25:1-7, Eph 5:18,19), a professional Christian counselor, anointed Christian literature or other media, etc. The driving concept here is that the Spirit is using another person in His kingdom to talk to us. He does this to safeguard our perspective and perception. He does this to constrain us to seek out and maintain good relationships with other Christians. He does this to make sure we are being humble and collegial and participating in the joyful assembly on Mount Zion (Heb 12:22-24).
(5) The Spirit of Power
God Speaks Through Dramatic Supernatural Experiences
When God speaks through the Spirit of power, He uses dramatic supernatural experiences. There are Biblical principles indicating when and why He chooses to communicate in these ways, therefore, realize He is not flippant or casual when doing so (as some Christians suggest by using the word “miracle” every other sentence). Nonetheless, He is willing to dazzle and baffle us with His unique omnipotence at times of His choosing. We must remain open and believing towards the Spirit of power, but not obsessive or one-dimensional.
Scripture presents four main dramatic supernatural experiences the Lord might communicate through. It is Biblical and legitimate to pray for these, as long as we are balanced and synchronized with the other six languages of God. If not, I strongly advise you to pursue a healthier and more comprehensive approach to the Spirit before losing yourself in an obsession with the Spirit of power.
The Lord might speak with a voice hearable to the physical ear, as in the following scriptures: Numbers 7:89, Deuteronomy 4:36, 5:22-26, 1Kings 19:12,13, Job 4:12-16, Isaiah 6:8, Ezekiel 1:28, Matthew 17:5,6, John 12:28-30, Acts 9:3-7, 22:7-9, 26:14,15, Hebrews 12:19, Revelation 1:10, 4:1, 10:4,8, 11:12, 14:13, 18:4.
The Lord might speak by enabling a person to see the spiritual world, like supernatural phenomena, open heavens, etc. (2Ki 6:17, Eze 1:1, Ac 10:9-16, Rev 1:19), to see a metaphorical motion picture that He creates to convey a message (Dan 8:1-14, Rev 1:19), or to experience in virtual or visional reality what is happening in another location (Eze 8:3-17, Dan 8:1,2).
The Lord might speak by commissioning an angel(s) to appear on His behalf. Hebrews 1:14 and 13:2 remind us that this happens more than we realize.
The Lord might speak by appearing Himself, literally. He does this in three different ways: by appearing as an actual human (Gen 18:1-5,16-21), by appearing in a glorified or transhuman form (Mt 17:2, Acts 9:3-7, 22:7-9, 26:14,15, Rev 1:12-17), or by appearing in His full thronely glory (Eze 1:26-28, Isa 6:1-7).
The Spirit of power might use anything to communicate dramatically with us. Daniel 4:35 says He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. He has used a talking donkey (Num 22), a hand writing on a wall (Dan 5), an unusually bright and mobile star (Mt 2), even an unbelieving enemy (Jn 11:49-52)! He is a willing communicator with limitless power. He is the Spirit of power.
The Language of the Spirit of Power: God Speaks Through Dramatic Supernatural Experiences
The fifth working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of power" (Isa 11:2), indicating God's omnipotence. When He chooses to speak in this way there is a dramatic supernatural element involved.
I must insist that we keep this divine expression in balance. The Spirit's working is sevenfold, and this is only one of those workings. If we become obsessed and engrossed in God's sci-fi activity we will wander away from His other, equally important, workings. We will miss important messages from Him that could preserve, protect, and bless us.
(6) The Spirit of Knowledge
God Speaks to Our Inner Person
When God speaks through what Isaiah called "the Spirit of knowledge", He grants information directly to our inner person, i.e., He makes us "know" something. The definitive point here is that these "knowings" are new to us--information, awareness, or dimensions of intelligence we were entirely or mostly ignorant to before. The Word shows us diverse forms of these knowings, what we could even call sublanguages or dialects of the Spirit of knowledge.
At first glance the following dialects might seem disparate, however, they are all united by the fact that the Spirit communicates them directly to our inner person. Ponder it this way: the Spirit of creativity communicates through creation and creative originality, the Spirit of wisdom through providential happenings (ordered or allowed), the Spirit of understanding through the Holy Writings (Scripture), the Spirit of counsel through other believers, the Spirit of power through the unusually dramatic and supernatural, and the Spirit of knowledge communicates directly to our inner person with no go-between. Notice that unifying concept in the various dialects of the Spirit of knowledge.
Enhanced Earthly Knowledge
This dialect refers to earthly knowledge and intelligence imparted to the believer from the Spirit; it is not obtained through conditioning, experiences, or the normal learning trajectory. This particular kind of knowledge is not referring to Scripture (the Spirit of understanding speaking via the Holy Writings, discussed above). Rather, this knowledge pertains to fields of information that are distinctly earthly in nature.
A terrific example of this is Daniel 1:17. Notice the underlined phrase (NKJV): As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
God supernaturally imparted knowledge and skill to their inner person, however, the subject matter was Babylon's educational system. Remember, Daniel and his friends were recruited to be a part of Babylon's intelligentsia, to be elite academics well-learned in "the language and literature of the Babylonians", 1:4 says. 1:4 is the context of 1:17.
