The reasons a nation can no longer blush begins, strangely enough, in the pulpits of the land. It begins when men of God begin to value money and things more than they do truth and intimate fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit.
God makes an interesting statement as He is reproving His people through the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 6:15 God says that although His people should have been ashamed of their actions and choices, “They did not even know how to blush.” Now for too many in our culture, the whole concept of blushing at certain behaviors is a long-lost memory, but I actually can remember early in my walk with God when He restored to me the ability to blush. Let’s take a brief look at God’s lament – and maybe try ourselves to recover from Him an ability to blush once again.
The reason a nation can no longer blush begins, strangely enough, in the pulpits of the land. It begins when men of God begin to value money and things more than they do truth and intimate fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit.
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely.”
What begins as false motives for men of God quickly degenerates into a false message to the people. They no longer can honestly preach about sin, because they are excusing it in their own lives so they can pursue things rather than pursue God. Thus they preach a message that is saying, “Peace, peace,” when the reality is there is no peace as long as sin is not exposed and dealt with as God desires for it to be.
“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.”
There is a brokenness that is among the people – there always is because of the Fall – and because man is not basically good – but basically sinful and selfish. That message, though, won’t bring the crowds. They need something far more positive – far more engaging to those who choose sin. They need to find a way to “superficially” deal with sin. So, they begin to proclaim that man is at peace with God – even when sin is not dealt with as God demands in His holiness. The problem is – there is no peace when sin is not confronted and repentance is not called for by the messengers of God. And what is the result of such theology, or the lack thereof? No more shame and no more blushing.
“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.
God speaks of the abomination that they have done. What was their abomination? It was that they had left the true and living God – and made a god of their own – one who would justify however they wanted to live. Now before we think too harshly of the Israelites – we may want to note that this is something that has been repeated in the New Testament in Romans chapter 1. God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Three times in that first chapter we are reminded that they did not know the true God, but exchanged Him for a god of their own making. What was the hallmark of this new false god? No sin! At least no sin according to what is revealed by God in the Bible.
Let me define the word “blush” before we continue. To blush is to experience a reddening of the face due to a feeling of shame or a desire for modesty. The reason God says that they did not even know how to blush is that they had come to a point of utterly rejecting the morals or the Word of God. They were doing abominations – but no longer considered them to be that. As a result – they, and the culture in which they lived now considered what God to be an abomination to be normal fare. No reason to blush. No reason to feel any shame.
There is a false teaching that says Christians should not feel shame. But I find that hard to understand. If we are talking about undue shame, I agree. But if we are talking about having sinned against God – shame is normal – can I say, even good. It was a good thing after I received Christ that actions I would normally do before, now caused me to feel shame if I did them. It was a wonderful thing that seeing or hearing things suddenly elicited a response of blushing rather than a shrugging of the shoulders. The passage in Jeremiah shares more of the sad results of no longer being able to blush. There is a corresponding response to the Word of God that comes as well.
“Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk-in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 17 “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.”
God says to them, “Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk-in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” These “ancient paths” and the “good way” are nothing more than what God’s Word says to do – the way He commands for us to walk. But what is the response? “We will not walk in it.” God responds by saying to listen to the watchmen when they sound the trumpet. This is a reference to when a watchman was set upon the wall of the city. The reason he would sound the trumpet would be to warn of imminent danger. But the response again is that they will not listen. They will not respond to God because they have set themselves to disobey God’s Word. They do not regard it as authoritative – or of any real value to them. What God says is wrong – isn’t wrong to them. What God warns as being dangerous – is not even worthy of their attention. Thus what God calls “blush-worthy” and should cause us to blush in shame or a desire for greater modesty – is ignored. Those who have lost the ability to blush have few moral boundaries if any at all. To blush would involve seeing some moral behaviors – some sexual choices as wrong. To call something wrong in this society is the new reddening statement. But now the redness of face is no longer response of shame or modesty. It has become the standard response to anyone who would dare to put some kind of moral or sexual restraint in place that limits our freedom to do or to be whatever we want.
What is the end of such a culture? What happens when any culture loses its ability to blush? God says what happens in the last verses of this section of Jeremiah 6.
“Therefore hear, O nations, And know O congregation, what is among them. “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also.”
Disaster is the end of such a society. There is a disaster because they are ignoring a loving God whose restraints are in place because they guard us against destructive behavior. The very fruit of their plans is what they will receive. They refuse to listen to God’s words – the reject His law. All that is left is for that culture to begin self-destructing. Usually, it won’t be immediate. Sin is, after all, enjoyable for a season. But in the end – the result is death – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and yes – even culturally. That was what God was wanting to communicate to His people – not because he wanted to harm them – but because their very choices were harming themselves.
Usually, About Social Justice, God may raise some prophets up to be a Prophet to the Nation. Many of the prophets of the Old Testament found themselves confronting kings and taking an important role in national affairs. Some also addressed their words to foreign nations. They demonstrate the ministry of the Prophet to the Nation.
Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right.
He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart. To such men as this, the Nation owes a debt too heavy to pay.
A Prophet to the Nation releases God’s hand of power. We are living in a time of transformation when God’s purposes will be accomplished through “shakings” and protective judgments. The ministry of the prophet is very important at these times because God cannot act, without first giving a warning through his prophets.
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
God cannot shake a nation until he has announced it through his prophets. There are two reasons for this.
- God is merciful and always gives people an opportunity to repent, before he releases judgment on a nation. God would be happier if he did not have to shake the nation, he gives a warning, hoping that his people will put things right. But if the warning is not heeded, God has no alternative but to act himself.
- Any shaking event must be recognized as coming from the hand of God. If a judgment is seen as just a normal event, it can be ignored. An event that has been announced beforehand by God’s servants is obviously a work of God and its meaning will be clear. The fact that it has been announced beforehand by God’s servant will be proof that it is a work of God.
Prophetic activists and national apostasy are often associated.The prophet knows what time it is, knows what kind of time it is. He holds a prophetic understanding of the mentality and mood of this present time. He identifies and knows the trends of a society by looking at its roots. He is able to analyze trends and upcoming events by judging foundations. His words are a force against the mentality of the day.
Sin inevitably brings divine judgment. Jerusalem the Holy City collapses, not because the enemy was stronger but because God decreed it. The fall of Jerusalem is represented as a divine judgment against sin. Human rebellion against God, not weakness caused the collapse of the Holy City (Milton Smith).
Prophets to cities and nations should be discerning the seasons and warning nations about the decisions that their leaders are making.
- They should explain what is happening in the nation.
- They should describe the choices that they have.
- The should be describing what will occur if the city or nation continues on its currents path.
- They should be describing the change of season if that is occurring.
- They should be telling the leaders what they need to do to bring a change of direction.
- They should be speaking to the people of God and telling them what they can do to help their city or nation turn back to the right path.
- They should be teaching the people of God how they can survive as a remnant if their city or nation continues down the wrong path.
The book of Revelation is a new covenant prophecy that attempts to answer the questions that prophets should be asking about the destiny of nations.
- It describes what the spiritual powers of evil want to do.
- It explains what will happen when the nations reject God’s wisdom and trust in human political power.
- It describes God’s plan for turning the situation around and establishing his Kingdom.
- It tells the people of God what they must do to survive the shaking and be ready for God’s victory.
This is what new covenant prophets should be doing today.
A nation where people have followed God can go through five stages.
- Blessing — When a large number of Christians live in a city or country, God has considerable authority in that place. He is able to determine most of what happens there.
- The door opened — When the number of Christians in the population declines, God’s authority on earth shrinks. As the number of people rejecting God increases, a door is opened to the evil political-spirits and government-spirits (principalities and powers). More of what happens is the result of their influence.
- Tipping point — There is a tipping point where the authority of the political-spirits and government-spirits on earth exceeds the authority of God. When the proportion of Christian on earth reaches this tipping point, the powers of evil have a much greater influence on earth. More and more events will be a consequence of their activities.
