A recent post was prompted by the casting of lots incident in Acts 1:26 and I remarked that this is the last mention of casting lots in the Bible.

That post triggered another question about guidance, maybe worth running a through scriptures to see what the Bible says.

Old Testament Examples of Guidance

Genesis 12:1 The Lord (had) said to Abram
Easy to jump to the conclusion that this call was something 'out of the blue_(idiom)'. However, I doubt that and I wonder what the back story was. There is a possibility that the call of Abram was connected with the death of Noah, although that is not explicitly remarked upon in scripture, and some question the likelihood. Abram's father, Terah, had previously started preparation for moving the family to Canaan but did not complete the journey and settled in Haran. In Acts 7:2 we find that Abram had already been called before they settled in Haran, it was Abram's calling not Terah's.

Genesis 37:1 to 50:26 Joseph had a dream
Unlike other people there is no mention here that "the Lord said to Joseph".
Joseph was catapulted by family dysfunction into circumstances he did not want to be in.
This was not helped by his dream story-telling, but scripture records it was his brothers and father who interpreted the dreams, not him (Genesis 37:5-10).

The first mention of Joseph interpreting dreams is in Genesis 40. I wonder what the back story to this was, again I doubt it was 'out of the blue' as he was able to present himself as God's agent (Genesis 40:8). Instead we read that throughout his life Joseph was faithful in the little things (Luke 16:10) being an erand boy (Genesis 37:12-17), household manager (Genesis 39:4-6), prison trusty (Genesis 39:20-23) and then governor of Egypt (Genesis 42:6; 45:8-9).

He was in a situation not of his choosing, a situation he did not want to be in but he knew the goodness of God (Genesis 39:3; 39:21; 45:7-8a).

Judges 6:25 The Lord said to him (Gideon)
This was at night, so presumably in a dream as the angel of the Lord had appeared to him earlier in the day.
Specific instructions given here in Judges 6:25-26 with more instructions following in Judges 7:1-8.
I wonder if there was a back story to this, was Gideon already troubled by his father's altar to Baal?
The Lord also gave Gideon encouragement (but not guidance) in the fleece incident (Judges 6:36-40) and allowing him to overhear what the enemy was saying (Judges 7:10-15).

Ruth 2:3 As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to ...
No casting of lots 'which road to take' and nowhere in the book of Ruth do we read "The Lord said to ...".
Ruth had earlier firmly stated her loyalties "Your God will be my God" (Ruth 1:16).
Outworking of Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose".
She did not know it, but she was called (see Matthew 1:5).

Esther 4:14b You may have come to royal position for such a time as this
Mordecai and Esther had been forced into a place neither of them wanted to be in (Esther 2:6-7).
The order went out to search the provinces for beautiful girls and bring them to the citadel (Esther 2:3).
But Esther was not in the provinces - she was already living in the citadel (Esther 2:5).
Most likely Mordecai and Esther had been at the party (Esther 1:5) when the King had drunk too much (Esther 1:10).
How had Mordecai got into the citadel?
Had he read Jeremiah's letter - "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city ..." Jeremiah 29:7?
No mention of direct intervention by God in the book of Esther, but we see people pleading with him and his hand at work  (Esther 4:16).
Did they take another part of Jeremiah's letter to heart - "... when you call ... I will listen ..." Jeremiah 29:12?

New Convenant Promises

1) Moses prayed that all God's (Jahweh's) people would prophecy and have His Spirit (Numbers 11:29b).

2) John the Baptist declared Jesus would take away sin (John 1:29) and baptise with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).
The message of salvation and receiving the Spirit went together (Acts 11:14-15).
Or rather both together was to be the expected normal Acts 19:1.
Note - speaking in tongues and prophecy went together here (compare 1 Corinthians 14:5).

3) Joel prophesied that in the last days Jahweh will pour out His Spirit on all people (Joel 2:28-29).
On the Day of Pentecost (AD 30) Peter declared "these are the last days, the prophesy of Joel is being fulfilled".

4) Like John the Baptist above, in Ezekiel 36:25-27 we read that Jahweh promises to both take away sin and put His Spirit in His people.

5) In Isaiah 30:19 we read of the promise of 'hearing a voice behind us, saying, "This is the way; walk in it"'. This is in the context of dealing with sin (see Galatians 5:16-18,25; Ephesians 4:22-24,31; 1John 1:6-7; 2Corinthians 5:17).

6) Speaking of the Holy Spirit in John 14:15-27 Jesus promised that both he and Father God will make their home with those who love him. Paul spoke of us as being 'temples of the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 6:19). Peter spoke of us being a 'Royal Priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God' (1 Peter 2:9).

7) Jesus promised that we will recognise his voice (John 10:1-5,27).

New Testament Examples of Guidance

Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind.

Acts 5:18-21 Angel opened prison doors and gave them instructions.

Acts 6:2-6 The proposal pleased the whole group, they chose ...
When expanding the leadership team lots were not longer cast (compare Acts 1:23-26).

