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The lonely, thankless, dangerous job of the prophet

October 12, 2021 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Culture

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

It is a lonely, thankless, and sometimes dangerous business to be a prophet of God. While for many, the term prophet may conjure up images of anointed Christian celebrities with the gift of telling the future or “reading people’s mail,” the life of the Biblical prophet was much different. The prophet was typically seen by his contemporaries as the bearer of bad news, calling rebellious and self-assured people to repent, stop what they were doing, and turn back to God. They were often reviled, persecuted, and killed for their services.

One of the most memorable examples is found in 1 Kings 22. King Ahab of Israel is trying to decide whether to go to war or not. He calls together 400 prophets, who all tell the king what he wants to hear: “Go, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand” (v. 6). But the king knows that there is one man who truly hears from God, the prophet Micaiah. As the king says, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad” (v. 8). The king calls Micaiah into the throne room and asks him whether he should go to war. Micaiah tells him that not only is he a king who does not care for his people, but that God has allowed an evil spirit to speak through the mouths of the false prophets in order to entice King Ahab to war, so that he will be killed. For his trouble, Micaiah is slapped by one of the other prophets and sent to prison by the king. Micaiah’s words, however, eventually come to pass, for despite the people’s rejection of him, he is a true prophet of God.

While we may not live in Old Testament times, it is still a lonely, thankless, and sometimes dangerous business to speak prophetically. People still want to hear positive and encouraging messages about how special they are and how God has incredible plans for their life. Dare to confront them with their sin or call them to suffer, and you are destined to lose the crowd’s approval. But the path to the true life of self-esteem and hope for the future comes not through daily affirmations and pats on the back, but through dying to ourselves, through daily repentance, and through trust in the God who created us and knows what is best for us.

As our culture moves further away from a positive view of Christianity and Christian values, the need to speak prophetically is undoubtedly going to increase. We are going to have to call the church to remain faithful to Jesus, and to resist being swept along by the cultural currents. And we are going to need to be prepared to lose friends, reputation, financial security, and perhaps even our lives as we choose obedience to Christ over bending the knee to cultural authorities.

May God strengthen us by the power of His Holy Spirit for the path to which He has called us, and may we be convinced that there is nothing the world can take away from us that God will not make up with in the future, whether in this life or in the life to come.

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