Additionally, the Hebrew word for "knowledge" in verse 17 is madda, which literally means "knowledge, thought, or science" (as in Daniel 1:4, see the KJV). The Hebrew for "skill" in verse 17 is sakal, which literally means "skill, practical intelligence, wittingly, successfully" (as in Joshua 1:7,8). These Hebrew words further help us understand the exact kind of knowledge God gave Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1:17--knowledge that was earthly, secular, practical, even scientific.
Other individuals also experienced the Spirit of knowledge in this particular dialect. The Lord trained Joseph, partially, via his managerial experiences in Potiphar's house and in prison. However, the level of administrative intelligence needed to manage the entire Egyptian government, and the coming famine, would require an impartation from the Spirit of knowledge above and beyond his managerial experiences. And he got it.
Solomon, in addition to wisdom and discernment, was given great earthly knowledge about plants, birds, creeping things, and fish (1Ki 4:33). He also undertook vast agricultural projects (Ecc 2:4-6). Solomon did not get this intelligence at the local library or university.
Enhanced earthly knowledge is one dialect of the Spirit of knowledge. There are, however, other dialects described in the Word.
Another dialect of the Spirit of knowing is the internal audible voice or "whisper". These whispers, the very voice of God, stream into our inner man as words, phrases, and sentences, heard inside only by the person the Spirit is talking to or talking through (hence the idea of whispering). Eliphaz, in Job 4:12, articulates the inner whisper tremendously (NIV): A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it.
Jesus also, in Matthew 10:27, seems to be describing the inner whisper (NIV): What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
Matthew 10:19,20 and Acts 8:29 also may refer to the inner whisper.
Keep in mind, in the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit dwells inside the born-again believer. Thus, when the New Testament says the Holy Spirit said this or said that to someone (as in Acts 8:29), it was a communication that came from within, seemingly an internal audible voice. If it was intended to be spoken out loud for others (as in Matthew 10:19,20), the text identifies a speaker in addition to what the Spirit said (Ac 13:1,2, 21:10,11).
Another dialect of this divine language is Spirit-illuminated ideas, like insightful theories, concepts, models, constructs, and action-plans that light up in our minds with unusual cogency. These ideas can pertain to any area of life. The Spirit of knowledge gave David the temple's designs in this exact way, 1Chronicles 28:11,12 say (NIV): Then David gave his son Solomon the plans...He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind...
Impressions, Gut Knowings
Another dialect is what some Christians call "impressions", i.e., inner nudges, prompts, sudden dispositions. I like to call them "gut knowings", because, when it is truly the Spirit the experience is deeper and more definitive than a typical impression, which we all get from time to time as sentient creatures trying to understand the world around us. Several scriptures articulate or suggest impressions and gut knowings: Matthew 22:18, Mark 2:8, John 6:15, Acts 14:9, 15:28.
Another dialect is what some Christians call "a burden", i.e., a strong and specific conviction in the heart about this or that. In the context of God's voice, the term burden is not referring to something negative or peace-robbing (as in Matthew 11:28-30), but loosely reminisces the Old Testament use of the term in prophetic ministry. The Mosaic prophets received "the burden of the Lord", and consequently, were filled with a strong and specific conviction in their heart to communicate (or act out) that burden. Read the following scriptures with that sense of burden in mind: Nehemiah 7:5, Philippians 2:13, 2Corinthians 8:16, Colossians 1:29.
Dreams, Visions (Internal)
The dialect of dreams and internal visions are ontologically the same thing, except one happens while sleeping and the other happens while awake (Ac 2:17, Dan 7:1,15). Both are mental images, parables, or motion pictures granted by the Spirit directly into the mind, directly into the inner person. Notice in the scripture below how Daniel emphasized that this happened in the mind. This is significantly different from external visions that happen outside the mind and require a visual miracle to see it, or, a physical miracle to enter the virtual-visional world. Daniel 7:1,15,28 tell us (NIV, underline mine): ...Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed...the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me...I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts...
The Language of the Spirit of Knowledge: God Speaks to Our Inner Person
The sixth working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of knowledge" (Isa 11:2). When God speaks through the Spirit of knowledge He grants information directly to our inner person. The driving concept here is that these "knowings" are new to us--information, awareness, or dimensions of intelligence we were entirely or mostly ignorant to before.
The Word shows us diverse forms of these knowings, what we could call dialects of the language of the Spirit of knowledge. At first these dialects might seem disparate, however, they are all united by the fact that the Spirit communicates them directly to our inner person. Whereas the Spirit of creativity communicates through creation and creative originality, the Spirit of wisdom through providential happenings (ordered or allowed), the Spirit of understanding through the Holy Writings (Scripture), the Spirit of counsel through other believers, the Spirit of power through the unusually dramatic and supernatural, the Spirit of knowledge communicates directly to our inner person with no go-between.
(7) The Spirit of the Fear of the LORD
God Speaks Through Authority & Consequence
The Spirit of the fear of the LORD speaks to us in two ways: through various forms of authority and through consequences. But first we need to clarify and elaborate exactly what is not and what is the fear of the Lord.
