Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Role of the Prophet

"By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering" (1 Kings 13:1).

When Jeroboam set up his false religion, God immediately sent a prophet to confront him. Friday we shall look in more detail at this confrontation, but today and tomorrow we want to consider the nature of the prophet’s role.

A prophet speaks for someone else. In the Bible, the word prophet is almost always used for someone who speaks for God. We may say a priest speaks to God on behalf of the people, while a prophet speaks to the people on behalf of God. Prophets are agents of God’s revelation. In the New Testament, the role of the prophet is taken over by the apostles, who completed the written Word of God.

Another word used to denote a prophet is seer, which comes from “see-er,” someone who sees. A seer discerns God’s will and tells it to the people. The prophet is also called “man of God,” “servant of God,” and “messenger of God.”

Most people think of a prophet primarily as someone who foretells the future. While they possessed this God-given ability to predict certain future events, it was given for two reasons. First, a prophet predicted something that would take place in the near future, and when the people saw what the prophet predicted come to pass, they would be forced to pay closer attention to the rest of his message. Second, predictions of future judgment were given to the prophet to add strength to his warning: You’d better repent now because destruction is coming.

The primary role of the prophets was to forthtell the Word of God. In this role, they interpreted and applied Scripture to the needs of the people. As such, the prophets were social critics. They were not revolutionary radicals, calling for the overthrow of society; they were exactly the opposite: conservative radicals calling society back to God’s law. Some Christians today are so tired of the left-wing social gospel that they ignore social problems. The right response for biblical Christians is not to ignore social problems but to provide biblical solutions. We don’t preach the liberal Social Gospel, but the true gospel that we preach has definite social and political implications.

Sadly, it is all too evident that many pastors have capitulated their prophetic responsibility. The current tendency is to preach about “felt needs” to the extent of avoiding naming sin as sin. The church needs courageous preachers to preach vigorously against the sins of our day. If you are a pastor, be faithful to your prophetic task; if a layperson, be responsive to your pastor’s leadership.