The Privilege Or Famine Of The Prophetic Word

The Privilege Or Famine Of The Prophetic Word (12.20.14)

When we talk about the prophetic word we're talking about the priorities of God.

The prophet in the Hebrew-Christian tradition is one who sees both the big picture priorities and the immediate circumstance priorities, and then speaks up for God.

It's a great blessing and a privilege to hear the prophetic word of God. It keeps us on track. Praise Jesus prophecy is an office in the body of Christ according to Ephesians4,10-11. This office is being restored in the last 100 or so years amidst some push back.

Just as the word itself was a gift to Israel, so the prophetic word is a gift, an umerited privilege, like teenagers and cars.

So when Amos (8,11) prophesied that there will come a time when the privilege of the prophetic word would be taken away from the  comfortable and idolatrous northern Kingdom in the 8th century BC he wasn't kidding. 

As Amos told the northern kingdom  to live justly, and shun idols to avoid the coming Assyrian exile in 722BC, so Jeremiah prophesied that Judah was to make peace with Babylon, or face the devastation of their coming invasion (Jeremiah27,1-15).

(The false prophet Hananiah continued the happy speak prophecy that preceded the exile by saying that within two years of the exile all would be well again in Judah. But this false propecy is also a famine of the prophetic word. As Jeremiah says "Thanks to you this people is now relying on what is false." Jeremiah28,15) 

If folks won't listen to the prophetic word, here comes an exile and a famine of it, a time to think about how vital and necessary it is.

The prophet Habakkuk on the eve of the coming invasion by Babylon about 600BC also comes to mind.

Habakkuk has a lament and a bit of a bone to pick with God, after it is clear that Judah will soon fall to Babylon and be exiled.

It's not likely he was too enthused to write the following on God's behalf: 

"For look, I [God] am stirring up the Chaldeans, that fierce and fiery nation who march miles across country to seize homes of others. They are dreadful and awesome, a law and an authority to themselves." (1,6-7)

God word isn't usually so subtle. But verse seven here is Habakkuk's respectful way of reporting God's answer to three centuries of northern and southern kingdom disobedience to his prophetic word. God is saying in effect "if you don't want to follow my prophetic word and law in the land I gave you, well then perhaps following the law and authority of Assyria and Babylon in exile will help you change your mind."  

Habakkuk is like "what's up Lord? We thought you were our God." 

"Surely you, Yahweh, are from ancient times, my holy God, who never dies! Yahweh, you have appointed him [Babylon] to execute judgement; O Rock, you have set him firm to punish." 1,12

Only a person who knows the Lord really well, like Abraham, would have the courage to question and confront him about his ways and means.  

So there's an example of the prophetic big picture: follow God's law or get exile and a famine of the prophetic word.

But the Lord showed me that even amidst a big picture prophetic famine, there's always still some crusts to be had. I see three in Habakkuk.

Firstly, at some point Babylon will be judged.  Habbakuk 2,3: "although it may take some time, wait for it, for come it certainly will before too long." Likewise at 3,16 the faithful prophet says "calmly I await the day of anguish which is dawning on the people now attacking us."

The second prophetic crust is this famous two part prophesy: "You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb [that's in the Christian church too!], but the just live live by faith." 2,4.   In a day of a big picture prophetic famine, we live by faith, on the promises we already know, on all we hope for but don't yet see, upon all the promises on which are hearts are set.

The third ends this short work:

("For the fig tree [Israel] is not to blossom [until 1948 anyway], nor will the vines bear fruit, the olive crop will dissapoint and the fileds yield no food; the sheep will vanish from the fold [running to the prosperity gospel]; no cattle in the stalls.)  18 But I shall rejoice in Yahweh, I shall exult in God my Savior. 19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength, he will make my feet as light as a doe's, and set my steps on the heights." Habakkuk3,17-19

When things seem darkest, when it looks like our exile is going to last for a time, there's still the immediate prophetic priority worshipping Jesus with all we have, of living by faith no matter what, of receiving the discernmen crusts that help His little flock negotiate the the mountain heights of our faith.

Praise Jesus even in the prophetic famine there are places to find prophetic plenty ("look at the birds of the air...), to those with ears to hear, to those who derive their life and strength from Jesus Himself.

The Religious Pretense and Self Dealing of Simeon And Levi Leads To Famine Of Prophetic Word:

Are we getting this? Am I making it clear?

I'll continue the point of privilege or famine of the prophetic word:

"But if you [Hamorites] refuse to listen to us [Simeon And Levi] and be circumcized, we shall take the girl [Dinah] and go. 18 Their proposal appeared satisfactory to Hamor and his son Shechem; and the young man who was held in respect above anyone in his father's house, did not hesitate to do what they had said, because his heart had been captured by Jacob's daughter."  Genesis34,17-19

"Simeon and Levi are brothers. weapons of violence are their council, 6 my heart will not  join their assembly; for in anger they killed men. wantonly they hamstrung oxen. 7 A curse be on their wrath for it was ruthless! I shall scatter them in Jacob, I shall disperse them in Israel."  Genesis 49,5-7

Instead of consulting with their father about what to do upon the rape of their sister Dinah, or honoring the circumcision they proposed and then imposed on Hamorites, they raided Shechem and plundered the town by night, slayed all the men, and put the tribes of Israel in danger of the Canaanite and Perizzite tribes unting against them (Gn34,25ff).

