How do you know if something is the command or desire of God? This is a big question, a significant question. Many people refuse to ask it, but the failure to have a standard here is utterly destructive.
If a person tells you that God wants them to do something, what do you do? Do you immediately assume they must have heard from God? Why? What would make you take their word for it?
If someone tells you that something is truth, do you automatically believe them? Why? Do a person’s feelings form in your mind an unquestionable argument? Why?
To live and survive in the world we are in, you and I need to be a thinking people. We need to actually be willing to at least ask a couple of questions about the knowledge claims that others make. WE need to be wise enough to question even the passionate beliefs of others. Doing so is not mean. Instead, doing so is required for us to lovingly point people to the Lord.
If a person tells you that they believe God is pleased with what they are doing, you have to ask why. What makes them think that the Lord has approved their choices? If they tell you that they know God has approved their choices simply because they feel approved of, that is not a satisfactory answer. After all, people of other religions may say the same thing.
Let’s make this simple. Imagine that I say to you that I feel, deep down in my heart, that the sky is yellow. Does that make my claim so? It depends, of course, on whether or not color is a real thing. If color is a real thing, then my claim about the color of the sky can be either correct or incorrect. But how strongly I feel about the color makes no difference. The actual color, the measurable color, that is the thing that matters.
Let’s see an example from Scripture. During the days of Hezekiah, the king of Assyria send an army to Judea. And he claimed that he was doing so based on the command of the Lord. Notice the two claims in these verses.
2 Kings 18:22, 25 — 22 But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? … 25 Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.’ ”
The Assyrians claimed first that Hezekiah had displeased the Lord by tearing down the high places in Judea. That is a truth claim. We must ask, “Is it true?” It depends. Is there any source of truth to which we can appeal to find out? Yes. The Bible has been clear all through 2 Kings that the high places dishonored the Lord. God did not command the people to build them. Instead, the high places were a mimicry of pagan religions. The high places were often places for evil, pagan, religious rituals to take place. No, God was not mad at Hezekiah for taking down the high places. God’s word tells us that the high places were sin. Thus, the claim of the Assyrian leader goes against objective truth as established by Scripture.
In verse 25, the Assyrian king says that God sent his army. “God told me to come and do this.” Is that true? First, we do not know for sure, as there might be more than one reason God would send in this army. God could well have told the king to go to Judea, but God’s purpose may be to gain glory by the overthrow of that Assyrian army, which will happen as we read further. But it is a certainty that God did not command the
Assyrian king to come and conquer Israel, promising him victory. That was not what God did. And we can know this from a look at truth that is outside of the man’s internal claim.
What we must see is that, when a person claims to know what God is saying or what God wants, we must hold that subjective claim up against the light of objective truth. The Bible is the word of God. The Bible is where we turn to see what God has commanded. Anytime someone tells us that God wants them to do what his word clearly commands that people not do, we know that person is mistaken at best, lying at worst.
What about when someone claims a “leading” from God that is not related to a Scriptural command, when what they are saying God wants them to do is in line with his word? That does not mean we have to assume they have a message from God. But, if their desire is in line with the objective revelation of God, we also do not have to battle them. If a person wants a thing that God has said is OK in his word, we do not need to oppose them, unless there is something else in their plan that is clearly unwise.
We could talk about this forever, but we need to gain a truth from what we see in the word in 2 Kings 18. Just because a person claims they are doing something for God or in God’s name or even according to a personal call from
God does not mean they really are. A person’s subjective experience does not equal the weight of objective revelation from God in his word. We are first and foremost submitted to the word of God as his infallible, inspired revelation.