- God squeezed out — When the tipping point is passed and the number of Christians shrinks dramatically, God’s authority is squeezed out. The forces of evil begin to get a free hand on earth. They get to determine what happens on earth and God has very little influence.
- Remnant arises — When the tipping point is passed and the world is flooded with evil, God raises a remnant. They will be in the world, so they will not escape the pain, but by standing together, they will rise above it to do God’s work. He can accomplish more through a small committed than the forces of evil can accomplish with a free hand.
These stages are fully described in Discerning Seasons. As a nation goes through these stages, different types of judgment are experienced. These are described in Prophetic Events. There are four types of events.
- Shaking Event — God does not actually send the shaking. He just withdraws his protection and allows people to experience some of the consequences of their behavior for a short time. The event occurs when God temporarily lifts his protection at a particular time and place, rather than because he decides to do something evil.
- Warning Events — When the Christian influence declines and society is close to the tipping point, the powers of evil begin to show off. The devil is not very creative, so he just does on a smaller scale, what he would like to do if he had much more authority, but does not. These events are warning signs for those who alert. Christians who understand their times will able to discern these signs and get an early warning of what is going to happen if society continues in the way that it is going.
- Evil Events — Once a society has moved past the tipping point, political-spirits and government-spirits have the freedom to do their stuff. God is no longer on the throne, so he is powerless to intervene. He was given authority on earth to humans, so if they have passed it on to the forces of evil, rather than to him, he can do nothing about the situation in the short term.
- Protective Judgments — God sometimes assesses a nation and decides that it has become so evil that it is beyond saving. In this situation, he then has no choice but to allow its destruction to minimize evil. I refer to these as protective judgments, because their primary purpose is to protect the world from evil. God does not engage in mindless destruction. He always destroys empires when it is the best way to constrain evil.
These are brief summaries. Read the articles to get a full understanding. The first and the last types are the only types of events for which God is directly responsible.
The message of a prophet to a nation changes according to the season.
- During a season of blessing, a prophet will encourage the people to press on further. After they had crossed the Red Sea, Moses gave the people a song of victory to sing (Ex 15). He gave the people laws to enable them to live together in peace in a new land (Ex 21:1). He showed them how to build and operate the tabernacle for spiritual protection (Ex 25:40). Moses was a prophet who led the people from blessing to blessing (Deut 34:10). The prophets of Israel prophesied victory when the nation was attacked without reason (2 Chron 20:15-17).
- If the people open a door to evil by forgetting God, prophets to a nation will warn of the dangers. They will encourage the people who remain faithful and explain to them what to do to turn their nation around. For example, Moses warned the children of Israel not to forget that God was the source of all their blessings (Deut 8:10-11).
- If the nation is getting close to a turning point, the prophets to a nation will explain to the people how the seasons are changing. They will warn of the consequences of rejecting God’s ways. They will interpret Warning Events that might be occurring. Jeremiah warned the people not to deceive themselves by assuming that everything will be all right (Jer 37:9). This is the greatest danger when approaching a turning point. People assume that the situation will improve, although nothing has happened to bring this about. The OT prophets mostly operated in this season. Because the fullness of the spirit has not come, the nation of Israel was in decline and turning away from God for most of OT history. This is why they often seem to be doom and gloom. They were negative, but they lived in a negative season.
- When God is being squeezed out, the prophets to a nation will focus on encouraging and equipping a remnant. They tell them how to live and keep safe during a season of judgment. Jeremiah had this role. He wrote a letter to the remnant telling them what they should do — go to Babylon and make homes there (Jer 29:4-7). He gave the remnant hope for the future — God will bring them back when seventy years are complete (Jer 23:6-9; 29:10). The prophets of a nation will also warn their political leaders about what is happening and tell them what to do. Jeremiah spoke to King Jehoiakim and told him what to do, but the King refused to listen, so he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 36:30-31). Jeremiah also spoke to King Zedekiah, his successor and promised that he would live to old age if he surrendered to the king of Babylon(Jer 34:2-5).
The OT prophets were not doom and gloom merchants. They discerned the changing seasons, and their words changed according to the season.
Prophet for the Season
Every prophet is different and unique. We should not try to put them all into the same mold. God always has the right person for the time and situation.
God has always had His specialists whose chief concern had been a moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove rebuke and exhort in the name of God and righteousness.
Jeremiah was God’s man for a nation flying apart.
The institution of prophecy, therefore, is to be regarded as a gift of God. It is he who raised up the prophets and gave them their messages. They were not merely men of religious genius, nor did they appear because Israel was a particularly religious nation.
George Wishart was believed by his contemporaries to have spoken under the influence of prophetic inspiration. John Knox says, “He was not only singularly learned, as well in Godly knowledge as in all honest human science, but he was also so clearly illumined with the spirit of prophecy, that he not only saw not only pertaining to himself but also such things as some towns and the whole realm afterward felt, which he spoke not in secret but in the audience of many.
In this connection, we must remember that the entire prophetic institution was a gift from God. It was not an expression of the religious nature of the people, but a Divine gift. The prophets were raised up by God: they did not emerge from the national religious consciousness. As the spokesman of God, they uttered their messages wherever God commanded them to do so.
The story of Abimelech contrasts three different methods of bringing political change (Judges 9). The first two methods bring bad results.
- Abimelech was elected by a democratic process, but he did great harm to the people of Shechem. This incident is a timely reminder that democracy gives power to the wrong people. The skills needed to get ahead in politics are pragmatism, arrogance and a light hand on the truth. These are very different from the skills needed by a good judge.
- Rebellion against an evil leader will usually fail because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator. Now Gaal the son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? If only these people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Call out your whole army!’ (Jud 9:26,28,29).Gaal led a rebellion, but he and those who followed him were destroyed (Jud 9:38-41)
- The prophetic proclamation is the best way to remove a bad government. When a prophet’s voice speaks God’s judgment against an evil ruler, God will honor that word and bring sanctions against the wicked person. Jonathan, the youngest brother escaped and prophesied against Abimelech and the people of Shechem. If then you have acted honorably and in good faith may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!” (Jud 9:19,20).God honored this prophetic word. After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech (Jud 9:22,23). Abimelech was removed by prophecy. Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham came on them (Jud 9:56,57).
Modern Christians place a lot of faith in democracy, even though it does not produce a godly government. Others have tried rebellion, but this has failed too.
The prophetic proclamation is the best way to get rid of an evil government. Unfortunately, the belief that God can bring governments down is rare. The missing element is a strong prophetic voice to release God’s power to bring political change.
Prophets and Tyranny
One reason that tyranny has been so serious in the twentieth century is the lack of prophets in the nations. There have been no prophets challenging political rulers to obey the law of God. Many rulers do not even know that they are required to serve God, or that he has put limits on their jurisdiction. God can only act against evil rulers if he has a prophet to speak out his challenge and warn of his judgments.
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:10).
God will not bring sanctions against wicked rulers unless their sins are clearly understood.
God does not like to send judgment against the leaders of a nation unless his prophets have announced it. If prophets have not announced the judgment in advance, the rulers will not understand that it was sent by God. They will not realize that the calamity is the consequence of their sins. They will assume that it is just another tragic event. Some rulers may even use the trouble to expand their powers. If the judgment is not announced in advance by the prophets, its purpose is diffused or lost.
Isaiah 16 describes a number of kings and tyrants, who were brought down from the place of pride and power by the protective judgments of God. He gave relief from suffering and cruel bondage by destroying the aggressive and oppressive rulers. God was able to stretch forth his hand and accomplish his purpose because prophets like Isaiah had prophesied against them (Isaiah 12-23)
The worst thing that can happen to a nation is the have no prophets. Psalm 74 is the cry of a people suffering under tyranny.
We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! (Psalm 74:9-11).
The Psalmist feels like his nation is in a hopeless situation. It is being ruled by tyrants and God’s hand of judgment against this injustice is being held back. The Psalmist knows that God has the power to destroy the wicked ruler, but while there are no prophets this is unlikely to happen.
