So what is "prophetic"?

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The editorial linked to below mentions "prophetic" in some form 2 times.  I also heard this word being used at synod in various discussions.  We had a short discussion on it via the live chat stream, which I found insightful to the wide variety of interpretation of what it means to be "prophetic" in our current culture.   So, I'm interested in what others think this might mean.   

http://www.thebanner.org/departments/2012/05/a-political-or-apolitical-church 

Posted in: Prayer; Discussion Topic

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Bev: I've been looking for suggested answers to your question. 

I tend to view the claim of having the responsibility to be prophetic in this article as merely a way to emphasis the writer's insistence that he is right and those who oppose his view are wrong.  In the context of the article you cite, I wonder why the Banner is not insisting, in order to excercise the church's prophetic role as it has chosen to do about climate change, that congress pass laws prohibiting taking the Lord's name in vain, or coveting, or adultery, or worshipping idols.  Doing that would be in accord with the article's emphasis on "sphere universality" (as the article seems to define it), as oppose to "sphere sovereignty."

thx. Doug, appreciate you thinking about this and sharing your insight...

Bev: I appreciate your post, and think it is extremely timely, given how much some recent speakers on Synod's floor emphasized that the institutional church must exercise its prophetic responsibilities (and so declare, for example, that a near consensus of scientists believe this and that about climate change).

I'll thus be more than a bit baffled if no one takes this opportunity to explain in this public CRC forum where they would have more than two minutes (time limit on the floor of Synod) to speak their minds.

And yes, I am baiting. :-)

But seriously, if this reason (CRCNA must exercise prophetic responsibility) is going to used to justify CRC statements/actions on non-ecclesiastic matters, some definitional discussion is needed.

What does it mean to be prophetic in our current culture?   I think of prophets like Nathan who spoke to King David, Elijah who spoke to Ahab,  Jeremiah who spoke to Israel, John the Baptist who was beheaded.   Maybe Stephen was also a prophet before he was stoned to death.  Generally their messages were unpopular, although sometimes, like John the Baptist, they gathered large crowds before they were put in prison.  But the essence of their prophecy was that they spoke the word of the Lord, and brought people to repentance, and back to God. 

Do you remember the story of the prophet who was deceived by another prophet, and yet was held responsible for his disobedience, and died as a result?   Prophecy does not guarantee perfection, and prophetic position does not guarantee purity or a prophetic word in all cases.  

In general, the significance of prophecy was that it countered the prevailing notions of the day, and yet was found to be true.   It was often unpopular because it stressed the supremacy of God at the expense of the popular opinions and current authorities.   The prophets stressed that Israel and Judah would suffer severely and be decimated because of the actions of most of the Israelites and Judaites and their kings in worshipping false gods on the high places.   John the Revelator prophecied first about several churches in terms of warnings and encouragements, as well as proclaiming the promised future of God's kingdom. 

I have difficulty calling someone a prophet when they merely follow the conventional and popular wisdom of the day.   A true prophet was a leader, not a follower.  Except for being a follower of God, of Christ, of His Word. 

Good thoughts John... Thanks for taking the time to think about this and respond.  I have just started studying Samuel as prophet (and seer, now there's a term we don't use too often)... I am particularly looking for indicators of his prayer life, and so as I was reading Samuel earlier today, and in 1 Samuel 7:5-17, it talks about Samuel interceding on behalf of the people, with a footnote that says, prophets had a special responsibility to be intercessors for God's people.  hmmm...  i think there is a high correlation between a person's prayer life and the release/level of prophetic gifting in their life.   that's my hypothesis, and so now I'm studying the prophets to see how true that is.  and love any and all the input from everyone that would like to share their thoughts!!  or maybe someone's written a book about this already, that I'm not aware of  =)...

Bev, others will have more and better thoughts than I.  But I am reminded of Elijah complaining to God that he was the only one left who served God.  I am reminded of the donkey who spoke to Balaam.   I am reminded of Gideon asking for the dew on the fleece.  Prayer is a natural part of living for prophets;  it is embodied in every thing they see, or desire, or experience.   And for the prophets, I think that prayer included listening as much as speaking. 

Richard Rohr, a franciscan contemplative author and speaker, put on a conference entitled: "Prophets then, prophets now".  there are audio recordings of the lectures which you may find helpful. I tried to include a link in this post, but that didn't work. Just google richard rohr and prophet and it will show up

Thx. John Vandonk for sharing re Richard Rohr and prophets then, prophets now.  I would love to hear how you heard about him, and if you went to or heard the conf., would you be willing to share which speakers/session you found particularly helpful, and what you believe God is sharing with us through this.  I find that testimony so fascinating.   If you would rather share this directly with me, instead of on a public forum, please contact me via my contact link on my info page.  I have been researching the prophetic gifting and the role of prophet for the last several years, and so any and all input is helpful. 

