You are near to their lips, but far from their mind. (Jer. 12:2)
I am quite sure that those who have any knowledge whatever of the times, spiritually, will agree with me when I say that the crying need of our time is for a prophetic ministry. There never was a time when there existed so extensively the need for a voice of interpretation, when conditions needed more the ministry of explanation. One does not want to make extravagant statements or to be extreme in one’s utterances, but I do not think it would be either extravagant or extreme to say that the world today is well-nigh bankrupt of real prophetic ministry in this sense – a voice that interprets the mind of God to people. It may exist in some small degree here and there, but in no very large way is that ministry being fulfilled. So often our hearts groan and cry out, Oh, that the mind of God about the present situation could be brought through, in the first place to the recognition of His people, and then through His people to others beyond! There is a great and terrible need for a prophetic ministry in our time. (T. Austin-Sparks, from, The Prophetic Ministry)
Dear saints, we urgently petition our gracious Father for all of you that you will be found patiently waiting and watching in the Lord Jesus, as the hour closes in on midnight, and the Thief is at the door. Oh how so many saints are asleep, or drifting into soul-seducing slumber as the world races onward towards its date with destiny and the awful judgment of the Lord of all the earth. And where, brethren, where are the teachers, the shepherds, the prophets of the hour providing that much needed meat in due season, fervently exhorting the children of light to all vigilance and separation from this present evil world? Where are they indeed? Heaven help us in this dread hour dear ones. When brother Sparks wrote many years ago, that “there is a great and terrible need for a prophetic ministry in our time”, we concur completely. Where are those with the prophet’s heart, utterly abandoned to the purpose and perspective of their god? Where is this broken heart of supplication, of intercession, of pleading and pouring out? Where is the heart solely given over to restoration, recovery, reform and rededication? Where is the heart willing to antagonize the devil himself and to incur his violent attention? Where is the voice lifted up above the noise of human opinion and earthly interest and interpretation?
But You know me, O LORD; You see me;
And You examine my heart’s attitude toward You. (Jer. 12:3)
Oh dear saints, read all of Lamentations slowly and carefully, carried on by the Spirit, and perhaps by the grace of the Lord, you will be inspired by this heart of the prophet. Perhaps you will see that it is very much a broken and shattered heart that we see here; a devastated heart. Perhaps you will see that this heart, this prophet’s heart, is really nothing less than the heart of our Lord being poured out for the ones He loves.
Recently, I found myself revisiting the lives of the great ones among our kind – the prophets of old. For whatever gripped them and held them is what I want and need. I want nothing and no one out before me but my God; to be utterly abandoned to His will and purpose, to His moment-by-moment direction and leading. To have a power able to divide light from darkness and soul from spirit, and the complete and utter loss of all that I have become in this sin-plagued world. I wanted so very much to get inside this strange and secret life; inside their experiences with God, to truly comprehend what moved them. For very clearly, there can be no prophet without the prophet’s heart.
So strange and so utter are these characters my friends, the Elijahs and Jeremiahs and John the Baptists of the world, moving alone in the shadows with their God, breathing in His words and breathing out His fiery pronouncements; utterly rejected and forsaken by their own, yet always sustained by the Lord who preserves them by His irresistible strength and purpose. Oh how we would all do well to have this heart dear ones; to be utterly poured out into His cup. Oh that we would see what they saw, and comprehend the days in which we live, and be ever willing to stand for the Lord when so many others have fallen.
