If you’re the type of person who likes to be liked and cares what others think of you, I would suggest that you never become a prophet. We don’t see people carrying the title of prophet all that often these days. It seems to be more of an Old Testament title. The job wasn’t easy.
Prophets were supposed to deliver God’s message – good or bad – to certain people. Jonah was a prophet, and he definitely didn’t like one assignment in particular (Read Jonah, chapter 1). Sometimes the message wasn’t popular and wasn’t well received. Other times the message was just plain weird. One time God told the prophet Isaiah to walk around naked for three years! (Isaiah 20:1-6). Ezekiel had to lie down on his left side for 390 days then eat food made from a pile of burning manure (Ezekiel 4:4-5,12).
Jeremiah, who also had to do some weird stuff (Jeremiah 13:1-11, 19:1-14, 27:1-2) got tired of all the silliness. He got tired of all the bad news. He got tired of speaking God’s truth. And he blew up. He said some things to God that he probably regretted.
“You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.”
-Jeremiah 20:7-8 (NIV)
It’s not always easy to speak God’s truth to a world that either won’t listen or just doesn’t understand. Or, worse yet, may attack you for speaking truth. Sometimes it feels like the only people our society likes to attack are the ones who stand for principles and truth.
But Jeremiah couldn’t help himself. Once he got rid of the frustration and bad attitude, he came to a strong realization: he was born to speak God’s truth. And there was no way he could stop.
“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’
his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
-Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV)
I wish more of us were burning up with the desire to speak God’s truth. I wish we had the God-given confidence to proclaim boldly what the Holy Spirit has placed within His Word and our hearts.
Paul did. He was called by God to deliver His message – sometimes harshly (Galatians 2:11-21). He wasn’t afraid to speak God’s truth. But Paul also knew something else. When you’re a prophet – when you have the gift of prophecy – there’s something you must understand.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
-1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)
The language of love can make even the harshest critique receivable. If God’s truth must be spoken (and it must!) then let us do it with a heart of love that doesn’t seek to demean, oppress or judge. Let us approach the sensitive and vulnerable times of Christian correction with a spirit of love. When we speak God’s truth in love, we can be assured that God’s message will be better heard, received and applied.
And, to be honest, that is so much better than walking around naked to get the point across.
In God’s Love,