So Who Wants To Be a Prophet?

There are plenty of thankless and miserable jobs one can get into. One would imagine that being a full-time septic tank cleaner would not be high on the list of favourite jobs. You might have some other candidates to add to such a list.

But one religious job, or calling, must rank up there pretty highly in terms of least favourite work. I refer to the job of being a prophet. If your aim in life is to ‘win friends and influence people’ a la Dale Carnegie, you will not want to take up the prophet’s mantle.

Indeed, we know from Scripture that the only popular prophets were false prophets. Whenever a true prophet of God came on the scene, they were met with scorn, derision and rejection. Consider what was said by Ahab about the prophet Elijah: “When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’” (1 Kings 18:17).

A true prophet of God is always going to be a “troubler”. That is the nature of the prophetic task. Of course a prophet offers both words of judgment as well as words of comfort. Thus a real prophet will both afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

But even with comforting words, prophets are not usually welcomed. Even a superficial knowledge of the Bible will show that prophets were continually rejected by the very people they were sent to minister to. For example, in 2 Kings 9:11 we read about a prophet of God who was called a “madman”.

In Jer 37:16 we read about how “Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time”. Jesus of course could say, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” (Matt 13:57).

Recall what Yahweh says through Jeremiah: “For twenty-three years – from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day – the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, ‘Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.’ ‘But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD” (Jer 25:3-7).

Jesus said much the same thing. Consider Luke 11:47-51: “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”

And in Luke 13:34-35 Jesus said this: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.”

Darrell Bock comments, “In this image, Jesus reveals God’s heart. God’s constant desire is to intimately care for, nurture, and protect his people. . . . Only one thing stopped God from exercising such care: the people did not wish him to do so. As a result, the gathering, with the accompanying offer of protection, could not take place.”

He continues, “Jesus is more empathetic than Jeremiah’s statement of the potential rejection of the nation. He states that a time of abandonment has come. Rather than being gathered under God’s wings, their house is left empty and exposed. The now-empty house is the nation. The tree is being cut down (Luke 13:6-9).”

The disciples also preached a similar message. Stephen for example made this strong proclamation: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it” (Acts 7:51-53).

Stephen of course was stoned to death for uttering such words. John Polhill remarks, “Overall one gets the impression that Stephen realized his defense was a lost cause from the start. He would never secure his acquittal without compromising his convictions. He determined to use the situation as one last opportunity to share his convictions.”

Given what strong words the prophets, Jesus and the disciples gave to God’s people, what about us? Do we also deserve such words? If so, how will we respond? The trouble is, there are very few “troublers” of the church today. There are very few prophets who will challenge the church when necessary.

We have plenty of preachers who will tell believers what they want to hear. But there are not too many who will tell them what they need to hear. Paul warned about this: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3).

Rare is the man today who will go against the worldly trend in the churches and take a strong prophetic stance. A.W. Tozer was one such man. Listen to some of what he had to say in his own induction prayer as a pastor of a church in 1920:

“Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

That is quite a prayer. I wish we heard more such prayers from the pulpits these days. But it is a lot easier to go with what the crowds want, to tell them what they want to hear, and to not rock the boat. There is always a temptation to take the path of least resistance.

But the true man of God will always choose the lonely path, the rejected path, the cross-centred path. That will not make him popular. But so what? None of God’s true prophets were ever popular. Why should we desire to be?

As Paul says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). There are plenty of people who want to be men-pleasers. There are not so many who want to be God-pleasers.

One can understand why. We all want to be popular, to be accepted, to be liked. But I would rather be right than liked. I would rather please God and risk the wrath of man, than please man and risk the wrath of God. So who wants to be a prophet?

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22 Replies to “So Who Wants To Be a Prophet?”

  1. Those that have the fire of God burning in their belly Bill. Those whom God has annointed and appointed for the task and filled to overflowing. Those who even when they put their hands over their mouths have the words of God spill out of them. Those that know the cost and chose with all their hearts, and all their minds, and all strength to love the Lord their God above all other and to love their fellow man as themselves.

    Thank you for being such a one Bill. Your words make me tremble as I recognise the voice of God in them. His warning, His imploring, His beckoning to us His wayward, foolish bride. And while there is yet such a one calling, there is hope. His heart is evident on your sleeve.

    I know Christ is coming back for a spotless bride and Bill, my knees tremble and my eyes weep even as my whole being sings.

    God bless you and yours richly from the riches of His Glory in and through Christ Jesus.

