May 17, 2008

Where have all the prophets gone?


I have been wondering lately, where have the prophets gone?

So much of the OT writings were by the prophets and about the prophets. What a significant part of God's ministry to his people! Even the NT speaks of prophets as an normal part of the body.

When I speak about the gift of prophecy I am referring to the biblical concept. Their function was not primarily telling the future, or giving "new" direct revelations from God. The primary ministry of the prophets is to bring what God has already spoken back to his people and call them to repent in the light of his word. The prophets served as watchmen who warned, rebuked, and reminded the people of who God was and what he was about. They warned about the consequences of disobedience, lack of faith, and forgetting the words God has spoken.

Isn't one of the major themes in the history of God's people that they are always going astray? Continually going after other gods, idols, nations, and images.? Always requiring judges, prophets, and a few righteous kings who call God's people to repentance from their whorings, wanderings, and unions with the world?

So where are the prophets today, in these Last Days? We know that things are winding down and that there will scarcely be faith left when Christ returns. We know that the spirit of anti-Christ is already at work in the world and against the church. We know that the enemy is subtle and deceptive and seeks to divide and devour. So where have the prophets gone? Where is the cry of warning in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation?

Prophets are never popular, and if the patterns of scripture are still valid it is usually people who claim to be the people of God that seek to kill them. Darkness and deceit hate being called into the light and those who bring light and warning are targeted quickly by those who love darkness. Jesus said
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matt 13)
Has all that much changed? Are the last days getting better or worse?

So where are the prophets today? Is there room for them in the typical church? If a prophet showed up on a given Sunday, would they be allowed to speak to the people? To warn, to rebuke, to correct the whorings of our day?

Even in Jesus day, visitors were allowed to speak in the assemblies. Prophets were allowed to stand and speak to the people. What about today?
Is there room in the busy order of contemporary services? Is there room for other speakers who aren't pre-approved? What if God sent a prophet today, where would they find opportunity in the traditional church? What if it was the leaders or rulers of the assembly whom God wanted to rebuke? Would a prophet be denied an opportunity to speak?

Take a look around you and I am sure that you can see at least some of the sins in the midst of God's people that need rebuke. I am sure you can see errors that require warnings and correction. Let each of us open our eyes to recognize that we too must have errors which we are currently blind to.

Watch for the prophets and listen for them. They will be the ones saying things which are hard to hear. Things bitter to the taste, but sweet to the stomach. Things that look like death, but bring new life. Be wise and listen for rebuke! If you want to grow in Christ it will only be in the areas where you are currently ignorant.

I don't think you will find many prophets within traditional or institutional churches. There are too many competing authorities. Prophets are usually outside the camp, standing in the wilderness where they can be found by those who are watching and listening.
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