Friday, November 04, 2005

Hearing God and Moving in the Prophetic: A critique

Since Phil Johnson has started a series of blog posts on "evangelical soothsayers" and "rubber prophecies," I thought that I would also say something about the concept of hearing God and the "prophetic."
Some time ago, a message, entitled Hearing God’s Voice, was preached at our church by one of our own pastors. He cited Is 50:4-5, "[4] The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. [5] The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back." (NIV) All verses read by him were read from the NIV.
His first point was that we should hear God for ourselves before we can hear God for others. This he got from Is 50:4-5.
I am not against prophecy, if it is from the Lord Himself. It must not be some concocted idea from our own minds. Hearing from God is a sovereign act by God. Amongst the prophets, the majority (if not all) heard God when He sovereignly spoke. It was not a case of waiting to hear what God had to say, but rather God intervened when He wanted to speak. In this verse, if it is read without the usual charismatic preponderance to the dramatic, it is made clear that it was the "Sovereign LORD" that gave Isaiah an instructed tongue; it was the "Sovereign LORD" that woke his ears to listen. A sovereign act of God Himself!
To corroborate this idea of hearing from God for ourselves first, from the New Testament, this pastor quoted 2 Cor 1:3-4, "[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
I have to be honest, how he got these two different passages to say the same thing is beyond me! The only way these two passages could corroborate each other is by preconceived ideas inducted into these passages by eisegesis, instead of proper Biblical exegesis!
Next, the preacher wanted to drive home that we have God’s prophetic Word in our heart and in our mouth. What Scripture passage did he use? Rom 10:6-8, "[6] But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) [7] "or 'Who will descend into the deep?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). [8] But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming."
A little simple exegesis would have made clear just what the word was that Paul meant here. Again, preconceived ideas made the preacher see things in the passage that did not exist in the passage. What word did Paul mean here? Well, the passage at hand tells us! It tells us that the word that is in our hearts and in our mouth is "the word of faith we are proclaiming." What is "the word of faith we are proclaiming?" The gospel! This is spelled out clearly in verses 9 and 10. "[9] that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; [10] for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Does God reveal mysteries? Naturally. He did to Daniel. The next verse the preacher used was Dan 2:8, "[8] but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Daniel had just revealed to king Nebuchadnezzar the dream he had and the meaning of the dream. To back up the mystery revealing God from the New Testament, he used Lk 10:21, "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
What is this verse telling us? Is this saying that God reveals prophetic type mysteries to children and not to others? No, it tells us that God’s kingdom is not revealed to those who seek it by pure logic, but that God is the revealer of His kingdom. In our own wisdom, we cannot reach God’s kingdom. Only by God’s revelation of His kingdom, can we know about His kingdom. This revelation of God’s kingdom is clearly set out in the Scriptures, the Bible!
Later in the sermon, the preacher referred to Mt 11:25-26, "[25] At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. [26] Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. [27] "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. [28] "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.""
Again, what has this passage got to do with anything prophetic? Nothing! This passage has nothing to do with spiritual revelation or the prophetic!
The next statement the preacher made he based on Mt 4:4, "[4] Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"" The word used for word in this passage, is the Greek word rhēma (rhma). The preacher made the usual charismatic comment about this word, that it means the spoken word as opposed to the written word which they say is logos (logoV).
This difference in the meanings of these two words are totally unfounded. If we bother to study the various instances of the uses of rhēma and logos, we will discover that there is no reason for us to speak of rhēma as the spoken word of God, and of logos as the written word of God. Both have the potential to be used in either way. For a more complete study of this issue the paper at may be studied.
The next point made by the preacher is that our imagination and our spiritual eyes reside in the same place. How did he get to this? Hab 2:1, "[1] I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint."
The claim here is that we must look into the spiritual realm with our spiritual eyes to see what the Lord wants to tell us. The NASB puts it this way, "[1] I WILL stand on my guard post And station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, And how I may reply when I am reproved." Is the point of this verse really to exercise looking into the spiritual realm with our spiritual eyes to see what the Lord wants to say? Or, is the point of this verse rather to be on our guard to hear when God speaks? What was Habakkuk waiting to hear from God? The first two chapters of Habakkuk are about Habakkuk’s argument with God over God’s unfathomable ways, which even seemed unjust to Habakkuk. Does this mean that Habakkuk said that we should now practice hearing God’s voice by looking into the spiritual realm? Not in the least! It simply recounts Habakkuk’s struggles with what seemed to be an unjust God.
Before the preacher gave over to the head pastor of our church, he told how he would hear from God in his practice sessions. He tried to make the point that God mostly spoke through visions. What he would do is to imagine he was back on the farm where he grew up. Then he would imagine that Jesus would be sitting next to him. At this point he would just sit and watch Jesus. Then, Jesus would start talking to him about things. The final few minutes were handled by the head pastor of our church. In this time he made a big deal about the fact that God uses our imagination to speak with us through visions. He then made use of what the previous preacher taught about how he uses his imagination to start seeing visions. At church we have two huge overhead screens. He had four scenes beamed onto the screens. We were told to watch these scenes--each of which were left on the screens for a few seconds--and then to see what the Lord will tell us about those scenes.
This is a clear case of trying to induce visions! This is definitely more the art of suggestion than hearing God’s voice or seeing visions! Were these actions Biblical? I do not believe so!
Does God speak to us today? Yes! Can we induce it? Undoubtedly not! Whenever God spoke to the prophets--Old Testament or New--He spoke sovereignly. They never tried to make God speak with them. Whether it was the prophet Isaiah or the apostle Paul, God spoke to them when He needed to say something important.
What is God’s primary method of speaking to us today? I believe it would be the Scriptures. Does God speak in any other way? Yes, he does. However, the method God uses is up to Him, not us! He chooses how to speak and when to speak. When God speaks, we will not be in doubt that God spoke.
Do we have to hear from God everyday? Definitely! We need to read the Bible and study it everyday to know what God’s Word says to us. It is as we get to know God’s Word that we will know how to conduct ourselves in this world and what God expects of us in different situations. There is no bypassing the Scriptures! Try to bypass the Scriptures and you will simply land into all kinds of deceptive ideas like trying to induce visions or God’s voice.
Let us rather get back to the reading and studying of God’s Word, the Scriptures!
Just thinking...

1 comment:

mark pierson said...

I love the way you navigated between the cessation and the charismatic camps. You have a level-headed approach here. You provide much to think about.

The church I came from, the pastor reasoned in much the same way the pastor in your post did. I'm amazed pastors can be comfortable reading into scripture like that.

Thank you for the post and thanks for your time.

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