This lack of prophets is still a problem in the modern world. Prophets to the nation will have to emerge in the church first, but the modern church has been unwilling to release this gift in the church. The prophetic ministry has been stifled in the church, so prophets to the nation have been unable to develop. The absence of the prophetic ministry has impoverished the church, but it has had even more serious consequences for the world. Tyrants have been able to rule with impunity, as God’s hand of judgment has been held back, hidden his garment, the church.
Restraining the Sword
The sword is dangerous and the political sphere will always tend to expand. People with political power will always see new problems to solve and their people will often expect them to solve them. Rulers will always face the temptation to expand their power. The pressure to do more good is dangerous because the state can use force to expand its role. This is a great dilemma for political theory. The state needs force to punish criminals and protect society. However, this monopoly of force makes it almost impossible for citizens to prevent their government from expanding its power. We cannot resist the state, because it is stronger than we are.
History suggests that this is a serious problem. Throughout the twentieth century, the power of the state, whether dictator or democracy, has increased immensely. Even where political powers start out with modest intentions, they seem to end up with more power and control. Democracy does not prevent this from happening but tends to make the situation worse. It tends to produce leaders who pander to the desires of the people by expanding political power. The United States Constitution was carefully designed to limit political power, but the United States government has now amassed incredible power over its citizens.
The only antidote to the expanding state is Christian prophets proclaiming the law in partnership with God. When the church is functionally correctly, God will raise up prophets to the nation, who can speak his word to its rulers. These prophets will confront their rulers, whenever they take up power and responsibility that does not belong to them. Biblical law sets out the boundaries on the power of the state.
The Prophets of God will challenge any political ruler who takes powers that are not authorized by the law. If the rulers do not heed these warnings, the prophets will announce God’s protective judgments against them. If the rulers then persist in taking the power that God has not given to them, they will experience his judgment. If they will not voluntarily shrink their power to the size specified by God’s law, he will cut them down to size. The law and the prophets are the keys to limiting the power of the state (Rom 3:21).
This earth belongs to the Lord, so all rulers do not have absolute power. When a ruler ignores God’s will, the prophets will warn of God’s protective judgments. If the rulers refuse to surrender to God, they can expect his sanctions to fall upon them. The best restraint on the power of the sword is the power of the trumpet.
A good example of this restraining power is recorded in 1 Kings 11:29-31.
About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.
Solomon had rejected God by taking foreign wives to form alliances with foreign nations. Ahijah the prophet announced God’s judgment against Solomon. This resulted in his son Rehoboam losing most of the kingdom to another king.
Crisis and Hope
In the troubled times that lie ahead, many people will have their hope shattered. The plans and the projects to which they have given their lives will collapse. Often they will feel as if God has abandoned them. The nations will need prophets who can give new vision in these times of shaking.
We must recognize the danger of despair that comes with extinguishing dreams. In the troubled times that lie ahead many will believe that their dreams have died. Theologically they will believe that God has abandoned them. If the church in our time is to avoid despair we must construct the new vision of God’s presence in the midst of our judgment.
With the shattering changes—political, economic and technological—that have been thrust upon the twentieth-century world, it is a small wonder that the generation facing the close of the second millennium and peering uncertainly into the uncharted waters of the twenty-first century are crying out for divine guidance.
God raises special people for special times and the times dictate the strength of God’s hand upon the person (Paula White Is a False prophet).
Prophets will explain how God is at work in what appears to be a disaster. And because prophets can see what lies ahead, they will be able to give direction and hope for the future.
Prophets arise in times of crisis. Their message is always relevant to the contemporary situation. The encounter with prophecy is always at the frontier of social and religious. The factors that give rise to prophecy are always both sociological and religious.
When Israel was in trouble and needed a deliverer, God sent a prophet.
They (Midian) invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. When the Israelites cried to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet (Jud 6:6,7).
Building faith and hope are one of the functions of the prophetic gift. Jeremiah was able to obey God in the midst of troubling circumstances because he had been given a picture of the future.
A prophet to the nation is a person who speaks on behalf of God. Peter said that prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20,21).
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
They were moved by the Spirit, so they could speak in the name of the Lord.
When calling Jeremiah, God said he would put his words in the prophet’s mouth. The Lord said to him,
A prophet is a person with the gift of a keen ability to hear from God. They have a finely tuned ability to hear God’s voice.
The same point is made in Deuteronomy 18:18:
I will raise up a prophet I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything that I command him.
Prophets speak in obedience to the Lord. They say only what God tells them to say. They bring God’s word to the church and the world. Ezekiel described this as the Lord’s hand is upon him.
The hand of the Lord was upon me (Ezek 37:1).
The prophet was primarily a man of the word of God. His task was to bring the word of God to his fellow man (J A Motyer – Prophets and Prophecy).
The prophet of God was thus the mouthpiece of God. He was God’s messenger whose task was to deliver whatever God said to him. He was not simply a holy man, nor was he a man with a mission to reform the world or to accomplish any particular task of religious teaching or leadership. The Prophet was simply a “mouthpiece”.
A prophet is a divine spokesperson. To speak prophetically is to speak by divine inspiration. It is the presentation of God’s message for an individual, group, nation, or generation. It may bring direction, correction, warning, encouragement, or instruction (John Bevere – Thus Saith the Lord p.2).
The picture of the prophet that emerges from the pages of Scripture and the early church writings is impressive. Rather than a mere mouthpiece who passively responds when God picks him up, the prophet is a conscious agent of God, gifted by God to be an envoy, a watchman, and bearer of royal authority.
If we are to arrive at a proper conception of the function of “nabhi”, we must look elsewhere than to philology. We must examine the actual usage of the word in the Old Testament, and from such usage seek to determine what it meant. In Deuteronomy 18:18b the essential nature of the prophetic function is clearly set forth; “… and I shall place my words in his mouth and he will speak unto them all which I command him.” Here the function of the prophet is that of declaring the word. Precisely this same thought also appears in the classic text, Exodus 7:1.
God declared even before his birth, Jeremiah had been sanctified and had been set apart to be a nabhi. Immediately upon hearing this announcement, Jeremiah cries that he does not know how to speak. Evidently Jeremiah, as soon as he hears that he is to be a nabhi thinks of speaking and complains that he is unable to fulfill the function of a nabhi namely, speaking. To his mind, the word nabhi called up immediately the connotation of speaking. Jeremiah was to be a nabhi, therefore, he would have to speak.
The definitions of the different Greek and Hebrew words translated “prophet” in the Old and New Testaments reveal that this ministry is one that speaks for God, has immediate intercourse with God, is an interpreter of the oracles of God, and preaches the counsel of God. These are all indicative of the awesome seriousness of prophetic ministry. To speak for God and interpret or preach his counsel is a responsibility of unfathomable proportions to be entrusted to mere men.
A prophet is defined more by a willingness to speak than an ability to hear. Every Christian should be able to hear God. However, only a few have the courage and boldness to speak everything that God wants to be spoken. Prophets have a special sense of the heart and burdens of God. They are committed to the truth. They are willing to speak God’s word, regardless of the cost. God needs prophets who will speak his work fearlessly, without regard to the consequences.
You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen (Ezek 2:7).
They developed a keen sense of God’s presence and knew when he wanted to speak to his people. They sensed his moods and his burdens of heart, even before they knew exactly what they were feeling. It was wonderful, but it also confused them because they often felt squeezed between what God wanted to do and the religious routine going on about them.
The task of the prophet to the nation is also demonstrated in the relationship between Moses and Aaron. Moses was not a good speaker, so God said Aaron would be his “prophet”. He explained what this would mean.
You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him (Ex 4:15-17).
In this passage, Aaron clearly appears as the mediator between Moses and Pharaoh. Moses stands in relation to Pharaoh as God to the people, and the message of Moses is given to Pharaoh by means of Aaron. Here again, the function of the Prophet is that of speaking forth a message which has been received from a superior (Edward J Young – My Servants the Prophets p.58)
Eyes of the Nation
There is a watching aspect of the ministry of a prophet. In fact, one of the words for prophet is the Hebrew word Seer.
Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer (1 Sam 9:9)
Seers are men of revelation. Seers are men of enlightenment. Seers are men of intellectual maturity. The prophet is a seer. The basic nature of his commission is observation and watchfulness. He is prone to contemplation and skilled in the art of deduction.
Isaiah described the prophets as the “eyes” of a nation.
The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep:
He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
he has covered your heads (the seers) (Is 29:10).
Balaam was a false prophet, yet the Lord used him when the Spirit came on him. He said some good things about how a prophet needs to have his eyes opened to see what God is doing.
The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: (Num 24:4)
Prophets are people of vision, who can see what God is doing. They co-operate with God in breaking down all that is not built on the true foundation. They do this by announcing his judgments. At the same time, they watch over all that God is doing in the nation to see that it is built according to his Word.
The prophet does not confuse truth with consensus. The prophet does not confuse God’s word with the word of those who happen to hold power at present, or with the opinion of the majority. This is because powerholders and the majority can fall victim to a lying spirit-and this means a power that actually seizes the majority of experts, the political leadership, and the public .
God calls does not call Christians to be “moral campaigners”. The Pharisees were the moral campaigners of Jesus’ time. They loved to find fault with the weak and sinful people in their society, but Jesus criticized them for their lack of mercy and their spiritual blindness. He showed mercy to those trapped in the grip of sin.
The Pharisees got things all wrong. They could not see their own sin, so they seemed like hypocrites. They dealt harshly with weak people who had been seduced by a culture of sin and were not clever enough to hide it but missed the far more serious sins of their nation’s leaders. They focused on obvious sexual sins but were blinded to the more deceptive sins that open the nation to evil. This should be a serious warning to those who campaign against sin.
God does not need moral campaigners, but he does call a few of his people to speak prophetically to the nation. These prophets will remind the nation of God’s standards and warn of the consequences for society. A key part of their role is to identify the core evils that are the root of their society’s problems. They will not be obsessed with the more obvious sexual sins but will focus on the subtle shifts in attitude that creep in and open the door to real evil. They will know that the sins of their political and cultural leaders are usually well hidden, but are really dangerous to society.
True prophets will be concerned about devious and influential sins, like pride, selfishness and “state idolatry”. They will be less concerned about sexual sins, as these generally only emerge when other more subtle sins have already taken hold in society. Blatant sexual sin is a symptom of a sick world but is not the root cause. Prophets to their nation will be more concerned about the cause than the symptoms. They will focus on the issues that are really damaging their society.
Focus on the Cause, Not the Symptom
The modern prophecy is very shallow. Real prophets go deep to the heart of an issue. They are not distracted by surface issues and symptoms that that is not the real cause of what is happening. Prophets press in deeper until they get to the crux of the issues that are shaping the heart of their nation.
Abortion is an example of this problem. Most Christians realize that abortion is a terrible sin. Some get really stirred up about it, but this prevents them from seeing the real issues affecting their nation. Abortion is not a legal issue, but a manifestation of a much deeper spiritual malaise. Something is seriously wrong with the spirit of a nation when many young women feel compelled to destroy their future (their children).
Prophetic people are wasting energy when they attempt to make abortion illegal, because banning abortion deals with the symptoms of the problem, but does not change the underlying cause that is rooted deep in the culture. The prophetic task is to expose the cracks in the heart of the nations that are manifesting through abortion. The solution is not a change in the law, but deep-seated repentance, a renewed worldview, and powerful healing by God.
Abortion is just one manifestation of an impaired spirit. The “Left Behind” phenomenon is another manifestation of the same core blemish. Many Christians have lost confidence in the future and are looking to Jesus to come and rescue them soon. They have no confidence in the ability of the Holy Spirit to establish the Kingdom of God. This lack of faith puts them in danger of being cut off from their future, just as the young woman who has an abortion cuts off her own future. Abortion and rapture obsession is a manifestation of the same spiritual flaw.
Abortion is also a personal manifestation of spirits of force and violence that attack nations that see war as the solution to all their problems. This explains why people that are stirred up about abortion can ignore the deaths of thousands of children in Yemen or Afghanistan perpetrated by their nation’s armed forces. The only antidote to this violent spirit is to replace trust in political and military power with faith in God’s protection.
Many Christians are stirred up about homosexual marriage, but again they are focussing on the symptoms and not the root cause. Christian prophets will realize that homosexuality is a symptom and not the real crack in the heart of their culture.
Ezekiel understood this issue well. When he described the sin of Sodom, this is what he said.
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).
Sodom’s root sin was not homosexuality, but arrogance, laziness, and refusal to care for the poor. It seems that when a society makes an idol of comfort and pleasure, it descends into promiscuity that eventually manifests in homosexuality. What Lot found in Sodom was just the natural outcome for a society that worshipped comfort and wealth.
Lot saw the symptoms of the problem and as many Christian was upset about what he saw. Ezekiel looked much deeper and realized that the key issue was a love of comfort and pleasure. We need more prophets like Ezekiel who can see deep into the heart of our nation.
Prophets to their nation must remain humble, so they are not corrupted by their close link with the state. The scriptures have strong words against the “court prophets” who support everything that a ruler does but do not listen to what God is saying. Prophets to the nation must also be careful to remain in the place where God has planted them. Because they understand the art of government, they might be tempted to enter politics. However, prophets have a responsibility to speak God’s word, so they must not usurp the role of the king. This would be dangerous for them and their nation. An excellent prophet will make an inferior king.
The boundary between church and state must be kept clear. Prophets must not attempt to manipulate or control the civil authorities on God’s behalf. They must limit their efforts to persuasion. They must speak God’s word and leave the Holy Spirit to change the politician’s heart. The key to being heard is to hear from God. The more clearly the prophet hears from God, the more his words will be heeded. Wise prophets will remain separate from the trappings of the state so that they can hear God clearly and speak with integrity.
Prophets to the Nation speak as individuals and not on behalf of their church. Their authority will not come from their position in the church (they may be recognized as prophets by the church). They will only have authority in the nation if their words are true and anointed by the Holy Spirit. They will not be able to make decisions for the government or business. Those with authority in business or the government must test the words of the prophets and only obey them if they are true. They should listen to those who are skilled at hearing from God, but they are not required to obey them blindly. They must obey God, rather than man. Controlling prophets are as dangerous as an imperialistic church.
Political loyalties are very limiting for prophetic people. A person who is loyal to the right or the left will be able to function as a prophet in their church or bring words to the people they meet, but they are unlikely to move on to the role of prophet to their state or nation. A prophet to the nations must be totally loyal to God and to his law.
Unless prophetic people understand that political parties and human politics are not part of God’s plan, very few real prophets to the nations will emerge. God’s revelation for rulers and governments is contained in his law, so prophets called to speak to their nation must understand and defend the law. They cannot afford to be blinded by loyalty to a party or political leader.
People with valid prophetic gifts become “court prophets” when their loyalty to a particular political leader or a political party takes precedence over their loyalty to God. The court prophets that led Jehoshaphat astray were not prophets of Baal. They were prophets of the Lord, trained among the sons of the prophets. They would have been brought to the palace when their ability to hear and speak the word of God was recognized. The problem was that they became too loyal to the king’s party. This prevented them from hearing God’s warning and left them vulnerable to a lying spirit (1 Kings 22).
The American nation does not have a clear prophetic voice. That is a dangerous place to be. I am sure that God is calling many of his people to be a prophet to the nation. Unfortunately, most are so wrapped up in America that they cannot offer the total loyalty that God needs for this role. Blind loyalty to the left or right is blocking the prophetic flow at the national level.
