Would God Ask You to Take a Mustard Bath?

by Mike Leake on March 25, 2014 · 20 comments

The frail old man sets aside his walker and gradually places himself in the tub. But this is no ordinary bath. You see, he just returned from the store where he purchased seven gallons of yellow mustard. The old man has scooped, squirted, and squeezed this smelly condiment into his bathtub.

Why in the world has this man done such a thing?

“Is he senile?” you ask.

Nope. He’s just got arthritis and he watches Christian television. One day when he was watching his favorite show he had a strong impression that he couldn’t shake. As the polished reverend prayed over his global congregation, this delicate old man began praying his arthritis would be healed. Out of nowhere a voice told him to purchase seven gallons of yellow mustard and bathe in it.

As a logical guy he found this audible instruction a tad weird. But then he started reading over his Old Testament and realized that a bath in seven gallons of mustard wouldn’t be the strangest action the Lord has commanded. Convinced this was the Lord’s will, he dutifully waddled to his dusty mini-van, put his walker in the backseat, started the car, went to the store, and bought seven gallons of their best yellow mustard.

How can you argue with this fella’s logic? After all the Lord did ask people to do really strange things in the Old Testament. Our mustard-bather has nothing on the prophet Ezekiel. So, how could you convince this guy that the Lord isn’t telling him to bathe in yellow mustard?

Now in one sense you really cannot. It is theoretically possible that our living God would speak to an old man and tell him to bathe in a vat of zesty mustard. There’s really no Scripture passage that says, “Thou shalt not bathe with condiments.” So, in theory God could have spoken to him. But at the same time our now yellow friend has a gross misunderstanding of the nature of Scripture.

Yes, God once spoke to the people by having a prophet cook food over his own feces. And, yes, God spoke through burning bushes and clouds. That is what Hebrews 1 means when it says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”. That “many ways” would include a guy laying naked on his side for a whole year. And it would include speaking to Gideon through the laying of a fleece as much as it includes speaking to Jeremiah through the Word that he put in his mouth.

But that has all changed. Notice the contrast in Hebrews 1:2. “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”

Something has drastically changed. As opposed to the unique ways that the Lord spoke to people of old, he now speaks to us clearly through His Son. And we see this speech plainly in His Word. This is what theologians call progressive revelation. The Lord’s communication with humanity has progressed–climaxing in the revelation of Jesus Christ. That’s why he’s not likely to communicate to us through yellow mustard. Progression. He speaks to us now quite clearly through Christ in His Word.

Thankfully, our mustard-covered friend doesn’t actually exist. At least I hope he doesn’t. But you hear weird stuff like this every day. Christians say that God spoke to them and told them to do something really weird. And when I hear that stuff I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical because the Lord has said that in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. And he’s done so clearly. And it doesn’t require mustard.

1 Clark Dunlap March 25, 2014 at 5:47 pm

AMEN and Thank you! I’ve been trying to explain that much of what we hear in Christian circles that starts with “God told me…” is dangerous. Unless God told you something that is already in scripture and applicable to you, you don’t KNOW that God told you that.
Yes to the theoretical possibility but why trust a dis-embodied voice when we have his complete, perfect, inerrant Word?
Why leave decisions up to that ‘voice’ when God gave you a brain to make decisions with?

NOW, you have given me a great illustration to use.
Because, as I recently learned, Baptist R&D stands for Ripoff and Duplicate.
Clark D

2 Dan Barnes March 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm

If you have the faith of a mustard bath, you too can be healed.

3 Tarheel March 25, 2014 at 7:53 pm

If you say to the mustard bottle get up and move….

;-)

4 Ernest Goodman March 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s “calling” for people to ministry or mission and how that fits with the sufficiency of scripture. Does “go therefore and make disciples” constitute a “call” to mission? Is any further guidance from God constitute “extra biblical revelation?”

5 D. L. Payton March 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm

The only way I would take a bath in mustard is if I could figure out way to part the mustard and cross over in a dry tub. :-)

6 Bill Mac March 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

The trouble is, while there are many people who say “God told me”, there are even more who say “I feel led”, which is functionally equivalent and subject to the same kind of errors. It is a huge pet peeve of mine.

7 D. L. Payton March 25, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Bill

I agree, it bothers me a lot. I grant that there are people who have been with God and truly feel they have a word from God in a decision. I am deeply concerned, however, when it is the preface to most every sentence.
It totally cheapens the concept of earnestly discerning God’s will. Dare I go so far a to say it could be taking the Lord’s name in vain? Just asking…

8 Tarheel March 25, 2014 at 10:16 pm

No, I don’t think you’re going too far. I would say that such repetitive and “crutch” invocation of Gods name is in fact taking it in vain.

9 Tarheel March 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm

I offered a joke, but I do want to say that I think this is a phenomenal and needed post.

Seriously.

“Thankfully, our mustard-covered friend doesn’t actually exist. At least I hope he doesn’t. But you hear weird stuff like this every day. Christians say that God spoke to them and told them to do something really weird. And when I hear that stuff I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical because the Lord has said that in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. And he’s done so clearly. And it doesn’t require mustard.”

I find that the “God told me to…” phrase is often invoked as a means to bolster/ avoid criticsm of ones agenda, opinion, or goals.

Instead of saying “I think we should do thus and such” and risk rejection – people (including pastors) will invoke the unassailable….God.

The word of God is not only inerrant and authoritative – its also complete, and sufficient. New direct revelation/prophecies/etc….defy these truths.

Gods word isn’t complete and sufficient if we are still getting new direct revelation.

