“The word of the LORD came to me”: Prophecy and the Christian Life (8/25)

August 26, 2013

From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah: The word of the LORD came to me saying,…”I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

One critical characteristic of Christians is that we are called to be prophets. We are called to listen for the word of God, and to share that word with the world. At our baptisms, we are anointed with oil as a sign that the Holy Spirit is with us, a sign that we share in Christ’s ministry as a prophet. I suspect that most of us are familiar with these ideas. But one place where we might need a little more clarity is with the idea of prophecy itself. As I was preparing this morning, I looked around the internet for what people these days are saying about Biblical Prophecy. Most of it seemed to revolve around how the bible had accurately predicted the geopolitical events of the past week, and that we could expect an Antichrist any day now. Prophecy seems to be just another word for prediction. But as we read the Scriptures, a much richer idea emerges. Prophecy is word of God spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prophecy is one of the basic modes of Scriptural narrative, and a great deal of God’s wisdom is revealed through the prophets. So if we are to understand what our job as prophets is to be, we need to look at what prophecy really is. The prophet Jeremiah says that “the word of the Lord” came to him. Prophecy is not our words, it’s God’s word. And if we look carefully at the things that prophets say, most of the time, they describe the world as it is. It’s not always a prediction of something that will happen. Most of the time, the prophets are telling people what is happening now. Usually, they are called Israel into repentance because the people have fallen into sin. The role of the prophet is to uncover their sin so that they can repent. Sometimes the prophets describe what will happen if the people do or do not repent. Good things when they do repent, and not so good things when they don’t. But these outcomes are a consequence of the people’s relationship with God.

Each of these prophets speak to their own time and their own situations. They speak the truth of Gods word to the people. But God’s word is an eternal word, this truth stands for everyone to hear, and every time we read these passages, there is truth for us to find. The words to Jeremiah were true when he said them to the people of Israel, they were true every time they were heard in the Church, they are true to us hearing them today, and they will be true a hundred years from now. God’s truth is eternal. We’re the ones that change.

The gift of prophecy has not left the church, but it does look a little different. A few days from now will be the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” speech on the Washington Mall. Go back and watch that again or read that again. Yes, the speech addresses issues that were specific to King’s day, but that speech is full of the Holy Spirit’s truth, and it is plain that there is much truth for us today.

In our own way, God calls us each to be prophets, and we see how God does this in the calling of Jeremiah. God calls to us, and he already has a plan for us. In response, we usually make excuses. Jeremiah says, “I’m only a boy.” We all have our own excuses, but I suspect a common one these days is “I’m really busy right now.” But whatever the excuse, God doesn’t really care. He gives us the words, and he gives us what we need.

But the single most important thing for us to remember about prophecy is that it is God’s word and not ours. Too many people make this mistake, and claim God’s authority when they really don’t have it. But if we look around us, God is still speaking, but we need to have the humility to listen and to discern the truth. God is still speaking through us, but we need to be still and listen for his word. And we need to have the confidence to share that word with the world. This calling will look different for each of us, but it is a part of the Christian life to which we are all called.

– Michael Tuck+

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