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Bible Insights

God Speaks to Job and to Us

When God Speaks, We Must be Ready to Listen

Job’s friends come to comfort him. At least that’s how it appears, but in actuality they’re not much help. Their words assault Job and his character. In exasperation Job goes on a sarcastic rant against his so-called friends and then becomes poetic as he contemplates God’s power.

He ends this part of his discourse by saying, “Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14).

Job uses thunder to imply God. That’s a powerful metaphor.

Today, we have a scientific explanation for thunder. And even though we comprehend thunder in an intellectual way, it still produces an all-inspiring sound that gets our attention.

Imagine how the ancient world viewed thunder: loud, even booming, terrifying, powerful, unseen. It might be as close as they can come to comprehending God. Yet even this falls short, far short.

Like thunder, God is both powerful and unseen. Who can understand that? Also, like thunder, God can have a booming loudness. And he can be terrifying, too.

Yet in contrast, God can also be a still small voice, a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). Which is it?

Both.

God Speaks to Job

Job is in the midst of unimaginable turmoil, of unbearable pain. Everything has been taken from him, except for his breath and his faith—and both of those are tenuous.

He seeks God for answers. He desires to hear God talk and explain what has been happening. He likely wants to hear the booming voice of God to assure him who’s in control and that there’s a purpose in all he has gone through.

In addition, if God spoke in a loud booming voice, not only would Job hear, but so would his unhelpful friends. God would put them in their place, or so Job hopes.

And, later, when God does speak to Job, it’s out of the storm (Job 38:1). And what accompanies a storm? Thunder, loud, booming, terrifying—both God and the storm.

When God speaks, are we listening? Click To Tweet

God Speaks to Elijah

When Elijah has his moment of doubt, he also waits for God to speak. First there’s a wind. Then an earthquake. And finally a fire. But God isn’t in those things. God isn’t loud, booming, or terrifying. Instead he is a gentle whisper. And when God’s whisper comes, Elijah is ready to listen (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God Speaks to Us

God can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it’s loud and other times it’s soft. Maybe God speaks to us through nature, or friends, or circumstances. Through it all, God speaks to us.

The question is, are we listening?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 25-28, and today’s post is on Job 26:14.]

Discover more in Peter’s new book Dear Theophilus Job: 40 Insights About Moving from Despair to Deliverance. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jeremiah Issues Three Warnings to Church Leaders

Beware of Slacking Shepherds, Godless Pastors, and Misleading Ministers

The prophet Jeremiah doesn’t just warn the people about judgment for their sins, he also warns their religious leaders too. The twenty-third chapter of the book of Jeremiah details three leadership failures. Most troublesome is the third item about misleading ministers. Everyone in leadership should heed Jeremiah’s cautionary words and seek God’s help to avoid repeating these errors.

1. Slacking Shepherds

Jeremiah proclaims woe to the shepherds (a metaphor for religious leaders) because they fail to take care of the sheep (a metaphor for God’s people). The prophet gives three examples to demonstrate the shepherds’ failure. First, they have scattered the sheep. Second, they have driven the lambs away. Third, they have neglected to care for their flock.

God pledges to punish these failed shepherds. Then he will replace them with good ones (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

2. Godless Pastors

Next, Jeremiah condemns godless prophets and priests. Imagine that. These men should represent God to his people, but they don’t. Even in the temple (the church building), God finds them full of wickedness.

He promises to banish them to the darkness, where they will fall. He proclaims disaster for them (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

3. Misleading Ministers

Jeremiah continues rebuking prophets who proclaim lies. They fill the people with false hope. These religious leaders don’t have the mind of God. They don’t hear what the Lord says. Instead, they make up things to tell the people (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

In short, they fail to speak God’s truth.

God’s punishment for these misleading ministers is that he will forget them and cast them from his presence (Jeremiah 23:39).

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds. Click To Tweet

Today’s Preachers

This issue of misleading ministers happens today at too many churches, albeit with a modern twist. Preachers speak what the people want to hear and not what the Bible says. They avoid proclaiming the parts of God’s Word that may upset their congregation. They water down the good news of Jesus by removing what may offend. Instead of speaking biblical truth, they substitute it with nice sounding messages of their own making that delights listeners, avoids confrontation, and minimizes conflict.

God wasn’t pleased in Jeremiah’s day by the leaders who did this. And he is not pleased today.

Our preachers today must listen to God and teach what he and his Word says. We don’t need any more slacking shepherds, godless pastors, or misleading ministers.

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation reacts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 23-25 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 23:16-17.]

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

God Speaks to the Prophet Amos through a Vision

Regardless of How God Speaks to Us, We Should Listen to What He Says

The words of the Old Testament prophet Amos appear in the book of the Bible that bears his name. The words the God speaks come to Amos in a vision. But the Bible doesn’t tell us the circumstances surrounding the vision or how it occurred.

The vision may have come to Amos at night in a dream or in that early-morning time between the unconsciousness of sleep and the consciousness of being awake. Or perhaps the vision came to Amos as he was praying or fasting or meditating. Regardless of the details, God speaks to Amos in a vision.

