Prophets are messengers who
Respond to God’s warning word,
Old or in their youth.
Prophets bid their comfort zone farewell,
Holding fast to what they heard
Even if they must tell
The most inconvenient truth.
Sometimes it has to be you!
The common perception of a prophet is an old man with a beard. Someone who predicts the future, probably such a dire future that he wails out his message while wearing sackcloth and ashes.
Despite the popular image, Christians know that a prophet is someone who has received a message from God and is brave enough to tell it to the church and beyond. Bravery is involved because it is no small thing to be certain that a message is from God, and also because the message is likely to be unpopular.
Many people will tell you they don’t want anything to do with religion because it has started wars or because of abuse within the church. The fact that bad things have been done in religious contexts, however, doesn’t invalidate the word of God. Jesus wasn’t wrong, although to the world he may be an inconvenient truth.
Prophets speak inconvenient truths. Sometimes a prophetic word comes from a church leader, with a clearly anointed ministry. Sometimes, however, it can come from the most ordinary person. We need to exercise caution because some Christians can be only too eager to offer a prophetic word, yet they may not have carefully tested and sifted their message to be certain it comes from God.
Prophets may speak of the future, but equally they may refer to current events or remind us of the past. They are people who hear, interpret and make known the word of God.
Although it’s common to think of prophecy as something concerning the future, the prophets of the Bible often spoke of contemporary issues. They would call people to repentance for following false gods, failing to trust the Lord, oppressing the poor, corrupting justice and acting violently.
Prophets are often ignored or worse. People may not want to hear their difficult message. Their message may not show signs of being immediately fulfilled or it may be unclear. It is a troublesome, and sometimes non-transparent, truth.
It would be easier not to be a prophet. But sometimes you hear God speaking to you about something that is not right in the world or in your church. Perhaps it’s because your church is neglecting the elderly, or ignoring visitors, or too obsessed with the performance of worship. You are not sure at first whether it is God speaking or your imagination. Yet God persists and after a while there can be no doubt.
We can all be called to prophesy. The idea of speaking out the word of God probably scares us. I, for one, would be worried if I enjoyed the idea of speaking prophetically – I would be concerned that it was my ego speaking rather than the actual word of God. The truth is rarely convenient, but when you speak it you are in the company of God.
(Prophets appears on my Old Testament: Books of Prophecy page).