Thursday, April 20, 2017

Devotion 18: A Prophet of God Against the Prophets of God

"See how they say to me,
'Where is the word of the Lord?
Let it come to pass'."
Jeremiah 17:15
New American Bible

A.W. Tozer writes that the prophets of the Old Testament, although different in many ways, all held a common bond: "enforced aloneness."

Here we see Jeremiah - a man forced alone because he is commanded by God to speak for Him to the nation - prophesying against well-known, established, and perhaps beloved leaders and prophets of Israel.

How lonely must he have felt.

What was the nature of Jeremiah's experience of the Divine to have propelled him to be so confident his words - words of condemnation - were God's words?  Whatever the experience, it was enough to compel him to believe that his message of divine anger and retribution against God's own people was, in fact, God's message and to publicly proclaim it at the risk of breaking off all ties of family and friendship.

What an encounter he must have experienced to be so sure that his message was from God, a message of divine judgment, in contradiction to the "divine oracles" of all the other "prophets" of God who proclaimed ease and deliverance.  For Jeremiah, the dreams of the prophets were delusions, but his visions were true divine encounters.  Jeremiah knew that only his message was God's message, which God would bring to pass; that his message was the prophecy that God would fulfill while all other prophetic utterances would fail.

Jeremiah may not have fully realized at first that, because his message alone was God's message, he would be alone in proclaiming it.

Jeremiah was the only prophet with a different message.  All the other prophets spoke in the same way of God's great power to deliver and free the nation of Israel from the cruel oppression of their enemies.  On the contrary, Jeremiah proclaimed the greatness of God to judge and punish His people by means of the cruel oppression of their enemies!

With the whole nation against Jeremiah, how lonely he must have been.  How oftentimes did self-doubt creep in to trip him up and to so stand in his way that he complains to God.  Nevertheless, how oftentimes did he buckle under the burden to carry God's word of judgment and condemnation to the nation when everyone else said something different, things edifying and encouraging.  Where Jeremiah said, "God is against you!", all others insisted, "No!  God is for you!"
"Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day" (Jeremiah 20:7 NAB)."
Jeremiah, faithful to his experience of the Divine, prophesies as he is commanded against the established religious leaders, teachers, prophets, and even against kings.  Jeremiah contradicted the whole religious and political hierarchy.  He went publicly against all those whom the common people ran for words of hope and comfort, while turning away from Jeremiah's message of sin and guilt, of judgment and condemnation, of banishment and death!

God's primary intention in speaking words to a prophet is not to convey hope but to proclaim truth.  To the one whom God has truly revealed Himself and His message to give to others, let him not think it would endear him to his own family and friends, or to God's people.  Let that prophet arm himself with the realization that he will be alone.  Let him prepare himself to be whispered against and denounced on every side by all who have convinced everyone that they know God's will better and are better experienced, more mature in the things of God than you are.

You will be alone.

Prayer:  Father, where are the prophets of truth who speak Your words, whether of comfort or doom, of truth?  Reveal your heart towards your people to those seeking to know what it really is you are thinking.  In Jesus' name, amen.

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