Selling God Short

I’m reading about David’s life in 1 and 2 Samuel and came across a section during which he asked specific questions of God and received specific answers.

David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this band [of Amalekites who had raided his home]? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.” (1 Samuel 30:8)

    David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.” (2:1b)

David certainly was not the first person to ask specific questions of God or to receive specific instructions from Him.

Priests step into the Jordan RiverHe told Abram to leave his home and go until He said to stop. He sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of impending destruction because of their sin. He told Joshua to have the priests carry the ark into the Jordan River so that the flow of water would stop. He gave Noah the building plan for an ark and Moses the blueprint for a tabernacle. He told Hosea to marry and Jeremiah to buy a particular plot of ground. He told Gideon to spy on the people he was about to attack if he was afraid. He had Moses to make a bronze serpent and led Lot out of Sodom. He instructed Samuel to anoint David, not his brothers. He confronted Job concerning his doubts and led Elisha to a certain widow who would feed him for the better part of three years.

I could go on, but the point is, God gave specific instructions to His people. This wasn’t “Follow me,” or “Obey my commandments,” or “Love me.” He did give those kinds of directives, too, but the ones I’m talking about were specific and personal.

Sometimes He spoke through visions or dreams and sometimes through a prophet or an angel. Sometimes He spoke from a burning bush or out of His pillar of fire. Apparently He spoke directly to some people as He did when He promised to make Abraham the father of nations, then when He instructed him to take his son to Moriah and sacrifice him, and again when He told him to substitute the ram for Isaac.

All this personal, clear communication with God came to His people before He sent Jesus and before He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell believers. Today we have knowledge of God’s Son, we have the presence of the Spirit, and we have possession of God’s written revelation. And yet we seem to flounder when it comes to communication with God.

Some Christians say the Bible has replaced God’s use of visions and direct communication, that people who believe in listening to God’s Holy Spirit are seeking some secret knowledge because they’ve fallen into the heresy of gnosticism.

It’s a serious consideration. Everything in Scripture leads me to believe that God will not reveal a new or different gospel. He isn’t going to send us another book or speak extra-biblical pronouncements for the Church through a human agent. For example, should the Pope decide to change the Catholic Church’s stand on abortion, his word would not overturn the teaching of the Bible, no matter what his congregants think.

On the other hand, I find it odd that King David could ask God, Which city should I go to, and God answered him, but Christians today, filled with the Holy Spirit, can’t ask the same kinds of questions.

Of course we can ask, but few people expect an outright answer. Hence, my guess is, few people ask. In fact, some Christians who think God only speaks through the Bible apparently believe Christians who ask and say God answers are making it up or are deluded or are hearing from Satan.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a complex issue because Satan is a liar, and he does deceive people (see Eve). Add to the mix the fact that my own heart is deceitful. Then, too, wicked people are out to milk others of all they can get and will promise all kinds of false things if you only send in a donation of $__. 😕

Which, of course, makes an already skeptical group of western Christians who are told not to believe in superstitions even less inclined to believe we can ask God for personal guidance and expect Him to answer.

But why wouldn’t He?

If He wants a relationship with us, and He said He did (that’s in the written record), and He gave us His Spirit (also part of the infallible, immovable, sure Word of God), why would we think His Spirit would live in us without talking to us? It’s not logical to believe a communicable God who loves us would remain mute.

Unless . . .

There’s another something in the imperishable Word of God that addresses this issue. A command. Believers are instructed not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19).

Could it be that we don’t “hear” God’s voice because we’re smothering it, either with our doctrine or our doubts or our determination to depend upon ourselves?

Of all the people in the Bible who God used in a powerful way, I find Nehemiah to be the one I can relate to the most because he seems to have had a relationship with God that’s similar to the way I see Him work today.

Nehemiah never heard God’s voice, as near as I can determine. His call from God came through a group of Jews that visited him in Babylon (in other words, through circumstances). He prayed but didn’t wait for a direct message from God. Instead, he did the thing that was right in front of him. Then he gave God the credit for answered prayer at the results. In addition, he recognized God’s working inside him. From chapter 3: “I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem” (emphasis mine).