Social justice is becoming an important issue for the church. This is good because God is concerned about justice. However too often the justice that is proclaimed is merely humanistic justice. The church tends to jump on the bandwagons that are being pushed by liberal humanists. Moreover, the message is too often spoken by committees or church officials, who have no real authority in the eyes of the world. The result is that their voices are lost amongst all the other voices that are speaking into modern society. If the church is to have an impact in the area of social justice, it must pray that God will raise up prophets to speak to the nation.
Watchmen serve their time and their church by understanding and defining the mentality of contemporary phenomenons. A prophet is a man of foundations, able to analyze the results of a common trend in society by looking at its roots. He is skilled in the art of deduction, interpretation, and discernment. He, himself becomes a force against the mentality of the time and he offers an understanding of how to avoid the influence of its atmosphere. This imminent force of separation and purity is the prophetic dimension.
Prophets should know the mind of God, so they will proclaim a standard of justice and righteousness that is true. They will know the issues that are on the heart of God and how true peace and justice can be established. Prophets will speak in the name of the Lord, so they will have tremendous authority. God will watch over their words to ensure that they come to pass. There are many calls for the church to be prophetic, but this is impossible for a church without prophets.
As Christians, we believe that God is active in the world and that his word can be heard in the events of human history. We believe it is the church’s duty to proclaim what God is doing and what he would have us do. So Amos of old denounced the selfish indifference of the rich and the unjust suffering of the poor in Israel. Jeremiah who proclaimed that the inevitable judgment of a just God on his faithless people was to be seen in the fall of Jerusalem. We cannot doubt that God is at work in the turmoil of our world today, in inflation, in industrial unrest and political uncertainty, in the aspirations of the Third world. He has a word for us to proclaim to our contemporaries, a word of challenge, of judgment, of comfort and of hope. Yet the voice of the church and of Christians generally seems, strangely silent.
What a nation needs more than anything else is not a Christian ruler in the palace, but a Christian prophet in earshot.
The good news of salvation is still being proclaimed but if a crisis is being faced, why is their no clear guidance. If the church is to give a lead in proclaiming God’s word about economic and political questions, it will be those engaged in economics and politics as practitioners or as students and teachers. We need to understand what God is saying to us in the situation in which he has placed us at the present time.
Guidance to Rulers
A Prophet to a Nation will sometimes be called on to provide guidance to rulers and governments. Ruling a nation can be a frightening task. Many decisions have to be made and most of them are hard, so rulers have always attempted to surround themselves with wise people. The king of Israel knew the benefit of having a prophet close by to help him make decisions.
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place. The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom” (2 Kings 6:8-12).
Some prophets will be given an opportunity to share supernatural guidance to a political ruler. Because their wisdom is from God, it will be effective.
God will sometimes establish a person as a Prophet to their Nation by giving them the wisdom that their ruler needs. The King of Israel knew that Elisha was a prophet because his words were correct. The King of Babylon trusted Daniel because he correctly interpreted a dream that none of the Babylonian wise men understood.
This is a very important principle. Many people, including prophets, are willing to criticize their government. Prophets to the Nation are different. They often begin their careers by assisting their government in tricky situations. Ahab trusted Miciah’s words because he provided correct advice in the past (1 Kings 22:7,8). Some rulers will welcome prophets in their court, even if they hate God because they need their advice.
Prophets will warn the rulers of their nation when they are taking the wrong direction or taking the authority that God has not given them. The Old Testament prophets spent much of their time warning kings who had rejected God’s way and were following the way of the world. Strong prophets are the best protection against the power of the state.
Good leaders welcome correction. The prophet Nathan challenged David when he committed adultery and murder, but remained his friend. Nathan had established his credibility with David much earlier when the King was planning the temple (1 Sam 7). Every leader needs a prophet like Nathan who can hear the voice of God and challenge his sins. Rulers are usually surrounded by people trying to “grease up” to them. In this environment, a prophetic friend is the best protection against the occupational hazard of hubris. All leaders need a friend to speak God’s word to them.
The Prophet to the Nation will pray for their government, even when they are rebelling against God. Samuel prayed all night when his friend King Saul fell from grace (1 Sam 15:11). Every leader needs a friend of God who will intercede for him with this intensity.
Government of God
Prophets to the Nation will understand that Jesus came to establish the Government of God. A kingdom cannot have two kings. A nation cannot have two governments. So as the kingdom of God expands in a nation, its human government must shrink and fade away.
A prophet to a nation will understand that human governments are not God’s plan for his people. The people of Israel wanted to have a king to be like the surrounding nations but was not God’s plan (1 Sam 8). God gave in to them as a concession to their sinfulness, but he always wanted to be their only king. He preferred that they trust him for protection, rather than trust in unreliable human kings.
Prophets to the nation will provide guidance to their government, but they will also understand that it is living on borrowed time. They will be watching for the time when it will collapse and disappear, so they do get caught in the trap of helping it to survive beyond its time. They will not prop it up when it begins to crumble, because they understand that God has a better government.
When the time is right, their prophetic words will release the power of the Holy Spirit to destroy the human government and open the way for the emergence of the Kingdom of God. However, the prophets cannot do this until the remnant has prepared kingdom communities to replace it. While that is happening they can continue giving counsel to the rulers.
Prophets to a nation will prepare the followers of Jesus to receive the Government of God in their society. They will teach them how to form Kingdom Communities that can provide welfare, justice, and protection for people who have lost hope. As Kingdom Communities transform their neighborhoods, political power will be chopped up, pushed down and spread around. When a human government collapses, the principalities and powers that have amplified their power through it will be shattered and weak, so the gospel will go forth in the power of the Spirit. As the structures of society fall apart, these Kingdom Communities will demonstrate a way of life that appeals to a shaken world.
In the Government of God, justice will be provided by judges emerging in their community to apply God’s law. The defense will be provided by Temporary Military Leaders that arise within their community during a crisis. Prophets will teach the judges that emerge how to apply God’s law.
Prophets and Law
God is raising up prophetic people all over the world to be a prophetic voice in their church. Hopefully, a few of these will go to be prophets to their nation. These prophets will be experts on God’s law, so they can teach judges how to implement and obey it.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees (Deut 17:18,19).
The Prophet to the Nation will teach the judges that emerge in their nation how to implement God’s law. As prophets love the law more than others, they will have a better understanding of its principles. Prophetic wisdom will assist people with authority who are struggling to interpret the law.
The Old Testament prophets were the guardians of God’s law. They prosecuted judges for their failure to obey the law. Every prophet speaking at the national level must use God’s law as a standard for testing behavior and actions. To be an effective voice to their nation, these prophets must have a sound understanding of God’s law.
Those called to be a prophetic voice in their nation must understand the connection between their ministry and God’s law. A prophet who is not rooted in God’s law will end up following after some fashionable secular voice. They can easily become the servant of a particular political party. Without a clear standard, prophets will be blown around by every wind of change. As prophets exercise the power of the trumpet on behalf of the Church, they will need to love the law. The Old Testament prophets were like legal prosecutors who charged and attempted to convict Israel of failure to keep the law. They were so passionate about God’s law they were willing to risk the wrath of wicked Kings when confronting their nation’s sin.
For prophets to exercise the power of the trumpet, they will need to change their attitude to the law. Several Psalms teach that we should love the law.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders
for I obey your precepts (Psalm 119:97-100).
We have interpreted this message as a call to love the scriptures, but that is not what the Psalmist says. We are actually told to love the law and are promised that this will give us greater wisdom than our teachers. Prophets will study the Old Testament law with a passion to understand how it applies to justice in modern society.
The Old Testament prophets were like legal prosecutors who charged Israel with failure to keep the law. They were so passionate about God’s law they were willing to risk the wrath of wicked Kings when confronting their nation’s sin.
Prophets will only be able to speak clearly to the judges of their nation if they truly love the law.
Prophets and Judges
The prophets will have a role in exposing judges who are unjust. Micah challenged the judges of Jerusalem for accepting bribes.
Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money (Mic 3:11)
Jeremiah warned the judges against protecting evil people and not establishing justice.
