Divine Guidance: Expected from a Relational God

Since it is been established by Scriptural examples that God has given divine guidance to His followers throughout the ages, I will now begin to examine the Biblical reasons why God has chosen to do so. By considering the nature of special revelation, the overall theme of the Scriptures, and both the character and commands of God revealed in those Scriptures, I believe the reader will begin to understand the natural and expected role that divine guidance plays in the life of every child of God.

The Nature of Special Revelation

Before examining the Scriptures to draw out principles of God’s personal nature (and how those principles relate to divine guidance), it would behoove us to consider a more foundational presupposition. What does the very fact of special revelation tell us about God and His nature?

Consider for a moment the reality that God has spoken clearly and directly to mankind. We have been given the Scriptures in human language and using earthly terminology, full of information about who God is, how we relate to Him, what He requires of His creatures, and His purposes for His creation. The Sovereign of the universe is in no way obligated to reveal any of this. Therefore, it only follows that He has a specific purpose for doing so.

Fundamentally, this informs us that God desires us to know not merely that He exists as an eternally powerful creator (as per Rom. 1:19-20), but that He desires that we grasp His character and beauty in a relational way. He has spoken directly to us. You do not write to someone with which you have nothing to do. The very fact of special revelation tells us that God has entered into personal communication with mankind, and therefore relationship with us.


The Theme of Scripture

Although the fact of special revelation divulges some basic aspects of the character and desires of God, the content of that revelation undeniably communicates much more.

As we examine the truths that God has revealed about Himself in what He has written, we discover that His relational nature is inseparable from His being. Biblical theology is as far from deism as one could imagine. God’s relational character may be properly understood as an attribute; that is, not merely something He does, but something He is. He did not begin to be personal and relational when He created the universe and mankind. His trinitarian nature of existing in three distinct persons means that He is and was eternally relational.

Therefore, it is both reasonable and Biblically warranted to understand that God’s creation reflects His nature. In particular, having been created in the Imago Dei, man has a special capacity to relate to God. Furthermore, because man was created innocent, this relationship was initially intimate and unrestricted. With Adam’s fall, a great chasm was created in this relationship, because mankind now bore in his nature that which was antithetical to the nature of God; namely that of sin over against God’s absolute holiness.

This backdrop forms the overarching narrative of Scripture. How can fallen mankind be restored to fellowship and communion with a perfectly just and holy God? The relational drama of redemption and reconciliation is the story of Scripture. Along the way, God presents Himself to us in vivid colors of beauty and perfection, seen all the more clearly against our own rebellion and depravity.


The Character of God Revealed in Scripture

The pages of the Bible are filled with descriptions and demonstrations of God’s immutable attributes. In didactic sections, these attributes are clearly taught. In narrative portions, those same attributes are constantly displayed. Many of these attributes are inseparably connected to His relational nature. Attributes like justice, mercy, patience, love and grace only make sense if they are demonstrated relationally.

However, not only is God revealed to be relational, He is also revealed to be good. This informs the character or quality of God’s interaction with mankind. In particular, God’s relationship with His chosen saints is intimate and familial. These qualities are indicated to us in many ways; one of which are the many metaphorical word pictures used to describe God’s affinity toward those whom He redeems. God is described as our Father, and the saints His children. He is pictured as a husband or groom, while His chosen people are presented as His bride or wife. He is the shepherd, while we are the sheep. He is the mother bird, while we are the chicks under His wings. He is described as a Shelter, Rock, Fortress, Tower, Shield, Refuge, Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, and Friend,

All of these terms paint the picture of a close and intimate relationship. If such picturesque language leaves any vestige of doubt, we may browse the catalog of texts in which God plainly declares His desire for intimate fellowship with us (such as Psalm 25:8-14; 84:11; Isaiah 41:8-10; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 11:9-13; II Cor. 6:18). From the very day of the fall, God has been working out the plan of redemption and restoration, calling to us and declaring His salvation, even as we hide in the shame of our sin and guilt (Gen. 3:8-9, 15).


The Commands of God Revealed in Scripture

No true relationship exists without two-way communication and mutual interaction. Consequently, God being the initiator of relationship with mankind desires, and in gracious incitement commands us to respond and interact with Him. This is observed in many Biblical admonitions such as,  “call on the Lord” (Ps.145:18, Isa. 55:6-7, Rom. 10:13), “repent and believe” (Mk. 1:14-15, Acts 3:19), “trust in God” (Ps. 62:8, Prov. 3:5-6, Isa. 26:3-4), “seek the Lord” (I Chron. 16:10-11, Hos. 10:12) , “hear his voice” (Ezek. 3:10, Isa. 46:3-4, Rev. 3:20), and many others..

God’s people are continually commanded to act in relational ways toward Him. He tells His people to pray, wait on Him, rest in His promises, run to Him for help, rejoice in Him, feast at His table, walk with Him, remember His works on their behalf, ask for whatever they need. On and on it goes.


The Reasonable Expectation of Divine Guidance

We have seen that the fact of Scripture presupposes a relational God, that the theme of the Scriptures revolves around God’s relationship to mankind, that His character is one of intimacy and familial relation with His people, and that He desires and expects us to reciprocate this intimacy. We could proceed to discuss the necessary relational aspects of all the Biblical covenants. We might observe that God interacts relationally with nations and groups (such as the church and family), but that the lowest common denominator among all these is the individual heart. We could focus our attention on the fact that God cares nothing for external, ritualistic obedience, but is seeking the heart of man to be in fellowship with His own heart. We might contrast the shallow intellectual faith that results in condemnation with the deep and intimate trust which defines every true child of God.

All of these facets point to the fact that God has not merely given a set of universal laws and rules, but has also entered into a dynamic and intimate relationship with each and every elect saint whom He has called unto Himself. This relationship includes God’s instruction in right applications of His universal commands and principles, but also includes a more personal aspect. Divine guidance occurs within the scope of His commands, but appropriate and applicable only to the specific individual or group to whom it is given. This is relational intimacy on a uniquely personal level. It is between you and God. This is the category under which the Scriptural examples in the preceding article fell.

The occurrence of this type of divine guidance is consistent (I would dare to say even expected) with the Scriptures’ teaching about God’s relationship with His people. We find in these pages not a magician who performs tricks to impress his followers, neither a cryptic whose signs and symbols we must decode, nor yet an aloof being who writes a novel and then withdraws into seclusion. We find a God who speaks – consistently, clearly, regularly, and familially. As children of our heavenly Father, we should expect to hear Him call us by name (John 10:3) and respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears!” (I Sam. 3:10).