Some of the other prophets also have visions but not all. For other prophets, such as Jeremiah, the Bible simply says that the word came to them. And God spoke directly to Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Job, and Isaiah. Other times, angels serve as messengers to carry God’s word to his emissaries.

Regardless of the process, however, God speaks to his people. It may be through a vision, words, or thoughts. It may be through an angel, a person, or another means. The method doesn’t matter but the message does.

Are we ready to listen to what God says to us? Click To Tweet

Be Faithful to What God Says

When Amos receives his vision, he proclaims it to the people. A scribe records it for us to read in the Bible. In this way, Amos is faithful to his vision. God speaks to him, and he shares it with others.

I wonder if God spoke to other people who weren’t faithful with his message. They didn’t proclaim it to others and therefore those words didn’t make it into the Bible. We’ll never know, but it’s worth considering.

God speaks to us, too. Are we ready to listen to what he says? And when we hear, are we faithful to say or do what he says?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Amos 1-3, and today’s post is on Amos 1:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

When We Say We’ll Do What God Says, Do We Really Mean It?

The People Ask Jeremiah to Seek God’s Will, But They Don’t Like the Answer

Those few of God’s chosen people left in the promised land have it bad. Babylon has conquered them. Insurgents have just killed their captor’s appointed ruler, and the people fear they’ll face retribution.

They Seek God

They do what they should’ve done all along. They turn to God. They want to know God’s will. But they can’t, or don’t know how to, hear directly from the Almighty. Instead they want an intermediary. They go to Jeremiah for help.

“Pray to the Lord,” they ask the prophet, “and inquire of him where we should go and what we should do.”

Jeremiah Agrees but with a Caveat

The prophet listens to the people’s request and commits to seek God as they asked. Then he adds a warning. He pledges to tell the people everything that God says whether encouraging or discouraging, whether positive or negative. And for his part, Jeremiah promises to not hold anything back.

“We’ll do whatever God says,” the people promise. “Whether good or bad we will obey him.” They sound sincere. We assume they are. But let’s see what happens.

Jeremiah Waits to Hear from God

God and Jeremiah have a tight connection. He hears regularly from God and writes it down for the people—and for us—to read. It seems reasonable that as soon as Jeremiah seeks God’s instructions that he’ll get a quick response. It should only take a few minutes.

But God’s timing is different than ours. God doesn’t speak to Jeremiah right away. For the rest of the day nothing happens. For the rest of the week there’s no word from God. Then ten days later the word of God comes to Jeremiah.

An Unexpected Message

The people are afraid and want to flee the promised land. They wonder if Egypt is the ideal place to go. There they’ll be out of the grasp of Babylon’s reach. They expect God will confirm their logical decision to scurry off to Egypt.

But God doesn’t do what they expect. He tells them that if they stay put, he will bless them. The Lord says they shouldn’t fear the military might of Babylon. They should place their trust in him instead.

“However,” God says, “if you disobey me and don’t stay where I put you and instead scoot off to Egypt, then don’t expect any favors.” Though they reason that Egypt will afford them food and safety, instead they’ll die there from starvation and war.

Jeremiah did is the people asked. He sought God’s will and then, as promised, told the people everything God said. There’s a blessing for obedience and a warning for disobedience.

The People’s Response

The people promised they would do what God said. They heard Jeremiah’s message of what to do, along with the accompanying promise of provision. They also heard Jeremiah’s message of what not to do, along with the associated warning of death.

What do the people do? They accuse Jeremiah of lying. Following the adage, “they shoot the messenger”—at least metaphorically.

They don’t like Jeremiah’s message, so they decide to dismiss it. But by ignoring Jeremiah, they’re ignoring God. They decide to do what they wanted to do all along. They hightail it to Egypt, disobeying God’s command in the process.

And to Jeremiah’s dismay, they drag him off with them as they flee to Egypt.

May we break this pattern of selective obedience. Click To Tweet

What About Us?

When we say we’ll obey what God says, do we really mean it? Too often our obedience is selective. We do what’s easy and ignore the difficult parts of God’s commands that don’t make sense or that we don’t like. In short, we don’t believe God’s message—at least, not fully.

God’s people did it long ago, and God’s people still do it today. May we break this pattern of selective obedience.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 41-45, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 42:1-3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Last Words of King David

Discover the Fitting Capstone of King David’s Life

In the last recorded words of King David, we learn more about him and his relationship with God. David’s words may come across as bragging, but remember that God said David was a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22).

Here’s what King David has to say:

First, David asserts that God, who anointed him, inspired the things he said and the words he wrote. David’s psalms come at God’s inspiration.

Next, even more pointedly, David states that God spoke through him, that God’s words came from his mouth. This moves us beyond inspiration to make David a supernatural mouthpiece for God, his prophet. Indeed, today’s passage records words that God said directly to David.

These words are about ruling in righteousness and in the fear of God.

