11 Feb 2018

I heard a preacher say at a women's conference that it was manipulation if a wife decided to raise a difficult issue with her husband after he has had a good meal and is better disposed to hear her. It seemed to me he was of the opinion that if she had heard from God, it was sufficient to march to her husband with the message from on high.

I agree that such timings and feedings could be manipulative, as when Herodias used Herod's happy party moment and his rash blank public promise to settle scores with John the Baptist, against the king's own deeper wishes (Mark 6:17-28). However, I do not agree that it is manipulation in every case if a wife should choose what she considers the best time to raise a matter with her husband.

 That God has told you what to say does not mean that He has also told you when and how to say it. When God is silent on the whens and hows, it could mean that He has left those details to your discretion. By the way, how could we even be sure that the message had been from God? There are many voices in the world, between which we are daily learning to distinguish the right from the wrong, so why start a war merely at the prompt of an unconfirmed voice?

When God gives a message but not the method as well, it might be time to consult, sometimes, with oneself, like Nehemiah the diplomat of whom we read, “Then I consulted with myself...” (Nehemiah 5:7).

Why should Nehemiah consult with himself? Was that not carnality, or outright arrogance? Were there no prophets in the land to consult with? No wise men and women? Why did he not consult with the Holy Spirit? Is anybody capable of independent rational choices that are acceptable to God? What are the limits of our initiatives under God? What does the Bible say?

The Bible has many answers to this debate. First of all, Queen Esther. Even after three days of praying and fasting with her congregation of maids, she could not casually walk into the presence of her husband the king, to report the matter of Haman's plot against her life and that of all the Jews. She had to time and locate her presentation at the lavish banquets of wine that she prepared in honour of her husband. To that banquet, she also invited her enemy the plotter, the king's right hand man. At the end of the first banquet, something told her to extend the gesture, so she called a second banquet for the next day. Those banquets became her marvellous passage to the heart of his majesty, her husband.

What if Queen Esther had marched into the king's courts, announcing that she had just come from the presence of God with an imperative word, after three days of fasting and praying, and that the king her husband should sack the man he had only recently promoted to a place of honour by his side? If she had done so, she might have been the first casualty, but a casualty of her own foolish tactlessness (Esther 5,7). He was her husband; she knew how best to reach him, certainly not by confronting him with a commandment from her God; not by assuming the unappointed royal office of a Superior Adviser (or Instructor); not by pushing him from behind but by prompting him from below. She won.

To have received a word is not sufficient basis to start to run. An anointed word badly timed and wrongly delivered will get foolish consequences. For Esther, three days of prayers with fasting, supported by her maids, was not sufficient to simply stroll into her husband's presence in disregard of acceptable protocols. She took time to dress properly (Esther 5:1-2), she took time to feast him (chapters 5 and 7); she timed her case. Did she achieve her noble goal? Excellently.

The wise king, Solomon, says in Proverbs 15:23, “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in dueseason, how good is it!” Even words have seasons. Anyone who cannot read the weather, who does not know the season, who therefore goes out into the biting snow in her summer bikini, will die a foolish death. Even God knows that every word cannot be spoken to everybody every time, so we hear Jesus say, for example, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them NOW” (John 16:12). Also, God said to the prophet Daniel, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4).

The only one who does not consider your pains when he brings you more stories of pain, is Satan. Satan, too, considers seasons for his words, but he times his bad words for your worst moments. Case in point: Job. Satan timed the reports of Job's disasters to follow one another. The intent was to crush the righteous man with the accumulation of bad reports. The enemy had little regard for Job's feelings at the moment he was downloading the evil reports (Job 1:13-21).

 15 ... they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God ...hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans ...have ... slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee 18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters 19 ...are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee (Job 1:15-19).

When Jesus said to His hearers, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12), He was considering not only the appropriateness of the message He had to deliver but also the receivability of His hearers. He considered His hearers and the timing of His message, then decided that it was not a message for the “now.” It was to wait until a more appropriate future time, through a different channel - the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you... (v.13).

God had a message for the backslidden Adam and Eve, but He waited until “the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). Had that been me, I probably would have wasted no time but rushed at once upon Adam to catch him 'red handed' with the forbidden fruit still in his throat. The word here translated “cool” is the Hebrew ruwach, which means, “wind.” It is as if, on the one hand, God meant to fan the culprits back to Himself with the cool wind of His love, while He rebuked them on the other hand. His interest was to gain them, not to slay them.

God does not always say how when He says what, and the fact that He has said what does not mean He has also said how and when. A good word badly timed and wrongly delivered will get the wrong results. If Jesus could take His hearers into consideration in what more not to say when, or until when, we cannot be so spiritual as to run with any word just because we think we have heard Him.


From The Preacher's diary.


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