(Modern Bringers | Part 2)
[To read Part 1 in this series, go to Words Falling to the Ground (1)]
More than 30 years ago I was in one of those junctions, where I really needed a clear direction from God. I took the time to seek Him, cleanse my heart from my own desires, and discuss my options with others I trusted so they could hold me accountable. I kept the Word open in front of my eyes, and waited. When I got my answer, it was so clear. So I stepped forward in that direction (sorry for the foggy facts. This story involves other people, which is why I can’t divulge more details).
A little while later, reality hit me in the face. What I thought will follow, did not happen. Yet I had a promise, so I held on to it and kept declaring, believing, waiting for the facts to change. It took nearly two years before I realized that what I thought God told me, was never going to happen.
I was in a crisis. So many foundations within me were shaken. “Why should I bother to hear Him on other issues?” I argued. I did not question the fact He still speaks, but I lost any trust in my own ability to hear Him correctly. Fearing I will end up wasting more time by walking a path that would again be proven wrong, I just stopped asking.
No, I did not turn my back on God, but I did turn a deaf ear, and relied mostly on my own wisdom and logic. Alas, that turned out to be an even worse wasting of time since this time, the lesson did not just end with a broken heart, but with serious ramifications and a high price to pay.
So Many Voices
A couple of weeks ago I cuddled in my bed on a freezing and wet Saturday morning. Since this is our third lockdown in Israel, everything was supposed to be quiet, especially in the part of Jerusalem where I live. Yet a myriad of voices infiltrated through the closed windows and into my ear.
The narrow alley outside turned into a wind tunnel and intensified the sound of the wind. A handful of men were chanting ancient prayers in the next door synagogue. Above their hushed voices I heard the high pitch of a young lad who must have recently celebrated his Bar-Mitzva (therefore allowed to join the men in praying), but since his voice has not yet changed, it was stronger and clearer than the others’. And there were also the sounds of cheerful little children who were playing in the nearby playground.
A mayhem of voices demanding our attention constantly
(Editorial illustration for Mako Magazine by Pierre Kleinhouse)
“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world”, a verse popped up in my mind (1 Cor. 14:10-11). The original context is of the sounds we make when we speak in tongues, but I wondered: God, how well do Your children recognize Your voice in the current mayhem of noises?
Testing Is Noble
The mixture of prophetic voices whirling around the world has grown exponentially since the pandemic broke out, especially since November (when the results of the elections in the US were announced). Seems like millions of Christians went through a severe blow since Biden’s inauguration last week, as their last bit of hope was stifled.
This rather grim picture made me think: Lord, so many of Your children do not clearly recognize Your voice. Maybe we even fear the very possibility of hearing You clearly. Maybe we have a “good” explanation behind this fear, just like I had for many years.
Some have gone through a disillusioning experience at least once, and want to prevent it from ever happening again. Others would rather have someone else bring us Your message, just as the Israelites did at Sinai. As they saw the voices (interesting: they saw the voices, not heard them) and the sound of the shofar, they were filled with fear and cried to Moses: “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). Moses tried to reassure them, but the people preferred to stand afar. He then approached the thick fog, to hear what God wanted to put in his mouth (V. 20-21).
Here is the problem: when we hear a message from someone else, that comes to us wrapped up as a prophecy, we still need to go back to Scripture and to God, and do that which the Jews of Berea did (Acts 17:11), right? If we must test the words others bring to us either way, then we cannot “save” ourselves the need to listen and discern. So why not just try to hear straight from Him to begin with?
Just wondering: if two great apostles would have come to a service and bring a message from God (as happened when Paul and Silas came to Berea), would us examining their sermons in light of Scripture have shown doubt on our part, or rather nobility and wisdom?
Training Others to Recognize His Voice
We teach the Body how to recognize the voice of God’s Word. That is excellent and extremely important. We also teach how to respect the voice of reason, and even the voice of science to some extent. What about the voice of God? Many times He speaks through all these means, but there is so much more to it.
I used to see various crossroads along my path, those situations in which we have to make a decision on something Scripture is not clear about, as an invitation to put together a once in a lifetime puzzle that God has prepared for me. A puzzle I was meant to decipher. According to this wrong method, various clues were hidden to some extent in the Bible, or in my circumstances, or in nature, in a word someone else says, in dreams and visions or in images I would see in my minds’ eye. If I was attentive to these clues, if I put them together carefully, making sure one confirms another and hopefully my hearts’ desire, I could hope that the final outcome be in accordance with God’s perfect will on the matter.
