Thus Saith the Lord?
Have you ever heard someone boldly declare something God was saying, yet something about the message or the delivery just seemed a bit off? But because they prefaced their confident statement with, “God told me,” or the more classic, “Thus, saith the Lord,” you find yourself wrestling with how to interpret or respond to what was said.
If it is God, is it 100% accurate? Do I do something or wait?
If it’s not God, do I ignore it or correct it? Or do I just get the heck out of there?!
Let’s be honest, interacting with the voice of God can be a bit confusing. Most people would agree that if God does speak, they want to hear what He has to say. But does God speak? And if so, how?
Let’s lay our personal experiences aside for a moment and see what Scripture has to say about how God speaks.
The Key to Every Good Relationship
If you’ve ever gone to a counselor or wise friend for relationship advice, at some point you’ll hear something along the lines of: “the key to every healthy relationship is communication.” We know communication is vital to every human relationship, but we often miss that it’s true for our relationship with God as well.
Scripture reveals that God wants a relationship with us, and a major aspect of that relationship is communication. We can read about God speaking to His followers from Genesis to Revelation. Abraham, Hagar, Moses, Deborah, Paul, and the early church in the New Testament all experienced God speaking to them, and that’s just to name a few.
Thankfully, Jesus offers us this same type of conversational relationship with God.
My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. - John 10:27
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God is offering us more than heaven in the future. He’s inviting us into relationship with Him now. A good first step in learning to hear God’s voice is to read Scripture slowly. Open the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to speak. Then pause and allow thoughts, words, or impressions to fill the silence. It’s as simple as that…that’s how simply God speaks!
From God for Others.
Ok, so God speaks to us, but does He want us to speak on His behalf to others?
The technical term for God speaking to us for or about others is prophecy. When we hear the word prophecy, we often think of the Old Testament prophets who might seem, to modern ears, very harsh or just plain weird (walking around naked, using human dung as oven fuel). And while the OT prophets have their place in redemptive history, the act of prophecy in our lives today looks a bit different…thankfully.
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy…But the one who prophesies speaks to people for the strengthening, encouraging and comfort. - 1 Corinthians 14:1,3
We see here that prophecy is an expression of love. When operating in the prophetic, we are (ideally) being led by love to build others up. As we spend time talking to God and allowing Him to speak to us, we’ll often find ourselves having thoughts, impressions, and words from God for others.
Maybe it’s a thought we feel led to share with a friend.
Maybe it’s an image that comes to mind when praying for our child.
Maybe it’s a Scripture that leaps into our hearts as we’re watching our neighbor check the mail.
When we think of prophecy this way, and when it’s done out of the relationship we have with God and the relationship we have with others, it doesn’t necessarily need a heavy “thus saith the Lord” on the front end. It can simply be said like this:
“I believe God speaks, and as I was praying/thinking about you, I believe the Lord may want to encourage you with these words…” And off you go, being all prophetic!
Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect (in This Case)
Prophecy is both a gift and a practice. It’s a gift, meaning the Holy Spirit is the one who allows us to operate in it. But it’s also a practice. And like all spiritual practices, it takes practice.
The Holy Spirit chooses to speak to others through us, knowing we are imperfect humans who have personalities, biases, and limited understanding. So the filter through which a word from God comes isn’t perfect; therefore, the prophetic word may not be either.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part… - 1 Corinthians 13:9
This verse, which lowers the prophetic bar from perfection to practice, is actually situated in Paul’s discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 (the wedding chapter!). One of the most vital aspects to healthy prophecy is love.
When the words we share are saturated with the love of God, and the relationship in which we share the word is built on love, the environment for God’s voice becomes rich and ripe.
Give it a try! Begin making room for God to speak to you, and you’ll begin to receive words from God for others.