When was the last time you inquired of the Lord? I’ve been reading the story of David’s life in I and 2 Samuel the last few days and something stood out to me this time. Over and over again the text will say, “And David inquired of the Lord.” Now it never stops with that statement. Every time it is followed by, “And the Lord said” and it will give whatever the instruction was from the Lord on the given topic. Many times it had to do with going up against the enemy, usually the Philistines to fight but not every time. Sometimes it was tied to having the priest to come with the ephod and inquiring for God’s will on some specific matter. But, with David and his relationship with God, there was always a clear answer on what he should do. Although there aren’t any other people that it was said of so often that they inquired of the Lord, it was certainly not unique to David.
Think of the apostles and other disciples who met in the upper room after Jesus ascended back to the Father and before the Holy Spirit was sent upon them for the launching of Christ’s kingdom. They were looking for a replacement for Judas as one of the apostles. They had pretty stiff qualifications for anyone who could take on such a work. They had to have been a follower of Jesus throughout his ministry on this earth. It was someone who had been with them from the baptism of John until now. Two men met the qualifications but they only needed one man so they put the names of these two men, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus and Matthias. “And they prayed and said, ‘You Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
Casting lots was a little like throwing dice. Can you imagine the elders gathering the congregation together when they are choosing to add a new elder or three or maybe even better, when they are about to select a new preacher for the congregation and praying to God about the selection, then saying we will throw the dice and follow what they show as the answer from God? How are we to know God’s answer when we inquire of Him what his will is for us or for the church or for our family? Should we follow Gideon’s example and put out a fleece saying to the Lord to make the fleece wet tomorrow morning and the ground around it dry and then just to make it all certain, change it around the next day to making the ground wet and the fleece dry? I’ve known a few times when people tried the fleece method in seeking to know God’s will. But I’ve also known some times when following the fleece idea led to disastrous decisions. So, how do we know God’s answer when we inquire of Him?
Perhaps it is by the feelings we are given as we pray for a correct answer. But, what do we learn from that feeling if there are several praying for the answer to the same question and they get very different feelings from each other? Or, what if the feeling we get leads to other followers of the Lord, being deeply injured over our decision? What if the feeling we all get would lead to us doing something that goes directly against some clear teaching from God’s word. I’ve known of several cases when a group of people felt they were being led by God to do something that would deeply hurt the church. For example, many times I’ve known preachers who felt for certain God was leading them to start a different congregation and lead a large number of the present members to go out and start somewhere else, usually doing vast amounts of harm to the church they were leaving. My fear in this is that we get something in our minds that we think is best and begin praying, inquiring from the Lord on the right way and sure enough our feelings are that God is sanctioning the very things I wanted to do, to begin with. In such cases, it is far more likely we have imposed our will on God than that we have heard the voice of God telling us the right way to go.
Think of the time when Paul was going back to Jerusalem to deliver the gift from the predominately Gentile churches to the poor among the saints in the Jerusalem church. He was sure it was God’s plan for him to go and take the gift. He asked the church in Rome to pray for him in the effort that the church would receive it and he would then be able to travel to Rome and on to Spain preaching the gospel. But as he traveled God sent a prophet to him named Agabus who took Paul’s belt and bound himself with it and said, that God had revealed to him that the man who owned that belt would be arrested in Jerusalem, and chains and imprisonment awaited him. Surely God was giving him clear direction not to go on to Jerusalem. Surely he could just send the gift by the others with him and not risk his own life. But Paul was so certain that he was doing what God wanted that even the prophet coming twice on the way to warn him and the Christians around him pleading with him in tears not to go, made no impact on what he was sure was the right thing to do. Paul had indeed inquired of the Lord and he surely believed God had answered him on what to do. Not even prophets sent from God could change his mind in the least.
It makes me think of a passage in I John 3:24-4:3. “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” God’s Spirit leads and guides us in the right way. But it is vital that we constantly check to make certain the spirit that is guiding is the Holy Spirit of God.
I wish it were the case that every time I inquire of God to learn what the next steps ought to be, that I received a clear answer telling me what to do and what not to do. But it doesn’t always work that way I wish it would. I suspect there are many times when God is leading in a direction that I can’t see clearly. I do know it is important to hear His will instead of supposing that my will is His will. I also suspect that many times I’m wanting answers about the future when God is telling me to live one day at a time and stop worrying about tomorrow. I never want to stop inquiring. I pray for clarity on the answers from the Lord.