Tag Archives: prophets

Prayer is … #2 Conversation

Prayer is a conversation, it is a two-way dialogue, not a one-way monologue.

You’re overstating it, you may say from looking at the previous sentence, but it is a point that cannot be overstated!  I could refer to places in the New Testament for this, but you may be surprised to know that this was well understood in the Old Testament.  Here are a few examples.

The example of Abraham.

Well there is Abraham for starters, ‘he was called a friend of God’ (James 2:23 NRSV), and what do friend do but talk with each other!  When he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah he was involved in a literal, physical conversation with God see Genesis 18:16-33, he was also bold enough to negotiate with God, but was wise enough to know where the limits were.

This is quite a challenge!  How much are we prepared to argue someone’s case before God?  Not for a Christian, but for a non-Christian to be saved!  After all, ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NRSV).  We should not think that Jesus is slow in returning which is the context of this verse, but as with Sodom and Gomorrah, when he does there will be judgement, and by then all choices about eternal salvation will have been made.  Until then, let us be like Abraham praying for mercy and salvation, and wrestling in prayer for those who don’t know Jesus.

The example of Moses.

Moses is another great example of how prayer is a conversation, and again the best example we have of this from his story are when he was interceding on someone else’s behalf.  We see this in the time when Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 33).

God was angry, the people he had brought out of Egypt had spiritually returned to Egypt by making and then worshipping an idol.  God was more than angry, he was going to destroy all of Israel except Moses and his family, and make a nation out from him alone.  But Moses stood up for the Israelites, not because they had not sinned, but for the sake of the patriarchs and because if God destroyed them all the Egyptians would have a cause to celebrate and say that God could not complete what he started!

The result of this pleading.  God ‘changed his mind’ (Exodus 32:14 NRSV) because Moses had asked him to, ‘Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people’ (Exodus 32:12 NRSV).  We may deserve God’s judgement, but if we humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face he can, and will, send revival (see 2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

Like Moses we can cause God to change his mind, or we can stand by, be fatalistic about it and see others perish.  Prayer is so powerful if we only grasp it, it is not just for the weak, and for old ladies (though it is for them also), in fact to pray like Moses did takes both strength and humility, and comes first of all out of a close relationship with God.

Are we, like Moses, prepared to lay down something that could be to our advantage, to see God’s kingdom advance?  What a challenge!

Prophets, priests and kings.

I could give other examples, when the nation of Israel came to together to pray, it was the prophets, priests and kings who would pray.  Why?  Because these were the people who would not just speak to God, but who could listen to God’s reply!

Under the New Covenant we are all prophets, priests and kings so this responsiblity of prayer and intercession now falls on us, and we can fulfil that task because we can have a conversations with God!

Lord Jesus, help us to learn to listen as well as talk when we pray, because only then can we pray and intercede effectively for those who don’t know you.  Help us to take up the challenge, and to lay down our agendas for the sake of others to build your Kingdom.  In your name we pray, Amen!

Psalm 74 – When God Gives No Answers

‘… there is no longer any prophet,
and there is no one among us who knows how long.’ (Psalm 74:9 NRSV)

You may wonder what a psalm is doing in a series from the book Ezekiel, well I read this yesterday as I am working through the Psalms but haven’t read one for a while, and this fitted so perfectly with what I shared yesterday from Ezekiel so I though I would share too.

In this psalm Asaph asks how long Judah, Jerusalem and the temple will be laid waste and over-run by its enemies.  He asks the questions, but there will be no answers.  Why? Because there are no prophets left.  Yesterday I looked at how God condemned the false prophets and prophetesses who were prophesying in Ezekiel’s day.  God was against them and they would experience his wrath (see Ezekiel 13).

This psalm seems to have been written by an eye-witness of the destruction of Jerusalem that Ezekiel (among others) prophesied.  God’s presence had left (see Ezekiel 10), so what had once been God’s land, city and temple were now over-run and destroyed’ and ‘desecrated’ by foreigners.

All the prophets who had been left in Jerusalem and had been prophesying lies were now gone.  God had fulfilled his word!  But this meant that Asaph did not know how long this would last for, he was a priest, not a prophet, and there were now no prophets left for him to go to in order to seek God’s word!