The Fear of the LORD?
The fear of the Lord is not an Islamic extremism-type terror of God. The fear of the Lord is not those bizarre, detached, morally oppressive Christian groups that doom you to hell if you get a nice hairdo or plug something in. The fear of the Lord is not obsessive-compulsive "Holiness or Hell" or "Fire and Brimstone" that strangely ignores God's other attributes and functions, like His amazing sweetness, sacrificial love, longsuffering, windows of grace, emotional healing, personal gifts, or benevolent eagerness to answer prayer.
A healthy, Biblical fear of the Lord is the sober realization that there are consequences for not seeking and cooperating with Him everyday. The severity of those consequences depends on a variety of variables, but no one is immune to those consequences--no one. Jesus said exactly this to the church at Thyatira, in Revelation 2:23 (NIV): ...all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
It is this accurate fear of the Lord that opens our awareness to the Spirit of the fear of the Lord speaking through authority and/or consequences. If we do not have an unchanging baseline of fearing the Lord we will not be sensitive to authorities He Himself established on earth and in our life, and, we will not be sensitive to consequence mechanisms He Himself ordained to reward or punish.
God Speaks Through Authority
God Himself has set lines of authority (Ro 13:1). When we shun these lines, Paul says we resist God and bring judgment on ourselves (v2). Just as we have a healthy fear of the Lord and His punitive or rewarding capabilities, so also we are to extrapolate that healthy fear to every other legitimate earthly authority set by Him.
Titus 3:1 says we are to submit to every legitimate authority and ruler. This means wherever we go we are to comply with the rule in that place: athletic coaches, park rangers, schoolteachers, someone else's home, traffic laws, and so on. Every place is under someone's jurisdiction, and we are to honor every single one. God is tremendously pleased with this humility, and remarkably, He will often embed His messages in such authorities.
There are four major lines of authority God has set. In honoring these, we open ourselves to the Spirit of the fear of the LORD speaking through them, as well as their provisions and protections. Important sidenote: submission does not mean allowing yourself to be controlled, manipulated, abused, or led into sin. We are to always resist, oppose, or flee from unhealthy, ungodly exaggerations of authority.
Spiritual authority refers to congregational and translocal leaders called to shepherd the church (Heb 13:7,17). Family authority refers to family heads/husbands (Eph 5:22-24) and parents over non-adult children (6:1-3). Vocational authority refers to employers and supervisors (v5-9). Civil authority refers to local and national government and law enforcement (Ro 13:1-5).
The King's Heart is in the Hand of the Lord
Throughout my born-again life I have prayed for many things. At times those wishes seemed to be blocked by those in legitimate authority over me. I angrily swore they were wrong. Many seasons later, however, I realized God was protecting me (and others) through that blocking. There was a divine message in the blocking I did not perceive at the time.
Then there have been times when the unlikeliest of authorities ushered me into new blessings I had earnestly waited for. For one reason or another, those authorities were unlikely allies to my life and future. Nonetheless, God used them to bless me greatly. Those, too, came with a message from Him.
After several years of such fluctuating experiences, I grew into a deep peace in the sovereign competency of God to subconsciously control and guide persons in authority. They are His puppets and He is the Puppetmaster. Proverbs 21:1 is our help and lifeline (NKJV): The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Isaiah said God would use pagan King Cyrus like a puppet to help Israel, though he himself had no idea (Isa 45:1-5).
Authority is never to control us, take advantage of us, think for us, make personal decisions for us, or lead us into sin. However, when they have legitimate traffic light power over us (Red = No/Not Now; Yellow = Slow/Maybe; Green = Go/Yes/Now), we need to perceive the Spirit of the fear of the LORD pulling the strings and speaking to us.
God Speaks Through Consequence
When the Spirit of the fear of the LORD speaks, He does so to instill a healthy, deep, holy fear in us to avoid painful and irreversible consequences. These types of messages sober, correct, rebuke, confront, warn, admonish, and humble. In these times (and at all times) we must be so, so, so humble and repentant before the Lord, cooperating fully with whatever transformation He wants to make in our personality structure or life structure. Jesus says in Revelation 3:19 (NIV): Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Sometimes the Spirit of the fear of the Lord has already warned us--and we did not cooperate--so He must use consequence itself to speak to us and aggressively compel the transformation He wants. This is New Testament theology that many Christians, mainly in the West, ignore or water down or simply refuse to believe. This is the law of sowing and reaping that every human and every Christian is accountable to, Paul says (Gal 6:7-9). This is the Father's loving discipline, Hebrews says (Heb 12:4-13). This is the Lord chastening us so "that we may not be condemned with the world" (1Co 11:32 NKJV).
God speaking to us through consequences is the strongest, sternest voice He uses. And so Paul says in Romans 11:22 (NIV): Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.
The Language of the Fear of the LORD: God Speaks Through Authority & Consequence
The seventh working of the sevenfold Spirit is "the Spirit of the fear of the LORD" (Isa 11:2). When He speaks through this aspect of His Spirit He speaks through various forms of (legitimate) authority in our life, He speaks through warnings and admonitions of consequences, and/or He speaks through consequences.