“The prophets purge our imaginations of this world’s assumptions on how life is lived and what counts in life. Over and over again, God the Holy Spirit uses the prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live and to put them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards.” — Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire
We need the prophets again. Not only that, we need to pay attention once again.
I am reading back through Ezekiel these days, asking the Lord about “imagination.”
As I read through the early part of Ezekiel again, I am struck by Ezekiel’s call. I also think of Jeremiah’s call. They were to warn clearly regardless of the response. If they didn’t give the warning, God would hold them (the prophets) accountable. In an era where church leaders are consumed with response, this is just offensive. Continue reading “The watchman on the wall”
“Everyone more or less believes in God or gods. But most of us do our best to keep God on the margins of our lives, or, failing that, we refashion God to suit our convenience. Continue reading “The need for prophets”
A phrase I use a lot is “We need to move from the pathetic to the prophetic.” Continue reading “From Pathetic to Prophetic”
In 2 Kings 2 there is the story of Elisha and the bitter water. There was a place where he lived and the water was poisonous. It was not safe. (Who knew Elisha visited Flint, Michigan?)
Elisha had the inquirers put salt into a jar and toss the salt into the water. The water became “sweet”, or life giving, again.
We may face situations that are poisonous. We face a tough work situation, family situation, church situation and the waters are poisonous. Nothing good is happening. The question becomes, “Can the bitter become sweet?”
It is easy to join the bitter. It is prophetic to turn the bitter into sweet.
This is not about ignoring the poison. It is about changing the poison. It takes a prophetic, Spirit-filled leader to bring that kind of change.
Be that kind of leader.
- We must be deep in Christ. When we are deep in him, sweet “water” can flow from us. If we are not plunging the depths of Christ ourselves, the bitterness can infect us. We have two ways to grow: grow into bitterness, or grow into a sweet depth of Christ. It is easier to grow in bitterness if the sweet depth of Christ is not there first.
- Through the Spirit, we are enabled to see what is POSSIBLE. Elisha could see what was possible even though the presence situation was bad.
- Prophetic action may seem “salty” at times. I’m just using the picture from the story, but there are answers to turn a situation around that aren’t always “tasty.” Sometimes the prophetic action seems “salty,” or abrasive, or rude, or doesn’t correlate to the end result. But, the prophetic leader follows the lead of the Spirit, acts, and the result is life.
When we came to our current ministry 18 years ago, the waters weren’t “sweet.” Over the process we’ve seen the Lord turn possible bitterness into sweet waters of life. We’ve had to be “salty” at times as leaders. But as we’ve dug roots of ministry here, leadership has become so deep in Christ, there abides a life-giving element of leadership that pushes out all attempts of poison.
Life is possible. Change is possible. We don’t have to abide in bitterness. We don’t have to ignore the poisonous situation. We can bring the change needed.
One way (possibly) to express what the word of God means in full (besides getting so narrow to say it means only the Bible) is this passage in Amos:
9 On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your feasts into sad affairs
and all your singing into a funeral song;
I will make people wear mourning clothes
and shave their heads;
I will make it like the loss of an only child,
and the end of it like a bitter day.
11 The days are surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send hunger and thirst on the land;
neither a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the Lord ’s words.
12 They will wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they will roam all around, seeking the Lord’s word,
but they won’t find it. (Amos 8:9-12)
The famine of the word isn’t about lacking a printed word. It’s about the Lord not speaking any longer. There isn’t a “fresh word” from God.
It’s not something in addition to the written word. It is the ability to hear God.
Lord, give us ears to hear! Let the written word be made alive by the Living Word! Without hearing the Living Word, the written word can be right in front of us and we are still blind! We could still be deaf!
Speak to us, Living Word. Let us hear your word to the Church today!
In reading through the story of Elisha I am struck by the ease with which Elisha moves in each situation. The miraculous pours from him. He has not looked back since he struck the Jordan River with Elijah’s cloak.
There is almost the mundane situation of having the stew taste funny and he knew what to do. Then there is the widow and the oil that supplied money for the debt she owed. It is as “every day” as an ax head that gets lost, or the very surreal event of the enemy’s general coming for a visit.
Elisha isn’t intimidated. He doesn’t show favoritism. He hears from God and moves as God wants him to move.
Elisha wasn’t intimidated by Naaman, an enemy of Israel. He doesn’t refuse Naaman because he is the “enemy.” He hears God and lives to OBEY.
My heart is challenged. This week has been a week of prayer as I’ve examined this life of Elisha all over again.
2 Kings 2
When Elijah and Elisha came to Bethel, a company of prophets came to greet them. Bethel was a place of rebellion. Jeroboam had set up one of the golden calves to lead Israel from the worship of God in Jerusalem.
Elijah and Elisha themselves were prophets in Israel, the northern tribes, in an era when Israel had no godly kings.
We need to pay attention to these stories and take them into our lives. Being spoiled for a few hundred years, having Christianity be so “free” in this nation, has made the Church soft. We don’t know what a prophetic witness really is. It’s beyond standing up and shouting a “thus saith the Lord!”
The company of prophets stood in stark contrast to the world around them. When Israel refused Yahweh, this company of prophets kept pressing toward Yahweh. They didn’t wait for their culture to get on board. They simply went after God.
Today we need this company of prophets, the prophetic witness of the Church, to rise up again. No excuses. No whining. No wishing for the “old days.” Just follow God and let that stand out against the turning of the tide.
Of all the stories and sermons I remember from growing up, and being a young preacher, the stories of Elijah are the most captivating to me. His life is fascinating and there are just a dozen great sermons (and titles) I think of when I read through the stories of Elijah.
I’m fairly sure this guy would be on meds in our current culture. Or locked up. Today his personality would be full of “mental issues.” I am always interested to know if anyone has done a psychological evaluation on Elijah as an article. I think it would be interesting.
Some thoughts on sermons and message titles along the way on Elijah:
— Elijah walks into Ahab’s court and predicts no rain: “Hit and run prophet.”
— He goes to the widow of Zarephath for provision: “There’s a Miracle in Your House.”
— The confrontation with the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel: “Where is your god?”
— Running like a scared little girl from Jezebel.
— The journey to Horeb and hearing the voice of God.
These are great stories. Elijah demonstrates personality issues, to be sure, but there is the radical trust in God’s provision, the ability to hear the voice of God and act on it, and the downright honesty he carries with God all the time. When he is up, he is WAY up. And when he is down… he lets God know…
We can learn from Elijah’s radical dependency on God. We can learn from his boldness. We can learn from his ability to listen and discern. He gives us great lessons that need to be lived out today.
When we get into 1 Kings, we get more stories of the prophets. This is quite a bunch in these stories.
In 1 Kings 13, Jeroboam is met by a man of God who prophesies doom on Jeroboam. Jeroboam doesn’t like it, and being king, he thinks he can simply arrest the seer. Not so fast.
4 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. 5 Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord.
Don’t mess with the man of God!