Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unbinding the Prophets

This morning I was continuing my study of the book of Amos and found myself in the second chapter of this prophet's writing. Some of you may be familiar with this passage because this is where God declares His judgment on Moab, Judah and Israel. The long and short of the message is that there will be no stopping God's wrath upon these people and the prophet explains exactly why in each case. One thing stood out to me among the rest of the indictments and it is found in verse 12;

And you commanded the prophets saying, "You shall not prophesy!"

Before we get into why I think this is interesting and applicable to us today I want to lay a little bit of ground work on the role of the prophet.

Typically when we think of prophecy or the prophetic writings we automatically go to telling of future events, or foretelling. This was certainly one of the major functions of the prophet in the Old Testament. Without the foretelling of the prophets of God we would be missing many of the amazing Messianic prophecies and, in their own time, the people of God would have missed out on the hope of the coming Redeemer. To ignore this aspect of the prophetic ministry would be to shortchange a large portion of God's message to His people. However, this was not the only mission that God had for His prophets. You see, the lion's share of the prophet's message was not foretelling but forthtelling. That is, their primary function was to exhort the people of God to warn them and bring them back into a right relationship with Him. The number one reason that God sent prophets to His people was because they had strayed from His will and His ways and He wasn't going to bring judgment on them until He had given them fair warning. While there are many, many examples of people in the Bible who God used to speak prophetically the books that we label "major" and "minor" prophets were written by men who were sent to Israel once they had turned away from YHWH.

Now, I believe knowing these things sheds new light on the statement in Amos 2:12. The likelihood that the nation would reject a prophet because he was telling about the coming Messiah seem rather minuscule to me. I mean, in the midst of tough times who wouldn't want to hear about the future hope? What seems more likely is that the nation was rejecting the other, more unpleasant, aspect of the prophets' message, the forthtelling. I mean just look at what Jeremiah suffered during his ministry. He was tried, threatened, put in stocks and thrown in a pit. I find it hard to believe that the people did this to him because he was brining a message of hope and victory. Jesus even laments the fate of the prophets in Luke 13:34;

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!

Jesus and Amos agree that there was something about the message of the prophets that the people did not want to hear. What could it have been? The answer to me seems quite clear, they didn't want to hear that they had done something displeasing in the eyes of the Lord. My question for us today is this, do we still say to the prophets, "You shall not prophesy"? I would submit that the answer is "yes."

More and more we warmly welcome a message of hope, victory and peace but when a person begins to express the more difficult truths of God's Word they are, sometimes, not-so-politely asked to be quiet. What we have done is created a body of messages that are acceptable for the preacher or teacher to proclaim and anything outside of that is strictly forbidden.

Here in the United States, a country I am extraordinarily blessed to live in, we often drag God out of His box when it comes to time for patriotic functions and boldly petition Him for His blessing on our nation. We want God to bless us but we don't want God to speak to us in any way that might upset our way of life. We believe that because of country was founded on Biblical principles, which is was, then we must be good to go even as we depart from them.

A perfect example of what I'm talking about here is what happened earlier this year leading up to the second term of our president. Apparently Louis Giglio, a pastor and well known Christian speaker, was asked to pray at the inauguration. Once it was discovered that Pastor Giglio had a higher view of Scripture and God's standard of sin he was "disinvited." The underlying statement from the administration was "You shall not prophesy."

One of America's favorite preachers is Joel Osteen who rarely, if ever, deals with the issue of sin. His message is one that falls neatly in line with the American dream; health, wealth and prosperity. Meanwhile, preachers like Franklin Graham, who take a firm stand on God's Word, are oftentimes ridiculed, sidelined, and told that their message has no place in our culture of tolerance. "You shall not prophesy."

What we must come to realize is that God's purpose in sending prophets had nothing to do with Him wanting to hurt people's feelings and upset them. His purpose was to proclaim a message through them because He judgment was about to fall on the people He cares so deeply about. It was out of love and concern that God sent prophets because He wanted to give the people one last chance to repent and turn back to Him. Sadly, the nation did not want to have any of it and they found themselves in the divine hurt box.

Let me make this very clear, America is not to be equated with the nation of Israel. We are not God's new chosen people, nor are we God's new chosen nation. However, the principles have not changed and can be applied to us today. If we continue to reject God's message to us, and the people He sends to deliver that message, His wrath will be poured out on our nation.

What then are we to do? The answer is obvious.

1. We must unbind the "prophet" and allow the people God has sent to speak to us say "Thus says the Lord."
2. We must unbind our ears and be open to hear what God has to say.
3. We must unbind our hearts so that God can change us from who we are into who He wants us to be.

Whether or not God has begun to send judgment upon our nation there is always a chance to turn back. Though Israel was sent into captivity God still sent them home and He still sent His Messiah through them. Even if we have to experience the judgment of God there is still hope for a victory that can be had on the other side. At this point it is totally up to us. What will we do with the message and messengers of God?

Godspeed,
Christian