The Prophet’s Voice (Part 5)
As young Church prophets read through the Bible twice in a period of two months it will become clear that everything in Scripture points to one Person — Jesus Christ. As we read the New Testament we learn that Jesus is God, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, King of kings and Lord of lords, the High Priest of God, the Sacrifice for sin, and the Chief Prophet of the Church. It would be of great benefit for young prophets in the Church to learn from Christ Jesus their Lord.
Jesus was born of prophecy. The great prophets of the Old Testament spoke of His coming — from Abraham to Malachi. The angels of God spoke often of His coming. Mary the mother of Jesus prophesied of the great things her Son would accomplish (Luke 1). Simeon prophesied that Jesus was the salvation of God and would be a Light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and be the Glory of Israel (Luke 2). The prophetess Anna who was more than 100 years old saw the baby Jesus in the Temple and gave thanks to God and spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2). The renowned prophet John the Baptist preached of the coming of the Messiah Jesus calling Him “the salvation of God” (John 3).
One of the first things Jesus did in His Ministry was to read from the prophet Isaiah to demonstrate that He was the fulfillment of that prophecy.
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21
The people closest to Jesus and many in the crowds that heard Him recognized Christ as the promised Prophet (John 6:14; 7:40). Even those who were not Jews recognized that Jesus was a great Prophet (John 4:19). So, did Jesus prophecy? Did He reveal the hidden things of God? Yes, He did, and the young prophet can learn much about prophecy by studying Christ’s Words.
Prophecy is not just about telling the future. It is primarily about telling the truth. And it is that truth-telling that causes prophets problems. Take Luke 4 for example. Jesus went into the synagogue where He grew up in Nazareth. It was the Sabbath day and He did as was His custom. Jesus stood to read to the congregation and was handed the Book of Isaiah. Jesus opened the Book and read Isaiah’s prophecy that described the Ministry the Messiah would have on earth. Jesus finished reading, handed the Book back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone was looking at Jesus to see what words of wisdom He might share with them — as He had done many times before. But this time it was different. Jesus sat before them in His Prophetic Office and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” How did these people who had known Jesus since He was boy react to what the Lord said to them?
“So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ Then He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Luke 4:22-30
Did you see that? The members of the synagogue where Jesus grew up – the men and women who knew Him from childhood – were so angry by what He said that they “thrust” Jesus out of the city intent on throwing Him over a cliff to kill Him! There are many things about the Lord’s Words that set off the people who had known Him most of His life, but the point for our study is that prophets will often not be accepted by the people they grew up with and even kicked out of their church. As Jesus said, “no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Keep in mind that this was His family’s synagogue. That’s why the people said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Mary and her other sons and daughters to see how angry Jesus made their friends?
The number of Americans who attend church regularly has been estimated between 20-30%. The percentage is less in Canada, Europe, and the UK. The number of people attending Christian churches is fewer and the number of people who are really saved is less than that. So, here’s a question for you: how many churches have you attended in your lifetime, so far? Most Christians in the countries mentioned above have attended multiple churches because of going away to college, moving for a job, looking for a better church experience, etc. It was not that way for the first several centuries of the Church. People lived and died in the same villages and towns. Most Christians spent their lives in the same village church. If God called them to be a prophet in their church and they made their church angry, what would they do? Where would they go?
The language and interpretation of Paul’s writing are based on the realities of society of the 1st Century AD. The directives Paul shared with church members dealt with them working things out with each other – not running out on each other. Running from place to place looking for the perfect church is not what God has in mind for the Body of Christ. The power of the Gospel is in changing lives, not in changing churches. Go where God sends you, but be sure it’s God Who is sending you. Don’t run away from problems in your church. Be one of the people who helps keep Christians on course in their walk with Christ and each other.
After Paul wrote the beautiful words of Ephesians 4 about why Jesus gave prophets to the Church, the apostle told the family of God in Ephesus that they should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, “in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18) Paul wrote, “But you have not so learned Christ.” (vs 20) Paul implored the believers to “put off” the old man and be renewed in the “spirit of your mind.” (vs 22-23) He encouraged them to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (vs 24). Then Paul got personal with his brothers and sisters in Christ and did what prophets do – tell it like it is.
“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
Do you see any advice from the Apostle Paul about being defensive, fighting back, giving up, or running away? No. Paul’s advice – God’s Advice – is that we stick it out and find ways to make unity work in the Church. If God has called you to be a prophet in His Church, He’s called you to become part of that solution. Did Jesus become defensive to His attackers? Did He fight back? Did He give up? Did He run away? No. Jesus pressed forward and obeyed everything that His Father in Heaven told Him to do. Jesus went all the way to the Cross and finished the work His Father had given Him to do. Because of Jesus we are one. It’s our job to act like we’re one people. That’s the job of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
How well we have done our job is evidenced by the spiritual condition of the Church today. If Jesus were to come to your church this Sunday and speak at your morning worship service, what would He say about the spiritual condition of your church? I think we all know what the Son of God would say. There is much work to be done and it needs to begin with those who lead the flock of God.
In the next part of our study we’ll look at the four primary ways Jesus spoke during His earthly Ministry and what we can learn at His feet.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”