In the past couple of weeks as I have been reading my Bible (I am in the minor prophets, which is roughly Daniel - Malachi in the Old Testament), the verses that have been jumping out at me more often than any others are the verses about the prophets themselves - Israel's response to her prophets, the Kings' response to the prophets, God's instructions and words for the prophets.
Prophecy is something that we don't talk a lot about in our modern (or...postmodern) churches, unless perhaps you want to characterize your church as "charismatic." Prophecy, for us, brings up all of these mental images of persons standing around predicting the future, often inaccurately. We get these ideas about cults and about all of the "prophecies" about when exactly the world is going to end, none of which have come true. And it's because of things like this that we have developed in many cases a negative opinion of the idea of prophecy itself.
To be fair, prophecy is a bit of a mess. There are a couple of different kinds of prophecy in the Bible that we can get tangled up in if we're not reading carefully enough to separate them, and basically, we're talking about prophecies that are meant to come true quickly and those that aren't.
Sometimes, God sends the prophets to tell the people what is going to happen and then, it happens. Sometimes, God sends the prophets to tell the people what is going to happen and then, nothing. Whatever God says is going to happen doesn't happen in the lifetime of the prophet or that generation of the people.
Now, there are some who use that as permission to say whatever they want, and then just tack on, "But not in your lifetime." Or "not right now." Or "God didn't say when." We must be extremely careful of false prophets who speak in this sort of language.
Because here's what a prophet is, what a prophet has always been, all the way back to the very beginning and the very first time that God spoke through His person - a truth-teller. A prophet has never been someone who tells the future, but always someone who tells the truth.
The prophet tells the truth about God, about His power and His love. The prophet tells the truth about God's heart. The prophet tells the truth about God's intent and God's plan and God's will. The prophet tells the truth about God's story.
The prophet tells the truth about God's glory.
That's who a prophet is. Anyone who claims to do more than that is not a prophet, and anyone who doesn't do at least that is not a prophet. Plain and simple.
So we'll talk a little more about prophets this week because like I said, some of this stuff is just jumping out at me here recently, and if we're being honest, we could all use more of God's truth these days. Or...any day. Or, really, every day.