I can still remember the day I took one of those online tests which supposedly help you identify your spiritual gifts. They asked me about 50 questions and at the end I was told what my spiritual gifts were (or might be). As I read through my top results I saw a list off all the other gifts a person could have, and there was one that I was surprised to see…prophesy.
I remember thinking, “Prophesy? Doesn’t that mean you can tell the future?” I was shocked to see this as an option on the test, and I was even more shocked that these fifty questions could determine whether or not I had the ability to tell the future.
But what if prophetic discourse is far more than future telling? What if speaking prophetically has little concern with events yet to pass? What if speaking prophetically has so much more to do with “now” and not “later?”
We as Christians need to understand a few things when thinking through prophesy and even reading the prophets in Scripture.
The prophetic office was not so much about the telling of events yet to come, but rather bringing God’s voice to bear on events already happening.
The prophets weren’t a bunch of fortune tellers (although I think there is indeed prophesy of that sort in Scripture as well), they were—and I use this term loosely—the social justice advocates of their day. Read the prophets again and you will see that they weren’t as interested in telling you what was coming as they were in calling Israel (and other nations) back to fidelity with the one true God.
Read through Jeremiah, Hosea, or any of the prophets and you will find men who speak to people, on behalf of God, warning them of their rebellion and calling them back into relationship with the divine.
Take for instance, Jeremiah.
The word of the Lord came to me: “Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says:
I remember the loyalty of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest…What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves?…My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.
See what Jeremiah does here? He tells Israel how she has strayed from God and calls her back to loyalty. He speaks on behalf of God, telling Israel where she has gone off course and later goes on to warn them what this path brings them. This is truly prophetic discourse.
Future telling that occurs in the prophets rarely deals with events certain to pass and more often deals with a warning of what is to become of them if they are to continue in rebellion and do not heed the warnings of God. Seriously, read through all of Jeremiah with this lens. The prophets come to life in a new way when you understand their heart and goal.
I entitled this post “Calling All Prophets” for a reason. I want you to wake up to the realization that you too can participate in this great prophetic tradition. You too can be a prophetic voice which calls the people of God, who are so prone to wander, back to fidelity just as Jeremiah has.
We may not have prophets today recieving direct revelation from God, but we still have a need for prophetic voices speaking God’s truth into the events of today. We need voices reminding the Church of her need to care for the poor and the oppressed. We need prophets like Isaiah who remind us that God says:
If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.
Now, just like always, the people of God desperately need voices on the margins who critique and call the people of God back to faithfulness.
The Church needs you.
Calling all prophets.
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