I agree with RR that the office of prophet is a missing "link" in the church of today.   and agree as the following quote mentions and 2 Kings 9:10 confirms, it is an office (and a gift), that is not especially appreciated or understood today.

Quote from this link http://archive.cacradicalgrace.org/conferences/prophets/prophets_overview.html 

BOQ...Although the Jewish prophets were the authoritative teachers of Israel and St. Paul lists the prophet as the second most important role in the church, they are largely unknown and almost always undesired. The role itself is ignored in Jesus, even though he claims it.

How could this happen? 

Could this be the missing link which explains much of the impotence of modern religion?  Is recovering the prophetic role a key to church and cultural renewal?  EOQ

 

Hi Bev,

Just a quick request - I'm just now following this discussion and found that a link you posted was broken.  Could you verify that for me?

Thanks,

 

Greg Bode

 

Broken link:

http://archive.cacradicalgrace.org/conferences/prophets/prophets_overvie...

Hi Greg... it looks like that link is no longer available as they (CAC) have recently (in June) redone their website with a different web address, and I can't find the quote anymore... it was a quote regarding the prophets then, prophets now conference Richard Rohr did back in 2006...    here's the new website and at the bottom of this link you will see that Richard dates it June 2012... it seems he is much more focused on contemplation and mysticism now (seems more new age, but they do still reference scripture and God), and it looks like he has just started a new school on contemplation... I didn't see any mention of prophets or the prophetic on the new site...

http://cac.org/dm-themes 

Whenever tensions arise between certain interest groups in our local church and the church’s leadership, the leaders are often quick to point out that the church is not a democracy, where leadership reflects the will of the people, but a theocracy where leaders lead on behalf of Christ, the head of the church.

Naturally, this presupposes that church leaders are particularly in tune with Christ’s will for His church. When there are indications that such is not the case (usually not that difficult to document, and often admitted to by church leaders from the outset), the usual fall-back position is that while church leaders are fallen, and even broken human beings, their authority still stands, presumably based on the authority of the ecclesiastical office (ex-officio).

In sharp contrast to that is the reality that God indwells individual people with His Spirit, and that this results in spiritual gifts, including gifts of discernment, teaching, leadership, and even prophecy (here defined as speaking on behalf of God).

Historical examples of this tension between spiritual discernment and God-ordained leadership should include Nathan speaking to King David about his affair with Bathsheba, Jesus speaking to the Pharisees about living according to the Law of Moses, and Luther speaking to the pope about creating a new path to heaven by way of purchasing indulgences.

It appears, then, that if ours is really Christ’s church, and Christ cares about what the church is and does, then the question of what kind of human leadership is needed, in order for Christ’s vision for the church to be realized here on earth, is still somewhat of an open question.

Even if we limit ourselves to examples from the Bible, does the preponderance of evidence point us towards the efficacy of divinely appointed offices (whether they be priests, kings, judges, etc)? Or to spiritual wisdom, as resulting from direct intervention by the Holy Spirit, at a particular moment in time in the life of a specific individual, leading that individual to speak truth to power, or to speak pastorally to God’s people in times of specific need?

And even if we resort to our usual strategy of equivocating, allowing for both/and to be operative in the church today, then how do they work in tandem? Do they work in their own unique realm? Divine office people doing divine office things, and spirit-led prophets speaking prophetically in their own little prophet world? And never the two shall meet?

Just asking….

keep asking questions like these, John!  sharpen and challenge us to think about what God intended leadership to look like...  as a crc task force is currently looking at the culture and structure of our denomination, I hope they are asking similar questions...  Would love to hear any thoughts from others on the points/questions John brings us through his comment here...

What comes to mind is the difference between several prophets.  Nathan convinces king David of his need to repent.  Elijah prays for, or prophecies three years of  drought, then prays for rain, after slaughtering 400 men (also called prophets, but false prophets).  Jeremiah only prophecies doom and destruction, is cast into a well, imprisoned, but proven that his word is true.  Jonah the reluctant prophet, needed to be taught as much as the people of Nineveh did. 

