Have you ever had a Christian say to you: “God told me to..”, followed by a directive or (more usually) a subtly coercive exhortation to do something (usually) for them? “God told me to ask you..”; “God told me to remind you..”; “God told me that you must..”. No-one ever seems to say: “God told me to love you”, and just leave it at that. Even “God told me to pray for you” seems to hold a compassionate manipulation which assails the serenity of your spiritual existence. You’re judging my walk? Rebuking my divine fellowship? “God told me to..” Well, He hasn’t told me. At least not yet. So if He really told you to tell me, He might do me the courtesy of whispering it into my supernal ear first, instead of saying it behind my back to people He knows full well will get my back up.
There is, of course, a role for the prophetic: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets..’ (Heb 1:1). God speaks to us at many times and in various ways: “God told me to..”, followed by a lesson from Jesus, an exemplary prophetic sanction or a cornerstone of righteous morality. This is God proclaiming the way of salvation and eternal life. But those who say “God told me to..”, and then proceed to sprinkle divine glitter over their own shallow judgment, crass opinion, selfish want or ambition, are breathing a falsehood, if not a charismatic blasphemy, for their outer voice muzzles your inner one, as though their word might weigh with Scripture when it is no more than a piece of undigested pizza.
If you read the Bible, pray to God and meditate on His word, you may see if these things are so. For Scripture is not merely an ancient chronicle or a monument to a bygone era of cultic orthodoxy and mountain goats: it is living, abiding and knowing. If you fellowship with believers and submit to one another in love, you will be tenderly embraced by promises of understanding; corrected and rebuked by those who see and feel. They won’t crush you with a psychotic “God told me to..”: they’ll wait for a moment of silence and then chuck a pebble into your indulgent pond of tranquility, and the concentric circles which radiate on the surface will ripple through your hidden motives and secret sins.
“God told me to..” is not a stone tablet, a burning bush or a Mene, mene, mene, tekel, upharsin engraved on your wall. It is not the Shekinah or even the radiance of the Father’s glory. ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me‘ (Jn 10:27). A rebuke from the Shepherd might scorch a fleece and brand like a hot iron, but it is more likely to gnaw at the conscience of those who hear His voice.
God has put fingerprints on the clouds and left footprints in the sand. They are there to be studied, understood and followed. They point us toward forms of truth and aspects of love. They symbolise mercy and guide us toward grace. God’s lambs splash about, bound and frolic in the kingdom. “God told me to..” is the bleat of the bossy sheep who is very keen for you to know that they personally shared supper with the Shepherd last night. They are special: their revelation is unique; their communion complete. They know who they are.