203. Fallible and failing

It is there – right at the end of the story, in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible.  A serious warning to guard our hearts from misery and disappointment.  It is almost hidden, but it would serve us well to elevate it to a principal life skill in surviving the stormy ocean of information and ministry at our disposal today.  

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8,9)

These words are exactly the same as the warning in Revelation 19:10.

I was so touched by the humility of John in the last chapter of Revelation where he records his correction from the angel.  He includes it as a serious warning to us all.

We could be so overwhelmed by the message of grace that we fall down in wonder.  Admiration for the messenger will always get us into trouble.  God is jealous and we rest in his jealousy.  It is written in stone from the very beginning. (Exodus  20:5)  

He does not share his glory.  It is to our benefit that we get rid of our hero-worship.  God has no rival; He has no equal.  He is God and there is NONE beside him.

That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; (Isaiah 45:6)

The messenger is a fellow servant.  We respect them and are grateful for their leadership and service.  Leaders are accountable to God.  

The Christian world is often shocked by prominent leaders who fail and fall, when sin is revealed and hearts all around are disappointment and wounded.  We need to get rid of people on pedestals.  Jesus is the only One who will never disappoint.  We follow Christ and Christ crucified.  

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 

 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3: 5-11)

Have you heard?  The latest voice declaring the future, the second coming, the aftermath of world events.  One can hardly avoid it – so many voices with a level of loudness that feigns authority many times forwarded right there on your small screen.  The sounds of alarm rant and rave about the great tribulation, the rapture and world events heading for the great cataclysm of history.  Last time we decided to bravely switch off the constant flow of information, without guilt or a fear of not knowing everything. 

This time the challenge to choose carefully selected sources of information – news as well as Gospel-related matters, comes loud and clear to every individual.  The navigation of information-sources daily, affords us the perfect opportunity to lean on the Holy Spirit throughout our day for guidance in the maze of possibilities.

God promises wisdom – every time you ask.  So – ask every time!  

Ask God whether you should listen to the voices that you allow into your soul.  You belong to the Holy Spirit.  He will guide you in everything and lead you to the sources that will build your inner being into a robust warrior of the Kingdom.

Let us dive a little deeper into the office of a prophet.  I take the liberty to say that prophecy is the gift of the Holy Spirit that lends itself to much abuse.  In the same breath I would encourage everyone not to shy away from it because of the abuse.  It is an amazing, miraculous gift of encouragement and power in the church.  Learn and listen – be wise so that you do not miss any of the blessing of what God has in store for his beloved – you.

The definition of the office of a prophet [propheteia] describes speaking forth a message from God.  The primary use is not predictive in the sense of foretelling but interpretive, declaring or forth-telling the will and counsel of God.

A prophet [Hebrew=nabi’ and nebiyah=female] is one who proclaims a message that he has received from God in prayer and careful consideration of the Word.  He or she is a spokesperson, heralder or announcer.  The prophetic word should always line up with Scripture.

Women are often mentioned in this regard; Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah (false prophetess) and Isaiah’s wife (a prophetess in her own right).

The prophetic ministry is part of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians (4:11) for the development and enriching of the church.

We cannot afford to exclude such a mighty instrument in ministry just because of the fallibility and disobedience of a few.  

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Paul is very specific in his teaching on the gifts of the Spirit.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:7,11 27-28)

Freedom is very important in the Christian worldview. Freedom is life and when a church is alive and growing there is risk.  People are precarious – deceitful, full of pride and selfish desires.  The church is a kind of “licorice all sorts” of personalities, characters, and types.

But – rather the risk of life than perfect order that brings death.  A graveyard is very orderly and very quiet – but completely dead.  Freedom to choose is fundamental to the Christian faith and the reason for many failures and malfunctions throughout history.

God is gracious and mighty.  He can use a crooked stick to strike straight.  We do not need to be faultless to minister prophetically.  We need to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God (Micah 6:8).

The commandments concerning prophets were quite clear.

“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk.

So you shall put away the evil from your midst.  (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

God tests our hearts not for his own benefit because He knows all things.  Testing is for your benefit so that you know your own heart. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?  (Jeremiah17:9)

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests the hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)

As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man. (Proverbs 27:19)

Does it sound harsh that a false prophet should be put to death?  I hope so.  It underlines the very serious displeasure of God with the abuse of a gift He freely bestows on us for the benefit of all around us.  It is his name and reputation that are instantly at stake.  He leads us in paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake – remember the twenty-third Psalm.

Old Testament prophets foretold the exile and enemy invasions.  Enemy attacks were seen as a punishment for sin.  It is when sin draws you out of the protective covering of the Blood of Jesus, that you are fair game to the devil.  The prophecy of doom was always accompanied by a call to repentance. The punishment was postponed for the longest possible time – often hundreds of years.  Methuselah is the man known to have become the oldest living person before the Flood.  The prophecy was linked to him – when he died the judgment came. (Jude 14,15)

Remember always that judgment and punishment come to clear the way to repentance and restoration.

We need to discern the voices around us.  We exercise ourselves in godliness to recognize the voice of God in a prophet.  We must realize and reject when a prophet sounds like Jude’s description:

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. (12,13)

We are called to fine tune our ears and perception to the truth – the Man who said: I am the truth…  He is the content of prophecy.

 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

The noise around us is not for our benefit.  Heed the many forewarnings in Scripture.

Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; They have not uncovered your iniquity, To bring back your captives, But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.  (Lamentations 2:14)

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
    when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
    we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

 God’s my island hideaway,
    keeps danger far from the shore,
    throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

 Let me give you some good advice;
    I’m looking you in the eye
    and giving it to you straight:

God-defiers are always in trouble;
    God-affirmers find themselves loved
    every time they turn around.

 Celebrate God.
    Sing together—everyone!
    All you honest hearts, raise the roof!  
(Psalms 32, The Message)

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