Prophecy is not equivalent to earthly, nor even an institutional church type of authority.   We did not hear often of priests (institutional church) being called prophets, other than possibly Ezra.   Perhaps it is not an office conferred by men, nor even validated by men, but rather directly by God. 

ok, s'more questions and thoughts on the prophetic...

1. it is to be eagerly desired (I Cor. 14:1)... so is it?  does the crc eagerly desire this gift?  Why or why not?

2. are those gifted with the prophetic gifting being encouraged in their gifting, and if so, how?

3.  are those gifted with the prophetic gifting being equipped to understand and walk in their gifting, and if so, how?

... and if not to #2 & 3, then why not?

 

thanks to all of you for your input thus far... it is very helpful and insightful..

 

 

 

Bev, "is it more eagerly  desired..." is a pretty general question.   How would we know?  Desired by CRC headquarters?  By pastors and preachers?  By elders?  By everyone else?   by ourselves?   Is it only individuals who can speak prophetically, or can the anomalous institution also speak prophetically? 

This morning I was reading the story of Jehosophat and Ahab who were considering a battle (Chronicles).  Ahab had 400 prophets telling him to go because they would be successful.  (sounds like a consensus).  Jehosophat heard them, but asked for a real prophet of God.  Ahab said, yes, there was one prophet, but he was irritating, always giving him bad news, and he didn't really want him.  They got this one real prophet Micaiah anyway, and guess what?  he agreed with the 400!  But, Ahab sensed his sarcasm, and shouted at him to not lie, but tell him the real truth!  Irony of ironies!!  Then Micaiah gave the real prophecy and said that the battle would not go well, and that Ahab would die.  Well, did it make a difference?  Did Ahab and Jehosophat listen?  hardly.  partly.  They put Micaiah in prison on bread and water.  They changed uniforms, and Ahab was disguised as a soldier instead of a king.  An enemy soldier shot an arrow at a random Israelite soldier, not realizing it was Ahab king of Israel, and it pierced his body armor and killed him. 

Well, doesn't it make you laugh and cry a bit?  We want prophecy, but only if we like it?  We want prophets, but only if they agree with us?  We know the truth, but don't want to hear it? 

Perhaps we ought to more eagerly desire God's will, more eagerly spend time in His Word, more eagerly spend time in prayer, and then true prophecy will be a "natural" God-given result? 

(400 prophets who were wrong.... makes you think, doesn't it?) 

Of course, those 400 prophets did not worship God.  They were from Israel, not from Judah.  They likely worshipped Baal and other gods.   So maybe this doesn't apply to us?   But even Jehosophat, a good king, worshipper of the one true God,  didn't listen to Micaiah that day.

"1 When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, 2 Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is upon you. 3 There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.  "  II Chronicles 19. 

thanks John for your response... I wasn't asking should we "more" eagerly desire it than everything else, but do we desire it at all, and how eager is that desire...  and your questions of at what level (ie crc leaders, pastors, elders, individuals) could all have different answers...

no, I don't want to have prophets that just "tickle our ears" and tell us what we want to hear, but maybe that is what some want, but I hope not... that is an entire discussion in itself...  that's one of the reasons why I struggle with such techniques as "appreciative inquiry"... are we so fragile (or maybe it's pride) that we can't take any criticism, any pointing out of where we have fallen short for the purpose of repentance and healing, so we can walk more fully in God's intended plan for us.  If we are unwilling to acknowledge where we have been wrong, or missed something, and therefore are not walking in alignment with the Spirit in an area, we cannot move forward much, if at all. 

I think of 2 very different responses in Acts when it says the people listening were "cut to the heart"... one is Acts 2:37-42 where the response to Peter's message that they had killed Jesus, was "what shall we do" and they gladly received his word and were baptized, the second is in Acts 8:54-60 in response to Stephen's message, here they were also "Cut to the heart" but this group gnashed at him with their teeth, and stoned him...  both groups of people were "cut to the heart", but the responses were very, very different.

So are you reading 2 Chron 20 next?  that is one of my favorite stories of communal fasting and prayer and worship =)

2 Chron 18 is an interesting perspective on prophets and how God put a "lying spirit" in the mouth of the king's prophets...   I think that shows us why testing the prophetic is so important... I don't think it should cause us to shut the door on it, though.  Jehoshapahat discerned the king's prophets were lying and only telling Ahab what he wanted to hear... Jehoshaphat is an interesting king... 

I ask these questions, because so far what I have generally found for the most part, is that the prophetic has not been encouraged and instead discouraged... but I'm not sure if that is just my experience, or is that generally the case in the crc...

