I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I am not claiming any inspiration, only perspiration. But there certainly have been God-sent prophets of course. Biblical prophets with inspired prophetic words which became part of the biblical canon have been a vital part of how God deals with his people.
Without entering the current debate about prophetic words given today, I nonetheless believe God does send people with a prophetic-like ministry, or a watchman on the wall sort of calling. They will not be infallible and inspired as were the prophets that we find in Scripture, but God can still use people like this to speak to his church and to society.
I believe God seeks to both warn and encourage his people today, and to speak in prophetic fashion to the culture at large. God uses many of these people to sound the alarm and seek to wake a sleeping church and a comatose culture. Many of these prophetic-type voices could be mentioned here.
We think of recent great and powerful men of God such as Ravenhill or Tozer or Wilkerson or Schaeffer. They all have acted in a prophetic manner, speaking to the issues of the day, and challenging a wayward church to become all it is meant to be in Christ.
That does not mean people always listened to them or went along with their calls. Often they were ignored or even rejected outright. That has always been true of the prophetic voice. How often does it go unheeded and even fiercely resisted?
The examples of this are found throughout the Bible. The Old Testament has case after case of prophets being raised up by God, only to be rejected, ignored, despised and even killed by the people. And Scripture offers plenty of commentary about this as well. Let me offer just a few Old Testament passages on this:
1 Kings 19:10 [Elijah] replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
Nehemiah 9:30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples.
Isaiah 30:9-11 For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction.
They say to the seers,
“See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
“Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!”
Jeremiah 2:30 In vain I punished your people;
they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
like a ravening lion.
Jeremiah 6:17 I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
Amos 7:12-14 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
And we find the same thing in the New Testament. Many texts can be cited. Here are just some of them:
Matthew 13:57 A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Matthew 23:29-37 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. “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.”
Acts 7:51-53 “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.”
Romans 11:3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” Quoting Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, 14
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
Hebrews 11:32-38 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Revelation 11:10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
Revelation 16:4-6 The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water,and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”
Hmm, get the message? God’s word via God’s choice servants is seldom readily received and welcomed. In fact it is usually hated and rejected. And things are not really any different in contemporary times. God raises up pastors, teachers and others today to share his truth, but often they are ignored or rejected.
Again, they do not have the same divinely inspired inerrant word as did those whose words and writings contributed to the Bible. But they do have words to share nonetheless. And they too can be just as mocked, reviled, denounced and resisted as were the prophets of biblical times.
There have been so many of these watchmen on the wall types today who have warned and pleaded and alerted a slumbering church –only to face ridicule, rebuke and resentment. Sure, since they are not infallible nor divinely inspired, when they get things wrong then they should be ignored and rejected.
But when they get things right, we really need the church to listen, and to listen carefully. So many have warned about massive threats to faith, freedom and family – such as stealth jihad, the culture of death, and the radical sexual juggernaut – but far too often their words have fallen on deaf ears.
Almost always these warnings have been ignored or opposed. Thus when all these things they warn about fully befall the church and culture, all that these prophetic voices can do is say, “We tried to warn you. We told you so. But you would not listen.”
So it is the same sad situation that we find in Scripture. God raises up those who must share crucial warnings, only to have most folks reject them and criticise them. There is nothing new under the sun. But those of us who have been given a calling like this must simply persevere.
It is no fun to be laughed at and hated on. It is no fun to have fellow Christians seek to discredit you and publicly attack you. It is no fun when so much of the church rejects you, along with the world. It is a whole lot easier just to keep your mouth shut and live a quiet and easy life.
But to keep quiet when God is calling you to speak out is just not on. One is reminded of the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 20:9): “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Those who are called to speak must speak. They must warn. They must plead. So if you wonder why some Christians today keep speaking out and keep sounding the alarm, you can see why they must carry out their commission. They dare not remain silent. It would be sin for them to do so.
There are many great saints I could quote from here to close off this piece. But let me utilise just one man who knew full well the importance of the prophetic word for today. I refer to the American preacher Vance Havner (1901-1986). If you know nothing about this man of God, you should. See here for more on him: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/25/notable-christians-vance-havner/
He often spoke about the absence of prophets today, the need for prophets, and the price to be paid to be a prophet. Here are just a few of his inspiring and challenging quotes:
“Prophets are almost extinct in the religious world today. The modern church is a ‘non-prophet’ organisation.”
“The most neglected ministry today is that of the New Testament prophet. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists may exercise a prophetic ministry occasionally, but there should be fulltime prophets who speak for God to the nation and the church.”
“When religion becomes a performance instead of an experience, when the living faith of the dead becomes the dead faith of the living, prophets are needed.”
“The prophet must needs have the heart of a child and the hide of a rhinoceros. His problem is how to toughen his hide without hardening his heart. That combination can be achieved only by the grace of God.”
“Prophets are very disturbing to smug church members who like to sit half-asleep in church on Sunday morning while the minister drones platitudes that offend nobody.”
“Prophets have never been plentiful, and the species is threatened with extinction.”
“We need a John the Baptist in America today to call the nation and church to repentance.”
“I find myself wondering how John the Baptist would have addressed the Rotary Club in Bethel or how John the Baptist would behave before a Monday Minister’s meeting.”
“Popularity has slain more prophets of God than persecution ever did.”
“There has never been a rush to wear the prophet’s mantle.”