:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
It seems that no matter where I go, no matter what Christian group I am speaking to, I regularly hear people telling me that God has told them one thing or another. When People invite me to preach to their group, they direct me to say “whatever the Lord leads you to say.” Whenever I hear of a person making a major decision in their lives, it is very often that they claim that “God led me” to this or that decision.
I want to preface my following
remarks. I believe that God leads his people. I believe that God communicates to us very clearly. I do not believe that we are living this life in some sort of deistic state in which God does not actively intervene. God is most certainly at work in the hearts of his people.
With that said, I am often disturbed by a person claiming that God told him or her this or that. Why does this disturb me? It most often disturbs me that people claim to have heard from God because, in most instances, their claim to have heard from God has absolutely nothing to do with the word of God. The claim to have heard from God that most people maintain is quite often a totally subjective, fuzzy, nebulous sort of thing. They feel something very strongly in their heart, and they assume that God is leading them to some particular action.
Without question, God has spoken to his people. He has spoken to us in his holy word. The Bible is living and active (Heb 4:12). The Bible gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3-4). The Bible is perfect, reviving our souls and changing our lives (cf. Psa 19:7-9). The Bible is God’s communication to us, telling us who God is and what God demands of us. The Bible is perfect, and its leading is trustworthy. And when a person claims to be led by God as he or she rightly interprets and applies the word of God, I have no qualms.
I do, however, struggle with a person who simply has a gut feeling, a strange dream, or a powerful notion in their mind claiming that it has come from God. Without question, God has used people who have made such claims. However, I also think that there are many, countless numbers, who have claimed to have heard from God that this event must take place or that marrying that person is definitely the right thing to do who have, upon further review, found out that they might not have heard as much from God as they thought.
When Peter defended his gospel in 2 Peter 1, he told his story. He said that he knew that his story was not made up, because he saw Jesus transfigured (cf. 2 Pet 1:16-18). However, Peter goes onto say that he has something that is more sure than his own personal experience, that being the word of the prophets, the Bible (cf. 2 Pet 1:19-ff). [Note: some translations of the Bible do not word verse 19 in such a way as to help you see this truth clearly, but the ESV handles it well and the original language certainly makes it plain that Peter is affirming that the word of the prophets is more sure than his experience.]
Ezekiel pronounced woe on those who prophesy from their own hearts. He was saying, on God’s authority, that those who claim to have heard something from God that God did not say are in big trouble. God commands those who claim to have heard from God outside of his word, “Hear the word of the Lord.” In Ezekiel’s day, that word was spoken through Ezekiel. In our day, that word of the Lord is available for us all to hear in the pages of Holy Scripture.