Charismatic Characters: The Prophet
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6: 8)
The role of Advisor, as we have seen, melds into that of Prophet. Like a parent exerting ‘tough love,’ the Prophet often has to be the bearer of bad news, speaking truth to power. But more basically, the Prophet role is that of the human voice of God, critiquing, but also consoling, instructing, reforming, and encouraging. In our own lives, various people can assume this role including parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, and good friends (the types that tell you that your clothes do indeed fit tight and you need to lose some weight…)
Moses is often called a Prophet and is the classic example of an intermediator between God and his errant people. Moses provides leadership, issues and adjudicates laws, pleads God’s case to the people and vice-versa, and in the book of Deuteronomy summarizes all the advice of a lifetime of service.
Samuel is a Prophet who anoints kings (and then un-anoints them in the case of Saul.) Nathan confronts David about his adultery, Amos and Micah critique Israel about their idolatry and neglect of the poor, while Jeremiah had the unenviable task of announcing the destruction of Jerusalem as the judgment of God on Judah. Early Isaiah has words of both condemnation and encouragement, while later in Isaiah we read about the example of the Suffering Servant and universality of the coming Kingdom of God.
My personal favorite among the ancient biblical Prophets is Elijah. He bravely confronts the weak King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel about their cheating Naboth out his vineyard (1 Kings 21.) He confronts the idolatry of the people in a confrontation with the priests of Baal that had taken over the kingdom thanks to Jezebel: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21.) The Lord confirms Elijah as his true Prophet by bringing down fire from heaven on the offering and altar. Jezebel doesn’t give up, of course, and pursues Elijah, who has a crisis of confidence until he hears the “still, small voice” of the Lord and continues his career, eventually passing the mantle to Elisha.
In the New Testament, there is no more powerful prophetic voice (besides Jesus’ himself) than John the Baptist. He is the spitting image of an Old Testament prophet, a voice crying in the wilderness, dressed in clothing of camel’s hair, crying, “Repent!” He is the great baptizer of people who hear his message to change their ways, but also announces the great Prophet to come who will baptize with fire. Finally, John criticizes the powerful Herod Antipas for his illicit marriage and pays the price of his life. He is the great example of the prophet who both has great influence on his own and who prepares the way for someone greater.
As humans we need a kick in the pants as often as we need encouragement. The role of the Prophet is to be the voice of God, reminding us of our responsibilities (like in a good sermon or editorial) as well as our capabilities. Do we encourage Prophets in our lives, or close our ears to the often-painful truth they may bear?
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for not letting us go our own way like lost sheep. Help us to have the courage to hear the voices in our lives that we need to hear even if we don’t want to hear them!