How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD (Jer 8:8-12).
The prophets will expose judges that are not honoring God and his law.
For really difficult cases, judges might call in people with the spiritual discernment of prophetic insight.
If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the LORD your God will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict (Deut 17:8,9).
Following the work of the cross, there are no priests or Levites as such, but every society should have men and women of God with the gift of discernment. Wise people should be called on to help with difficult cases.
However, no matter how wise our judges, mistakes will still be made. Judges should be humble, knowing that we will never get perfect justice on this earth. God is our final judge. Any mistakes that are made by human judges will eventually be corrected when we stand before the perfect judge at the end of the age. All mistakes will be corrected perfectly.
The place of watchmen is on the wall, looking out into the direction that he is pointing. The can be lonely, discouraging work. Jesus is pleading with his watchmen to stay on the walls, where he needs them to be.
Many watchmen are down in the city chatting with friends, because they got lonely. Others are on the conference circuit, where the money is better. Some are busy trolling the internet, but that is not the same as listening to the Lord. Others grew tired and have gone to sleep. Others have given up, because they are weary of their warnings being rejected.
The watchman should not be in the city eating and drinking with the town’s folk. He/she should be out on the watchtower looking into the night
Jesus urgently needs his watchmen to get back up on the watchtower where he has appointed them.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest (Is 62:6).
Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain (Is 56:10-11).
I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law (Jer 6:17-19).
God is restoring a watchman anointing to His people. In biblical times, though a city had strong walls and double gates, security was not complete without watchmen in their places, shouting, or heralding, anything they saw that was out of the ordinary. Their job was to warn the people of impending danger. They would pay with their lives if they failed to inform the city of an enemy’s approach. If the watchmen were not alert, cities could fall, territories could be lost and many people could be slaughtered or forced into captivity.
A Christian prophet is a watchman. His task upon the walls of the city of God claims him entirely. God acts in and through all that we are. In everything a prophet is, the Spirit of God lives and moves and acts. The Christian prophet’s very life and breath is intercession within the church.
However, if we are called to this watchman ministry, let us be patient in waiting for our placement. If we have a true gift and manifest the fruit of the Spirit, our gift will make a place for us. Our goal must always be first to gain the endorsement of God, not men. If we want the endorsement of God we must be devoted to truth, integrity, and submission to His Spirit. If it takes others a while to acknowledge our calling, while we are waiting we can grow in grace and discernment.
Watchmen and Sheep
A watchman was standing on a watchtower. He saw trouble coming and told the shepherds to get the sheep into the safety of the fold. The shepherd asked the watchman to get the sheep into the fold. However, when the watchman tried to round up the sheep, they just scattered. They did not know the voice of the watchman. Only when the shepherds heeded the watchman’s warning and called the sheep did the sheep come into the fold.
Watchmen stand on the walls of the city of God so that they can see what God is doing and call the people to respond. Watchmen looks out into the darkness and the distance to see what evil is coming and what God is doing. Good relationships between pastors and the watchman are essential. The watchman should communicate what they see to the pastors. The pastors can then prepare the sheep for what is going to happen. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice and they will respond to them. If they do not know the voice of the watchmen, they will not respond to them.
Leaders must allow the watchmen to function as God intends, and watchmen must learn that it is their job only to transmit information, not to dictate policy.
The prophet is way ahead of the flock of sheep, perhaps five miles beyond the next hill. He is on the lookout. There he hears God’s voice and sees visions, enters the throne-room of God and glimpses something. It may actually be very good that he is often away from the flock, because few really understand him. He is interested not so much in people and what they think of him, but in God’s voice for the situation.
The watchmen were not the elders in the gates, nor did they have the authority to open or close the gates of a city. Neither did they have the authority to mobilise the militia against the enemy. Their job was to communicate what they saw to those who did have the authority. Presently, many pastors and elders are trying to do this job for their congregations, which only distracts them from their true calling. We must begin to recognise, train, and position those who have this calling, and establish effective lines of communication with them.
Being on the walls of the city would place one in a position of elevated perspective to see both a distance outside and inside of the city. These were trained to recognise both the enemy and their brethren from a great distance. However, they had no authority to confront either. They simply gave their information to the elders who sat in the gates. Only the elders had the authority to either command that the gates be opened or to sound the alarm.
The seer represents the prophetic dimension by means of his ability to observe, by his inclination towards watchfulness. He is the watchman, the protector. He walks the narrow paths of the border areas of the Kingdom, drawing strength for this isolated work of defence from the vivid visions and experiences of the heartlands of God’s domains. The prophet’s home is a Mizpah, a watchtower, a place for proper judgement and discernment, 1 Sam 7:6
The Church has often lacked in having watchmen. She has had a type of watchman that has watched almost from a position on the floor of the church and not from the wall. The watchman is a prophet and as such is a seer and needs to be up high to see beyond the heights that even the king would see, since the king is not up on the wall.
Though the prophet is one with the church he yet always stands a little apart. The Old Testament prophet would have gone ahead to do all the speaking, or the healing, or whatever was needed. The New Testament prophet bows his spirit to prayer, unbeknownst to the rest of the body, and others find themselves healing or teaching or speaking.
Watchmen should speak their warnings to the pastors and elders. The latter provides a warning to their sheep. The sheep know their shepherd and they will respond to them. If they do not know the voice of the prophet, they will not respond to them.
The pattern borne out in Scripture shows that a prophet did not go first to the people, but to the king! For it was the king who held the responsibility from God to address and lead the people. The prophet always went directly to the king – not to the people – and God opened the door of access to that realm’.
Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor 12:22-25).
Christians are often embarrassed by God’s watchmen, as they can be intense, opinionated or scruffy. Watchmen may be the eyes of the body, but they are also the bowels that get rid of the “crap”. If God’s watchmen are not functioning effectively in a church, it will fill up with garbage and become contaminated. So while the watchmen have an unseemly task, they are important for the functioning of the body and deserve equal concern and respect.
When a watchman receives a dream or vision about a cataclysmic event, they should be very careful about how they give warning. Before speaking, they should find out the status and time of the events they have seen.
Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor 14:8).
A cataclysmic vision or dream may have varying degrees of certainty. It can be:
- a symbolic message with a spiritual interpretation. A tidal wave can symbolize a move of the Holy Spirit.
- a warning of what Satan is planning, which will not occur if he is resisted by intercessors.
- a warning event that will only occur if God’s people do not change their ways.
- a protective judgment that will only occur if things really turn sour.
If God’s people follow his call, the thing seen might never occur.
The timing of the fulfillment of vision or dream can vary considerably. It can be:
- an event that may happen soon.
- an event that may occur during the next season.
- an event that is a long way into the future.
The appropriate response is different for each of these different types.
Modern Christians have a tendency to assume the worst. We generally interpret a vision or dream of awful events literally. We also assume that the event is coming soon and that its coming is certain. This is often not the case.
Sounding the trumpet is not sufficient. Sharing a vision is not enough. Watchmen are required to sound the trumpet clearly. When sharing a vision or dream, they should also explain its meaning. If this does not happen, God’s people will become confused. Too much confusion could lead to Christians being defeated and God’s name being mocked.
During this current season, too many confusing visions are being shared. Many of these visions have come from the Lord, but because their meaning is misunderstood, God’s people are being confused. We need a clear sounding of the trumpet to prepare God’s people for victory.
Explain what to Do
Many prophets are warning of future disastrous events, but very few are explaining what God is doing and how he will work through these events to bring change. A related problem is that many Christians enjoy warnings of judgment on the world, but they are less enthusiastic about strategies that would require them to take action to bring in the victory of God.
God does not cause troubles and calamities; they are rooted in human evil or folly with a bit of demonic mischief thrown in. During a judgment, God takes this human mess and works it for good to achieve his purposes. One role of the prophet is to warn of troubles before they come, so God’s people can prepare. Their more important task is to explain what God is doing through the event, so his people can participate in his purposes. Prophets can only accomplish the latter task if they are standing outside the dark cloud of human events and seeing with the eyes of Jesus.
