As I’ve mentioned before, I run a construction GPS unit in my day job. And today, I have a problem.
One of the big trucks being loaded with rock to be hauled offsite has a GPS blocker.
There are a lot of companies which put GPS tracking devices in their company vehicles and monitor them for things like speeding, or whether you are where you say you are, or how long you remain stopped in one location, etc. From the company’s viewpoint, it makes sense. Not only does a GPS tracker give you the ability to track your vehicle if it gets stolen, but it helps make sure that your employees are doing what they are supposed to.
However, there are a lot of employees that resent the lack of trust and invasion of privacy this monitoring represents, and so there’s a market for devices that block GPS signal reception.
I think one of the trucks has one, because when it shows up I start to lose satellite reception.
Interestingly, though, I still pick up the Russian GLONASS satellites, but those by themselves don’t give me the precision that my job requires.
In other words, I’m being hampered in my work by something that blocks my access to input from above.
I started to think. Is this also sometimes the case spiritually?
A channel to heaven is blocked, and I’m not hearing the voice of God. I’ve committed a sin, and my sensitivity to the Spirit is muffled. I’ve chosen to pursue a sin, and now I’m vulnerable to believing any lie that justifies it. There’s demonic interference and I’m not receiving the answer to prayer that the Lord has already spoken.
Does this happen? What does Scripture say?
Well, we can see instances in which it certainly does appear that way. Daniel fasted and prayed for understanding of his vision for an extended period before the angel showed up. But the angel says nothing about “because of your persistence in prayer the Lord has heard you”. On the contrary: “As soon as you began to pray the Lord sent me…” But the angel encountered spiritual resistance from outside.
We in the West sometimes don’t like to think about it very much, but there is a very real and dangerous enemy of our souls, who wants to do everything he can to hinder the work of the Lord. Including delaying or stopping answers to prayer. Just like the truck with the GPS blocker came and parked itself where it was interfering with my signal reception, so our enemy does appear to sometimes have the ability to park himself over us and interfere with the channel between us and the Lord. If as soon as you sit down to pray you are bombarded by a flood of sinful thoughts, you might just be under attack in this way. If God has clearly spoken something and it has been confirmed in multiple ways, and yet you’re not seeing His promise fulfilled, you might be experiencing this sort of attack.
Of course, equally, you might not be. We read at the beginning of the Exodus story of Pharaoh hardening his heart, but then towards the end of the ten plagues we begin to read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He was given numerous chances to turn. He even agrees to do it God’s way in order to get rid of the plague, but then after the plague is lifted he reneges on his promises. But then he seemingly gets to a point of no return, and God deliberately makes his heart hard.
Part of this is the spiritual battle going on behind the scenes. The Exodus is not just a conflict between Pharaoh and Moses, it’s a conflict between the gods of Egypt and the God of Israel.
Each of the ten plagues is a carefully-crafted demonstration of the power of YHWH over a different Egyptian god. The Nile was worshipped as a deity, and called “the blood of the kingdom”, and here it is as actual blood. Frogs were sacred to one of the goddesses and you couldn’t kill them. Yet here they became so prevalent that you couldn’t take a step without killing them. Livestock, especially cattle, were sacred symbols of one of the main gods, and here they were dying in the fields. Personal cleanliness and hygiene were sacred duties to the Egyptians, yet here they all are with boils. The sun-god was another major deity; the light-bringer and one of the main ruling gods. And darkness envelops the land. And the highest of the Egyptian gods at that time was Horus, first-born son of the sun-god and ascendent ruler of the morning, who was also in another guise the god of rebirth known as Osiris. And the first-born of all the Egyptians died. Our God is systematically taking on and destroying the gods of the most powerful nation on earth.
There’s more going on than just Pharaoh. From a certain point of view, it’s almost that God needed a hard-hearted Pharaoh in order to fully display His majesty over the gods of Egypt.
But certainly personal sin has effects. You can’t just keep on sinning and expect to maintain an open line to God. By repeatedly choosing sin you’ve given the devil a foothold, and he’s not enough of a fool as not to take advantage of that. Your conscience gets dulled in a particular area, because your habit of violating it has worn it down.
As Jesus Himself said, you cannot serve two masters. He was talking in that instance about God and Mammon, that is, the power of money, but the Bible equally characterises sin itself as another master. If you’re serving sin, you aren’t serving God, because the two are moving in opposite directions and you cannot move in all directions at once.
But part of me isn’t really comfortable with this idea we sometimes have that if we commit a sin, to that degree we make ourselves unable to hear or discern the voice of God.
If that were invariably true, why does any unbeliever repent?
They have an unregenerate nature that follows an anti-God course. They repeatedly choose sin because it is the path of the natural man. By this theory, they ought to be so unable to hear the voice of God that they will never be able to repent.
Thanks be to God, it is not wholly so. We serve a God who is a Communicator. He spoke the world into being. We call Jesus “The Word”. The Holy Spirit “leads us into all truth”. He is more able to speak than we are unable to hear Him.
And He wants to be found. He’s unwilling that any should perish. He delights when sinful people turn away from their wrongdoing and self-centredness and seek Him. Why would a God like this make Himself unable to be heard by those who most need Him?
So I don’t entirely think that personal sin makes us insensitive to the Spirit and vulnerable to believing any lie that will justify it.
I think it’s the reverse. I think the fact that we are choosing to sin shows that we are believing a lie about God. “God’s holding out on you. He doesn’t want you to have this good (poisonous) thing”. “God can’t be trusted to meet your needs. You’d better do it yourself”. “God thinks you’re worthless”. “God wants you to be in pain”. “God is more concerned with your behaviour than with the state of your heart”.
The lies take many forms. But if we’re believing one of them, it functions as a bent towards certain forms of sinning. This may be part of the reason why so much of Paul’s letters are concerned with theology: if we’re believing the wrong things, it will show up in our actions.
These, then, might be the real GPS blocker. And not so much of a “blocker” as a “skewer”. If we’re believing a lie, it can skew our perceptions, throw us off, make us think we’re where we’re supposed to be when we aren’t.
But God is still able to speak. And we’re still able to hear Him, though perhaps we might be training ourselves to ignore.