The Hard Road
Prophesy must always uplift people. – Pastor of an Apostolic church
Jesus famously accused Jerusalem of murdering just about every prophet sent by God to that city. If you're like me, when that is talked about in church, we like to exchange knowing looks. We know the truth and would never do such a thing to people who speak the truth. But would we? Would we be any better? Looking at the church these days, I have my doubts.
Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were especially brave people who knew the risks that went with the job. They often confronted people within the religious establishment. They spoke out against the accepted “truth”, often at the risk of lethal anger on the part of their audiences.
“You say, ‘That’s not true! I haven’t worshiped the images of Baal!’ But how can you say that? Go and look in any valley in the land! Face the awful sins you have done. You are like a restless female camel desperately searching for a mate. You are like a wild donkey, sniffing the wind at mating time. Who can restrain her lust? Those who desire her don’t need to search, for she goes running to them!” – Jeremiah 2:22-24 (NLT)
“As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters. Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.” – Ezekiel 16:48-50 (NLT)
How would a church respond to someone saying that to them? I doubt it would be any different from what Judah did to her own prophets. Perhaps, we might be more likely to sue the prophet for defamation than actually murder them, but let's not rule out the latter possibility.
And yet, some hold that prophesy should always “uplift”, meaning make you feel good. I disagree. Prophesy should promote serious self-reflection, prayer and spiritual growth. It should cause people to draw near to God in truth.
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. – Jude 17-19
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:1-4
In the last day, sound doctrine will be abandoned. While it has been happening for centuries with numerous alternatives, our own time has seen a real decline in the church in most denominations and movements. When a prophet is silenced or a speaker of truth is told that she or he must make believers feel good about themselves, this is a perversion of the ministry of a prophet.
Looking at the Biblical record, is it any wonder that so few are remembered as true prophets of the Lord God? Tickling people's ears is easy. That's why so many do it. Being a prophet of God, that is, speaking the absolute Biblical truth, is the hard road. People will hate you because of Christ the Lord and coming Judge.
Yet, prophesy always offers redemption, as that is its end purpose, after all. Isaiah models this wonderfully, in the midst of calling people out on their sins. He points to the Redeemer and a time when God will move to bring people into His kingdom.
But don't worry, those people to whom prophets speak to will mostly forget that nugget and focus on (and react to) the judgement pronounced.
The Bible is God's final word on truth. It is the utter authority on which our conduct and ethics stand. If someone's preaching does not line up with that, then they are either mistaken or lying through their back teeth. A single verse, a doctine doth not make.
So, to wrap this up, read your Bible before you agree with me on this. The only thing I am absolutely sure of: thank the Lord Almighty that, in His wondrous wisdom, I am not one of His prophets. I don't fancy being sawn in two, if it is all the same.