Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Prophets ... Designers, Spokesmen, Watchmen of the Lord!

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said; "We can say that a prophet was a person to whom truth was imparted by the Holy Spirit. Indeed we can say that he received a revelation of truth
and was given power also to speak and to utter this truth in a more or less ecstatic manner

I feel constrained by a number of urgent influences when writing this piece. Firstly I have been really challenged by Hugh's comment to stick as firmly and as closely to the Word of God as possible and secondly I feel that when seeing the urgency of more 5-fold Ascension Gifts in the context of World Mission, it is important to be less apologetic about it. For I believe that the world is at stake here, and the sole passion on my heart is to do as excellent a job that the church can accomplish, so that we can indeed "speed the Lord's return"!

So some Scriptures to begin demonstrating the vitality of New Testament prophecy:

1. (1 Corinthians 11:4-5, 14:3) The New Testament church prophesied regularly when together.

2. (Acts 19:6) Those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit prophesied at the laying on of hands, WHEN they received.

3. (Romans 12:6, Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 29) Prophecy is a gift that the Risen Christ gives to the church.

4. (Ephesians 4:4-6) Apostles and Prophets were given the revelation of the full plan of salvation.

5. (1 Thessalonians 5:20) Christians MUST value prophecy and not despise it.

6. (1 Corinthians 14:1) The gift of prophecy must be sought above any other.

What then is a Prophet?

1. He is a Spokesman of God.

Exodus 7:1 - "Your brother Aaron shall be your prophet".

Haggai 1:13 - "Then Haggai, the messanger of God, spoke by the comission of the Lord".

Jeremiah 1:7 - "Then the Lord said ... Do not say, 'I am but a youth' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you to speak, you shall speak".

Isaiah 6:8-9 - "Whom shall I send and who will go for Us? Then I said, "Here I am, send me!". He said, "Go".

Ezekiel 2:3-4 - "Then He said to me, 'Son of man I am sending you ... and you shall say to them".

Ezekiel 3:10-11 - "Moreover He said to me, 'Son of Man take into your heart all My words ... go to the exiles and speak to them, and tell them ...".

2. He is a Watcher For God.

Isaiah 62:6 - "On your walls I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth".

I realise that the majority of texts I am using here are from the Old Testament, but while I do understand the difference between Old and New Testament prophets, I think there are some similiarities in their comission and calling and I believe there are principles that can be learnt (1 Corinthians 10:6 - "these things happened as examples for us"). In this key text, I see such a powerful link between the ministry of the prophet and the role of an intercessor. The Lord God has appointed watchmen (or prophets as I am arguing) not just to look and see but to then "give Him no rest" until when? Until He returns a second time? No, until "Jerusalem is made a praise in the earth".

a. To warn of His judgement and imminent departure.

There is a disturbing progression in Ezekiel (which I have never heard preached on!) which details the withdrawal of the glory of the Lord in stages from the temple - to a mountain outside the city. I think, on the one hand it shows the astonishing grace of God (the withdrawal was in stages not immediately) but on the other, the fact that He cannot tolerate sin and will withdraw His active Presence if His Spirit is quenched or grieved.

Ezekiel 8:6 - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v12) - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v15) - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v17) - "Do you see this son of man?".

Ezekiel 9:3 - "Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been to the threshold of the temple".

Ezekiel 10:18 - "Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim".

Ezekiel 10:19 - "And they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord's house and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them".

Ezekiel 11:23 - "And the glory of the Lrod went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city".

b. To look for His coming in revival.

Ezekiel 43:2, 5 - "Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing the east; and behold the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory ... and behold the glory of the Lord filled the house".

3. He is a Catalyst Used by God.

Throughout the Bible, there are many references to the power of the spoken Word. God is a speaking God, and His silence usually demonstrates some form of judgement. (Psalm 33:6) "By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made". This is true of God, yet I would argue that it was intended to be also true of His prophets (inspiration) and His teachers (preparation).

Jeremiah 5:14 - "Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, "Because you have spoken this word, behold I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood and it will consume them".

