Jeremiah had several excuses when he tried to get out of God’s call on his life to preach to the nations. God told him (pretty much) to stop it and told him not to be afraid and to remember that God was with him. Afterward we read in Jeremiah 1:9, “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” I’ve struggled mightily in my 35 years as a Christian with those who would say something like that to me. I 06 god's voicedo not doubt that God spoke literally and audibly to Jeremiah. I do not doubt that God actually put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth in that when Jeremiah recorded his message God spoke through him. It’s this basis that guarantees the inerrancy of the Scriptures we read. But does God do that with people today? Does God speak to you or me in the same authoritative way He spoke to Jeremiah?

I once had a pastor in our community come by my church office unannounced and told me that God told him that if I didn’t repent of my sin God would close the doors of my Church. How do you respond to someone today who confronts you or who has a different opinion than you do and they add “God told me?” This pastor, many years ago, had an illicit affair with the wife of a member of his congregation and the doors of his church were closed not long after his prophecy. The question isn’t “Can God?” The question is “Does God?” I argue that with the completion of the canon of the Bible God no longer needs to speak directly and audibly to people. He’s already said all He needs to say and it’s up to us to “hear” Him. Like God’s grace, God’s word is sufficient. He speaks to us all in Christ and Christ is revealed in the Bible.

Honestly, the first test of any prophet is a foretelling of a near event that can validate his message. My experience has been like Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s, who said, “Anyone can come along and claim, ‘God told me to tell you such and such.’ I have people saying this to me all the time. But if they claim to be prophets—and many of them do—they need to be tested by the first principle of foretelling, accurately foretelling a near-future event. I have yet in my experience to see any of these self-proclaimed prophets willingly subject themselves to the test of a prophet in the area of foretelling. I have not as yet met a true prophet in our day.”[1] Neither have I. It worries me also because it demeans the value of God’s Word, the Bible. The reformation principle of Sola Scriptura meant that God speaks to us through the Bible only. He does not speak authoritatively through humans anymore. Papal mandates are not of equal authority as the Bible. I wish everyone would heed Ryken’s advice. He writes, “A second way to value truth is to be careful how you talk about getting messages from the Lord. Some Christians speak very casually about receiving private revelation from the Lord. ‘I feel led,’ they say. ‘The Lord has laid it on my heart.’ ‘God told me thus and so.’ Or more alarmingly, ‘God told me to tell you to do thus and so.’”[2] There are healthier and more biblical ways to share our convictions with others. Don’t fall into this trap of spiritual blackmail.

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Bible Study Collection, vol. 58 (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1983), 4.

[2] Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 353.