Can You Stand as a Prophetic Witness?

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.

 

Elijah

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.

Don’t Cross the Man of God

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.

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. 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!

Complaining to God

We don’t often look into the “minor prophets.” It’s “flyover country” for us. They are too far removed. They are too “mean.” We have all kinds of excuses.

Habakkuk gives us some insight into prophetic complaining. He has a case against God and he is willing to voice it.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (Hab. 1:2-4, NIV)

He gets even more demanding later in the writing:

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Hab. 2:1, NIV)

He is saying, “I am going to stand here with my arms crossed and just DEMAND God answer me! What kind of excuse will he give me this time?”

Habakkuk is bold. Yet, here is the thing about Habakkuk: God answered. 

We are allowed our fits and rages with God. He does not fear our anger.

What we need to be ready for in return is the possibility that he just might answer. 

God does indeed answer Habakkuk, and the prophet has to hear God’s response.

Hit and Run Prophecies

It doesn’t happen nearly as often these days, but it JUST happened, so I am thinking of what I call “hit and run” prophecies. Sometimes it’s an “anonymous” letter sent to the church. Occassionally, like this time, it’s a phone call left on the church voicemail. It’s called in at night when they know no one is there. They leave some “word from God” without their name or return phone number (like that can’t be traced, which really cracks me up).

Makes me want to call that guy back at 5 a.m. and give him MY word from God… 😉

Prophecies are not hit and run. They are true words from God. They are told TO people… TO their faces. It can be encouraging. It can be challenging… but the prophet is out there… THEIR face in view… THEIR voice being heard… ready, if necessary, to be responded to…

But the prophet stands… no matter the response.

We need the prophetic word in our Church and in our culture. But do it boldly. Do it with the fear of God in your heart and be ready to take the response.

Scared Spitless

That means really scared.

Habakkuk had that experience. His small book is look inside his prayer journal. At first, he seems pretty ferocious. He’s upset with God. The wicked are getting away with murder, blah, blah, blah.

“I’m just going to give God a piece of my mind and see what he does with that!”

2 Lord, how long will I call for help and you not listen?
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you don’t deliver us.
(Hab. 1:2, CEB)

“So, there! Take that!”

God seems unfazed. Imagine that. We wag our tiny little fingers at him and “rage” at him in our pipsqueak voices… (Come on, even Charlton Heston’s voice sounds like some tiny little mouse from God’s vantage point. Admit it.)

Habakkuk is just so enraged. And God let’s Habakkuk know he’s got this one.

His answer?

5 Look among the nations and watch!
Be astonished and stare
because something is happening in your days
that you wouldn’t believe even if told.
(Hab. 1:5, CEB)

Translation: “Shut up and watch something.”

Does Habakkuk learn? Not yet. He rages on in the latter part of Chapter 1.

Then, in Hab. 2:2-3, God shows up.

“Habakkuk, just watch.”

Whatever Habakkuk witnessed in a vision was enough. In fact, it buckled his knees.

16 I hear and my insides tremble.
My lips quiver at the sound.
Rottenness enters my bones.
I tremble while I stand,
(Hab. 3:16, CEB)

This isn’t the warm and fuzzies. God showed up and let Habakkuk know what was about to happen and it scared Habakkuk spitless.

There are times we need to have THAT feeling come over us. There are times we need the realization that the warm fuzzies is not the entirety of God. We think WE see injustice? When God shows up and gives us HIS view, we need a sense of fear and trembling.

God is ready to do amazing things. But “amazing” isn’t going to necessarily be in our definition. But whatever God does, when he shows up, have a glass of water close by. You just might need it.

Are We Faithful or Are We Drifting?

Doom, obstinate one,
the defiled one,
the violent city.
She listened to no voice;
she accepted no discipline.
She didn’t trust in the Lord,
nor did she draw near to her God.
The princes in her midst are roaring lions.
Her judges are wolves of the evening;
they leave nothing for the morning.
Her prophets are reckless, men of treachery.
Her priests pollute that which is holy;
they do violence to the Instruction. (Zeph. 3:1-4, CEB)

As the American Church, we may need to pay close attention to this warning to Judah. Sometimes, if we will do ANY self-examination, we may find that we have become obstinate. The church on the “left” easily accuses the church on the “right” of being obstinate. And the favor is often returned. Yet… look inside. Perhaps there are times we are all obstinate in some way. We have failed to listen to God. We have failed because we are too busy talking and not caught up with listening any more.

We don’t trust God for alternate reasons. We are leaning on the public sector to be our supply… or we are leaning on rugged individualism. Both cases demonstrate a lack of trust in God.

And the spiritual leaders… Are we reckless? Do we care about people any more? It is a careful walk to be a pastor and spiritual leader in the Kingdom of God. We have to be able to see people. We have to be careful with the Word of God. Instruct people faithfully.

These words are harsh from Zephaniah. The easy thing to do is leave them in that era. Yet… we need to carefully hear those words once again. Do we TRUST God? Are we faithful to his Word?