    Jari Bellu

  2. In a sense all of us are called to be as you describe: “take up your cross daily…” We should have already left the world behind and not care what they think, but rather what God thinks.
    Nathan Keen

  3. Nathan I agree wholeheartedly. It would be nice to have adequate superannuation for one’s old age but even more importantly is it to have worked one self in the service of the Bank of Heaven – the benefits go beyond a lifetime.
    Also Bill where does this article place Danny Nalliah and his vision regarding the Victorian bushfires? Why did he not speak out at the time he says he had that dream in october 2008? I am reminded of a prophecy by the Russian orthodox elder Brother Seraphim of Vyrystra(?) who said made a prohecy about Russia under the Communists and then post communism. He spoke it out loud, (I came across it in Michael Green’s book regarding Satan’s doom) why not Brother Nalliah – the Hindsight Prophet!!
    Wayne Pelling

  4. Thanks Wayne

    I do not know the details about Danny and it is unfair to attack him here, without at least having him come and give his version of events. But more to the point, my article on prophets was not about forth telling (predictive prophecy) but about telling forth (speaking into today’s situation from God’s point of view). That seems to me to be the real need of the hour.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Apostles and prophets the foundation of the church! Ephesians 2:20
    A little on prophets, a rare breed.
    A septic tank cleaner would be quite in keeping with the call of the authentic prophetic minister.
    Through out the scriptures the prophet, his life, and his message were as one, his life’s experience was his message.
    The prophets were in effect the custodians of the covenant and also, when needed the enforcers of the same covenant. They were harsh and unreasonable on the one hand, speaking judgment, but on the other hand this was always interspersed with messages of hope and grace. Speaking the first qualified them for the second. A sort of breathing out and breathing in, as one man I know describes it. They were not so much about predicting the future or words over people telling them how good they are (an indication of a false prophet) but addressing the present issues of the day facing Gods people. illuminated by the past and the future.
    Try reading “The Prophetic Call”. Possibly the best work on the subject. Most chapters found here under “The Prophetic Call—”
    Link http://articles.christiansunite.com/preacher4-1.shtml
    Start with no 17, the Introduction.
    Rob Withall

  6. I agree Bill but if we llive prophetically we need to be both telling forth and forth telling. Francis Scaheffer was such a prophet as he addressed the critical cultural issues that Christians face eg abortion, euthanasia and “personal peace and affluence and the non compassionate use of wealth”. He also believed that we faced authoritarian governments in the future as countries lost the Reformation heritage of freedom within the forms of Scripture that Governments in Reformation based countries use to follow; as people lose any concept of the Christian message due to Churches not following Christ but rather seeking to be culturally relevant and diluting the Gospel, and the permeation of post- if not anti-Judaeo-Christian culture, ethics and morals. His book THE GREAT EVANGELICAL DISASTER was prophetic in both senses of the word.
    Wayne Pelling

  7. Thanks Wayne

    Yes and no. Yes you are right, if we use your definition of forth telling. But no, not if we use the biblical definition of forth telling.

    Both Schaeffer and I qualify as forth tellers under your definition. That is we both make general remarks about where culture is heading, and that if present trends continue, then such and such an outcome is likely. Sure, I do this all the time. So did Schaeffer.

    But it seems that neither Schaeffer nor I are doing specifically biblical forth telling (actual predictive prophecy). That is, neither of us have said, “Thus sayeth the Lord; in exactly 7 months this specific thing will happen in this specific place to this specific person in this specific manner,” etc. I certainly do not claim to have that gift, and Schaeffer never did either.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. The false-prophet concept is absolutely correct.

    What is an idol for?

    An idol gives you answers you prefer in place of answers God would provide, so seekers after false prophets are practicing idolatry.

    Idolatry is one of the few things which God states that He actually hates (like divorce – with two exceptions, one of them being idolatry), so if God hates what false prophets produce, then naturally Satan will seek to attract people to them.

    Leon Brooks

  9. Just for the record, Danny did post an article about his dream regarding the bushfires on his website in November 2008, well before the bushfires occurred.
    See the post – click here.
    Jenny Stokes

  10. Dear Bill M.

    By the way God is all knowing and all unprecedented in His love when it comes down to the judgment. For before those days you thought me in Bible College, I’ll tell you I was constantly at war with the spirit of the world. For back then: today I would want to do this, the next day would be maybe this and that time people wanted me to head in their own direction. But God is my witness; I decided to be at the Bible College at your feet and at the rest of the staffs’ teams’ feet, to hear the necessities’ of God’s utterance which is still paying off in my life this day. Bill, I truly want you to know that there is nothing that any person can do to put you down, for I declare, lift up your eyes unto the hills from whence cometh your help. Nevertheless the Lord yet will not suffer His faithfulness to fail within you because I AM is your all in all (your sufficiency).

    Sunday Babatunde Teniola

  11. Yes Jenny, and he also sent out an email to all those on his email list. It was dated November 6, 2008. I read it at the time and then when black Saturday happened the following February, I immediately remembered it, so he can hardly be labeled “the Hindsight Prophet” for that one.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  12. There are indeed prophetic voices, true and false. There are those who are in tune with society, like Archbishop Katherine Jefferts Schori who says that we live in such a new and progressive age that enlightenment comes only with us; whereas anyone living before the 21st century lived in ignorance and superstition. Then there are the true prophets and reformers, like Wilberforce and Lord Shaftsbury who have always worked against the prevailing current, reminding us that we need to turn the clock back not fifty or a hundred years, but two thousand years to the words of Jesus Christ.