Ezekiel 37:4 - "He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones ...". (v9) - "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy son of man ...". (v12) - "Prophesy and say to them ...". (v14) - "I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life".

I believe that the prophet's words in a local church context can unlock personal issues. I remember being at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000. It was the first meeting and I just couldn't "get into" the worship. The devil was busy reminding me of my sin and how unworthy I was. Then Terry Virgo got up and prophesied (and I shall never forget it); "This is dancing ground ... I have cleared the way ... you're free to dance now". From then on the whole Bible Week seemed unlocked to me.

But also unlock and unleash a corporate powerful spirit of prayer, intercession, worship. I have been fortunate to be in some contexts (such as Stoneleigh Bible Week, Brighton Leaders Conference and at Church of Christ the King, Brighton) where the worship has been progressing beautifully but not quite "there" - and then a prophetic word is spoken, the people are arrested and the whole tone and manner of the meeting changes. Of course a sensitive elder in charge is essential to hear from God, weigh whether the word is of God and respond to it.

Some practical matters ...

John Hosier recommends that; "It is probably best not to have a prophet leading the church. He can get so much revelation that the church can blow up trying to implement it all. It is not always wise to have elders who are prophets, for they tend to be impatient and frustrated when considering the small details of church life that elders must give attention to".


Ollie said...

Wow ... a powerful piece indeed. I get the feeling that "Prophet" excites the writer somewhat! There's a lot to consider and reflect on there. But I am particularly challenged by the lack of importance that we have attributed to prophecy and the role of prophet. Maybe due to the fear of excess? Maybe due to the desire not to offend cessationist brethren?

But however we cannot escape the fact that Paul says that we must desire prophecy more than anything else in 1 Corinthians 14. And I have heard Dr Sam Storms pick up on this, and say that therefore if we DONT desire prophecy - then we are disobeying Scripture.

Serious business!

nwood said...

I was kinda hoping that you were going to unpack C J Mahaney's character a little bit more, as it seems like you've been considering him and thinking about him quite a bit. This comment from Don was particularly interesting:

"He really doesn't care whether or not you like him personally. I don't think he's reaching out for more friends, or desperate to please anybody except God, and secondarily his family and tight circle of fellow leaders (that's what he conveyed over 20+ years in my hearing). He's not "touchy-feely," and has a prophet's blunt personality more than a pastor/shepherd's one. He's much more likely to tell you to straighten up, pursue the spiritual disciplines, get accountability and obey the clear teaching of God than to put his arm around your shoulder and commiserate with your situation".

That sounds like a prophet's mannerism to me! But what I want to know is, WHY are they like that - and secondly is that BIBLICAL?

Baxter's Boy said...

It would be more for Don to comment on this than me, as I don't know Mahaney at all (I've only met him twice). Why are they like that? I think it is because they have a sole, single passion (with Mahaney it is presumably Cross-centred living) and they see anything else as secondary to that passion and call. This would be confirmed by Don's comment about him having a blunt prophet's personality - I certainly found this when I met him, but that suits me, because I can be quite blunt too!

Is it biblical? Well some of the Old Testament prophets would certainly match this kind of personality, but I don't think it's what you would find in the Lord Jesus. So I don't know - to me, the important thing is to strive to be like Him, rather like them!

Don said...

I think there are prophetically gifted people who lean toward "exhortation" and some toward "encouragement." The teaching I've heard has usually stressed the latter, as the prophetic gift is for the edification of the church. Usually the prophetically gifted person who functions as a layperson is used to speak words of encouragement, insight and *gentle* correction to fellow believers.

However, the personality of the person involved is always expressed in the gift, right? Mahaney' personality is more the exhortative, and people who I've met with the prophetic "office" within a congregation or movement often have this exhortative angle -- they are seeing/hearing God's direction, plus God's boundaries and warnings.

Above all they want to please and obey God -- and the more clearly God has revealed certain truths to their own spirits, the more difficult it is for them to deal patiently with people who don't see or understand what God has so clearly revealed to themselves.

