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If there’s one phrase I’m heartily sick of hearing during this pandemic, it’s that the government’s actions are ‘being guided by the science.’ I understand what they intend us to hear from that phrase, but since this is a ‘new virus’, science has few definitive answers and the government’s actions will always have to take into account factors which are not scientific (including economic and political factors.) It’s frankly impossible to be guided by one thing alone.
Even in the Bible, when we talk about God guiding us (Ps 48:14), we can see He uses a variety of means to do this. Nicky Gumbel lists five methods in today’s ‘Bible in One Year‘ readings (the headings are his; the comments are mine.)
Commanding Scripture. Most of what we know is God’s will for us we know through studying the Bible. This is our first port of call when we are seeking guidance from God (though we need wisdom in interpreting what we find there, just as government ministers need wisdom and help in interpreting the scientific data currently).
Compelling Spirit. Our guidance is based on a personal relationship with our God. Just as Jesus was led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1), we too need to be led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14). Difficult and subjective though this may be, we cannot ever expect guidance to be anything other than personal and intimate. The sheep hear and know the shepherd’s voice. (John 10:1-18)
Counsel of the Saints. Nicky Gumbel reminds us that ‘we receive guidance in the context of community’, warning us against solitary, rash decisions (see Prov 12:15). Ultimately, the accumulated wisdom and prayerful advice of others can be helpful to us.
Common Sense. We must not rely on common sense (God frequently does ask us to do things which look illogical to us!), but neither must we despise it. God has given us intelligence and expects us to think through options sensibly.
Circumstantial Signs. These ‘circumstantial signs’ or ‘providence’ can be misleading because (again) they are open to interpretation (and therefore to misinterpretation), but, as Gideon demonstrated, sometimes they can be the way God confirms something to us (see Judges 6:36-40). It seems Paul used these signs, along with other means, to determine where he went on missionary journeys (see Acts 16:6-10).
All of us need God’s guidance daily and at these difficult times can be sure that He will lead us (see Ps 143:10).