Prophets of God
How often have we heard in our churches, ‘Thus saith the Lord’? These prophets of God utter words to speak to the church. At almost all times, it is one of encouragement rather than confrontation.
Yet, it was not the same in the Old Testament. Sometimes, the speech of a prophet can be sharp, uncomfortable and painful. Consider the words of Haggai in Haggai 1:7-11–
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. “I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”
Will our modern-day Western prophets utter such words of rebuke?
The problem with the Western world is that we are brought up to provide positive strokes. We tell our daughter how awesome she is even when the drawing looks like an utter mess. We swallow up the steak prepared by our son and tell him that it is delicious even though the steak has been charred. It is part of what psychologists called positive strokes and the argument is that we are who we become because of how we have been spoken to. Our speeches after all can make or break someone? So, we do rather sugar-coat and talk about Easter bunnies than the truth of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection; even Christians enjoy a little bit of banter regarding Easter bunnies and chocolates.
Our modern-day prophets (and teachers) continue to unconsciously adopt the same philosophy; always speak a word of hope just in case our congregation gets disheartened.
Inadvertently, truth gets discarded and our people cannot handle hard messages. Some preachers are also worried about offending their congregation and losing the tithes.
What is the mark of a true prophet?
Deut 18:20-22 shares something very serious:
‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.’
In Deuteronomy, the Lord pronounces death as the punishment for false prophets.
In the New Testament, in 1 Thes 5:20-21, we are told
‘Do not despise prophetic utterances but examine everything carefully ; hold fast to that which is good.’
1 John 4:1 says,
‘Do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’
Reverting to the Old Testament, Judges 4 tells an incident about Deborah and Barak. Deborah was a prophetess who told Barak to go to war with Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army (the enemy of Israel). Barak must have had cold feet because he (probably like quite a few of us) told Deborah to go along with him to confront Sisera.
Deborah told Barak that she would join him in the battle (she was a woman of faith and not one lacking in courage) but she explained in Judges 4:9,
‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’
And it happened just as Deborah prophesied. Barak defeated the enemy of Israel but the pleasure of killing Sisera was left to Jael, the wife of Heber (Judges 4:21).
In this case, Deborah better be right. Failure was not an option as both would have been killed by Sisera.
What must be of our modern-day prophets? Here are some thoughts:
They must speak the truth. It includes rebuke and reprimand, not just encouragement. They must speak the truth enough to be prepared to pay with their lives (Think Jeremiah and Jezebel).
They must not be people-pleasers, tickling the ears of their audience.
They must truly hear from the Lord when they know for certain that failure is not an option. For how shall we believe those prophets if the event does not come forth as predicted? Prophets should speak only when they hear from God.
They must be careful that they are not influenced by the Western Americanized philosophy of positivity because it is not of God. How will our prophets then be prepared to rebuke God’s people with such a warped philosophy?
Next time when you hear someone described as as prophet uttering a word, ask yourself, ‘What kind of prophets do we have in our mist?’ Did what was spoken come to pass?