Most often, when people hear the word prophet, they think of a person who can mysteriously predict the future. It is no longer purely a Biblical term since people of all faiths (or non-faith) have come to be known as “prophets” based on their oracles of future events and impending judgment.
This is unfortunate since the role of the prophet was so critical to the Biblical story, and in my opinion, is still very important today. In fact, I suggest we need more prophets in our modern society! Since the term has been redefined over time, some who read this are already assuming that I have started my slide toward religious fanaticism. But hold on…it may not be what you think.
The Biblical prophet had a consistent role with the people of God. Most often, the job of the prophet was to convince the people that the way they lived was not consistent with God’s plan and provision for their life. Yet this was hard for the people to understand since they had adopted a slow and gradual decay in their spiritual lives such that their sin had become very normal and acceptable. It is like the frog in the boiling water story. They had no idea what danger they were in.
It could have been alliances with foreign armies, syncretistic worship of the Hebrew God along with foreign gods, corrupt leadership (both religious and political), or ritual religious practice with no heartfelt devotion. In any case, the drift had been slow enough that most people of God never realized what happened. When the leaders (including the priests) led the way, the people followed their trail of corruption.
Yet it was the prophet who called the people back to the way of the Lord. It was not uncommon to hear the judgment of God within the message of the prophet, but only because the people refused to admit to their sin and repent before the Lord. Their way of life apart from God had become very comfortable and socially acceptable. Oh sure, they still did sacrifices in Jerusalem or Dan or Bethel (whichever was most convenient). In fact, they would even compete at the altar to see who could offer the more extravagant sacrifice. There was often no shortage of religious routine (orthodoxy) but yet it was rare to see faith in action (orthopraxy).
As I look at our world today, I see the Old Testament relived. Subtle compromises over time accepted as the norm. Slight deviations that eventually lead to wide degrees of separation from what God has called His people to live. Plenty or orthodoxy in our world…very little orthopraxy.
We need more prophets. People of God to stand up and remind us what God has called us to. People who faithfully teach God’s Word so that we can judge our life by His standard and not our own false assumption of what seems right in our own eyes. Immorality, injustice, poverty, corruption of leadership…these are all realities of our present day. Leaders, both political and religious, have led our society into acceptable compromise. We often see the syncrestistic alliance of worldy values within our church culture. We turn a blind eye to poverty and stuff ourselves with pious knowledge.
Nothing new under the sun, just a repetition of things gone by and foreshadowing of things yet to come.
Somebody stand up and remind us, “This is not the way it is supposed to be!”
Now, I know that we live in a sin cursed world BUT God’s people have been set free from this curse and should therefore not be enslaved by its chains. Instead, we should do justly, love mercy, walk humbly. We should contrast with the way of the world, not blend in. We should ask ourselves, “Does our community of faith look different than the ways of the world?”
If not, hear the words of a prophet: “It should!”