In working through my thesis, I’m interacting with some popular level books that advocate seeking the voice of God, hearing God speak regarding whatever dilemma we are facing or just to give encouragement or direction. And this seems right to so many because we ARE in relationship with the living God who continues to move by the Holy Spirit, right? Well not so fast.
I’m addressing the fact that God already spoke through Scripture and explaining why that is so. Of course, we need to define what it means for God to speak, which is his verbal revelation. Whatever propositional knowledge of himself he wanted to convey, has been conveyed progressively through the Old Testament as he spoke through word and historical acts in establishing a covenantal relationship with his people. Both word and deed get accomplished through the Son, through whom the words of the Old Testament are validated and the New Testament explains.
But I’m also reminded of the fact that we do face uncertainty, difficulty, confusion or fear. We do face times of doubt and discouragement. Being in relationship with an invisible God can cause us to ache for the tangible. We are humans after all.
So many do what these writers I’m interacting with advocate, seeking out that tangible need in he form of soft whispers or signs, words of comfort and affirmation that we long to hear. Somehow the Bible seems deficient and words spoken by others meet the needs of the immediate, especially when there is a claim attached to it that the Lord has spoken. Who doesn’t want a word right now for what we are going through?
I could write much on the topic of prophecy but it would bog this post down. Prophecy is speaking God’s truth. Suffice it to say that if you say these are words that the Lord speaks, you have to contend with Heb. 1:1-2, that whatever God spoke, he now does so through the Son. Jesus testifies that all Scripture was about him and the apostolic message validates. You also have to contend with Deut. 18 and fact that the word of the Lord is authoritative and without error. It’s also important to see the Old Testament as prophetic and not just highlighting words of prophets as I wrote about here. Now some define prophecy in a way that makes NT prophecy a bit different than OT prophecy in that they are divinely inspired human words that can have error. Yet I’m left to ask how does this speak truth from God if it can have error? I believe its better to keep human words in the realm of exhortation and not call it prophecy, something that Vern Poytress gives good support for in his 1996 JETS article, Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts.
But even for those who claim to be speaking a word of prophecy, I’m amazed at how much is really just a regurgitation of what Scripture says put in a ‘right now’ kind of application. Of course, the danger is when some anti-Christian, anti-Scriptural thought is infused into these proclamations that are attached to the Lord speaking simply because one has the thought in his or her mind. I’ve also found that it is more likely a regurgitation of popular philosophies that have no grounding in historic Christian thought. This is what makes so-called modern day prophecies so dangerous. I’ve heard it time and time again, and cringed. It’s not right to attribute words to the Lord he has not said. Not only that, but it makes what God has already spoken insufficient for worship and obedience, which directly contradicts 2 Tim. 3:17.
And yet, I see so many gravitate towards this form of communication for comfort and reassurance. The occurrence of this phenomenon overwhelming communicates that what God has already said is deficient, that he really hasn’t given us all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But even more unsettling is that there has to be some kind of deciphering to determine if in fact, the words are actually from the Lord.
So this leads me to ask, why not just rest on what has already been spoken? Because in times of difficulty, uncertainty, doubt or distress we don’t need to engage in mental gymnastics about whether something is from the Lord or not. This can and no doubt, has caused much confusion. We don’t need to think about if that is what God said, we want to know what God said. We need a sure word, a solid anchor and rest in the promises of what has already been spoken.
I don’t know about you, but this is what settles me in times of difficulty and uncertainty. I am comforted when I consider the breadth and depth of the 66 books and what God spoke through it regarding himself and his redemptive purpose.