Acts 8:1 The church scattered as a result of persecution.
Jesus instructed us to flee persecution (Matthew 10:23).
However, the leaders stayed "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
In 1 Samuel 17:35 we read that David put his life at risk when rescuing a lost sheep.
Jesus told us Father God has the same attitude to those who are lost (Matthew 18:12-14).
Saul was in Jerusalem breathing murder (Acts 9:1) - only the church leaders remained (coincidence?).

Acts 9:26, Acts 10:1-11:18 Unwelcome additions to the church
Following Saul's conversion the believers in Jerusalem avoided him, until God used one guy (nicknamed Barnabus - son of encouragement) to introduce him to the church. Meantime Peter was avoiding gentiles (Acts 28:28) and it took a vision (Acts 10:10-17 compare Acts 2:17) for him to change his ways. Later we find Peter still had a 'gentile issue' and we find God using Saul, of all people, to correct him (Galatians 2:11-13).

Acts 13:2 The Holy Spirit said "Set apart for me ..."
We have no record of how, practically, the Holy Spirit spoke. We can only assume, based of scripture and experience, this there would have been dreams, visions, prophecies, tongues & interpretation, gift of knowledge, gift of wisdom - the body of Christ made up of many parts working together (1 Corinthians 12) and the proposal pleased the whole group (Acts 6:2-6 above).

Acts 15:38 They had such a sharp disagreement ... Barnabus went one way, Saul went another
In Acts 13:2 we read that both had been set apart by the Holy Spirit and then sent off by the church (destination - their choice).
Here, in Acts 15, the Holy Spirit is silent. They had already been set apart - left with a choice "what do you want to do?".
The scripture is silent about 'who was right'. The comment about Paul (Saul's name having been changed) being commended by the brothers in Acts 15:40 more likely to do with Luke, the author, joining Paul around that time and the focus of the book now shifting to Paul.
Paul's journey got off to a good start with churches visited being strengthened, but then problems arose. First they were restrained by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6 - praticalities similar to original calling?) then they tried something different and this time they were prevented by the Spirit of Jesus. Was there something the group was struggling with - visas, tickets, health ...? Did they think they were battling the enemy and with hindsight, when writing the account, did they realise it was the restraint of the Spirit at work here. Finally Paul had a vision (Father God in desperation - "this is the only way ...") and they were able to put of to sea and have plain sailing.

Acts 15:18 Finally Paul became so troubled ...
Paul did not jump in early with "this girl needs deliverance", but finally he had had enough ... no prompting by the Holy Spirit ...
Well, they ended up in the town jail as a result (Acts 16:19-24).
Afterwards Paul showed his Roman passport and refused to be released until he got an apology for their mistreatment! (compare 1 Peter 2:19-20).

Acts 20:22-24 ... compelled by the Spirit ... not knowing ... I only know ... finish the task ... the gospel of God's grace.
These are excerpts taken from Paul's farewell to the church in Ephesus.
News of a plot against him had already influenced his travel arrangements (Acts 20:3b; 20:13).
Everywhere he visited the Holy Spirit was warning of trouble ahead (Acts 20:23; 21:9-11).
What was the purpose of these warnings - to tell him not to go, or to make preparation?
We see the prophet Agabus being used before in context of making preparation (Acts 11:27-30).

I'm reminded of the words of Wayne Cordeiro "I was experiencing the most intense emotional pain I'd ever known, and God's solution to my overtaxed state was to give me ... not intended for comfort ... but to infuse me with confidence ... God wasn't airlifting me out ... he was offering me a way through". Excerpt taken from foreword to book "The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond" by Bill Hybels.

Some Useful Links

After making a start at writing this post I came across the following.
As these are relevant to the subject of our relationship with Father God, Jesus and how he leads us I thought it worth adding them here.

Uta Schmidt : Dream Chasers (book)
The Journey of Nine Ordinary People Who Became Extraordinary.

Uta Schmidt : Interview on Crossrhythms Radio

Catch the Fire London (Sunday sermon) : The Restraint of the Spirit

Iris After Hours : Interview with Kevin Higgins
Amazing story of the leading of Father God in life, ministry, work.

Bethel Music : The Goodness of God
All my life you have been faithful.

Know Your Purpose in Life - 5 Simple Steps
Excerpt from interview on TBN with Robert Jeffress.

Helpful Quotes

William Temple : "When I pray, coincidences happen, when I don't, they don't". We serve a living God.

Final Thoughts

Not an exhaustive exploration of this subject, comes out of my own struggles with this area. We are individuals and Father God deals with us uniquely so some of this you may have difficulty relating to. But, do you know Father God, are you one of His sheep, are you baptised with the Holy Spirit? Father God is authentic, trustworthy and gives good gifts to those who ask him - so go on and ask. Scream, yell, bang the table - don't be afraid we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16).

I will close with the words of the song "The Goodness of God" (see link above).

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me
All my days, I've been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
And in darkest night You are close like no other
I've known You as a Father
I've known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God, yeah!
And all my life You have been faithful, oh
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God, yeah!
'Cause Your goodness is running after, it's running after me
I am 'a work in progress' - but Father God is for me, not against me, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
Yes, Father God, "You have been faithful".