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The area where we are most likely to "miss it" is in the area of "timing." This applies both to the prophetic and to our own personal hearing.
We know that when God says something, He means it, because He is not a liar. What He says always comes to pass.
But we get into trouble when we start to assume the "timing" of when God will do this. We look at our current events in our own lives, and that often gives us an image in our mind's eye of what God's promise will look like. When we add this "timing" assumption, we accidentally twist or distort what God has said. It can lead us astray. In fact, we can misstep rather seriously when we make assumptions about the timing of God's promises, or make assumptions of how they fit into our present day circumstances.
This problem has plagued God's people from the very earliest of days, even back to the time of Abraham. In fact, Abraham made assumptions regarding God's timing on multiple occasions, and those assumptions prompted him to do things that he probably should not have done, such as adopting one son (Eliezer of Damascus, Gen 15:2) and fathering Ishmael with his wife's slave, and scoffing at God's promise of a child with Sarah when he was 99.
The first time Abraham made a timing assumption was when God promised to give the land he was dwelling in to his "offspring" (Genesis 13:15-17). Abraham looked at his current day situation--he did not have any children because his wife was barren. He tried to apply God's promise to his current-day situation and misstepped. His solution was to adopt Eliezer as a son, who would become his legal heir. Abraham figured that Eliazer's children would be his "offspring" who would inherit the land. But that was not God's plan or God's timing. God said, in Genesis 15:4, "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir."
We already know the full story, so we realize that God was thinking of something in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty years away. But Abraham did not know that, and he assumed that God's timing was "now." He began looking for ways to be proactive, to "help" God's promise come true. His wife suggested that he use her slave Hagar to bare children, reasoning was that since she owned Hagar, the children Hagar produced would be Sarah's. Of course, things did not work out so well, and there was all sorts of contention between Sarah and Hagar.
That bad decision still plagues us today, as Hagar's descendents became the Arabs, and Sarah's children became the Jews. There has been a lot of tension between the Arabs and the Jews throughout history. Even our present day "war on terrorism" arises out of a radical subset of Ishmael's descendents and causes us many problems today.
When Ishmael was born, Abraham assumed that the boy was the heir that God had promised him. That is because he was still looking at God's promise in the wrong timeframe--he was applying God's word to "Now" instead of trying to find out what God really meant.
Thirteen years later, God appeared to him and told him, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her" (Gen 17:15-16).
God's timing was actually getting close in Genesis 17; it was only a year away. But again Abraham tried to interpret God's word based on his circumstances, and he literally laughed (scoffed) in God's face and said, "'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?' And Abraham said to God, 'If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!'"
Abraham misinterpreted God's timing on three separate occasions, but he still ended up possessing God's promise in the form of his son Isaac. Abraham was a hero of the faith, a friend of God, and a mighty man of faith. He walked closer to God than most of us do--and he heard God speak directly to him. Despite that, he could not help throwing in timing assumptions based on his present-day circumstances, and it caused him to misstep.
We are susceptible to that same problem. We may or may not hear God 100% clearly on something. But even when we hear clearly, we can add our own assumptions to it, based on our present day circumstances, and end up misinterpreting what God said. It is so easy to do that, and so subtle that we may not even realize that we are doing it.
Let me give you a very recent example from my own life. I have an ipod and a little portable ipod speaker that I use when I travel on ministry trips. (I find it very important to immerse myself in worship music when I am on mission trips.) But I don't use the ipod or portable speakers at home because I have a nice stereo system in my house. So I keep it in a box with my other "travel stuff."
Thursday was the start of a storm in our area--the worst storm to hit Northern California in over two years. I was working on my computer when we where hit by a power outage. It lasted about two and a half hours. During that time, I couldn't do much of anything, because everything I do needs electricity. The computer and television were down, and it was too dark to read. I couldn't even leave the house to go anywhere, because we have an electric gate across the driveway, and it won't open without electricity, so I couldn't get my car off of the property. It was raining heavily, so I couldn't take the dogs for a walk. The only thing left to do was to light a few candles so I wouldn't be sitting in the dark, then to pray.
I prayed for a while, and suddenly I was strongly reminded of the ipod and battery operated portable ipod speakers. I thought that the Lord was telling me to get it out and play worship music as I prayed. That sounded like a wonderful idea, so I grabbed my flashlight and hunted up the box the ipod was in. It took a bit of effort, but I finally got the ipod and speakers set up and tried to turn it on. That is when I discovered that there was no charge left in the ipod's battery--and no way to charge it. That meant I wasn't going to have any worship music during the rather lengthily power outage.
I assumed that I'd heard wrong. I decided it was just "me" remembering the ipod, and not God telling me to dig it out. All the same, when the power finally came back on, I decided to plug it in and charge it.
The next day, I had to do a bunch of GodSpeak stuff in my office-- a room in the house that the stereo doesn't cover. The work was very tedious and I was finding it difficult to concentrate on it. I wasn't enjoying it at all. I took a short break to get a cup of decaffeinated coffee. That was when I noticed the ipod laying on the kitchen counter, where it had been charging. Then this idea hit me--why not take the ipod and portable speaker and use it in the office while I worked? So that is what I did. The background of worship music made it much easier for me to do this work...because from time to time I would break into worship for a short bit, then go back to the work.
At one point the Lord told me, "Teresa, you did not hear wrong yesterday when I told you to get the ipod out of the travel box. That was My voice. I told it to you at a time when you were forced to have spare time, and could not be working on things in the office because the power was out. I wanted you to get the ipod out, so it would be handy for you to use today. I knew that if I waited until today to suggest it to you, you'd be hesitant to take the time off of work to go look for it."
I had made the assumption that when God suggested I get the ipod, it was to use at that time in my present circumstances--when I was unable to do anything else because of the power outage. When the ipod did not work (no charge) I assumed that I'd simply heard wrong. The truth is that I had heard right, but I made wrong assumptions about what I heard.
That happens to each of us more often than we care to admit. We hear God correctly, but we add our assumptions to it--usually assumptions about God's timing--and then we misunderstand what God is saying based on those assumptions.
How do we fix this problem? Well, the first step is that we need to be made aware when we are doing it. We need to be aware that we do unconsciously add our assumptions to what God says. Then we need to ask Him to please start making us aware of when we are doing it. Once we are aware, we can press in and ask God for more information about what He said to us.