The Religious Pretense And Self Dealing of Dan Leads To The Same:

The roaming and unsettled  tribe of Dan who could not establish their territory in the south of Israel (Joshua19,40) is not to be outdone by Simeon. The Danites come to the hills of Ephraim and kidnap Micah's priest, upon the threat if killing the priest. They rob Micah's idols, and continued north to put the peaceful town of Laish to the sword.

"When the five men entered Micah's house and laid hands on the image and the idol, the ephod and the teraphim, the priest asked them what they were doing. 19 They said to him, "Be quiet; not a word. Come with us and be to us father and priest. Which is better, to be priest in the household of one man or to be priest to a tribe and clam of Israel?    Judges18,18-19

Micah's Response

24 "You have taken the gods which I made for myself and have taken the priests, ' he answered; 'you have gone off and left me nothing. How can you ask. "What is the matter with you?'' 25 The Danites said to him, 'Not another word from you! We are desperate men and if we set about you it will be the death of you and your family.'  26 With that the Danites went on their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned and went home."  Judges18,24-26

The Denizens of Dan Have Heart Set On Idolatry

27 Carrying off the things which Micah had made for himself along with his priest, the Danites then attached Laish, whose people were quiet and carefree. They put the people to the sword and set fire to the town. ...30  The Danites set up the image, and Jonathon son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan, until the exile [Assyrian Exile 722 BC]."  Judges18,27-30

Amos Warns Of A New Kind Of Famine

The time is coming, says the the Lord God, when I shall send famine on the land, not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. 12 People will stagger from sea to sea, they will range from north to east, in search of the word but they will not find it. 13 On that day fair maidens and young men will faint from thirst; 14 all who take their oath by Ashimah, goddess of Samaria, all who swear, "As your god live, Dan, and 'By the sacred way to Beersheba', they all will fall to rise no more."  Amos8,11-14

God's Response To Simeon And Dan's Self Dealing- A Famine Of The Prophetic Word

Moses, as he is about to die (Deuteronomy 33) gives eleven blessings, but not to the tribe Simeon. So both Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 declare this tribe to be tares among the wheat (but Revelation 7,7 declares of them that "12,000" will be saved.)

When one of the tribes is left off a scriptural list of the saved of Israel, or as Genesis 49 puts it is not welcome in God's presence- that's a famine of the prophetic word!

John The Revelator at Revelation 7,4-8 depicts four angels declaring those sealed by God with salvation, but the tribe of Dan is left out.

What do we make of this?

Again we see that God's prophetic word is a gift to Israel, and to us Christians. And if we refuse to honor it in a timely way, we might get left off the list of those whoses names are written in the book of life.

Some or many might not like a prophetic based word gospel, but how about a famine of it?

We moderns might think that we have a right to be on all of man's and God's honor rolls. We might also think we have an eternal right to a god and a gospel made to our measure, that declares us and our particular religious tribe and whatever we do as righteous.

Amos the 8th century BC prophet, and a humble vine dresser, a fig farmer, from Tekoa, from Judah, went  to the rich Northern Kingdom with His prophecies of social justice. Israel had gone crooked. It was out of plumb (Amos7,15), and the weights and scales of it's rich merchants were off (Amos8,5). The northern kingdom was fat and happy, wealth equals righteousness don't you know, but they didn't even know how wretched and naked they were (cf Laodicea, Revelation3,17):

"I spur with loathing your pilgram feasts; take no pleasure in your sacred ceremonies. 22 When you bring me your whole-offerings I shall not accept them, nor pay heed to your shared offerings of stall fed beasts,. 23 Spare me the sound of your songs; I shall not listen to the strumming of your lutes. 24 Instead let justice flow on like a river and righteousness like a never failing torrent. 25 Did you, people of Israel, bring me sacrifices and offerings those forty years in the wilderness? 26 No! But now you will take up the shrine of your idol-king [in Dan] and the pedestals of your images you have made for yourselves, 27 and I shall drive you into exile."  Amos5,21-27

The Northern kingdom didn't want to hear the  prophetic word, so God gave them silence of exile in Assyria in 722BC.

Famine of Prophetic Word Today?

You decide.

When God's people are fed cushy political messages geared to the culture, to the tithe, to "The Very Rev.__________ ", to the church commitee, are we hearing the prophetic word of God?

Or, hierlings?

When so many churches are adopting a mega business, bigger is better, cannibalise the competition, are we hearing the prophetic word of God?

Or man?

You decide.

I was speaking to an eager churchgoer about this the other day and she got it just right. "We are trying not to just look at people as resources, as just money." This is the temptation and the reality that is sidetracking Christianity. This is the Babylon's roar. It risks silencing God's prophetic word of God, his priorities and precepts.

What does Jesus say?

"No man can serve two masters." Matthew 6,24

At Matthew 10 Jesus gathers His 12 Apostles and gives them lengthy instructions and an exhortation to be prophets like him, by living and preaching the kingdom right then and there. He told them to to be "as cunning as snakes yet as innocent as doves", to be pepared for arrest and persecution, to exercise open and fearless speech: "What I say to you in whispers, proclaim from the housetops."

And "Don't be afraid of those who can kill you physcally, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell." He tells them that they are to prefer him to father and mother.

Does our Lord sound like he accepts a famine of His prophetic word in His church?

You decide:

"Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet's reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person. 42 If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones [apostles-prophets-most humble] because he is a disciple [of the prophet Jesus], then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward."  Matthew10,40-42.

How can we who claim to follow our risen Lord and savior, a risen "Son of Man", a risen prophet-God, fail to honor the privilege His prophetic word?


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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.