The Tone of God’s Voice

The Tone of God’s Voice

“Her thoughts at the meeting today were critical!” he texted.

What’s that supposed to mean? Were her words were extremely important, or shockingly negative?

Everyone knows how a text message or an email can be misunderstood because we miss the tone in someone’s voice. The same set of words can be said with appreciation or hostility. Tone is vitally important, because as Don Miller said, there are always two conversations going on—the one with words, and the one that reveals feelings. The latter makes all the difference.

How can we better understand the tone of God’s voice if all we have is the Bible? Like a text or an email, what if we get it wrong? What if we experience a boatload of condemnation when reading the Old Testament? Or how about Paul’s statements concerning women: were they condescending or matter-of-fact, and would knowing his tone of voice change our perception? And ultimately, if God is the Author of all Scripture, how can we go beyond the printed words to experience His heart?

Well for one thing, that’s why God came in person. Jesus’s earthly life gave us a deeper look at the heart of God. He could’ve come in His glory as “the King of kings.” Instead He entered the normal way, as a baby, making Himself accessible to ordinary people. He entered the fray, ignoring all kinds of personal-space rules…speaking to the woman at the well, welcoming little children, and touching unclean lepers. He let doubting Thomas feel His nail-pierced hands and honored a prostitute who bathed His feet in perfume.

He even washed feet.

In short—Jesus was completely approachable. Actions help convey the spirit and tone of someone’s words.

Still, there has to be more. In human relationships, would you be content to just know stories about your father? Stories about what he said or did with other people in other places? Of course not! But many Christians settle for that when it comes to knowing God for themselves.

Think about it this way…If a DVD had been made of Jesus during his earthly life and placed in a time capsule only to be discovered years later, wouldn’t it be the most-viewed video on YouTube? Wouldn’t people watch it over and over to hear His voice, catch His smile, or look into His eyes? An immense amount of communication happens when you experience someone directly with your own senses.

Hollywood knows this. They’ve been making movies about Jesus for over a century. They cater to our cravings, as we wonder what was He was like in person. Was Jesus really an austere man as depicted my Max von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)–a movie criticized for being too pretty, too stilted, and too American. Or how about the counterculture Jesus in the musical, Godspell (1973)? Some say that Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977) is best, but did Jesus have a British accent and blue eyes?

Or do we embrace Jim Caviezel’s portrayal in The Passion Of The Christ (2004)—playfully flicking water at his mother, doing miracles and taking on the sins of the world. Christianity Today’s review says that “more than any recent director, Gibson captures the grand supernatural conflict which gives the death of Christ its meaning.”

But even with ginormous budgets, splendiferous cinematography, skillful acting and directing—no movie can completely give us Jesus as He truly was and is.

And that’s why Jesus had a lot to say about sending the Holy Spirit in His place. The Holy Spirit helps us experience God, and we can gage the tone of God’s voice.

For example, it’s one thing to read John 3:16 and know in my head that God loves me. But when I repeatedly see 7:10 on clocks, receipts, and license plates, I feel God’s love for me in a profoundly personal way. It’s not only the message, but also the timing of it. This is the work of the Spirit.

On my birthday a few weeks ago, my 2-year-old granddaughter was fooling with the digital clock in my car. Eventually she got bored and experimented with the window wipers. I glanced at the clock. She’d unknowingly set it at 7:10. I smiled. What are the odds, if it’s just a random thing? In my heart, I know it’s not chance. God is determined to show His passion for me.

Next week, I’ll share anonymous excerpts from actual prophetic words given to countless people during the years Jenny and I were in prayer ministry. You’ll be able to feel the texture and tenor of God’s voice beyond black and white print. It’s a place to start. And of course, if you’ve ever received a prophetic word through someone with this gift, the connection with God is far more poignant. It demonstrates why we need to know the Holy Spirit.

Has God given you a prophetic word through another person? Did you feel the tenor of His voice? Share it here…


  1. Susan,
    This was a great article, thanks! I have a friend who taught a class for a couple of years-one of the recurring things she taught on was the prophetic-and after she would teach, she would have us practice, using various types of activities. So for that couple year span I would regularly get words from people. I started to see a theme, where a couple of words kept being repeated. Once I noticed that happening, the skeptical side of me started paying attention to the words other people got to make sure my words weren’t just the typical words that everyone gets-and they weren’t! But even more important than the meaning of the words I kept hearing for myself was the tenderness they conveyed. Because of the specific types of dysfunction in my upbringing and the resulting wounds, being able to experience and receive God’s tenderness was especially important.

  2. what you’ve been led to say here is EVERYTHING and how many of us wonder about the tone of jesus’s voice? that is a thing to ponder. it has to be the main mission of the holy spirit. how else? thanks for this open door, especially at christmas. TONE. WOW.
    suzee B

    • Suzee and Deanna…Thank you for your thoughts here. For me, when I encountered the tone of God’s voice–it changed everything. It matters. I never ever again doubted God’s love for me, even the worst versions of myself.

  3. Terri Klippert Beal :

    Susan, as I was praying the other night a Word came to me, God was helping me to identify my frustration – the word was, “resist” – why do I resist Him? I prayed that He would break through my resistance. I love the way you have described how Personal and Loving our God is toward each one of us – and, how can you actually resist, “7:10”? It’s not Odd, of course, it IS God loving you!

    Years ago I was at our church’s women’s retreat. There was a bit of an, ‘alter call’ – the speaker asked the women in God’s “army” to come forward, intentionally joining Him, purposefully engaging with Him, wholly committing themselves to Him. There were about 12-15 of us women, on bended knee, foreheads laying almost flat against the stage. What was weird was that we all kind of looked alike…young moms, shoulder length blonde hair, styled to the times…I did not stand out in this bunch. However, I felt a tap on my shoulder – as I turned around, I saw a woman I had not seen all weekend. She said the following, “God just told me how proud He is of all of His daughters – boldly marching in unison and confidence in Him, committing themselves to His purpose, but He pointed to you and said, ‘that one, that one is different…she will be a captain in my army.'” I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t know what He meant. I never told anyone, this was a personal word that I wanted Him to unpack for me.

    Nearly 15 years later every aspect of my life fell apart…you name it, and it crashed…out of the blue an old friend from college called me and offered me a job – it was the timing, it was the perfect job, it was this job that forced me to get up in the morning and leave the house, it was a job that paid me, fed my family, engaged me, lifted me up, introduced me to amazing Christians, challenged my brain, my faith, my physical being. The job? To put a food truck on the road for Captain Marden’s Seafoods, Inc. – and the manager of a food truck is called? The Captain – and it’s a FISH company – the name of the truck? The Cod Squad – while I was not expecting this, years ago God would have my bases covered, with a sense of humor. Sorry this post is so long – but I pray it is an encouragement to someone who is experiencing resistance when they think they are hearing God’s personal love for them. His boldness toward you will crumble your resistance. I appreciate the opportunity to lock arms and share how much He loves us – and speaks our individual language so that we KNOW we just KNOW it is Him speaking personally to us and loving us! xo