Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 14 May 21:
2 Samuel 7:3-5 — “And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.’ But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in?””
Nathan originally gave counsel to David based on what seemed right to him without actually asking God. Our first response, based upon our own understanding, is often wrong. We need to be VERY careful to understand the difference between special revelation (guidance given by the Holy Spirit for a specific circumstance), Biblical revelation (specific commands and general principles provided in God’s word), intuition, human reasoning, emotional (irrational) decision-making, and careless decision-making based on misplaced presumptions.
By his own calculus, the prophet Nathan inappropriately advised David – “the Lord is with you.” God corrected him, and Nathan had to return to David with a different word. In fact, the Lord was not supportive of David’s intent to build the House of God. Though a genuine prophet, Nathan was speaking from his human perspective and reason — that’s ok as long as it is understood for what it is and not misrepresented as a word from God. On the surface, there was nothing bad about Nathan’s first counsel – building a temple for God isn’t a bad thing. However, it wasn’t what God intended for David, and therefore would, in fact, be sinful (wrong, off target) – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Nathan knew that, in fact, God was generally “with” David, and Nathan was perhaps giving David general advice in lieu of specific direction from God. After all, Nathan did not say, “The Lord says….” However, Nathan’s first counsel, on no small matter, was presumptuous.
Many today are far too careless speaking on behalf of God – “God told me….” or “God has revealed to me…,” when in fact they are speaking from their human perspective (hopefully at least informed by the Bible, prayer, and Christian counsel). Many self-proclaimed prophets and teachers announce new revelation from God which later proves to be false. This is why the Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) How do you test the spirits?
For one, follow the example of the Bereans who judged the merit of prophecy and teaching from the word of God – “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) God will not tell someone to do something that is contrary to His word.
Second, consider the source by looking at the fruit of the life of the prophet, teacher, or counsellor. Those in the Bible who were appointed as apostles, prophets, and teachers were not self-appointed but rather appointed by God; were known for their holiness, humility, and love, and usually paid a heavy, heavy personal price for their position, such as poverty, persecution, and martyrdom. Not a hint of pride should be found in a leader, teacher, or counsellor. If you are deciding alone (hopefully only in an immediate situation), without the advice and counsel of other trustworthy Christians, ensure you are praying (Philippians 4:6-7), in God’s word (Psalm 119:105), and honest about your motives (Christ-centered or self-centered? Romans 12:2). Then use the intellect God gave you, remaining receptive to the Holy Spirit. If you are not producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23 — “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….), you are not likely making good decisions. Avoid making decisions when you aren’t in the right spirit, emotional state, and frame of mind. At times like that, be still and focus on returning to unity of spirit with Christ. Finally, when you do make decisions, don’t look backwards – acknowledge they are likely imperfect, trust God to use even your bad decisions for His purposes, trust God’s grace and perfect provision for you, remain receptive to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, learn, grow, and remain joyful and content knowing nothing can separate you from God’s love and providence.
Nathan was a true prophet; but not everything he said was prophetic. When God speaks; there is no doubt that it is God; God’s words will be very clear, and ALWAYS true. Most importantly, God’s revelation will never contradict His written revelation of the Bible.
- Jeremiah 27:15 — I have not sent them, declares the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name.
- Lamentations 2:14 — Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.
- Ezekiel 13:9 — My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions.
- Matthew 24:11 — And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
- Jeremiah 17:9 — The heart is deceitful above all things….
- Proverbs 28:26 — Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
- Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 May 21: Consider carefully the counsel you give others. Pray with them, direct them to God’s word, and ensure your advice is consistent with God’s word. Be clear about the difference between your opinion and what the Bible actually says. When receiving counsel from others, always test it against God’s word, and seek to remain prayerfully obedient. In decision-making, be careful not to rush to judgment or mistake emotion for the Spirit.