Notice how Austin-Sparks captures this so powerfully in reference to Elijah –
That is what comes very clearly before us at the outset in the case of Elijah. There is no doubt about God’s sovereign choice, and there is no question as to God having endued Elijah with Divine power. Nevertheless, we see him at every step under the hand of God, and those steps are all steps which are a disciplining of the man himself. God is dealing with His servant all the time, and bringing him, all the way along, under His hand, so that he never becomes something in himself, but has everything in the Lord, and only in the Lord. We make a great mistake if we think that it is enough to have the Divine thought as to Divine purpose, that is, to have the knowledge of what God desires to do. That is not enough, that knowledge of the thought of God is not sufficient. There has to be a dealing with us in relation to that Divine thought, and that dealing with us is usually in a way which is altogether beyond our understanding…
That kind of ministry, born out from that secret history with God, needs very special government by God to preserve its safety, to safeguard it from all those forces which can destroy it, and that is why Elijah, having such a ministry, needed to be governed in every step by God. There must be no generalization of movement in his case, there must be specific movement, God dictating every step. So God preserves that authority as He produces it, that is, by a hidden life. Such a life and such a ministry must not be exposed, otherwise it will be destroyed. (from, The More Excellent Ministry)
Indeed, we read much of the prophet’s public ministry, but behind it all there must be this “hidden life” nurtured and sustained by the Living God!
You see, here is a man, having had this deep, secret preparation with God in much prayer, who finds himself brought out in Divine authority to make a great announcement which represents a crisis in the purpose of God. You would expect that, from that point, he would go straight on from strength to strength, from place to place, would at once become a recognized authority, a recognized servant of God, and be very much before the public eye. But God would guard against any servant of His taking up a Divine purpose and a Divine commission in himself, taking it up in his own energy. That will destroy it, and there must be a hiding, a very real hiding. If a geographical hiding is God’s way of getting a spiritual hiding, well, be it so. If God chooses to send us out of the realm of public life and ministry into some remote and hidden place, in order to take us away from the imminent peril of our becoming something, of our being taken up to be made something of, our going on in the strength of our own self-life, that is all well and good; but whether it be geographical or not, the word of the Lord to all His servants would always be, “Hide thyself!” (from, The More Excellent Ministry)
Dear saints, we don’t need to formally be ordained a prophet to have a prophet’s heart, and to be hid away in the secret chambers with our God. Here is sublimity and power my friends, and yet to have such a heart we must also be willing to bear a prophet’s scars – REJECTION, LONELINESS, ISOLATION, BEWILDERMENT, ABANDONMENT, DEPRIVATION, ESTRANGEMENT – that strange sensibility that this world is not our home and that we were never meant to be established in it. Oh there are many like Lot and Demas among us content to dwell in the walled city with the gates and the painted splendor of the world – but that can never be for us. No career, no wife, no children, no happy home for Jeremiah living so close to the time of judgment. Rather, to the smug, the indifferent, the cold, the blind, the worldly, the servant of the Lord must be content to provide this “meat in due season”, to prepare a remnant who will forsake the easy, formalized way of the many, and follow the Lord into the pathless wilderness.
For the burden of the prophet – to restore, to recover, to set upright that which has toppled, is not an easy one to bear; in fact it is a great mystery how they bear it at all. Only the Lord knows His strange working upon the human heart. The prophet of the Lord must always oppose the false, cold religious establishment of his day, even at the price of being hated and hunted for it by those who take their Lord for a fool and refuse to believe He will fulfill all that He has declared. Can there be any greater courage found in a man, as that which was found in the Lord’s prophets, both of the Old and New dispensations? Never! These are the true and only heroes, and of course we must realize that all of the prophets, whoever they were, merely foreshadowed the One who was the Prophet; the One greater than Moses – the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:3).
Here further, are some penetrating insights from one (Leonard Ravenhill), who himself was something of a prophet crying in the wilderness –
The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men. Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, “No man can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected.” The prophet of the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his “brand name.”
The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but untested theology, is not likely to vote him “Man of the year” when he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!
The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, “has almost always been that of recovery.”
The prophet is God’s detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.
He has no price tags. He is totally “otherworldly.” He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile. He marches to another drummer! He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration. He is a “seer” who comes to lead the blind. He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a “thus saith the Lord.” He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of impending judgment. He lives in “splendid isolation.” He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.
His message is “repent, be reconciled to God or else…!” His prophecies are parried. His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void. He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow. He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead! He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with epitaphs when dead. He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide in the marketplace. He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual. He has passion, purpose and pugnacity. He is ordained of God but disdained by men.
GOD’S MEN ARE IN HIDING UNTIL THE DAY OF THEIR SHOWING FORTH. They will come.
The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.
There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.