We can see the effect this has on him, he is perplexed and confused, he can only cling on to what God has done in the past and ask God to act again for his people and against the enemy.

I have had times in my Christian life when I have had no answers.  When I was became unwell just over 10 years ago, I was also confused and perplexed, I asked God questions, but got no answers.  Through everything I held onto one thing, no matter how bad things got the Father was with me, whereas the Father had to turn his face away from Jesus when he was on the cross as a consequence of my sin.  Jesus was forsaken by his Father, but I would never be, because of what Jesus had done for me.  That was my only hope at times, but like Asaph it sustained me.

Heavenly Father, help me to be honest with you in prayer, like Asaph was.  If all I have is questions then let me bring them to you.  In dark times help me to cling onto, and praise you for, what you have done, and still be able to ask you to do it again in an uncertain future.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Ezekiel 13:1-10 – False Prophets in Old and New Testaments.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying; say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’  Thus says the Lord GOD, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!  Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel.  You have not gone up into the breaches, or repaired a wall for the house of Israel, so that it might stand in battle on the day of the LORD.  They have prophesied falsehood and lying divination; they say, ‘Says the LORD’, when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they wait for the fulfilment of their word!  Have you not seen a false vision or uttered a lying divination, when you have said, ‘Says the LORD’, even though I did not speak?
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:  Because you have uttered falsehood and prophesied lies, I am against you, says the Lord GOD.  My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.  Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying ‘Peace’, when there is no peace; and because, when people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it.’  (Ezekiel 13:1-10 NRSV)

In the Old Testament the people of God were not filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore they did not have any way of testing what was said by the prophets of the day.  Whatever they were told by a prophet they would assume was correct as the prophet would say, ‘Thus says the LORD’ when he prophesied.  In those days God called his prophets to be absolutely right, absolutely all of the time, as when God spoke to a prophet they were to speak his actual words.  Because this was the nature of Old Testament prophecy God was very harsh on false prophets in the Old Testament.

This was fine as long as prophets were honest and truly spoke when God spoke, but this was not always the case.  Some prophets lied, whether it was to fill their bellies or to increase their popularity, or because they themselves were deceived was irrelevant.  They lied and spoke ‘out of their own imagination’, rather than speaking God’s word.

What did God do about this?  He was ‘against’ those prophets, they would have no inheritance in him.  Later on in this chapter we also read how God is against lying prophetesses and well as prophets, God judges both sexes alike, do we share what God has shared with us, or do we share things that he did not say, them attribute those things to him?

What about prophets and prophecy in the New Testament?

In the New Testament things are different.  We see fulfilled what Moses wished for, ‘Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!’ (Numbers 11:29 NRSV).  God goes beyond that and fills us with his Spirit, ‘As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.’ (1 John 2:27 NRSV).  In the New Testament and now, ‘we prophesy only in part’ (1 Corinthians 18:9 NRSV), prophecy is no longer absolute, which means we must no longer be 100% accurate 100% of the time, but we still should always be responsible when we prophesy and aim to listen to God as accurately as possible.

Under the New Covenant we should never take prophecy for granted, or in any way abuse it.  It is a gift from God, and that is true of both the charismatic gift and the ministry gift, the role of prophet in the Old Testament sense does not exist either in the New Testament or today.  The main reason for this is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as I said earlier, this means that both the person giving a prophecy, and the person or people receiving the prophecy are both to test what they are hearing.  Prophetic people who get things wrong are no longer immediately condemned, but should be given chances to grow, learn and get better at listening, but God will still judge real false prophets today just as harshly, as they lead Christians away from God, and do not confront sin where they see it.

The prophetic word may be completely right, partially right or slightly right or completely wrong.  Another thing is the emphasis may be wrong, or a prophetic interpretation may be wrong, or if it is a predictive word it is wrong if it does not happen in the given time frame, unless of course any conditions (either given or implied) are unfulfilled.  Another important thing in seeing a prophecy fulfilled is to pray into it and do God calls you to do.  Prophecies are not inevitable and will not just be fulfilled without our co-operation.

Lord Jesus, give us discernment to know what you are saying when you speak prophetically, and help us to know what is true and what is false.  Help those of us who speak prophetically to say what are saying, not to speak from our own imaginations like the false prophets Ezekiel is talking about here, Amen.