Intimacy with God, it appears to me, is the true source of foreknowledge. The prophetic gifting in the life of those we have been looking at recently here appears not to have been something sought in and of itself – but has come about as a result intimacy with God. That is not to take away from the injunction of St. Paul – ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.’ – but the pursuit of love (intimacy) remains paramount. Some in our own day who desire the prophetic gift appear to forget this.
The statement in Psalm 25 – ‘The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him’, is preceded by the prayer – ‘Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.’ This could well be linked to another prayer of the Psalmist – ‘One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.’ (Psalm 27) Norman Macleod noted of the Harris Prophet Da-riridh – ‘He was a man in constant prayer and seemingly in constant communication with the Heavenlies.’
Any gifting without intimacy is a dangerous thing – and intimacy is the goal not gifting. The gift will pass way – intimacy will last forever.
Perhaps I also need to make clear I am restricting my thinking here to the genuinely prophetic – not the aberration of it we so often see exhibited in certain sections of popular Christian culture – especially within the Charismatic movement in the USA, where, at least publicly, it has all but been totally discredited. To every precious thing there is always a counterfeit or inferior copy. Humble intimacy is the watermark of the genuine here. If you do not find both working together beware!
Having said all that, what then are the enemies of intimacy and by default enemies of living in the realms of spiritual gifting – especially, in this case, the prophetic?
Of course the first obstacle is unbelief – and unfortunately this unbelief is to be found at the very heart of the church in the Highlands and Island today. Theologically it is called Cessationism – the teaching that it is not possible for God to speak or reveal himself today outside the pages of the Bible. I consider this to be a grievous heresy due to the fact that at its heart beats the pride of men who dare to dictate to the living God what he can and cannot do. Those who hold to this doctrine shackle God within the prison of their unbelief – a jailhouse which robs him of him of his freedom and omnipotence. I reject this out of hand as it utterly demeans the God of the Bible. (1)
The second enemy of intimacy is distraction. This can come in many forms, but primarily we meet it today in the busyness of life and the attraction of other things. This is not only true in the spiritual realm – but also within human relationships – particularly marriage. Some ask why God does not speak in miraculous ways more often. I am convinced it is not because of his reluctance to speak – but because of our inability or refusal to listen. In other words we are not attentive to the voice of the Spirit. Tormod Sona (Happy Norman) referred to this as ‘listening in’. On one occasion Norman knew supernaturally that a man was about to visit a house in which he was staying at the time. On his arrival the lady of the house welcomed the new visitor and told him he was expected as Norman had told her to prepare enough food for him. Later the man approached Norman and asked him ‘Who told you I was coming today?’ ‘Oh, the ‘listening in’ told me!’ Norman replied. ‘And what is the ‘listening in’ my friend?’ asked the other. ‘The ‘listening in’ is The Truth!’ replied Norman! ‘When He the Spirit of truth will come, He will guide you into all truth’, were words, it is said, which were often on Norman’s lips.
Another enemy of intimacy, connected with distraction, is noise. We live in a world where we are bombarded by noise of all kinds and on every hand – especially TV, Radio, and Media devices of all variates. Silence is almost unknown. It is true that the people we have been looking at recently did not have this problem – at least to the extent of modern times, and in this they had, without doubt, an advantage. However, people such as Norman prioritised intimacy. It is said he was never long in company before he would excuse himself to find a quiet spot to pray and ‘listen in’. For us today to remove ourselves from the continual chatter of life is difficult – but by no means impossible. Perhaps for some of us the time had come to be less ‘connected’ with the world and more ‘connected’ with heaven! However, I do believe that, as in the past, so today, as noted by the late Norman MacLeod in a recent post here, God very often chooses to speak when we are not conscious of any distraction – in dreams.
If it is true that God communicates in dreams, and I have no doubt he does and have first hand evidence of it in my own life, then another enemy of intimacy and revelation is to discount the possibility that God can do so. This is again a grave mistake and I believe so much is lost to our own benefit and the benefit of others if we so discount them. However, I do not look only to the evidence I have personally – but to all of the accounts we have looked at recently that corroborate, from the earliest of biblical times that God has and still does communicate with men and women in the wonderland of dreams. Of course that is not to say all dreams have a spiritual or prophetic significance – that would be madness IMHO (although some may disagree). But a God dream or revelation of the night, if I may call them that, are on a completely different level – especially in relation to retention and impression – but perhaps that’s a subject for another day.