When a prophet receives a warning of a calamitous event, their task has just begun. The next step is to find out what God plans to achieve through the event, and his strategy for the people who want to participate in his purposes during that event.
According to Romans 12:6, Christians with the gift of prophesying should prophesy in proportion to their faith. When a nation is in decline and has lost the blessing of God, prophesying judgment does not take much faith. Prophesying the strategy by which God will use the judgment to change the nation and bring a great victory for his cause takes much more faith. That is a challenge for modern prophets.
We must keep God’s perspective in mind when interpreting warning visions. Christians often get so focused on the evil that Satan has planned that they fail to notice God’s response. This gives Satan a place he does not deserve. He is a loser and all his schemes and plans will fail. Getting us absorbed in the negative part of a vision is the enemy’s favorite trick for causing us to miss what God is saying and doing.
This is the worst feature of many “prophecy sites” on the internet. The bloggers and discussion boards get so absorbed in the evil being warned against that they miss what God is saying and promising. We should fear God, not the devil and his schemes. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through a vision.
The watchman’s task is not to make Christians afraid, but to show them how they can be victorious if they get ready. Most visions are not about the people of God being defeated but are a promise that God’s people can be victorious if the watchmen do their work. We need watchmen who can tell us how to get ready.
In 1982, a visiting English preacher called David Pawson shared a vision of a Commando Army around New Zealand. The vision promised that if New Zealand Christians formed into commando units, they would experience victory when an economic crisis came. Christians immediately focussed on the crash and when it would come. The name of the vision was changed to the Coming Bombshell. The challenge to form commando units was ignored and the promise of victory was lost as Christians became absorbed with the negative aspect of the word.
I believe that the same problem applies to our interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. All the negative passages are applied to the current age. All the promises of victory are pushed to after the second coming. This gives a total distorted view of God’s plan and produces Pessimistic Christianity. When interpreting visions from God, we should take off our dark glasses and listen carefully to God’s promises of victory and hope in the light of his word.
They do not want to build ‘a church’, they want the whole city or nation! They live in the future, for the future, from the future, constantly pregnant with future developments, and they can prevent it from becoming a traditional institution only celebrating the past, or a fossilised monument of history long gone.
Tower and Gate
Watchmen are not there to boost the name of the enemy and paralyze God’s people with fear. Their purpose is to warn the people of danger, while it is still a long way off. This gives the people living outside the city time to get behind the walls where they will be safe. The watchman’s warning also gives the city leaders time to prepare their defenses, so they can repel the enemy when he comes.
The safety of a city depends on the watchmen being on the watchtower. It also depends on the leaders at the gate heeding their warning. If the watchmen and the leaders at the gate of the city each do their task, the enemy’s plans should be defeated and the city kept safe.
Exposing Evil Plans
Satan generally uses stealth and deception. The success of his plans depends on Christians not waking up to what is happening until it is too late to respond. God counters by revealing Satan’s plans to the watchmen. They can then expose his plans and blow his cover. God reveals the attacks of the enemy in advance so that he can be exposed and defeated.
God’s response to one of Daniel’s visions was to send watchers (Dan 4:13-17). The scriptures do not tell us much about them, but they are clearly very powerful angels. They were able to bring down Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most powerful rulers that the world has ever known. Compared to Nebuchadnezzar, Saddam Hussein was a midget, yet the watchers brought Nebuchadnezzar down from his throne. Watchers are capable of foiling the worst plans of the enemy. They are released by the prayers of the watchmen on the watchtowers.
The role of the watchmen is important. God responds to the attacks of the enemy by exposing his plans and countering with something even more powerful.
Today’s spiritual watchmen are just as important to the kingdom of God. But the Church has become so familiar and comfortable with the world that our watchmen may not notice when adverse conditions enter our boundaries. In this hour God is saying, “Watch the boundaries I have set for you, so that the enemy does not gain access to your inheritance.”
These watchmen were especially trained to be able to distinguish the enemy from their brethren. Only those with the best vision and judgement were given these Posts. They could not be overly prone to sound the alarm, or to request that the gates be opened. They had to be accurate in their discernment. If there were too many false alarms the people would begin to disregard them. If they were careless and let an enemy in the gate, they could jeopardise the entire city. This was an extremely crucial position for which accuracy and dependability were required (Rick Joyner – The Ministry of a Watchman).
Three Types of Vision
Christians with discernment can receive three types of vision.
- Some visions show what people deserve. They show what the justice of God demands. An example is Amos 7:1.
- The Holy Spirit sometimes shows his people what the powers of evil want to do. When people turn away from God, they give him the authority to fulfill his plans. He is a destroyer, so these visions are often destructive. Spiritual people who are not Christians may also receive these visions but from a different source.
- Some visions show what God is going to do to turn his people back to him, as his justice is tempered by his mercy. The purpose of these visions is refining and purifying (Amos 7:7-9).
- The first two types may be the same. Satan has the right to execute the curses of the covenant and the judgments of justice.
- The first type of vision should be prayed against. The mercy of God should be claimed (Jer 18:20; Jer 14:21; Dan 9:4-19; Ps 106:23).
- The first type should not be proclaimed as if it were God’s will, as this would give the spiritual powers of evil permission to do it. If it is announced, it should be conditional. “This is what will happen if you keep on the way that you are going”.
- The second type should be prayed against. We resist the enemy by disagreeing with his words and visions and declaring. “That is not God’s will” (Eph 6:10-18).
- The second type of vision should not be proclaimed as this would give glory to Satan. If Christians agree with this vision, it gives him the authority to implement his plans, even if they are contrary to God’s will.
- The third type of vision should be prayed into being. It might be scary, but because its purpose it mercy, it is right to pray for it. It is part of God’s refining process. When we declare these visions, it gives God’s authority to do his will on earth.
- A prophet who always looks to wrath is imitating Satan. A true prophet must center on God’s mercy.
- When a vision is received, we must pray to find what type of vision it is. We must get God’s perspective before we proclaim the vision.
Mercy and Wrath
When the people of a city or nation cast off restraint and reject God, they lose their spiritual protection and leave the powers of evil unrestrained. They have the authority to bring judgment against the city or nation, but they often wait until sin is filled up so they can do more evil. The powers of evil execute judgment in a way that causes the most harm and pain because they love to rob, destroy and kill.
God will sometimes pre-empt this judgment so that less harm is done, and to ensure that his purposes are accomplished. Because the people have turned away from him, he does not have the authority to bless them, but he does have the authority to send judgment.
By getting his angels to bring the judgment, rather than waiting for the powers of evil to deliver it, he can turn it for good, and use it to achieve his purposes. The holy angels hate executing judgment because they love to do good. They will only do it if they have a clear prophetic word from God’s prophets explaining how it will bring glory to God.
God’s people sometimes need to choose. Will they wait for the power of evil to execute their plans, or should they ask God to bring a pre-emptive judgment that is more merciful. An example is a judgment after David counted his fighting men (2 Sam 24). When he realized he had done wrong, the prophet Gad came to him with three options:
- Three years of famine in the land.
- Three months of running before his enemies while they pursued with the sword.
- Three days of plague.
David chose the third option. This was a bit selfish because he was the one who had sinned, but the people would suffer most. This is a reminder that when the leaders of a nation sin, it is their people who suffer most.
When the judgment started, David realized that he had been selfish and cried out,
I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family (2 Sam 24:17).
But it was too late because the decision had been made.
Nevertheless, David had made the right decision, perhaps for the wrong reason. He explained the reason for the prophet when he made his decisions. He said to Gad,
I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man (2 Sam 24:14).
There were really only two options. One option was to come under judgment executed by God. The other option was to fall into the hands of man, literally the “hands of Adam”. David did not fully understand this, but Adam lost his authority on earth when he sinned, so falling into the hands of Adam literally meant falling into the hands of the spiritual powers of evil.
