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Scripture: Luke 8:9-15
The desire of God in fellowshipping with His children includes speaking directly with them – in plain language. This is God’s perfect will. The knowledge of the mysteries of God are to be plainly declared to those who have entered into a personal relationship with Him, while those who reject the call of the gospel will have to make do with glimpses given in allegories and parables which shall not even be explained to them.
But what do we see today? Most of us Christians often lament that the clear word of God is scarce – at least in our private lives. How commonly do we sigh. “Oh, that we may hear God plainly as the believers under the Old Covenant heard Him – then it would be easier to walk with Him and obey Him!” Or, “If only God had just itemized His doctrines for us topic-by-topic, then all the current arguments about creation, Sabbath, trousers, women-in-ministry, etc. would not even have arisen.”. And so on…
All such complaints suffer from two major faults:
1. Our failure to appreciate and accept our errors before the Lord
There is no denying the fact that most Christians do not hear God directly again. Our right attitude ought to be to go before the Lord to inquire “why”. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are still many of our brethren that regularly hear the Lord directly and plainly, even today. The longer we dwell in self-pity and grumbling, the longer our spiritual life suffers.
2. Our assumption that clear hearing of God guaranties obedience to God
Oh, of course, God spoke directly in Old Testament times. The Law, the Psalms and the Prophets were essentially “direct” all through. Perhaps I should explain here that “direct” speaking need not be restricted to “plain language speaking”. Some instances of allegories may qualify as “direct” language if their meanings are immediately known without any extra effort on the part of the hearer, such as:
- Allegories of obvious and unambiguous meanings. For example, the Light and Salt of Matthew 5:13–16 are allegorical, yet need no interpretation. Hence, such a message is classified as “direct”
- When difficult allegories are packaged with their full interpretation within the same message as we have in Jeremiah 18:1-10, Jeremiah 24:1-10 and Luke 8: 9-15, then the message becomes “direct”
With this understanding of what constitutes “direct” divine speaking, we see the lie in assuming that hearing God directly guaranties doing His will, and by insinuation, that the Old Testament believers had it easier than us! When did the Old Covenant become the “better” covenant? (we shall look at the issue of extolling the Old Covenant over the New Covenant in a future post)
For now, it is sufficient for us to note that a major reason for making room for the New Covenant was because of disobedience under the Old Covenant DESPITE THE ABUNDANCE OF DIRECT SPEAKING. If direct speaking ensured compliance, this would not have been the case.
Intimacy is the key
So, what made Old Covenant to fail while swimming in direct words? Until we know this and correct it, direct word to us too will fail to secure for us any lasting spiritual benefit. The issue is not the word itself, but the life environment that the word is spoken to. The summary is this: A direct word from God will benefit only the person who has commensurate intimacy with God. The Old Testament believers wrecked their covenant, not because of lack of well-understood God’s word but because of personal lives that were not intimate with the Speaker of the word, so that the word did not carry the required weight (esteem) with them. They actually despised the word as mere suggestions from an overbearing tyrant who sat somewhere in heaven. I dare say they were more of deists than theists!
So, under the New Covenant, God has determined that not even His children will automatically get direct messages anymore. Any person who is born again has entered into a relationship with God, and has been made qualified for heaven. But to receive the deep mysteries of God (for your life, family, ministry, etc.) you must get close to God – really close, else His word to you will be characterized by unexplained imageries and symbolism. The purpose of God in this approach is definitely not to “hide” His counsel from His beloved children, but rather to help them re-enter the path of proper walk with Him. On receiving a symbolic indirect message, the Christian who has a right heart toward God will be prompted to get closer to Him for greater light on the matter – and in doing so, he begins to actually hear God directly as he becomes more intimate with Him. We see therefore that hearing God is a measure of the level of intimacy we have with Him. Even in the Old Testament, this principle was at work. For example, when Moses became more intimate with God, He stopped speaking through the burning bush and through the gentile wife (re-circumcision), but directly and face-to-face (Numbers 12:6-8)
Does God not also teach us the same lesson through our natural relationships? Does a husband and his wife get to know each other well via a set of dos and don’ts that each person in the relationship hands over to the other? Of course not! How about parents and children? Among friends and colleagues? etc. This is part of the error of those who crave for dictation-type doctrines of the Old Testament for our New Covenant life. Just as our knowledge and understanding of ourselves grow as we live together on a daily basis, so does our knowledge of God increase as we walk intimately with Him. Just as people who relate most intimately also become confidants (and therefore freely share deep secrets unknown to other members of the group), so does God freely and directly share His secrets with those who are intimate with Him.
Hindrance cause by Sin
Where there is sin, whether in unbelievers or believers (sinning saints), God will only speak symbolically to those involved, lest they should understand and be saved. This is not saying that God does not want their salvation. Rather, He does not desire their repentance to be one coerced by the hearing of direct word, but that pursued by the diligent searching of a contrite heart.
Channels of Allegories
Most instances of indirect word from God today are through dreams. Everyone dreams! The question therefore is, “What is the manner of your God-given dreams?” Direct or indirect? The more God talks to me allegorically without accompanying interpretation, the more I realize I have been straying – and He is trying to get my attention. Many Christians pride themselves in their ability to interpret allegorical dreams and messages directed at them, forgetting that the very presence of these allegories are evidences of their carnality and spiritual distance from God. Rather than jubilate, a Christian receiving indirect word ought to seek the face of the Lord for revelation – to know why, he/she being a child of God, should be receiving information through the channel reserved for unbelievers. This is the clear message of Luke 8:9-10
One mystery here is that while God may deny a sinful person direct revelation about issues related to himself, He may nonetheless give him direct revelations through dreams or some other channels, concerning a beloved third party, as we had in the case of Laban and Jacob (Genesis 31:29)
Secondly, though strangely often missed, God continues to speak privately to all of us by the still small voice.
Another channel which God commonly uses is a third party human vessel. The message delivered by such a vessel may or may not be direct. We see a common example of this when Christians share the Good News with unbelievers. We call it witnessing or evangelism, but it is actually “God talking to the sinner” Similarly, a sinning believer may be the recipient of God’s word through one of his brothers/sisters. Such messages are frequently explicit and often follow a refusal of the believer to respond appropriately to previous words God spoke to him/her privately through dreams or other means. At this level, they not infrequently come as rebuke and with chastening.
In conclusion, if our lives are experiencing a scarcity of God’s clear counsel, we should know that the fault is not in the decision of God not to pre-list His counsel, neither is it that He is no longer speaking, but that our sins have separated us from Him, made our ears heavy, His voice distant and indistinct and His words coded. To hear God directly, we have to get intimate with Him again.