And here we were worrying about our stock portfolio, or not being able to take that next family vacation, or the sports standings. Oh Lord help us! Grant to us by Your grace the prophet’s heart and the prophet’s separation, the prophet’s tears and the prophet’s faith and the prophet’s love for your wayward people in these dark times.
Arise, cry aloud in the night
At the beginning of the night watches;
Pour out your heart like water
Before the presence of the Lord;
Lift up your hands to Him
For the life of your little ones
Who are faint because of hunger
At the head of every street.” (Lam. 2:19)
The prophet is one who is poured out and emptied by the Lord, and his blood is precious to the One who sent Him and keeps him. One day, brethren, He Himself will exact awful vengeance on all those who have spilled it (Rev. 16:6). This is certain, for the Lord God is a just God, and He will forever advocate for His beloved servants.
And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” (Rev. 16:5-6)
Another who had also seemingly glimpsed the strange and wonderful world of the prophet wrote the following regarding Jeremiah –
In a time of national calamity and moral collapse there was a heart that burned with this fire of repentance and righteousness. In the midst of riot and rampage through Israel’s streets, stood one lone prophet with the message of the hour mixed with tears. Like Ramah, he refused to be comforted. Like his Lord, he could not ignore the plight of his people. He witnessed and pleaded on the corner of every street and hedge of Jerusalem for their lives and their liberties, to truly return to the Lord. Echoing through the alleys and lanes of the city it could be heard,
“Arise! Cry aloud in the night! At the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift up your hands to Him, for the life of your young children who faint because of hunger at the top of every street!” Lamentations 2:19)
See, Jeremiah was no stranger to his nation’s sin and pain. He did not observe from a terraced temple treasury at the passing of the publican and prostitute that paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. He did not stand as high priest and judge to the agony and cry of Zion’s children, but to the contrary, he walked with them, he pleaded with them, he wept with them! Like his Messiah, he was no stranger to their desperation; he stood with them at the threshold of their judgment and cried.
“…Call upon Me and come pray to Me! And I will listen to you! And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart…” (Jer. 29:12&13.)
Judgment never falls without the tears of the prophet falling first –
‘And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it…’ (Jesus over Jerusalem) (Luke 19:41) (Chad Taylor from, Why Revival Still Tarries)
And so what is the prophet’s heart? Indeed, it is nothing less than the beating heart of the Lord God Himself; He who searches the hearts and knows all those named by His name, yet who seek everything else but His Kingdom and His righteousness.
My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart!
My heart is pounding in me;
I cannot be silent,
Because you have heard, O my soul,
The sound of the trumpet,
The alarm of war. (Jer. 4:19)
Dear saints, as we consider the imminence and gravity of the Lord’s appearing for the watchful among His people, and as we look upon the almost hopeless state of the Laodecian church in this age, let us be faithful in providing the solid food of His prophetic word in due season, that we too might be found faithful at His coming.
Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:45-51)
The meat (or food) is the word of exhortation and the season is upon us, to be sure. And yet we must also recognize that, like the times of the ancient prophets, the many in our day will not receive this strong meat, and ultimately come to reject the ones dispensing it –
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. (Heb. 5:12-13)
In closing, I will leave you with the words of Elijah to the people of Israel, spoken at a time grimly similar to our own in the Church of Christ. The time for choosing, brethren, is at hand, for the Lord will soon descend into His Presence, and the midnight cry will go forth –
Elijah came near to all the people and said, ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
Not a word! And so what is your answer, my brethren? Did you know that you are either for the Lord your God or against Him? Pray that the Lord might grant you this heart of the prophet, undivided and true, willing to forsake everything that a remnant might be spared; that the Lord’s heart might come forth in this dark hour.
Where are the prophets among us today, dear saints? Why have all the prophetic voices been silenced – the Austin-Sparks, the Tozers the Ravenhills? What is the Lord saying to us at the tail end of this age?
Oh Lord, help us! Please help us!
Excerpt from The Dwelling Place of God (A.W. Tozer)
The Loneliness of the Christian
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.
The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
The man [or woman] who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens.
He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”