Two of the three judgments would be executed by the powers of evil. The famine and defeating war were their plans for Israel once David’s sin had given them the right to do it. (The powers of evil are often divided and disagree over what they want to do. If David had chosen the plan of one group, the Holy Spirit would have resisted the other group, so they would not be able to fulfill their plans.)
Even though David did not realize that he was avoiding falling into the hands of the power of evil, he did realize that it was best to choose the judgment that would be executed by God. God opened David’s spiritual eyes and he saw the angel of God with the sword of death outstretched. This was terrible, but it was better than would have happened if the powers of evil had been able to execute evil for three years or three months. Three days was merciful by comparison, and when David repented of his selfishness, God cut it short to less than a day.
When a nation hardens its heart, the spiritual powers of evil get the authority to work their plan in it. The Holy Spirit often shows a prophet what the powers of evil have planned. The prophet must be careful not to prophesy these plans, except as a warning (if you keep doing this, that will happen), because it increases the authority of the powers of evil to do their stuff. Sometimes, the prophets may see several forms of evil, that different faction of the power of evil would like to do (they are seldom united).
The prophets in this situation should ask God if there is a pre-emptive judgment that he can bring that would be better for the nation than what the Holy Spirit has shown them the powers of evil intend to do. It will often not be nice, but it will usually be better than falling into the hands of the powers of evil. The prophets may need to pray for a lesser more merciful evil so that God has the authority to execute it.
Gad had a relationship with David, so he was able to consult with him. David, and through him Gad, had authority in Israel. When Gad prayed and told God their choice, it gave God the authority to send his angel to release the plague. It was a terrible plague, but at least it was a good angel bringing it. This was better than releasing evil angels to do their thing.
In the same way, prophets may sometime have to make a similar choice. They might need to choose to give God the authority to bring a pre-emptive judgment. That will be hard to do, but it is usually better than waiting for worse evil to come from the hands of the power of evil.
Many prophets have seen terrible things happening to their nation. They should check before prophesying them, to make sure that God has not shown them what the powers of evil want to do, because their vision might be what will happen if the nation is left to its own devices, but it might not be what God wants to do. The prophets should acknowledge that judgment is inevitable for the nation, but recognize that there is a milder judgment that God could if he were given permission to act in the nation.
Some prophetic people have bitter hearts, often through frustration and rejection. If they are not careful, they can become hard and slip into enjoying and prophesying what the enemy plans to do. They have the wrong half of the truth. True prophets make sure they know God’s purpose before they prophesy judgment.
In New Zealand, prophetic people were warning of a tsunami that would destroy Christchurch, an earthquake that would destroy Wellington, and a volcano that would destroy Auckland, but they failed to warn of the earthquake that struck Christchurch. I suspect that these people have heard what the powers of evil would like to do if sins are filled up and they get full authority in the land. But these events are not God’s intent for the nation. Source
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.” Prophets are truth-tellers.
Prophets of today are called to speak the word of the Lord from within the court, mounting an internal critique. Listen up you judges who corrupt God’s laws, you so-called Supreme Court judges who violate the people’s faith conscience, times is short: They perverted justice among themselves (v. 7): “You turn judgment to wormwood, that is, you make your administrations of justice bitter and nauseous, and highly displeasing both to God and man.’’ That fruit has become a weed, a weed in the garden; as nothing is more venerable, nothing more valuable, than justice duly administered, so nothing is more hurtful, nothing more abominable, than designedly doing wrong under color and pretense of doing right. Corruptio optimi est pessima —The best, when corrupted, becomes the worst. Power corrupts, and it always has ……
Where do we find prophets, and, specifically, where do we find them in the Bible? What is their physical and social location?
To judge by popular American perceptions, prophets are easy to recognize. Check the wilderness and woods, because prophets always stand outside, protesting the system. Look for the shaggy, crazed, wild-eyed guy, the one wearing a hair shirt instead of an Armani suit. Listen to the one who speaks in shrieks and whose personal habits embarrass polite society. Anger is the prophet’s characteristic emotion, and the jeremiad his characteristic genre. The prophet is more at home in the angular world of Flannery O’Connor than in the elegance of John Updike. It’s this image of the prophetic outsider that has inspired radicals from the Romantic period to dress in the mantle of the prophet.
At our borders, toddlers are locked in cages.
In our courtrooms, children are left to defend themselves.
In Seattle, we are building a new jail to incarcerate youth.
In times like these, I turn to the prophets. But where are they?
First, let’s clarify a common misconception. Prophets are not fortune-tellers. Source
Prophets are truth-tellers.
The Hebrew prophets boldly confronted the ruling class with harsh truths, usually about social justice.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.”
This is one among thousands of scriptures in the Bible crying out against injustice. When prophets talk about the future, it is usually to show where we are headed if things don’t change. Prophets use predictions as rhetorical devices to drive home their point to the ruling class and to mobilize a passive public.
True prophets are subversive to the status quo, so it is miraculous that their writings have survived so well in the Bible. More than half the books of the Hebrew Bible are direct challenges to people in power! What a testament to the courage of the Jewish people that they were able to preserve these radical take-downs of the elites when there must have been so much pressure to destroy these dangerous texts. The rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, stands squarely in the lineage of the Hebrew prophets who came before him.
In the Bible, prophecy often looks very different. There were, of course, lone prophets like Elijah and John the Baptist, but more often prophets were fully integrated into the “system.” Jeremiah, the paradigm of prophetic pathos, came from the fallen priestly house of Eli, and Ezekiel, Zechariah, and (possibly) Isaiah were also priests. Prophets appeared in the courts of the kings of Israel. David had his Nathan, most famous for rebuking David for adultery and murder but also capable of sly maneuvering in his efforts to put Solomon on the throne. Hezekiah turned to Isaiah for advice during the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, and Josiah sent a delegation to Huldah the prophetess after finding the book of the law during the repair of the Temple. Even Ahab grudgingly consulted Micaiah, a genuine prophet who consistently told Ahab things he didn’t want to hear. Though trained by the austere Elijah, Elisha accompanied Ahab’s son Jehoram on an expedition to suppress a Moabite rebellion, and Elisha’s servant Gehazi regaled the king with stories of the prophet’s miracles.
So, where are the prophets today?
On July 4, one of them sat at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. Therese Patricia Okoumou, born in the Republic of the Congo and now a citizen of the United States, climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty without ropes and refused to move. She shut down the monument for hours as police went after her. She said she would not come down until “all the children have been released.”
A reporter asked her, “How did you do it?” Okoumou replied, “I did a pull-up.” She must have done quite a few pull-ups to get that high up, but her point hits home for me. To tell the truth and mobilize people to action, you do not need to be struck by lightning from heaven or be visited by angels.
If you can do a pull up, move your mouth or write a word, that is all you need. So let’s stop looking for prophets from afar and start looking to our left, right and in the mirror.
The prophets are ferocious opponents of the status quo. They recognized, and felt, the injustice that kings and priests and false prophets wanted to plaster over. They shared, as Brueggemann says, the groans of the oppressed poor, and articulated those groans in cries of woe. They denounced the system, but denounced a system that they were often very much a part of.
Prophets of today are called to speak the word of the Lord from within the court, mounting an internal critique. The pressures on Nathan to keep silent after David seized Bathsheba and sent her husband to his death must have been enormous. He could have vented himself in a scathing editorial and then kept his head down. From all appearances, though, Nathan had free access to the court, was a friend of David, and a close adviser. It is said that prophets spoke truth to power, but that goes beyond cliché when we realize that prophets spoke the truth face to face with power, to powerful men and women whom the prophets knew intimately, frequently from their own position of power.
People’s hearts are troubled, their minds are in a state of confusion, the Bible tells us a time of great delusion that will come upon the people, that time has arrived, the politicians must come up with more significant and more believable lies in order to bring on the antichrist, we have entered the doorstep Tribulation.
“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils”…
Hunted by the Mob, Found by Christ
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