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Jesus the Prophet, part 2
So, yes, the Bible is full of prophecy which looks forward to the future, and not just about the life of Jesus. Many other things were told in advance, like the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews. The coming of Gentiles to salvation was also foretold. And many of the prophecies have yet to be fulfilled as they tell about what will happen at the end of this earth. The last chapters of the Book of Daniel and the last chapters of the Book of Revelation fall into this mold, telling about the end of time and the coming of the Lord. The popularity of the fictional series, a few years back, “Left Behind” is proof of how badly people want to know about what God will do in the future.
But believe it or not, telling the future is not the most important function of the Biblical prophet. The prophet had a much higher and much more important calling than telling about what would happen down the road. Now, what could be more exciting or important than telling God’s people about God’s future plans? How about telling people what God was thinking “here and now,” and what He wants His people to know today, in this moment? The real function of the prophet was to speak the very Words of God, often a message of warning or a call to right living.
Think about what a bold claim the prophet made. He or she was making the assertion that the words they spoke were not just a clever message or good advice, they were not just wise words to be heeded; no, they were the Words straight from God that He wanted to be spoken, right now. That’s a pretty bold claim, to say the least; it implies that God has chosen the prophet to be His mouthpiece and that the Words spoken were to be taken with the same authority as Scripture. No wonder the punishment for being a false prophet was death… the false prophet was making false claims about God. (I’m convinced that there are many self-proclaimed "prophets" in the world today because false prophets aren’t killed today as they were in the Old Testament. If there were a penalty for errantly speaking on behalf of God, the Church as a whole would be far quieter.)
What you’ll notice is that in the Bible most of the time that God called a person to be a prophet the prophet would do everything possible to get out of the job; it is no small thing to claim to speak for God. The best known example of this is Moses. God told him to go to the Hebrew people and to Pharaoh to speak for Him. Moses flat out refused to do so, giving in only when God continued to insist. And no wonder. Moses was called to go and stand in front of the most powerful and dangerous man in the country, perhaps in the world, and tell him that God wanted him to let His people go free. Not only did Moses feel unworthy of such a task, he was probably also afraid for his life.
But all throughout the Bible, that’s exactly what God called the prophets to do. It’s as if the prophets were God’s early warning system. When God wanted to break into the world with an urgent message He would first call a prophet to go do the talking. They would usually try to get out of the task, but God would win the debate and the prophet would go forth speaking for God. Sadly, God’s people usually did not listen, and the warnings predicted would come to pass.
God used prophets to warn the people that if they did not remember and obey the promises they made that He would punish them. When they refused to obey, the punishment would come, just like God had promised through the prophet. Therefore as you can see, prophecy is not just about telling the future, it is more often speaking the very Words of God.
Medication: A Merry Heart
A headmaster at a parochial school wanted to provide his new students some advice for appropriate behavior at church. He thought he would try to elicit rules that their parents might give the youngsters before taking them to a nice restaurant.
“Don’t play with your food,” one second grader cited.
“Don’t be loud,” said another, and so on...
He then turned to another youngster to ask, “And what rule do your parents give you before you go out to eat?”
Without batting an eye, the child replied, “Order something cheap.”
God Bless, Press On!
St Mark’s Community Church, Janesville
New Beginnings Church, New Ulm
Verse of the Week: Romans 15:13 NIV
Today’s readings: Acts 18:19 – 19:41