Monday, May 21, 2012

Lonely Prophets

A prophet directs people to the truth of God’s Word. Some are prophets—not in the sense that they can foretell the future, but in the sense of the Old Testament prophets who were forth tellers, they spoke for God, called people to God, linked right worship with right living, linked faith with action. In that sense, some are prophets here to direct people to the truth of God’s Word and to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins.

The prophet stands between contemporary society and God. Not simply a messenger of God, the prophet “stands in the presence of God,” is in “council” with the Lord. Prophesy is not a skill but rather “the gift of being guided and restrained” by God, by a commitment to righteousness—justice, freedom, and peace. In his mission the prophet doesn't argue for God and the good but reveals the connection between them, “the invisible God becomes audible.” The prophet is an “associate” of God rather than an instrument. For Amos (5:4 and 5:14), “the good is not apart from God.” In the words of the prophet, “Seek Me and live; . . . Seek good, and not evil, That you may live. . . .”

In the words of Jeremiah:
“For twenty-three years . . . the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened”. (jJer 25:3)

Isaiah saw “man's false sense of sovereignty” as the basis for all evil. From the ideas of being master and mastery come “pride, arrogance, and presumption.” The prophets were iconoclasts, attacking the established institutions and ideologies, and their main proponents. They exposed the pretension, fraud, and illusion of their society. The hallmarks of the prophet are defiance and challenge. The prophetic message always began with a recital of horrors and ended with a vision of hope and redemption. Prophets used language that can be described as emotional and imaginative, poetic, it didn't reflect “inner harmony or poise” but was marked by “agitation, anguish, and a spirit of non-acceptance.” His goal wasn't self expression but communication: “His images must not shine, they must burn . . . wrenching one's conscience from the state of suspended animation.” Prophets refuse to compromise on the issue of moral response-ability. They were concerned not with facts but their meaning: “defining truth as reality reflected in a mind, we see prophetic truth as reality reflected in God's mind. The key idea here is that “the prophets remind us of the moral state of the people and that all are responsible.”

And what does the Lord require of you,
But to do justice, and to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
Nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because Thy hand was upon me,
For Thou hadst filled me with indignation.
—Jeremiah 15:17

While the prophet sought to escape his calling, his experience was so intense as to be unavoidable. The prophetic sympathy was stronger than the will, the inner passion more powerful than the personal disposition. Life is not as fate designs, nor is history a realm to be tyrannized by man. Events are not like rocks on the shore shaped by wind and water. God is at work on man, intent to fashion history in accord with Himself. The presence of God in history, the manifestation of His will in the affairs of the world, is the object of the prophet's longing. It is not mystical experience he yearns for in the night, but historical justice. Mystical experience is the illumination of an individual; historical justice is the illumination of all men, enabling the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness.

The prophet is a lonely man. His standards are too high, his stature too great, and his concern too intense for other men to share. Living on the highest peak, he has no company except God. The two staggering facts in the life of a prophet are: God's turning to him, and man's turning away from him. This is often his lot: to be chosen by God and to be rejected by the people. The word of God, so clear to him, is unintelligible to them. For the most part they felt “cursed” by their fates. Bitterness born of scorn and reproach, alienation from all, “the wicked as well as the pious,” leading to lifelong loneliness.

The words used by Jeremiah to describe the impact of God upon his life are identical with the terms for seduction and rape in the legal terminology of the Bible. .. The call to be a prophet is more than an invitation. It is first of all a feeling of being enticed, or acquiescence or surrender. But this winsome feeling is only one aspect of the experience. The other aspect is a sense of being ravished or carried away by violence, of yielding to overpowering force against one's own will. . . A man whose message is repentance for the people he loves not only forfeits his own capacity for joy, but also provokes the hostility and outrage of his contemporaries. The sights of woe, the anticipation of disaster, nearly crush his soul.”

Apostles and prophets do possess Divine authority. But again, Divine authority is something far different from positional/hierarchical authority. In the Lord, authority exists, but it is attached to function rather than to office or position. And there is a tremendous difference between responding to function and responding to office. Office separates brethren, but all have Spirit-bestowed functions in the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11-13, 1 Cor 12:27-31).

A prophet is one who stands before God, attentive, waiting to hear God’s message and ready to go and deliver it when he hears it. This is the essential requirement of the true Biblical prophet. When He receives the message, it is delivered with complete authority. It is not the message of the prophet; it is God’s message delivered via the prophet. The responsibility for the consequences or the impact lies with God, not the prophet. It is not just a message, but a person with a message. Many times, when people receive a message from God, they usually first think about what other people will say, think or do. The Biblical prophet could'nt care less about what people might say or how they might react (Eze 3:9). They are not concerned with the attitude of people, they are concerned with being obedient to God, without adding or subtracting from the message. The prophet is like the pointer finger on the hand of God. They point the direction we should go by sharing the heart of God with the body of Christ. Through the prophet, God guides and protects His bride. Prophets, along with apostles are a part of the laying of the ekklesia's foundation.

Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

The Prophets and Apostles are gifted to bring revelation knowledge to the body of Christ. By this I mean, through the prophets and apostles God shines a light on the scriptures in a way not seen before. It will be exactly what God wants the body of Christ to understand for the present hour and for the days ahead. Prophecy can be used to encourage us, exhort us, rebuke us, warn us and show us what to expect in the future; both good and bad, to explain God’s judgements and to make His will clear to us. The prophetic function brings forth things we would never have known about, if the Lord had not spoken through His prophets.

Eph. 3:2-5 explains:
if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you. how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals (uncovers,discloses) His secret (counsel, inward secrets, intimacy) to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).

Here's an example of how an Old Testament King looked at the prophets.
So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper (push forward, be good, break out) (2 Chr. 20:20).”

A less received attribute of the prophets is the fact that they are used of God to point out the sin in the body of Christ, as well as in the lives of individuals! Cracks that will eventually cause the foundation of a work to crumble and split, or even bring to a halt ones walk with God, are exposed by the prophets. No one likes to be rebuked however, so often the prophet is not the most popular amongst the saints.

They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly (Amos 5:10)

God confronts sin through His prophets as well as the powers and principalities causing the sin. Prophets as well as apostles, are powerful in prayer. Many times prophets are ridiculed and called false prophets because God’s ways are not our ways. The counsel of the prophet may seem foreign to human thinking, and even the doctrines they bring forth may sound different from what was taught and understood by the body in the past. But, they bring fresh manna to God’s people through the spoken word of God and their direction is straight from the heart of God. As always the old wineskins will have problems as the light of God exposes a new understanding on truth or gives directions not used before. Over the years Prophets have been burned, beaten, put in prison and run out of town by people that thought they did God a service by getting rid of them. A true prophet of God becomes deeply indignant at the person who continues to live with sin while they continue to profess their Christian beliefs. A person who takes a stand for God, will at times, have to sit alone. Some are persecuted by other Christians for no other reason than they refuse to compromise. Those who are not willing to stand alone for God, cannot pass the test of being a true prophet. A true prophet will stand before God. It takes real personal purity, integrity and strength of character to be God’s mouthpiece.

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience (James 5:10).

He permitted no one to do them wrong; yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm". (Psalm 105:14-15)

Truthful prophets have always had a difficult relationship with God’s people, because they speak what God wants said and not necessarily what His people want to hear! People like to have their ears tickled and to be told they are right on with God. God however, through His prophets, updates truth or adds a deeper meaning to what is known, eradicates false doctrine, and communicates how He really feels about our walk and the walk of the body. People however tend to look at the vessel, rather than Christ the prophet within the person, and therefore do not give credence to what they are saying. Even Jesus had this problem with people that knew Him well.

For Jesus himself testified:
A prophet hath no honour in his own country (John 4:44).

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them (Mar 6:1-5).

For the prophets that have had the challenge of trying to walk in their calling around a people that don’t want to grow, or don’t want to change, or maybe don’t even believe that prophets are for today, be comforted in the fact that the prophets that walked before you experienced the same thing.

Here is what God told Ezekiel:
“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. “Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. “And when this comes to pass surely it will come then they will know that a prophet has been among them (Ezek. 33:30-33).”

The Lord used Jeremiah the Prophet in Jeremiah 23:15 to 32, to rebuke all the ‘latter day’ false prophets and tell them He is against them and their prophecies, because they perverted the words of the Living God.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.

There are more obvious false prophets like the men who started evil cults like Armstrongism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islamism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other cults that lead people astray with their false ‘prophecies’ and ‘dreams’. Then there are false prophets who are hidden within the body of Christ like chaff. Those false prophets ‘prophesy’ erroneous teachings as it only takes a little leaven to leaven the whole lump (Gal 5:9). They are the ones who are growing up with the wheat and will be rooted up and burned, just like Jesus said in Matthew 13:24-30. When we judge prophecy, we are to see if it lines up with the scriptures. We cannot disagree with the prophecy just because it may differ from the current fade of popular christian doctrine or our own thoughts. Our role is to see if the prophecies line up with scripture and that is all, and it is on this basis alone, that we have the right to disagree with the prophet. None of the six cults mentioned above that were started by false prophets, line up with the true Word of God. In fact some of them have written their own ‘holy books’ and follow them instead of following the only Holy Book– the Bible, the book of truth. All prophecy needs to be subject to judgement by other believers.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (1Th 5:21).

The christians of the bible believed in the apostles and prophets and acted on their direction as they where led by the Spirit.

And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea (Acts 11:27-29).

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus (Act 21:10).

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul (Act 13:1).

And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them (Act 15:32).

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2:36,37).

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy (Act 21:9).

The function of a prophet plays an important role within the body of Christ. Prophets war in the supernatural to see what the Lord is doing, or what it is He wants the body to do, so God’s people can respond appropriately. We can be doing good things, but not necessarily the right things. Prophets are very needed in the body of Christ they warn, scold, bless, heal, foretell, call to repentance, subdue through prayer and counsel straight from the heart of God. Is it any wonder that Satan has grasped such a hold on God’s people and filtered so much false doctrine in during the dark ages. Both the apostolic and prophetic were lost during this time to the christian faith! The spiritual antidote for the ills of heresy, independence, individualism and denominationalism is mutual subjection to the Spirit of God and to one another out of reverence for Christ. Nothing short of this can protect the Body of Christ or heal its open wounds.

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