The training of someone with a powerful prophetic gift involves the most time, pain and humiliation of any leadership gift, IMHO, because God desires to impart secrets of His own heart within the context of an intimate relationship. The problem for God is that the prophetic vessel must be a broken one -- acquainted with the suffering of himself and others, and acquainted most with the ongoing sufferings of Christ for mankind. "I desire mercy rather than sacrifice."

Only when the prophet's independent-leaning spirit is broken by God, and he is a true, loyal yokefellow of Jesus, can God really trust him (or her) with real secrets for others. The prophet often must hear a word and then *not* reveal it -- just pray over it and/or wait for the proper timing. Such humility and patience in a strongly prophetic person is not easily developed. I'm reminded of Moses spending 40 years as a nobody-shepherd, before God *revived* his desire to free the Hebrew people....

I heard a South African prophet describe how God gave him a powerful prophetic gift over 20 years ago. When he went to his pastor to discuss how he was to use this very visible gift, the pastor handed him a scrub brush and told him to clean the church's bathrooms. Turned out, the prophet admitted, that his was a very wise pastor. God had already shown the pastor the immaturity in the prophet's heart, and that servanthood would be the most important training vehicle for his prophetic gift.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks so much for this ... I love reading from your wealth and experience Don. Particularly the point about hearing a word then "waiting". I think so often there were occasions (and maybe these are the "bad" prophecies that the cessationists hate) when prophecies are given and we just get so so SOOO excited that we blurt it out!! But of course throughout the Old Testament there are times and occasions when God shut His prophets mouths. And if we desire this gift (as we are commanded to do) then part of our training surely is to learn when to speak and when to SHUT UP!!

I know that God never wants or expects full maturity and perfection before He trusts someone with ministry, but surely the closer we walk in the Spirit and learning from Him and learning about Him, then the less and less these blunders will come out. Look at Peter for example!! The difference between him at the fire in the Priest's court - and in the Temple post-Pentecost. Fear - boldness. The difference the Spirit can make!

Anonymous said...

My concern is that this blog is advocating a view of prophecy higher than it should be and setting it up and against that of preaching. I realise the writer isn't advocating adding to the canon but surely he must accept that is a danger in looking for such potential powerful prophets to come forth?

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes I do accept that there is a danger. But surely there is always a danger in holding the tension of truth? Why else would the apostle Paul warn us to "Prove all things"?

Why would we be warned against FALSE apostles and prophets if the roles and offices of the apostle and prophet ended with the closing of the canon? Surely if they really did end, then any apostle or prophet around today would be false by default and we wouldnt need to be warned to prove them and their fruit?

Don said...

Acts testifies to the important role of the prophet in the early Church by describing the ministry of Agabus, as well as the statement that the evangelist Philip had five daughters who were all prophetesses (am I remembering this correctly?)

Both Moses and Paul wanted as many believers as possible to have and exercise the prophetic gift -- they were more concerned with hearing the voice of God for instruction and edification, than concerned about its misuse. (You know the old saw, "The remedy for misuse is not disuse, but proper use.")

That said, most prophetic words will be delivered at the personal level by fellow believers -- many of whom may not even realize they're delivering such while talking over a cup of coffee.

Very few people, IMO, have a strong gift that would qualify them for the "office" of prophet -- yet many will never know the level of their gift if they -- like teachers or evangelists -- aren't encouraged to get out and use the gift in practice (with lots of mistakes, teaching and learning needed!). Those people should be recognized and trained by fellow prophets or other leaders with experience in working with the prophetic ministry. Sadly, there aren't yet enough of those leaders to go around. Something to pray about, right?

Baxter's Boy said...

Amen!! Something to pray for, believe for, hope for, dream for and work for!!

Baxter's Boy said...

It's interesting ... has anyone noticed the FIEC Pastor's Association website? There's a breathtaking bit of deliberate quoting of Scripture there! - "It was he (Christ) who gave some to be ... pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service"

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Ref: http://www.fiec.org.uk/cgi-bin/website.pl?ss=pa&cs=&ctx=portal&act=viewContentSections

ollie said...

Hmm ... cutting out chunks of Scripture ... didn't you tell me that a similar elder once told you that Corinthians was meant for the Corinthians!?!?