10 D. L. Payton March 25, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Tarheel

Very well said. Maybe as pastors we should spend more time talking about the sufficiency of the completed canon to speak to us all needed truth on which to base our life. One cannot hold to both inerrancy and special revelation at the same time, which of course it your point. I have been told that we should not spend time talking ABOUT the Bible rather we should preach what it says, I agree with that, but there are times we need to talk about the Bible. In today’s culture, both in the Christian community and the non-Christian community, this subject must be addressed.

11 Robin Shifflett March 25, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Well I don’t know about you guys, but God told me He wanted me to become a pastor. I was called to this.

12 D. L. Payton March 25, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Robin

Please don’t hear me say I don’t believe that God directs us and “speaks” to us. He does. I have stated two or three times on this blog that I believe in a God called ministry. I know without a doubt that God has called me to this ministry.

My issue is with the loose, careless, flippant, use of the phrase “God told me” or like expressions. I dare say that when God called you to His ministry it was after a period of prayer, soul searching and conversation with your spiritual mentors. With this I have no problem. However when every sentence starts with “God told me” I have some skepticism, especially when the “revealed” behavior is strange or a “special revelation”.

13 Tarheel March 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

Yea, that’s what I’m referring to as well.

Sure God speaks, sure he calls.

He calls to salvation by His Son revealed through His word. He converts the sinful, rebellious heart to desire Christ by the work of the Spirit using his revealed word. Absent the call of God one does not desire salvation.

As far as call to ministry. Yes. Again, using His revealed word, the Spirit calls the believer and the called believer begins to “desire the office of bishop”. The call comes first, then the call and the desire work in concert. I’m called to be a pastor, and one way I know that is the desire I have to be one. (I’m not meaning to place my desire above God, I’m trying to say that my desire is there because He called me and placed it there.)

I think the point I’m making here is that God calls and directs by the Spirit, in partnership His complete revealed word. One is never God called or led without the Spirit and the word confirming the call. The Spirit guides us in works of righteousness in this life – righteousness as defined in the word.

I’m not the writer that many of you are….I know what I’m trying to say but I’m not sure it coming across as clearly as I want.

14 D. L. Payton March 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

Tarheel

Perhaps you are a better writer than you think. You gave a clear definitive exposition of God’s call on a life. The distinction you have noted is vital to a Biblical understanding of how God communicates His will to His people.

You are especially correct in discussing one’s desire for ministry. When I understood God’s call on my life I did not “surrender” to the ministry, I could not volunteer fast enough.

15 Tarheel March 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Yea, I don’t like the the phrase “surrendered to the call to ministry” as it implies God pulled me kicking and screaming.

That was not the case for me anyway, and not for many other pastors I know.

I had fear and feelings of unworthiness (and still do) but I WANT to pastor and have no desire to do anything else.

16 Robin Shifflett March 27, 2014 at 2:12 pm

No, I did not receive a call like you say. I was a high school senior, sitting on my bed one night, praying. I had never in my life thought about being a pastor. Out of the blue God spoke to me (not in an audible voice, but unlike anything I have experienced before or since) and told me He wanted me to become a pastor. I said okay and applied to college. I did not pray further. I was sure.

17 Tarheel March 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Robin, that is what I am saying. He placed the “desire for the office of bishop” in you at that moment.

Once he placed that desire you have never looked back, neither have I.

That is exactly what I am trying to say.

18 D. L. Payton March 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Robin/Tarheel

It appears to me both of you are saying the same thing. The particulars perhaps are different but the principles are the same.

For me I prayed several months over a call trying to determine God’s will. Then one sunday evening at church God made it very clear. At that point I had a strong desire to pastor. Each situation is different but again the principle is the same

19 dr. james willingham March 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Well, He led me to become a minister in submission to the Holy
Spirit’s work in a service where the written Word of God was preached with the focus being upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word. Having attended a church where they did this thing of feeling led, etc., along with rolling in the aisles, babbling in tongues, etc., and then the woman preacher ran off with the deacon who had four sons, an unforgiveable sin in the eyes of a child bereft of both parents at the age of three, I voted against that. However, I had to go through the phase of complete Atheism where I made converts to the same, before the Lord appeared to me (in a vision or hallucination…how could I know…my eyes were wide open. He was wearing red and blue robes which some folks have told me it was a demon, because He did not have on white robes as it says in Rev.3:20 and, unlike the picture He was standing, facing me, looking at me, with one hand raised like He was knocking at a door.) in an apparent literal fulfillment of Revelation 3:20 which caused me to want to flee that Youth For Christ meeting. I was determined to tell no one, but He waited until I was two blocks from home before He opened my heart to the thought of telling what happened to my mother which led to my being told, “Pray and ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins.” This I did and felt a burden lifted off of my heart that I didn’t even know I had.”

The focus of my new faith, God given I trust, was upon the Bible and upon Jesus of Nazareth whom that book sets forth as the object of our faith. Our Lord Himself called the Bible the word of God (and the book calls Him the Word of God)(Jn. 10:35 & Jn.1). The biblical Savior also tells us in Mt.22:31,32 that the words spoken to Moses from the burning bush were also spoken to the Sadducees (as well as others, including ourselves). He also demonstrated how the doctrine of the resurrection was based upon those very words in vs. 32, because the “I am” meant that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were very much alive in another realm though they had been dead for hundreds of years. And then in Mt.22:41-46 He demonstrates how the doctrine of the Deity of the Messiah is also built upon the meaning of a single word in Ps. 110:1, “Lord.” Thus, the Jewish Messiah was both human, “the son of David,” and Divine, “David in spirit call him Lord,…”(Ps.110:1; Mt.22:43,44). Which led to our Lord’s question of quietus, “If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”(Mt.22:45).

I am reminded of the words of a favorite hymn,

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

20 Sam Downey March 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

In conversation with a young man years ago, he related to me that God had told him certain things that seemed rather weird. I asked him, “How do you know it was God talking to you?” He answered, “Who else would it be?”

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