My last post "The Prophet Gandalf"
dug up the misconceptions of what a prophet is, and what he is not. Today, I want to dive past the linguistics and definitions and go on to uncover the greatness of the prophet's ministry, role, and call. What does he do, and why does he do it?
The prophets of Scripture were great and many. Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, Ezekiel, Samuel, Joel, Malachi, Hosea, Micah, David… The list goes on. We don’t have the time or space here to look in depth at any of these. But based on basic Bible knowledge, let me pull out a few key points.
Some prophets, such as Samuel, Jonah, Daniel and others, were uniquely motored by the awareness of sin and impending judgment of God on their people/nation. They were men who saw present sin and raised their voice for intervention. We see their motivation to prophesy (and the content of their prophecies) was supplied when the promises of God ran into the roadblock of disobedience.
When these men were able to grasp the depth and beauty of God’s purpose, they were stricken with grief at how far short Israel had fallen of that purpose. When they saw the harlotries of a lost and dying people, riddled with compromise, they were driven to open their mouth prophesy!
Prophecy is often birthed from the broken and adrift people of God meeting the hope of His promise. And repentance is the natural response.
Micah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John and many others were moved by this same compassion. But these men played a more vision-casting role than they did an intercessory role. These prophets looked to the future at God’s goodness and mercy. They were trumpeters of hope and destiny, prophesying the coming of the Lord and the plans of God for mankind.
These prophets called to future action and hope rather than past actions and repentance. We see that, over-all, prophecy is broken down into those two streams of thought:
1) Calling to repentance, in light of judgment.
2) A proclamation of hope, in light of God’s promises.
Although both messages are needed, different prophets are graced for different times and seasons, to proclaim the message most needed for their generation. And both messages well up out of a heart moved by compassion, driven and compelled by the greatest force on earth: love.
We've all seen or heard people who claim to be prophetic, but they are energized by charismatic congregations, or the hope of a dawning career as a traveling man of God. Their loud and boisterous voices grow seemingly more passionate as waving audiences stand to their feet in applause.
It's so easy to tap into a wrong motivation, and find ourselves powered by religious knowledge or a great personality. But those things never sustain the call of God for long.
The voice of a "prophet" empowered by popularity or pay is shallow indeed, and is a far cry from those who've gone before. The prophets of old were often hated, rejected and poor. A prophet is not fueled by emotion or "amens!" He is not motored by personal agenda, he doesn't ride the wave of personality, or echo the philosophies of religion. No. He is a prophet. He is driven by something much greater. Something noble, distinguished, and of great substance.
A true prophet is powered by love. Prophecy is the simple unveiling of God's love for man to see. To prophesy is to love. Loving people, being moved by their condition. Loving God, being moved by His heart for the people He sees.
Prophets connect the heart of God to the heart of man. They capture the supernatural voice of God and translate into natural human tongue. They grab ahold of heaven and pull it down to earth for man to see! This is the ministry of the prophet. What an incredible work!
Sadly, many have assumed the title and denied the responsibility.
Prophecy is not a cold and hollow voice of wisdom, nor is it a wild preacher spitting hallelujahs at a shouting congregation. It is a fatherly cry to a lost and needy generation. It is warm and full with the depths of compassion. A prophet feels. He feels the people. He feels God. He brings the two together in a declaration of divine intent.
This world is needy for prophets to arise once again. We do not need more religion. We do not need more books, conferences and seminars. We need men and women to see the desperation of our culture and be driven to our knees. We need to call on the name of Jesus to rend the heavens and ignite our hearts and minds, to open our eyes and ears, and most importantly, to loose our tongues and unleash our voices! It is high time we get in tune and hear the heartbeat of God for a lost a dying world. Let's open our mouths and be the voice of God breaking the silence with the Word of the Lord to a culture gone deaf with the words of man.
Gandalf the White
I was humored the other day by a conversation I had with a group of teenagers on what a prophet is. Most of them had been raised in religious environments, so I anticipated a rational and somewhat accurate response. But their questions and answers were almost comical as they discussed their view of a prophet!
Over the course of the conversation, the picture they painted for me, out of their understanding of a prophet, was somewhat of an ancient mystic; a conceptual forecaster of chance and destiny; an idealist predicting the luck and doom of man; a saint-like icon of wisdom and spirituality; a gray-haired, divine medium of fates and fortunes; a mystical voice connecting the secrets of the spirit realm to the imposed reality of the natural realm.
They basically ended up describing Gandalf the White, the good wizard from the Lord of the Rings.
At first I was a bit bewildered at how far off these students were, and how culture so easily shapes our views of biblical roles and ministries. But it got me thinking!
I quickly realized the prophet is drastically misunderstood, misrepresented, mishandled and misconstrued. His role and function, his purpose and duties, his home and title have ALL suffered great blows, not from entertainment as much as from religious nuts, spiritualists and various false religions who have played a major role in the modern-day believers perception of the prophet.
Under attack for centuries, the office of the prophet has endured the accusations of the confused, offended and independent. They have been idolized and worshiped, exalted in the minds of the naïve and deceived. They have been rejected and out cast by realists and post-modern ideals. And now, what’s left is a battered and torn rank whose vitality has been reduced to a wizard-like image of past glories.
After class, I wanted to broaden my understanding and be better prepared to offer an accurate explanation. I began to stir and muse and dig into the biblical role of the prophet. What is this rank? Who is this prophet meant to be? What lies behind the polluted, distorted picture we see today? I hope you are as energized as I am at my findings!
