I used to have a running debate with my friend, Draper Smith. He hears regularly from the Lord in very dramatic ways. I used to tell him of the various dreams I’d had and he would tell me that the Lord only spoke to me in dreams because I wasn’t listening during the day. I opposed him on the grounds that wasn’t even biblical and that I knew I was listening as best as I could during the day. We had fun going around and around over that topic for a few years.
One day he called me and told me he had been praying the day before and The Lord gave him a dream about me. I can’t ever let him live that one down–I’ll let you figure out why. That debate is one that I believe can be applied to prophecy in general.
Why does God use prophecy? Growing up I was taught that God no longer used prophecy because He no longer “needed” it because the canon of scripture was complete. That’s just not the case, and the reason those around me thought that was because they did not understand the ways and reasons God would still speak today.
There are three main reasons God speaks prophetically to us today. God uses prophecy to 1) illuminate the objective by speaking subjectively, to 2) illuminate the subjective by using the objective, and 3) to illuminate the subjective with the subjective. What I mean by subjective and objective is that God’s written Word is always objective and His current prophetic word is always subjective. Subjective truth is that open to interpretation in a given situation, while God’s objective truth is always true and right.
1) Subjective –> Objective
So first, God speaks subjectively to illuminate the objective, or His written Word. This means that sometimes God will use dreams, visions, prophecies from others, etc. to open our eyes to some truth in His Word that we He wants us to understand. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Bible is quite a large book. I highly recommend reading the whole thing as many times as you can fit into your lifetime, but the fact remains that understanding the entire Bible is something no human, other than Jesus, has ever accomplished. God is patient and kind with us, and He leads us down that path one step at a time.
God’s gentle leadership to grow us in conformity to His Word is often carried out through subjective prophetic words that call our attention to His timeless objective truth. He knows what we need when we need it and He will direct us toward His ageless wisdom in scripture to get us there. I have had this happen more times than I can list. This is my absolute favorite form of supernatural revelation and it is the kind that happens most frequently in my life. It often looks like God “opening my eyes” to some passage of scripture that I’ve read a hundred times before and never fully understood.
God loves His written Word far more than us, so we need not be worried that God speaking prophetically today would lessen the power and necessity of it; it actually enhances it. He loves to speak prophetically to turn us toward His Word.
2) Objective –> Subjective
The second way God speaks is using the objective scripture to illuminate the subjective issues of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to find “Darren” in the Good Book. If your name is “John” or (Lord help you) “Jezebel”, then you’ll find yourself in there. That won’t be a lot of help to you, because you still won’t be the John or Jezebel the Bible is talking about (again, in the case of Jezebel, thank goodness).
What this means is that to apply scripture to our lives, we need the living, breathing, fully alive Word of God. Jesus has bequeathed to us the Holy Spirit, by Whom we receive such revelation. In this way, God speaks through scripture to the subjective issues of our lives. Everything we experience is subjective, not because what we’re going through isn’t real, but because it is always viewed through the lens of our own humanity. We’re like children who can only cry when Mommy takes our toy away in the back yard, not realizing there was a scorpion on it about to strike. We need God to speak into our subjective experience with something objective, and He is the only true source of objectivity.
I’ve had, on a number of occasions, the Lord speak a passage of Scripture to me that was exactly what I needed at the moment and even more times where God prophetically spoke Biblical principles when I needed them in my life. He has corrected me, encouraged me and strengthened me through His Word in ways I could not have applied or understood in my life without direct revelation of the Holy Spirit.
When Peter responded to Jesus’ question of who he was by saying He was the “Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus told him that Peter had not figured that out by himself, but that it was revelation given to him by God (Matthew 16:16-17), even though that fact was clearly illustrated in scripture. When we perceive our current subjective situations through God’s eyes, we do so only by revelation, whether we know it or not. I’ve never met a Christian who believes God no longer speaks in these first two ways–they are the most universally accepted means of interaction with God.
3) Subjective –> Subjective
God reaching into our lives with a subjective, contemporary prophetic word is the last way in which God speaks to us, but it is what most people immediately think of when they hear the word “prophecy.” This should actually be the type of prophetic revelation we receive the least of. God cares about our situations and He is not always bound to speak through scripture to encourage, correct or enlighten us. That doesn’t mean that we toss scripture out the window, though. Even if God speaks completely subjectively, we must always use God’s objective truth, scripture, to discern if and what God is truly saying.
I’ve had many times where my friend Draper has called me and told me the Lord spoke to him specifically about a situation I was going through. There was no scripture given, only the Lord speaking directly to my situation. Some times have been easier to discern than others, but the fact that God cares enough about me (and you) to speak at His will is something that always fills my heart with joy.
If anything I receive is UNbiblical (clearly against principles in scripture), I immediately throw it away. If it is EXTRAbiblical (something outside the scope of scripture), but still conforms to the Word of God in principle and spirit, I take heed. But that creates a necessity in itself, which turns us back to the written Word of God. If you do not have an ever-growing understanding of God’s written Word, you cannot clearly and confidently discern subjective prophecy that is outside the scope of scripture. For instance, how can you know whether God is telling you to sell everything and become a Buddhist Monk in Nepal unless you know that God would NEVER command you to follow another God but Him? You can only know that from understanding scripture!
So, seek God’s voice. Ask Him to speak to you prophetically with divine revelation. Ask Him first and most often for revelation about His written, objective Word. Ask second for His written, objective Word to instruct your daily life (often called application). And lastly, seek God’s voice for guidance in your life in ways that scripture cannot always help, such as whether to take a new job or to move to a new town, etc.