“My beloved put his hand
By the latch of the door,
And my heart yearned for him.
I arose to open for my beloved,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.
I opened for my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and was gone.
My heart leaped up when he spoke.
I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song of Songs 5: 4-6)
As the Lord’s plan for the ages unfolds, and we appear to be drawing towards the closing stages of this generation, the separation of the Kingdom of God from the kingdoms of the world is becoming increasingly apparent and necessary. As I wrote in “Not by Might nor by Power” lawlessness is abounding and “the love of many” is already “going cold.” If we are to separate ourselves from the world and its ways we also need to be separating ourselves from its direction. To follow after Jesus in the labyrinth of deception and destruction that surrounds us we have to be able to depend on his voice and his guidance, and we know that we, His sheep “hear His voice (John 10:27); that He promises to “lead us in the Way everlasting” (Ps 194:24); and that He to give us His counsel (Psalm 16:7). The question is: do we hear it, and even more significant: if we do hear, do we heed it?
Jesus is constantly calling to His bride, encouraging her to prepare herself for the time when He comes to take her to be exclusively His own, forever. Like The Beloved with His hand on the door latch (Song of Solomon 5:4) He draws close: His heart is for us to arise from our sleep and seek Him diligently. But sometimes we open the door to Him, and He isn’t there. Does that mean that the bridegroom isn’t speaking to His bride? Certainly not. What this passage (and the ensuing chapters) tells me is that maybe the voice of our beloved isn’t speaking to us as often as we might like to think, especially when we are metaphorically lying on our beds and ‘can’t get up;’ that when He speaks to us it is a special and a wonderful experience that He wants us to cherish and to seek out because we long for His presence more than for anything else.
So how do we distinguish the voice of our beloved from the voice of our own desires and imaginings, or, even worse, the deceiving voice of the enemy? Here are a few signposts that I think may be helpful. They relate specifically to how we receive counsel and guidance from the Lord in our own lives rather than words of knowledge or wisdom that we feel we may have for somebody else.
God doesn’t drive; He leads.
God is never in a hurry. Patience is a fruit of the spirit; haste isn’t. He is more interested in what He is doing for us and in us and what we are doing for Him. He builds with gold, silver, and precious stones: lasting minerals that are purified and refined, not hastily thrown together with “wood, hay and stubble.. that will burn up with fire.” (1 Cor 3:12) This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to move quickly sometimes: He may prompt us to act quickly over a particular situation, and if that is the case we will feel a repeated prompt in our spirit that won’t leave us alone until we have acted on it. But this is very different from rushing to put something together that doesn’t bear the hallmark of beauty and perfection that identifies it as a Kingdom project. When God created the heavens and the Earth it was good. When we create something in His name – because everything we do, if we are His brothers, is in His name – He wants it to be good as well. So if you feel that God is telling you to do something, He’s not likely to be saying you have to rush it. And while you’re doing that thing for Him, He will also be doing something in you. God doesn’t drive; He leads.
Love, Life and Fruitfulness
Because God is love, His words are words of Life, and His desire for us is that we are fruitful. His plans always lead to love, life and fruitfulness. If the plan that you feel is from the Lord is taking you away from the people that He has given you to love, it is very likely that those plans are from your fleshly nature, not the heart of God. Always ask yourself: where is the love in what I’m doing? I have mentioned elsewhere that I enjoy birdwatching and photography. One day I was praying about my hobbies; in particular I was saying to the Lord that they seem very self-centred and not very “Kingdom”, and what did He think? His answer was very clear: “Why don’t you share them with others?” So I have started taking people from church on birdwatching excursions that they have really enjoyed. Love, life, and fruit. He didn’t take away my enjoyment: He actually expanded it by adding love.
Opportunity – or temptation?
God is creator and master of the universe. And because that’s true, He can arrange circumstances to speak to us, just as He speaks to us through all of creation. But that doesn’t mean every time events line up in favour of something that we desire to do that it is the Lord who is arranging them and giving our plans a green light. Yes, an opportunity can be a confirmation, but it can also be a temptation. Anne and I come from a new age background and we have seen the powers of darkness line up events to further the devil’s plans for us, not Gods. God saved us out of that, and in doing so He has allowed us an insight into the workings of the spiritual domain that we were in. It isn’t pretty.
God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but He allows it so that we can recognise it for what it is. And He doesn’t allow any temptation without also providing the means to escape (1 Cor 10:13), and very often that means of escape is provided through other people. An important scripture in the context of guidance, again given to the Corinthians, is 2 Corinthians 3: 1 “in the mass of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.“ We may feel God is guiding us in a particular direction: that would be a “word“ that we have. A door of opportunity appears to open that confirms that word. But that opportunity is only one witness: on its own it confirms nothing. In fact It may actually be a temptation. But if a brother or sister also confirms the “word“ that we have received, we can possibly start to think that God is indeed leading us – as long as that leading also fulfils the requirements of Love life and fruitfulness. God put us into a body so that we can be carriers of His love. As we love one another the world can see we are His disciples, yes; but also as we love we can support one another in our discipleship walk. God puts us alongside people so that we can hear His through them and likewise so they can hear Him through us. It is through the body that God often provides that second or third witness which may be the way out of temptation.
Two or three witnesses
Scripture refers to “two or three” witnesses. When is two enough, and when do we need the third? If we need to step out in faith and rely on supernatural resourcing for a certain course of action, I think we need to hear supernaturally that those resources will be available from the One who supplies them. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God: the word that we step on has to be irrefutably from God before we put our foot there. Generally speaking that would mean a confirmation being brought through a prophetic channel that has no natural connection with the plans we are considering. In this context I would say that even “godly conversation” with a trusted brother or sister is not enough. David said to Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. Although David obviously had the resources available, such a project clearly would need Gods approval. Nathan encouraged David to go ahead, but the Lord corrected Nathan’s words in a dream that night to change David’s plans. God spoke supernaturally into the situation.
So “the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (One Corinthians 12: 21) We need each other. Again, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.“ (Proverbs 11:4) God is not interested in a loose assembly of Mavericks all pursuing their own ends and saying that God told them what to do, even though He didn’t tell anybody else. He loves us too much for that. He wants – and we need – a temple of living stones that are “fitly framed,” (Eph 2:21), set alongside one another and depending on one another for support, to be effective channels of His love and carriers of His presence.
Building the Temple
Zechariah 6: 12-13 says:
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the LORD
Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne.” (Zech 6: 12-13)
He shall build the temple of the Lord. This is God’s master plan. I think that this may be the only place in the Bible where a phrase is directly repeated in this manner, emphasising it within the whole canon of scripture as a statement written in red letters, bold and underlined. Alongside this in importance is the beautiful obsession of the Bridegroom for His bride-to-be. The closing chapters of the Song of Solomon are rich in detailed descriptions of the lovers’ attributes as the dialogue switches between The Beloved and His bride while they speak of their knowledge of each other. Jesus, The Beloved, longs for the time when “We shall know Him even as we are known.” (1 Cor 13:12) In the divine scheme of things, knowing Him has surely to be more important than knowing what to do.
And so we return, finally, to the two Great Commandments: we love the Lord our God, and we love each other. In one way or another, everything that the Holy Spirit does on Earth in the name of Jesus is connected to His master plan and with our relationship with Him, the Master. If our guidance isn’t, then we have to assume it is not from the Holy Spirit.