    David Skinner, UK

  13. Hi Bill,
    while God has called for more Pastors and teachers of his word and for this day and age, he has not called for Prophets. You see we do not need Prophets today as we have God’s word. Why were Prophets used in the Bible? The Prophets are spokespersons for God who speaks to them so that they may then speak God’s word to the people. Prophets in the Old Testament were used as God’s way of speaking to the people as they would say what God wanted them to say while speaking in God’s name and because there was no word of God for the people to read for guidance. The prophets acted as vehicles for God to communicate to people as the prophets related to the people and can be seen by the people so that they could believe what they saw. As there were no Bibles in those days for God to speak to his people and guide them in the right direction, the use of prophets was definitely needed for this role. This was not the only role that prophets had. Prophets had to pronounce judgement, warn of God’s wrath for disobedience, predict the future, call the people to repent, give hope, interpret dreams, write down God’s message and were to be heeded. In the world today prophets are not needed at all to tell us what God wants and desires from us. Today the Lord communicates to us through the Bible, in which every word has been breathed by him as well as those who are teachers of the Bible. The world does need people to stand up for Christ and what is in the Bible. In terms of this role being a Prophets role, this is no more as God does not use Prophets in this day and age as he has blessed us with his amazing word.
    God Bless,
    Duan Ziegelaar

    Duan Ziegelaar

  14. Thanks Duan

    If you are simply saying that the NT canon is closed, and we have no more divinely inspired writings on the par of our current 27 NT books, then I agree with you. But it seems you are saying more than this; therefore I have to disagree.

    It appears that you want to push a particular theological agenda, and in so doing, you simply throw the baby out with the bathwater, as you ignore or conveniently forget clear NT passages on this. I can list plenty, but let me present just a few:

    -1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
    -1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
    -1 Corinthians 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
    -1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
    -1 Corinthians 14:37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.
    -Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
    -Ephesians 3:5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
    -Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
    -1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

    So I am afraid I will have to side with the Bible on this one, and not you!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Hi Bill,
    My definition for a prophet is someone who speaks from God to the people as well as the roles that I mentioned in my previous post. I am not saying that there are no scriptures in the NT that do not inspire the use prohets. What I am saying is that if God has his word which has many inspired writings on prophecies that have been and are being fulfilled then why does he need prohets to convey anymore more messages? Sorry but maybe I might be confused with your definition of a prophet. What would that be?
    You said to Wayne Pelling “my article on prophets was not about forth telling (predictive prophecy) but about telling forth (speaking into today’s situation from God’s point of view).” What I am trying to say is that Fore-telling (the future) is no more as the bible has these prophesies and Forth-telling (the present generation) is saying things like “your sin will lead you to hell” or “marriage is between a man and a woman”. What I mean is that saying what is there in the Bible is ok but sayng what is not there like predicting the future is not anyones role.
    Duan Ziegelaar

  16. Thanks Duan

    But you still seem to want to put God in a box, and reduce him to your theological likeness. If God wants to tell one of his followers today that something will happen in the future, he can certainly do that if He pleases. There is no passage anywhere telling us God cannot do such a thing.

    You again seem to be confused on some matters. As I said, the inspired Word of God is found in the 66 books of the Bible, and the canon is now closed. But that does not mean that God cannot in one way or another speak to his disciples today, including a predictive word if he so chooses.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. Having been trained in a Brethren Theological College, I know where Duan gets his ideas from. They teach that when the perfect is come that which we know in part will be done away with. They interpret the “perfect” as the canon of scripture. Therefore all the gifts are no longer necessary.

    Many still believe this. My local brethren church does despite facts to the contrary. In the move of God in England in the 60s, Brethren Elders were being baptised in the Spirit and were speaking in tongues. All the major new movements of that era were started by ex Brethren Elders, who were kicked out of their local assembly because they refused to deny the supernatual experiences they went through and which changed their lives.

    I remember reading a book written by a high profile American evangelical writer who has a prolific following. He said that miracles do not happen today. I didn’t believe him. Why should I? I had just read of three students who were doing a short mission trip to Africa who had been asked if they could do anything for a baby that had died the previous day.

    Their inspection of the baby indicated it was very dead. What did they do? They prayed, and prayed and prayed and 30 minutes later the baby came back to life.

    Doing away with the gifts and five ministries of Ephesians 4 means that we control the church which nearly every church has done including the pentes, because like evryone else they only recognise the ministry of pastor, who invariably becomes the jack of all trades and master of none. That is one of the reasons that what goes on in most churches is so shallow.

    Allowing the five ministires and the Spirits gifts to be operational means that God is going to run the show and most leaders don’t want that to happen because God gets all the glory instead of them.

    The fact is, if we don’t need the five ministry gifts and the gifts of the Spirit we don’t need the bible because it says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. We can read the bible until the cows come home, but unless the Holy Spirit is leading us into truth, we will believe anything we are told.

    Roger Marks

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