Another enemy of the prophetic is that, within my religious tradition, there is no place for the scriptural injunctions in relation to it in public worship (1 Corinthians 11). I suspect this is why God is forced to sidestep our man made systems which either deny or leave no public space for the prophetic and so must deal solely with the individual.
Yet another enemy of intimacy is spiritual pride. One of the things that struck me about all of the people we have been looking at was their humility. They never pushed themselves in a public arena or promoted ‘their ministry’. The very thought would have been abhorrent to them. Interestingly, all those we have examined never wrote about themselves apart from Norman MacLeod, Harris – and I can assure you he did so reluctantly and because he thought it appropriate as he neared the end of his life. Indeed, initially he asked me not to publish the record of his experiences until after his death – but later, with no prompting from me changed his mind. In the event he had gone home to glory long before his experiences were shared. I find all this in stark contrast to so many today within what is called the ‘Prophetic Movement’ who use every means at their disposal to promote themselvs and ‘their ministry’.
Finally, and this really takes us full circle, we come back to one of the marks seen in the lives of all people we have been thinking about recently – not only love for God and a desire for intimacy with him – but a love for the people of God. One of the sad realities I have found in nearly all the churches I have had contact with in life is the tendency to insularity and exclusiveness. In other words if you are part of their church, denomination or doctrinal tribe they might have time for you – otherwise you are forever an outsider. I believe this to be a mark of those, and they are very numerous, who do not themselves live in intimacy with God the Father who is intrinsic Love.
On one occasion Norman MacDonald (Tormod Sona) was speaking at a communion service in Stornoway. As he did so often he drifted into the subject of the love of God for his people. As he spoke he felt himself so overwhelmed by a sense of its immensity that he was forced to stop speaking. Before he sat down he was heard to say – ‘O dear, a wave is coming over me!’ It is little wonder then that Norman and so many like him could not restrict their circle of fellowship to one church or denomination. If God so loved them – then surely He loved all with that self same love.
We see the same attitude and behaviour in the life of the late Chirsty Mary Morrison of Harris who we have written about previously. Chirsty was brought up in the most exclusive of Presbyterian denominations on the Isle of Harris – but herself could be found anywhere God’s children gathered. Some may have seen the comment on a previous post by my friend the Rev. Duncan MacLeod in relation to Chirsty . I end with it as its sums up a people for whom God is their all and the people of God, irrespective of denominational attachment, their true family –
‘I only met Chirsty Mary once. It was at a Communion weekend in Broadford (Skye). My ministerial colleague that weekend was the late Calum Matheson and having joined us for lunch I remember her describe herself to him as ‘an evangelical philanthropist!’ When Calum asked what she meant she simply replied – ‘One who loves all the brethren!’
1 – One of the issues raised by some opponents of the prophetic, if they cannot dismiss it in any other way, is to question the source. This is a very dangerous ground IMHO. For instance some I have seen, suggesting this is pure superstition, imply (although not perhaps specifically stating) that the source may be demonic. Surely this must be rejected out of hand and personally I do not even think it worth debating. However, there is something else that is not so easily dismissed and that is the belief that above and beyond God revealing his heart and mind to his intimates – he also retains the freedom to speak to anyone, at any time and in any place as well as in cultures and religions which are not Christian. For this there is overwhelming evidence. Again this is probably the subject for a separate post.
However, as an example, let me relate one story I know to be true as I know the person involved. The young woman in question makes no claim to the Christian faith (nor do her family). She lives in my local community here in Skye. Some years ago while still a child living at home with her parents she had a dream. She dreamt that her father’s work truck, which he always parked as close as possible to the gable end of the family home every evening, had, through the night, gone on fire and burned the house down. Next morning she told her parents who dismissed it as a child’s dream and laughed it off. However, by the time night came and her father parked as normal she began begging him to move it. In an effort to calm her fears her father decided it was best to go along and parked his truck as far from the house as possible. Of course you know what happened! The vehicle did catch fire that very night and, had it been parked as normal the house would, most likely, have burned down.
I have no doubt that stories like this and thousands more are repeated throughout our world every day. The question is – who is the source of such dream warnings? It is simply superstition? But even if we answer yes – that does not resolve to issue of the identity of the one who initiates such dreams. Or might it be the case that there is a mystical, spiritual realm under the direction of the Creator God we worship, that is available and open to all? Personally, I can think of no other reasonable explanation for such phenomena.