Something has puzzled me for a very long time. Over the years I have been given prophesies both for me personally and for the churches that I have led. I believe the folk that gave them to me were convinced they were hearing from God and I believe that their motives were honourable. I have, and we have prayed about these prophesies, they have even featured in sermons and on publicity. However, the stark truth is that up to this point quite a few of them have never materialised. I know that you will tell me that they are possibly for another generation but, If we are being honest, could they have just been wrong? It’s a sensitive issue weighing the “I heard from God” prophesies and having to say, “sorry I believe on this occasion you were wrong.”
Let’s look at the subject of hearing from God. I am not sure I will cover this big subject in just one blog
Genesis 41 tells us that Pharaoh had received a revelation or a dream from God that troubled him because he could not understand or interpret it, neither could his wise men and magicians. It’s at this point that the cupbearer, who was in prison with Joseph, remembers Joseph and the fact that he had interpreted his dream.
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. Genesis 41:14
I love that Joseph shaved. I don’t know why but it made me laugh!
I think we can learn from what comes next about how to hear from God.
God is still using Joseph. His gifting was undeniable but he had changed, he had lost the abruptness of youth and the arrogance of the knowledge that he had a gift.
Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.” Genesis 41:16
One cannot imagine the 17 year old Joseph having spoken this way. Before he had been boastful and proud. He would have shared what he believed God had given him without any concern for his hearers. Now all that is gone. Joseph had matured and he had learnt through years of trials that everything he had was subject to a sovereign God and in the hands of God. His motive now is not self promotion but the honour of God. He now speaks with care and humility. “It is not me, God will give.”
God may speak in stages. I can remember being in Hong Kong and being given a prophesy where the person admitted they only had part of what they believed God wanted to say to me. Then, a while later, whilst at a church leaders time of prayer and fasting a pastor came over and said, “does this mean anything to you? I was given the second part of the prophesy! I definitely knew God was speaking! It was that same way with Pharaoh. There was the dream part one and then there was the dream part two (vs 17-24). Even then he seeks the interpretation albeit wrongly at first but eventually through Joseph where God revealed the meaning.
The interpretation of the dream is clear and given with authority. When someone hears from God, it’s not fuzzy and vague, it’s not where the meaning could lead to several conclusions.
It’s also recognised as authoritative by the person receiving the gift. Pharaoh trusted Joseph because he had proved that with God’s revelation he could interpret dreams.
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. Genesis 41:25
Joseph tells Pharaoh that there will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine and the repetition of the dream meant that this was about to happen now (vs 32). Joseph stresses the urgency. The dream is easy to weigh, the plenty will be easily seen as will the famine. If we are trying to bend prophesies to make them fit our situations then they are wrong.
When God speaks there is a practical out working. Joseph doesn’t just interpret the dream he gives detailed instructions as to what should be done.
Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Genesis 41:33
Joseph knew that a gifted administrator should be appointed to identify the specific tasks that needed to be done in order to arrange for the needs of an entire nation to be met. This person would need to be able to cope with times of abundance and times of famine, someone whom Pharaoh could trust. We should treat God’s words to us in the same way as Joseph did. In the past I have been guilty of elevating the gift of a person and have put prophetic words on places like websites and social media platforms but have not made the changes that God required. God’s word is also practical. He tells us what to look out for and what to do. We will leave this part of the story there, but before I move on I just want to reinforce some things.
God is a speaking God. We have his word, but he also speaks to us individually for both our personal edification and so that we can share with his church what he is saying. God puts words, phrases, sentences, images and such like into our minds, stamped with the indelible print of his voice. Although undeniably subjective and occasionally odd, “impressions” are a valid means of getting our attention (cow’s and ears of corn!)
I believe we may justifiably expect that when God wants to tell us something, he will not use a cryptic crossword! His purpose isn’t to mislead or confuse but to guide us clearly and carefully. Whether through thoughts or perceptions that we intuitively recognise could only come from him, he makes his heart known. When God communicates he does so with specific information. He has a plan and He is trying to get our attention.
People in biblical times like Joseph were not left to wonder about “hunches” or “impulses” or “feelings”. If God’s voice is occasionally “vague” it is to awaken us to seek for more revelation and to challenge us to press into his heart ever more intensely. It is to be expected that if there is something He would have us know, He will be both able and willing and will in fact plainly communicate it to us if we are but open and prepared by our experience to hear and obey. That’s the point, hear and obey.
Even in the case of visions and dreams, there is verbal communication. God guides not as we might guide a child by the hand or a horse by the reins, but through revelation he gives clear instructions that we should hear and then act upon. Part two next time.