Discerning the Will of God

I LOVE THIS POST by Frank Viola…. “Discerning God’s Will in the Missional Organic Church

There’s a very obscure passage in the Old Testament that sheds light on how God communicates His will to His people. It’s found in Jeremiah 18:18:

Surely THE TORAH is not going to be lost to THE PRIEST, nor WISDOM to the SAGE, nor THE PROPHETIC WORD to the PROPHET.

The ancient Hebrews divided the Old Testament up into three sections. The first section is called the Torah. It includes the first five books of the Bible. The steward of the Torah is the priest.

The second section of the Old Testament is the Prophets. It includes the major and minor Prophets and the historical books. The steward of the Prophets is, of course, the prophet.

The third division of the Old Testament is called the Wisdom literature or “the Writings.” It includes the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Job, and the Song of Solomon. The steward of the Wisdom literature is the sage (or wise man).

These three sections of the Old Testament represent the three major ways in which God communicates His will to His people.

I like this introduction – and this article seems to start an interesting premise: that God says the same thing in different ways, and that depending on your ‘designation’ (as an individual or a church) that you may gravitate to different parts

The Torah contains the foundations by which the community of God’s people is built. The Torah contains God’s enduring moral principles—the standards that spring from His very nature. These standards do not change nor can they be compromised. In the Old Testament economy, the priest was the person who taught the Torah.

As a prophetic person, I was interested to see how he would tackle the prophet:

The prophet challenges the people’s response to Torah, which is often a legalistic or libertine response.

I liked how he spoke of the wise man, or sage:

Because of his long experience, a wise person can detect patterns. He is able to foresee outcomes (see Luke 11:49; Prov. 22:3).

A wise person may make a statement like this: “What you just said sounds really good, but it’s not going to work, and here’s why . . .”

The authority of these stewards is compared next:

The priest is authorized by the authority of the Torah which contains what God has previously spoken. The prophet is authorized by the present burden of the Lord that is upon him. The sage is authorized by his experience and the fruit of his wisdom, which can be evaluated by thefuture outcome of his counsel (Luke 7:35).

Put another way, the Torah looks to the past and asks, “Is this Scriptural? Is this right?”

The prophet looks to the present and asks, “What is God saying to us right now? What is His present leading?”

The sage looks to the future and asks, “How will our present actions affect the future? Is this decision wise or foolish?”

To put it in the language of the Bible: The priest asks: “What do these stones mean?” (Josh. 4:6). The prophet asks: “Is there any word from the Lord?” (Jer. 37:17). And the sage asks: “Where shall wisdom be found?” (Job 28:12).

Looking at God’s will through only one or even two of these lenses, and not all three, brings a lopsided view:

If a church is only conditioned to recognize the Lord’s will through the form of Torah, it will become ritualistic at best or judgmental, self-righteous, and legalistic at worst. It will need the prophetic word and the word of wisdom to balance it.

A church that only recognizes the Lord’s will through the lens of the prophet will be unstable and erratic at best. At worst, it will be deceived because the prophet’s revelation can be bogus. Thus a prophetic word should be tested by its faithfulness to what God has already said (i.e., Torah) and by its future outcome (i.e., wisdom).

If a church only recognizes the Lord’s will through the lens of wisdom, it will be given over to human reasoning and empty philosophy. True wisdom will always be faithful to what God has already said (i.e., Torah), and it will be responsive to the in-breaking of an authentic prophetic word.

Ok… enough.  I’ve just jotted down some points from this article that jumped out at me… but I encourage you to read the entire article.  The point is that we need all three elements – the Word, the Spirit and Wisdom – to discern the will of God.   I have read in a book “Hearing the Voice of God in 30 Ways” that these three elements are like three lighthouses that have to be in a straight line if a ship is to navigate safely through a hazardous reef.  If you see more than one lighthouse in your line of sight, they are not aligned and your ship will smash against the reef.   Those three elements must be perfectly aligned for us to actively and safely navigate through the dangerous waters of life.

Ok I couldn’t resist – one more qoute, which summarizes what I’ve just said:

All three ways of God’s speaking should be held in tension. The reason? Jesus Christ incarnates all three modes.

Jesus Christ is the real Priest as well as the Torah itself.

Jesus Christ is the real Prophet as well as the prophetic word or Logos.

Jesus Christ is the real Sage as well as Wisdom itself.

The speaking may sound different, but it’s the same Christ working through each one.

15 Responses

  1. Yeah – actually the picture pasting that I did just this week, I did switch over to the HTML to see what was going on (and see it more clearly, etc) and I moved around the pictures that were out of order … then I switched back to plain view, and they were all screwed up, and a few of them deleted!! grr. So … yeah, I think each blog site has it’s own type of bugs. I do like that Blogger has the HTML for the whole page available to be messed with (hehe), and dislike that WordPress charges money to be able to do that (grrr). Hopefully we can get this comment thing worked out.

    PS: B’Jan – I hope you don’t mind that we’re using your page for a conversation, here. :] Sorry about that! But thanks!

  2. 😆

    converse away, my friends 😆 I have no problem with that.

    Just don’t forget to check out the rest of the site 😉

    Love you guys!

  3. I’m so happy to be a facilitator – even if the convo is off topic 😆

  4. You have been very helpful, my friend – in more ways than this 🙂

    Annie – i understand about WP’s html/view switching 🙂

    and now i ‘sign in’ with comments as Anonymous and leave my blove sign-off blogger seems to like this ‘anonymous love’ – so far so good! 🙂


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