I have no doubt God answered Nehemiah’s prayer. He knew the ideas he had weren’t his own. He knew the circumstances that brought him to Jerusalem and that made it possible to rebuild the walls of the city were answers to his prayer.

In the same way, I believe Christians today can know the same kinds of things. It’s not secret knowledge and it never contradicts Scripture. But in the same way King David could say, where should I go and Nehemiah could pray, make Your servant successful today, and God answered them, I believe we can ask God what’s on our hearts and He will answer. God’s communication with us may not always be what we want to hear, but I think we sell Him short if we aren’t asking.

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Published in: on November 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. You’ve put your finger on a sensitive spot but you’ve done it with wisdom, humility and grace. Having fellowshipped in both “camps” on this issue — communions both Charismatic and Calvinist Reformed — I understand these issues. The one has a tendency to crave “additions” to scripture and run after everything they hear without submitting it to that very Word, while the other I am sad to say in many cases lives a relationship more with a book than with a Person and views the Holy Spirit as little more than a light bulb that turns on when you read the Bible and a net when the Gospel’s preached. But I’ve been dealing lately with directions in my own life, asking but not hearing, and perhaps the Lord is putting into MY mind through your post what He wants me to hear about MY OWN quenching of His Spirit. This confirms something I’ve been feeling for the past week or so. Thank you for being God’s servant, may He bless this post and more particularly you for being obedient in writing it. Gloria Deo in excelsis!

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    • HG, I generally write these posts about things I’m learning, and this is one. Recently I’ve had things I look back and say, if only I’d done what I thought I should do. But then I think, was that thought actually from God and I just ignored it? I don’t always know, but I want to learn how to listen to God’s voice because I believe He wants to counsel us as clearly as He did the prophets and priests and kings and judges of old. After all, we are His chosen race, His royal priesthood, His holy nation and He has determined to dwell in us.

      God residing in me but silent defies what Scripture reveals about Him, I think. So if there’s a breakdown in communication, it has to be me, not Him. I’m not talking to Him as I should and not listening when I do ask Him for things. I tend to rush on by and only turn to Him when I realize I’m stuck. How much better if I’d go to Him first.

      I think of it like Joshua making plans to take Ai after the great victory over Jericho. That first battle, with the walls crumbling before the people of Israel, came about because of explicit instructions from God. Yet Joshua make plans to take Ai apparently without even consulting God. Only after their defeat did he fall before God and ask what to do. That’s me more than I would like to admit!

      Becky

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    • I meant to say also, I do sometimes think our theology gets in the way. Oddly enough, I didn’t learn a lot of theology when I was growing up and I’ve always shied away from churches that preached theology rather than Scripture. Yes, pastors that preach Scripture do so from their theological framework, so I was taught a lot of theology, but it’s different when it is taught as an interpretation of Scripture rather than as a tenet of Scripture. At least I think it is.

      All that to say, I was an adult before I knew there was a debate about the gifts of the Spirit. I knew I was a Christian but I didn’t speak in tongues, so that influenced my thinking. But I also read what Scripture said about gifts we called ecstatic. I had to ask a friend why her church believed they had ceased. I had a pastor teach that he believed they had ceased, at least in public worship, but he had a brother who believed they were still part of the church. So. In my mind, there had to be something different from both extremes.

      Ultimately that’s led me to believe the Holy Spirit would be far more active in our lives if we let Him, but His work has very little to do with the . . . I don’t know what else to call it but exploitation of Him that some wish to do within the framework of “church.”

      God is so much greater than we realize, I’m convinced. 😀

      Becky

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      • “Our God is in the Heavens, He does as He pleases,” the Psalmist declares (Ps. 115:3). If it’s the will of the Holyghost (as my Deep South Pentecostal relatives pronounced it) to manifest gifts as He wills — or not — who am I to say to Him, “What doest thou?” Such things ought always be judged according to the scriptures (I Thess. 5:20-21) and not be “counted as nothing” (import of the Greek). Folks on both sides of this question ought to pay heed to that admonition and not attack one another over it. Thank you for your insights — and indeed, the problem is with us, not with Him.

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