The only way for us to know God clearly is for God to speak to us, by revealing himself. Keep in mind that HOW God speaks is less important than the fact THAT God speaks. In the past he has spoken is various ways (Hebrews 1:1)…
- Angels (Genesis 16)
- Visions (Genesis 15)
- Dreams (Genesis 28:10-19)
- Use of the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30)
- Symbolic actions (Jeremiah 18:1-10)
- Gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)
- Miraculous signs and wonders (Exodus 8:20-25)
Important factors to remember about God speaking:
- When God speaks, it was usually unique to that person: Moses had a burning bush, so we are not to look for our OWN burning bush experience.
- When God spoke, the person was sure God was speaking: Moses had no excuse to not know who it was speaking to him from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
- When God spoke, the person knew what God said: Moses knew exactly what God said and wanted him to do… or Moses would not have come up with all those excuses.
- When God spoke, THAT was the encounter with God: he is not just revealing new information, he is inviting you into an encounter with him.
Open and Closed Doors:
Many people want to do God’s will and say something like, “Stop me if I’m wrong and bless me if I’m right” or “I’m proceeding in this direction and will continue through open doors until the doors are closed.” Henry Blackaby says this pattern is found nowhere in Scripture.
He says that in following open doors, we are allowing experience to guide us; or a tradition, or a method or a formula. The key is then a relationship with God to know him, his purposes and his ways. I understand what he’s saying but I found an example of just the opposite.
Paul is doing the work that God had called him to do, preach to the Word of God to the nations, to people who needed to hear about salvation through Jesus Christ. Then we come to this passage in Acts 16:6-8.
6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.
It sound a lot like they were traveling through open doors until those doors began to close. Are we to believe that God did not want the gospel to go to Asia? There will be billions of lost people in that direction. Hindsight would tell us that it was not God’s timing for Paul to go then. I’m sure Paul was confused until he received the night vision, the Macedonian Call is the very next passage (Acts 16:9-10).
9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
My point is that Paul used this method of open and closed doors, before he had this direct revelation from God!
Open Doors and Delays:
Here’s a question: “Does God allow us to choose between two ‘right choices’ and the outcome does not really matter?” For Paul the choices were Asia or Europe? Both areas are full of lost people in need of the gospel. He chose a direction and the door gets closed. So, here I find a different case, in Isaiah 30:20-21.
20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
Did you catch that? God will confirm to you the “right path” only AFTER you make the decision, whether we go to the right or the left seems immaterial. Blackaby mentions delays… that we should wait on God until we hear a clear word from him. We often pray that way; to know the right path BEFORE we have to make the decision. We say, “God show me the way.” In the Isaiah passage, it sounds as if there are some decisions that will honor God no matter which direction we go. Delaying is not encouraged here, since we don’t hear God’s word of confirmation until we have stepped out in faith.
The Meaning of Isaiah 30:20-21
Perhaps Isaiah is speaking of a future time when God will be so close, like seeing him face to face, and we are so in tune with his Spirit, that we constantly make the right choices. In context the adversity and suffering is the captivity; God reminding them that although they were defeated by the Assyrians, God has not abandoned them. He is near and will guide them. When you know his voice and follow in obedience, he will confirm your good decisions.
The word teachers or a teacher could mean the prophets to come, but since the word is singular, perhaps it means one divine teacher who is to come. God himself would teach his people. His presence will be visible and active, everyone will know the direction to go.
The words, “Walk in it” contrasts with “turn aside” in Isaiah 30:11. The people had been living in such a way that they were oblivious to their spiritual teachers (Isaiah 30:20); now they would be taught by the Spirit of the living God. After their period of judgment because of disobedience, God is to open Israel’s eyes to the soundness of the message of His prophets (Isaiah 29:24). When they hear “a word behind you,” the teachers will be near and the pupils sensitive to the Lord and his prophets, in strong contrast to the callousness they had been demonstrating (Isaiah 29:10-11).