Yes, I'm reading II chronicles 20 and 21 next.   The communal reliance by Jehosophat and Judah on God instead of man when faced with three different foreign tribes in one battle was encouraging, yes.  God fought that battle.   Reading further, you get a hint of Jehosophat relying on worldly alliances again, with Ahaziah.  And then you discover that his son Jehoram has married the daughter of Ahab;  so why would we be surprised that Jehoram then rebuilds all the high places and Asheroth poles that Jehosophat destroyed?  Why are we surprised that Jehoram son of Jehosophat kills all his brothers, and some other members of the royal family as well? 

I guess it is a warning that we cannot take our present spiritual condition for granted.   Nor can we assume that our present spiritual worship will somehow overrule our present worldly alliances and tendencies.   Our children will pay for our equivocation.   You can take that as a prophecy. 

Would it be appropriate to ask "what is our present spiritual condition?"

What is our present spiritual condition?  Is it like Asa… who removed the idols and repaired the altar?  Or is it like Asa who stopped relying on the Lord and became angry with the prophet? 

Is it like Jehoshaphat who walked in the ways of his ancestor David and who sought the Lord?  Or like Jehoshaphat who allied himself with (baal worshipper) Ahab by marriage, and helped Ahab in his battle? 

Jehoshaphat removed  the visible signs of false worship , the idols and high places and asherah poles from Judah (although not from Israel),.  But apparently he still relied on alliances with worldly kings, with Ahab and Ahaziah, and was willing to even ally himself thru marriage, including the marriage of his son to a daughter of Ahab.   

 Can we assume then because we have removed the idols, and we have sought the Lord, that we have not allied ourselves with Ahabs of this world in various ways?   When Jehosophat did this, his son Jehoram was the fruit of it, naturally marrying a daughter of Ahab as his godly father encouraged him, and then why would Jehoshaphat be surprised at the evil done by his son Jehoram? 

We can ask ourselves what the spiritual condition of the denomination is, where are we headed, how are our alliances?  And then, each of us can  ask ourselves:  what is our own personal spiritual condition?    What prophecies will we listen to and where do we put our trust? 

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Scripture references: 

II Chron.15: 8 “When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of[a]Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lordthat was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple… 17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lordall his life…..“Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lordyour God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand….10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people….

…II chron 17:3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat(son of Asa) because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed…  6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. ..1.Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage…1.When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem(after the battle), 2 Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love[a]those who hate the Lord?Because of this, the wrath of the Lordis upon you.3 There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God. ”…II Chron. 20:27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lordhad given them cause to rejoice over their enemies….

II Chron. 21:4 When Jehoram(son of Jehoshaphat) established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the princes of Israel.5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years.6 He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” 

Hi John... there's a biblical trend with children that I find very disturbing... Aaron's sons offered unholy fire and were killed, Eli's sons also were disobedient, Samuel's boys didn't do any better, David's kids were not a model family (at all)...  and the list goes on... what was the disconnect between godly father and ungodly son...  I've been pondering this for a while, and I'm not making much progress... (this was suppose to be a reply to an earlier post on 7.23.12, but it looks like I didn't reply the right way)

 Bev, it's a good question, and I don't know the answer.  It certainly seems like a warning to us.   Don't take your children for granted.   Don't assume too much with regard to their faith.   Children are always our prime mission field. 

But we can also take some encouragement.... sometimes the sons did follow the faith of their fathers.   And sometimes... I'm now thinking of Hezekiah and his son Manasseh, where Manasseh re-installed the idols and false gods his father had destroyed, but... then when Manasseh was in trouble, was captured, and when he returned from his own exile, he returned to God as well. 

When we are busy with careers, work, making money, even with preaching or church work or missions, we should not forget that our children need our witness and our attention.  If the lost soul in Kenya needs our attention, then our young children also need the same attention.  Our children too have the questions, insecurities, struggles about who God is in their lives.   How we respond when they are young, is probably most impacting. 

Deuteronomy talks about binding the law on your forehead and doorpost, and partly that was to remind oneself, but also it was the way to teach the children.   Well, only part of the way.   You can do all of that, but the follow up is needed to explain it and to live it.   And to pray for your children.   I've read somewhere that a parent first prayed for his child when she was still in the womb.  And what did he pray?  that she would come to love the Lord.   and that she would find a godly husband.   Seems a bit premature, doesn't it?  but it sets the tone for what is the most important thing in your life, and the life of your child.   So imagine that your witness to that child begins already before she is born, and continues throughout. 

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