First lets look at the actual word. According to Webster a prophet is:
(1) one who utters divinely inspired revelations
(2) a person who has encountered the supernatural or the divine and serves as an intermediary with humanity
(3) one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight
(4) one who foretells future events, a predictor
(5) a spiritual seer
(6) one who causes the disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual truth
These definitions seem to line up with the dark and dreamy picture my students painted for me. If any of them had turned to Webster for verification of their theories, they would have been confirmed.
But let's not put the weight of defining and clarifying the role of a prophet on the shoulders of Webster or Gandalf. Lets take a look at the prophet through the eyes of scripture, and see what we find.
There are three key words used liberally throughout scripture in direct conjunction with prophets and prophecy. They are naba, nataf and propheteuo.
As we take a closer look, you will see what incredible colors and qualities these words give to the over-all picture.
"Naba," means "to bubble up, gush forth,” giving us a picture of life and fullness. A fountain gushing, a volcano erupting, a dam breaking! There is energy. There is life. There is power. Prophets are men who are full to the brim with the heart of God! So packed with hope and life and anointing they simply overflow!
A prophet doesn’t dribble glimpses of hope by sputtering vague promises here and there. Their words do not trickle from depleted, self-made wells of philosophies. It isn’t a parched and performing vision that is cast. It is real. It is alive. It is plentiful. And it gushes from an inexhaustible source.
"Nataf," means "to fall as drops of rain,” speaking of the refreshing and life-giving power of the prophet’s work. It comes from heaven, from God. It is not of man. It is not of this world. It is sovereign; divine. Just like rain falls from the sky and flows through the land in rivers and streams bringing life and growth to the ground; so does prophecy. It is like bits and pieces of heaven falling all over the soul of man bringing hope and life and potential! It collects and flows through humanity stirring life and causing growth. It brings forth fruit and results.
"Propheteuo," means "to say, to speak forth,” showing the simplicity of their role. A prophet is not a palm reader or a crystal gazer. They are not trance-casting spellbinders. They are human. They open their mouth and speak. It is not magical. It is not a formula or a recipe or a learned pattern to follow. There is not a special concoction. No white staff or pointy hat. It is simply men speaking the words of God to fellow men.
So far, I'm envisioning something altogether different from a wizard! These words bring a completely different feel to the prophet and prophecy, not even close to what my students were describing!
There is nothing dark or mysterious about this. It is life and light! It is hope and power! The prophet is a bright and shining beacon of destiny and second chances! The prophet champions the cause of redemption bringing refreshing and newness to the dryness and deadness of humanity.
It is sad to say that so many false prophets have risen, or false representations have become so main-stream. There is great need for a new generation of prophets, of people who speak the word of the Lord, to arise and redefine what this world has tried to ruin.
Lets stand up and begin to speak life and truth! There is a sovereign duty that rests on today's believers. Gordon Fee says, “the antidote for abuse is proper use.” Our connection to God, our churches, our ability to discern right and wrong, our sensitivity to the supernatural... these things have been abused. It's time to put them to proper use! It's time you and I start painting a new picture, start reversing the damage, and set the record straight! There is a job to be done, and Gandalf just won't do.
It's shocking how UGLY preachers can come across. I remember a couple years ago, sitting with thousands of people in a packed venue, watching a preacher take the stage by storm.
He was a sharp guy, a persuasive communicator, he was well built and well dressed. He had a lot going for him: personality, wealth, multiple top-selling books, and more. On natural terms, this guy might have seemed like he could portray an appealing message, an attractive gospel.
But after sitting through his spitting message for an hour or so, there was nothing interesting or appetizing about the message he was giving! I left feeling repulsed by the over-all tone and impression he conveyed. It seemed impossible, unattainable, and out of reach. I was not inspired or hopeful.
I've wondered how easy it must be for any of us Christians to do the same thing, on a smaller scale. Does my walk and talk exemplify the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel? Or do I beat it down to a frustrating and impossible message that repels more than attracts?
Some believers pride themselves in being carriers of the Gospel, regardless of how they come across. They hold their heads high and say, "beautiful are the feet of those who preach!"
Well, Romans 10:5 clarifies, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good joy."
The beauty lies in the nature of the message. Not in the duty of the messenger. It's not the "preach" factor that makes the situation so noble and upright, it's the "gospel of peace" factor! The beauty and life is not found in the Bible thumper, but in the "glad tidings of good joy."
Many evangelists and preachers have mistakenly given the gospel an ugly feel. And it's easy to do! Think about it: the good is SO good because the bad is SO bad. And that's truth! It's the sin that makes righteousness so blessed, pain that makes healing such a miracle, and had none of us been dead in our sin, how would we ever be able to recognize and celebrate the life we've since received?
These contrasts are what validate and prove the authenticity of the Gospel. But if we overemphasize, or camp on the wrong thing, the world will tune us out before they've heard the true message! By and large, the Bible is a book of hope and redemption, a story of grace and second chances. Yes, consequences are real, justice happens, sin hurts and will be judged... these are vital topics that are essential for the rounding out of the Gospel message. But they aren't the theme! They aren't the focal point!
Does our life message mistakenly feature the wrong part of the Gospel? Do we highlight the problems more than the solutions? Don't get me wrong, I believe the "problems" need to be addressed, and should be included in the testimony of any believer. But the main act in my story is salvation! Hello? I am saved! Right?
It's not about hell, it's about heaven. Not about who I am, but who I serve. Not where I've been, but where I'm going. Not about the past, but about the future. It's not about sin, it's about forgiveness.
It's good. It's the gospel. And it's beautiful.