Gathering of clues
This approach is problematic because it turned the answer I was seeking into the end goal, and made my relationship with God secondary. It ignored something highly important: my ability to hear Him is a result of the depth and honesty that exists between us. It requires investment, trying and erring, getting to know His personality, studying the unique language by which He addresses me, receiving proper correction when it is needed, and above all – good will and enjoying one another.
Faces Vs. Presence
“The Holy Spirit’s presence at service today was so strong”; “God, I want to enter into Your presence”; “Bring me to Your presence” – we say it often, we sing it, we pray along these lines.
But… the word “presence” does not appear even once in the OT Hebrew. All these references to His presence or countenance speak in Hebrew about His Face. Or more accurately, His Faces (it is a plural noun in Hebrew). Similarly, in the NT, the Greek word for face (προσώπου – prosópon) is translated at times as “countenance”, “presence”, or yes, even “face” (see for example Lk 1:19; Acts 2:28, Mt. 6:16; 2 Cor. 3:7).
The result is a somewhat misleading understanding of the term “God’s presence”. The Bible calls us to seek God’s Face, not His presence. There is a difference between the two.
I can be in someone’s presence with my back turned to him,
not even aware he is in the same room
But things are different if it is his or her face that I encounter
Hearing His voice is not an experience I “enter” into whenever I want to know how to handle something, but a natural outcome of the time I spend with Him.
What If We Have Gotten it Wrong?
The way in which God spoke to His people in the OT is somewhat different than the way it happens today. In OT days, though He did speak directly to individuals, He mostly brought His word through designated prophets, regardless of their relationship with Him. In the NT era, the Holy Spirit resides within us. We can all hear God and read His Word, even bring it to others. But unlike OT days, nowadays – the prophetic voice must correlate to the relationship that person has with God.
One of the most detailed OT descriptions of the ability to hear God is attributed to someone who did not even bother to obey Him. This person had his eyes wide open; he could see visions of the Almighty; he would fall into some kind of a trance while seeing it; his accuracy was phenomenal, thus even in other countries people knew that whomever he blesses will indeed be blessed, and when he curses someone – this curse will hit the mark .
Numbers 22-24 tell this story of Balaam the sorcerer. The guy had a unique ability, yet his relationship with God was pretty problematic. He totally misunderstood the place Israel plays in God’s plan, did not recognize an angel even when he stood in front of him, and employed manipulation to bring about his own will.
The Path is Open
Since Yeshua’s crucifixion and the ripping of the veil, the way to the Holy of Holies is potentially open to each one of us. Once we enter through the narrow Gate, we can boldly approach the Throne of Mercy (Heb. 10:19-20). But the accuracy of what we bring depends on the level of intimacy we enjoy with the One whose glory dwells there, in the Holy of Holies.
I cannot just jump right into that spot, skipping the process that leads there. I can approach the Holy of Holies only by following the path that the priests did before they could enter that place. The words “getting closer” in Hebrew are derived from the same root of “sacrifice”. So in order to come near to God and look at His Face, a sacrifice is a must. I need to cleanse myself with blood (Bronze Altar), wash by the Laver with the water of the Word (v. 22) and so on.
Only when I get to the final destination will God show me what He wants me to bring to others, as he stated to Moses (Ex. 25:22). Yes, even Moses, who saw God face to face and heard Him so well on a regular basis, had to go through this process in order to bring what God had put in his mouth.
1… 2… 3… Testing
I am not belittling or mocking the fact that God sometimes brings His message through others. I want to be careful to not despise prophecies (Thess. 5:20), but I am also careful to test them (v. 21). Not just the messages – but the bringers as well.
Therefore there are a few things I need to know about the bringer before I complete my test. I am looking to taste some of the fruit of his (or her) relationship with God: how soft is their heart towards Him, how willing are they to receive correction, are they teachable or mostly hold monologues, are they aware of their weaknesses and are transparent about them, and what do they do if it turns out they were wrong?
I do take into account that people make mistakes. I don’t believe that prophets in our days are to be stoned and declared false ones, unless they insist on going forward in the same direction and refuse to own their mistakes. But I do want to see that they submit to some frame of leadership that helps them take off more of the old man that spoke a little too loud when they thought it was the voice of God they were hearing.
Oh, and one more thing: I also would like their apology to be at least equal in volume to that in which their prophecies were delivered. Otherwise, I’m not sure it really counts.
To be continued…