Third we see the ramifications of David’s relationship with God. David says that if he and his house were not right with God, there would be no reason for God to make an everlasting promise to David that his descendants would rule forever (2 Samuel 7:16 and 1 Kings 9:5).

For the next twenty generations, this is exactly what happened: David’s descendants ruled the nation of Judah. But for the eternal part of God’s covenant with David, we must look at this promise figuratively and not in a literal sense.

Hail Jesus! You’re my King! Click To Tweet

Jesus, a direct descendent of King David (Matthew 1:6-16), is this forever ruler that God promised. Jesus, whose earthly ancestor is David, will be our forever king.

Hail Jesus! You’re my King!

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 22-24, and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 23:1-7.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Has God Revealed His Mystery to You?

God reveals his truth to Paul. Paul calls it a mystery. God gives it to Paul so he can share it with the church in Ephesus; he’s not supposed to keep it to himself.

This isn’t something Paul figures out on his own; he doesn’t logically deduce it or make it up. This isn’t something someone else teaches him, and he doesn’t read about it in the Bible.

Remember that the New Testament doesn’t exist in Paul’s time: He and the other church leaders are still writing it, and it’s quite a bit later before someone compiles it to form the New Testament.

So how does Paul discover this mystery of God? He learns it directly from God.

First Jesus appears to him as Paul travels to Damascus to hunt down Christians. A bright light flashes, Paul falls to the ground, and God speaks. He gets Paul’s attention. God tells Paul to wait for further instructions (Acts 9:3-6).

Paul goes to Damascus and waits. At God’s command Ananias goes to Paul, places his hands on Paul, and God’s Holy Spirit fills him (Acts 9:17).

How do you learn about the mystery of God? Click To Tweet

But God doesn’t tell Paul everything he needs to know about God and his mystery. This is just the beginning, the first step. Throughout Paul’s life, God continues to reveal more and more to Paul, explaining more fully the mystery of God’s grace to us.

Paul spends his life learning how to follow God, telling people about him, and writing to others so that they—and we—may know this marvelous mystery of God’s grace and how he can change our lives, just as he did to Paul.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ephesians 1-3, and today’s post is on Ephesians 3:2-3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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God Speaks Through Feelings and Thoughts

Not only can God speak to us through audible words, through silent words, and through visions, he can also direct us through our thoughts, a kind of a sixth sense, a supernatural knowing. People may say, “I just felt I needed to do this.”

Other verbs that uncover this type of godly communication include prompted, urged, and compelled. People may say, “I can’t explain it, but it simply seemed like the right thing” or “I somehow knew what to say.”

Many people experience this type of awareness, but they may not even know God is behind it. Examples of this are also in the Bible.

Consider when Paul feels compelled to go to Jerusalem or when Jonathan acts with brash boldness, even though it’s humanly foolish to do so.

Another time is when the early church decides how to handle a divisive teaching. Also, consider when God directs Paul in writing his letters, when teaching, and even in court.

God can speak to us in many ways. Are we ready to listen?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

God Speaks Through Visions

God not only speaks to us through audible words and inaudible words, but he communicates to us through images and scenes. These may happen in our waking hours or when asleep.

God used a dream to show Joseph (son of Jacob) the future, with his parents and brothers bowing down to him. God also communicated to Joseph (Jesus’ father) through dreams, first to go ahead and marry Mary and later to escape to Egypt.

Daniel saw images sent from God.

Peter had a vision telling him to let non-Jews know about Jesus.

Of course, most of Revelation, the last half of Daniel, and much of Ezekiel contain visions portending the future that God gave to his prophets.

In the Bible, God spoke to his people through visions, dreams, and images. His power isn’t diminished now. What he did then, he still does today.

God speaks to us. How he accomplishes it doesn’t matter.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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God Speaks Through Inaudible Words

In addition to speaking to us in audible words, God can also communicate to us inaudibly, implanting his words into our minds through the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s instructions to do something, as with Phillip in the desert and Peter at Antioch.

In other instances, he reveals words for people to tell others. For example, God directed Peter what to say when questioned by the religious leaders. He gave wisdom to Stephen, revealed the future to Agabus about a famine, and directed Paul as he spoke to Elymas.

Other times God’s messages can be private communication, such as God revealing to Paul what awaited him in Jerusalem.

This is all through the work of the Holy Spirit, who directs all who follow Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

God Speaks Through Audible Words

God can speak to us in spoken words, just as he did in the Bible. Consider God’s affirmation of Jesus at his baptism and later at the transfiguration. God also spoke to Saul (Paul) at his conversion.

In a less happy moment, God had a conversation with Adam and Eve, as he gave them their punishment for sinning. Many centuries later God verbally proclaimed his sentence against Nebuchadnezzar, just as Daniel predicted.

God often spoke to Moses, such as on the mountain and through the burning bush. In many other instances God spoke to his people through angels, acting as his emissaries.

Last, consider Isaiah’s prophecy that, in the future, God would cause the people to hear his voice. This is the most encouraging example of all, showing us that what happened in the Bible will also happen in the future.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.