During lunch with my good friend Andy this week, he asks a great question as we were talking about the book Epicenter. "What is the purpose of prophesy?"
Having not put too much thought to it, one particular verse did came to mind. I thought of Luke 12:54-56 when Jesus admonishes His audience and says, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. "And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. "You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?"
Our local weatherman sends us an email everyday to tell us what to expect. Some days it is rain and I will make sure I have my umbrella. Other days it is cold and I will make sure I wear my heavy coat. The natural signs of weather are fairly predictable and we often observe them and then act accordingly. Yet, Jesus tells us that we should be equally as discerning with spiritual things. We should watch what is happening in our world and consider how it correlates with the promises of God. To neglect this responsibility could lead to apathy. A place where we become dull to spiritual things and miss out on the blessing of recognizing the work of God in our lives and His faithful fulfillment of His promises.
It seems reasonable to me that if we recognize God's work in the world in accordance with His promises, we can receive personal encouragement in knowing that He is equally faithful in our lives as well. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
This assurance of the faithfulness of God is but one purpose of prophesy. But seeing prophesy should also call us to action. It should give us a sense of urgency. It should stir us up, to be ready for the Lord’s return, and even to hasten its coming: “Learn this parable from the fig tree: whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32-33). “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
"What is the purpose of prophesy?" I suggest at least 2 reasons: It is a gift of God in order that we may be strengthened in our faith and made bold in our witness. May we do so to the praise of His glory - Our creator God and King, whose kingdom has no end!