Saturday, October 13, 2018

Thoughts on Being Prophetic. . .

The world is replete with examples of prophets, people who saw the future before it fully unfolded.  Perhaps they rode the tide to financial success on an unexpected stock rise or maybe they predicted a trend before the world got wind of it and rode the wind into the ground.  In any case, being prophetic has come to mean seeing the future before it happens.  There are those who might be able to sense where things are headed and I suppose we should give them their due but the real prophet is the one who speaks truth, unpleasant truth, to power.  That is the prophetic history of Israel, the prophetic heritage of the New Testament, and the Christian definition of prophecy.  That is the hardest job of all.  Think how the prophets of old turned out and then you get my drift.  It is not so risky to try and predict the future but it is painfully risky to speak truth to power and to speak unwelcome truth to those who do not wish to hear it.

Maybe your mind is immediately drawn to the political dimensions of speaking truth to power.  Probably that is the first image that we think of in this regard but it is not the primary.  Surely it is necessary to have those who can speak unflinchingly before the powerful on behalf of the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the suffering, etc...  But the more profound arena for true prophecy is speaking truth that people have dismissed as falsehood and condemning the lies that pass as truth.  This is the shape of Biblical prophecy.  People who have grown comfortable doing what is right in their own eyes and who do not wish to hear the truth of God and His Word are the hard nuts to crack.

Ask the prophets of old.  The prophets were clearly identified as those who stood outside the streets of fashion, trend, fad, and popular truth.

Jeremiah buried his underwear, dug it up, and put it on again (Jer 13:1-11); John the Baptist let his hair grow, and Ezekiel shaved his head (Ezek 5:1); John wore camel skins, and Isaiah wandered around naked and barefoot for three years (Mt 3:4, Isa 20).  Even their eating habits also left something to be desired: Ezekiel ate books (Ezek 3:3) or bread cooked on a fire fueled by human waste (Ezek 4:12); Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:1-5); Daniel eschewed all rich food (Dan 1); and John was into the paleo diet (Mt 3:4). Their activities were unpredictable: Jeremiah smashed pottery and pretended to be a dumb animal, wearing a cattle yoke (Jer 19, 27, 28); he remained celibate, whereas Hosea married a notorious prostitute (Jer 16, Hos 1:2); and Ezekiel lay on his side for more than a year, went into trances, and talked to mountains or dead bones (Ezek 3:24; 4:4-6; 6:2; 8:1-3; 35-37).
The Biblical prophets were simply counter-cultural as if this were itself a fad or trend.  No, they spoke for God and their words carried the most solemn authority Thus saith the Lord.  They did not simply tell people off but called people to account, publicly addressed their secret sins, exposed the comfortable lies that covered those sins, and called them to nothing less than full repentance.

Today the churches are more comfortable speaking truth to political power than speaking unpleasant truth to people.  We have no shortage of bishop's letters or official church pronouncements on the cause of the poor, the immigrants, the disenfranchised, and a host of other advocacy causes.  I am not saying we should not speak where we must but this has become the substitute for speaking truth to the lies that have become cultural icon and polling positions.  Abortion, contraception, homosexuality, gender identity, radical feminism, reproductive technology, marriage redefinition, and the like have found not words of prophecy but words of welcome in too many churches -- things that Scripture has spoken clearly against and against which tradition has an unwavering witness.  The churches of modernity have too quickly traded in their roles as Biblical prophets to become mere mimics of what is thought or felt or heralded as the latest and greatest cause celebre.  

Where are the prophets in our day?  Where are the people who will speak truth to the powerful or the weak when they advance lies disguised as truth or positions at odds with the Lord in His Word.  I am not saying we need to be hard, calloused, or indifferent to the suffering of people, especially those whose suffering has its source in the acceptance of such falsehoods as truth.  What I am saying is that the greatest love of all and the first word of mercy to such people is to speak the truth in love, without diminishing the Word of the Lord and without speaking in smug judgment of those we love to hate.   This is Biblical prophecy and these kinds of Biblical prophets are in short supply today.  Pray the Lord that He may raise up those whose voices will challenge our pet sins and our favorite falsehoods and bring the truth that saves to bear upon our comfortable lies.


ErnestO said...

From your posting "Today the churches are more comfortable speaking truth to political power than speaking unpleasant truth to people." I pray we start now each one of us to speak the unpleasant truth to people in whom we associate in faith and let Caesar take care of the politics.

From The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
"The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received."

Anonymous said...

The Biblical prophets were spokesmen for God. Many times they
began their speech with the phrase: "Thus says the Lord"
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel received their messages directly from
the Lord. God used these prophets to accomplish his purpose.
He called them to service and equipped them for service.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters
I have thought that Western Civilization is a by product of Christianity. I think it came about because Christians tried to be faithful and in the course of being faithful the produced by products such as universities, hospitals, a legal system. They were not aiming at those secondary by products, but the main thing, being faithful. I see the biggest problem today is the Church offering a watered down secularism in an attempt to be relevant and attract new members rather than being faithful. I e think that if the Church would be, it will work out, although it may take a generation or two for us to become exhausted with ourselves and turn to the only real answer, Christ.

Joseph Bragg said...

The Prophets have never ceased to exist in the Church. They exist amount the Church Fathers, the saints of yesteryear and the saints of today, the fools for Christ, the cave dwellers, the martyrs, the ascetics and the monastics. The saints have foretold and warned of the conditions of our day, they have rebuked those who are in heresy and going astray, and many continue to proclaim the prophetic word for the Church today. It's just that those outside of the Church do no hear or recognize the prophetic words of the Church. His sheep hear his voice and another they will not follow. said...

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