28 February 2009

Who should I listen to?

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we were flooded with advice. Every mother and grandmother had their own bit of wisdom to offer! But so much of it was conflicting advice. It was impossible to know who to listen to. So we just got on and did our own thing.

It feels like that when it comes to God: trying to work out which voice is the real voice of God in the supermarket of world religions.

It’s not only a modern problem, though. It was an ancient problem, too. Back in the days of Moses (1400 BC), the people were being told to listen to the prophet. God said, ‘I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell everything I command’ (Deuteronomy 18v18).

But the people said, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ And the answer was, ‘If what the prophet says…does not take place or come true…’

So here is the acid test!

It’s not so much whether the prophet’s words sound wise or deep or good advice. It’s whether the prophet’s words accurately describe what will happen in the future.

And this isn’t like forecasting the weather or a downturn in the Stock Market. That’s just spotting trends and making educated guesses. No. A true prophet accurately describes what will happen in the future with clarity and with detail that can be tested.

That’s why we have kept and treasure the words of the prophets in the Bible’s Old Testament. These are prophets whose words came true. What they said would happen did happen, both to the nation of Israel and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

That’s why we have kept and treasure the words of Jesus in the Bible’s New Testament. What Jesus said would happen did happen, for instance, he said he would be put to death, buried and on the third day rise again. And he did!

These are the genuine prophets, as proved by the real events in history they prophesied. That’s why Jesus’ followers were not mistaken when they heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my son, whom I love, listen to him.’ (Mark 9v7).

In all the clamour of voices today, there is one voice we can be sure is speaking the very words of God. It’s the voice of Jesus. Listen to him.

Simon Smallwood
Vicar of St George’s