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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

On Hearing God's Voice - Part Three

Some have questioned, challenged and attacked my statement on the previous posting in this series that part of discerning the voice of God is the confirmation of the community. I have chosen not to post the comments because of previous communications with the commentators, but would like to briefly address the issue here and support my position.

First, I am not surprised at the response. As I said, our spiritual assumptions are so individualistic that we are blind to the more commuunal texture of much that the Bible says. I do not blame blind people for stumbling, and my interlocutors are blind, or if you prefer, deaf to this voice of Scripture, as are many in our culture.

Second, as I said before, I most certainly DO believe that God speaks today to individuals, and know the experience myself.

Third, I stand by my position that it is the Scriptural and sensible norm to test one's perceptions against the wisdom of trusted advisors and communal tradition. My interlocutors are outraged at this, presenting cases where prophets, Yeshua himself, and prominent Bible figures did not do so, and where the "wisdom" of the community was at odds with the will of God. True. Nevertheless, the thrust and counsel of Scripture supports my position as part of a sane approach to discerning the will of God.

Fourth, I would challenge my interlocutors who give examples of people like Yeshua, David, Gideon, Paul, etc., "Are you saying that YOU are Yeshua, David, Gideon or Paul, and that you hear the voice of God as accurately as did they?" Good question. And good reason why God has advised a system of checks and balances.

For example, in Deuteronomy 18 we are told,"21 And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' -- 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him." Notice, it is the community which decides if the word of the prophet is valid or not. My interlocutors heap scorn on this position, but, as you can see, it is part of God's counsel to us.

Similarly, in Deuteronomy 13 we are told,

1 If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.

Notice again that it is the community that tests the validity of the prophetic experience: it is not the prophet who determines the validity of that experience.

In the Newer Testmant, the same principle is in effect, even in the case of those whose "words from the Lord" do not have the kind of canonoical status that the Older Testament prophets manifested. Here too, the validity of a prophetic word is determined by communal process, and the mind of God is also determined communally in a manner scarely reflected in modern practice.

In 1 Corinthians 14 we read of the gift of prophecy as it operates in
the assembly--people with a true gift of prophecy, by the way, as they are referred to by Paul as prophets. In verse 29 we read this: " 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let
the others weigh what is said."
The term for "weighing" is
"diakrino/diakrisis" from which we get the word "discern," and which
means "judge, separate discriminate, to learn by discriminating to
determine or decide. Judging the evidence. Decide differentiate prove
test discriminate. To dissect to get to the basic parts or elements."

Paul was teaching that when the prophets spoke in the assembly, it was
the responsibility of the others to weigh--to evaluate--what
was said, to determine the validity of the word given, and in fact, what was wheat and what was chaff in the prophetic statement.

The use of group process in making decisions and in discerning the
voice of God is common in the Newer Testament, one of the most glaring
examples being Acts 15, where it took a group process to discern the
mind of the Spirit on the matter of the Gentiles' status.

Here is more material on the subject. [The Mennonites are big on this
issue, but this is not from a Mennonite source]. The following
material, except for the last sentence by myself, is all from

The book of Acts records four occasions when the church sought to discern God’s will (see Acts 1:12-26; 6:1-7; 11:1-18; and 15). Members of the New Testament church believed that God would guide individuals andcommunities; they expected to be led by the Spirit (see Galatians 5:18, Romans 8:14). Their relationship with God, their awareness of the presence and gifts of the Spirit, their practice of prayer, their reception and proclamation of the good news, and their infectious love
of the community present a convincing picture of a way of life with discernment at its core.

Early Christians feared the voices of false prophets, so they tested
the spirits [communally—see what I said earlier from Deut 13 and 18]. Only the presence of the Spirit of God would determine what served the common good of the community and would offer the love and knowledge to provide the community with authentic spiritual leadership. . . .

When the church in Jerusalem heard that Christians were arguing about whether converts should be circumcised, the apostles and elders met to
consider the question. They came to one mind and heart through
discernment (read Acts 15). . . . The early church used the language of discernment:

“Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole
church, decided . . .” (Acts 15:22) or “It seemed good to the apostles
and elders, with the whole church . . .” (nrsv). Paul and Barnabas
were sent to Antioch with a letter that said, “We have decided
unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you” (verse
25). Again, the letter reads, “For it has seemed good to the Holy
Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these
essentials” (Acts 15:28-29). All of this is the language of
discernment [and, I would remind you, of communal process].

So let's not have any more disparagement of the voice of the community. God sees fit to involve the community in validation or invalidation of those who claim to speak in the name of God. I would suggest that those who refuse to agree this is so have a problem not with me, but with Scripture and appropriate caution.

Shalom, my friends!