We had a great 4th, hanging out and visiting with good friends. It rained and hailed on the way home, hail so hard we had to take shelter under an overpass for about 10 minutes. D was worrying about “his” truck. It’s not his yet, although it could be. And I watered a friends flowers and ornamental shrubs, as it thundered in the distance. It didn’t rain here last night, although it sure did today. WOW. No watering tonight, I think the flowers had a good drink.
Last night I began to listen to Graham Cooke on Psalm 91, and was struck by his message. I won’t go into detail, but I am still pondering this. What it all means.
As I listened to Graham, I faintly remembered reading this portion, Chapter 2, of T. Austin Sparks book on-line a while back. The book itself is called “Prophetic Ministry”. It’s now on my must-read list, because this chapter already lines up with what I have noticed all throughout scripture myself regarding how God shapes an instrument for His purpose.
I’m just pasting the link here. There are some very important parts to mention, but the entire chapter is just too long to post here when it is in a very nice format already here, out on the web.
I’ve taken out the main points in the chapter, and don’t think I have changed the message or emphasis of his work here, which is in bold below. Still, it’s a bit long;
THE IDENTITY OF THE PROPHET WITH HIS MESSAGE
Here we come to the most important point of the whole. It is the absolute identity of the vessel with the vessel’s ministry. Prophetic ministry is not something that you can take up. It is something that you are. No academy can make you a prophet.
Samuel instituted the schools of the prophets… But there is a great deal of difference between those academic prophets and the living, anointed prophets. The academic prophets became members of a profession and swiftly degenerated into something unworthy. All the false prophets came from schools of prophets, and were accepted publicly on that ground… Going to a religious college does not of itself make you a prophet of God.
My point is this – the identity of the vessel with its ministry is the very heart of Divine thought. A man is called to represent the thoughts of God, to represent them in what he is, not in something that he takes up as a form or line of ministry, not in something that he does. The vessel itself is the ministry and you cannot divide between the two.
This is me now. That is so true. When God chose a Prophet, He made them inseparable from their message. This is the very same point that the folks at Vineyard Central were making earlier, which I referenced in a post a while back entitled “The Medium Is The Message”. That we don’t bring a message, we can only bring our lives. The events of our lives have been crafted into a unique message which can speak into the lives of others. Our entire life BECOMES our message. That makes me want to sit down and do an inventory, of the things that God has done, that I have seen, in order to better understand what He is trying to say through me. That’s probably the question many of us ask. What did God have in mind when He created me?
I heard Ravi Zacharias speak several years ago as well regarding “The Preparation and Portrait of a Prophet”. If you listen to this, be sure to listen to the remaining 3 parts. It’s good. I later found and burned the radio segments to a cd, because it was such an unconventional and unusual picture of how God works in a persons life to me at that time. One that I had not really considered very well up to that point. But true. And Mr. Sparks is filling in the gaps, helping to make sure that we don’t miss, or misunderstand, how it is that God works.
THE NECESSITY FOR SELF-EMPTYING
That explains everything in the life of the great prophets. It explains the life of Moses, the prophet whom the Lord God raised up from among his brethren (Deut. 18:15,18). Moses essayed to take up his life-work. He was a man of tremendous abilities, “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians ” (Acts 7:22), with great natural qualifications and gifts, and then somehow he got some conception of a life-work for God. It was quite true; it was a true conception, a right idea; he was very honest, there was no question at all about his motives; but he essayed to take up that work on the basis of what he was naturally, with his own ability, qualifications and zeal, and on that basis disaster was allowed to come upon the whole thing.
Not so are prophets made; not so can the prophetic office be exercised. Moses must go into the wilderness and for forty years be emptied out, until there is nothing left of all that as a basis upon which he can have confidence to do the work of God or fulfil any Divine commission. He was by nature a man “mighty in his words and works”; and yet now he says, “I am not eloquent… I am slow of speech…” (Exodus 4:10). There has been a tremendous undercutting of all natural facility and resource, and I do not think that Moses was merely disagreeable in his reply to God. He did not say in effect, ‘You would not allow me to do it then, so I will not do it now.’ I think he was a man who was under the Divine discipline and yet on top of it. A man who is really under things and who has become petulant does not respond to little opportunities of helping people. We get a glimpse of Moses at the beginning of his time in the wilderness (Exodus 2:16,17) which suggests that he was not of that kind. When there was difficulty at the well, over the watering of the flocks… He went readily to help, in a good spirit, doing all he could. He was on top of his trial. Little things indicate where a man is.
And later on… “Moses was emptied to the last drop, and yet he was not angry or disagreeable with God. What was the Lord doing? He was making a prophet. Beforehand, the man would have taken up an office, he would have made the prophetic function serve him, he would have used it… At the end of forty years in the wilderness he is in a state for this to become subjective; something has been done. There has been brought about a state which makes the man fit to be a living expression of the Divine thought.”
MESSAGE INWROUGHT BY ACTUAL EXPERIENCE
You see, the principle is at work all the time, that God is going to make the ministry and the minister identical. You see it in all the prophets. The Lord stood at nothing. He took infinite pains. He worked even through domestic life, the closest relationships of life. Think of the tragedy of Hosea’s domestic life. Think of Ezekiel, whose wife the Lord took away in death at a stroke. The Lord said, ‘Get up in the morning, anoint your face, allow not the slightest suggestion of mourning or tragedy to be detected; go out as always before, as though nothing had happened; show yourself to the people, go about with a bright countenance, provoke them to enquire what you mean by such outrageous behaviour.’ The Lord brought this heartbreak upon him and then required him to act thus. Why? Ezekiel was a prophet; he had got to embody his message, and the message was this: ‘Israel, God’s wife, has become lost to God, dead to God, and Israel takes no notice of it; she goes on the same as ever, as though nothing had happened.’ The prophet must bring it home by his own experience. God is working the thing right in. He works it in in deep and terrible ways in the life of His servant to produce ministry…
With us, too, the strain may be terrific; oft-times there will come the very strong temptation – ‘Let go a little, compromise a little, do not be so utter; you will get more open doors if you will only broaden out a bit; you can have a lot more if you ease up!’ What is going to save you in that hour of temptation? The only thing is that God has done this thing in you. It is part of your very being – not something you can give up; it is you, your very life. That is the only thing. God knew what He was doing with Moses. The thing had got to be so much one with the man that there was no dividing between them. The man was the prophetic ministry.
A MESSENGER DIVINELY ATTESTED
I expect that Moses at the beginning would have been very legalistic, laying down the law – ‘You must do this and that’ – and so on; an autocrat or despot. When, after those years, we find him coming off the wheel, out of the hands of the Potter, he is said to be “very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3), and God could stand by him then. He could not stand by him on that day when he rose up in a spirit of pride, arrogance, self-assertiveness. God had to let that work itself out to its inevitable consequence. But when Moses, as the meekest of men, the broken, humble, selfless man, was challenged by others as to his office – at such a time Moses did not stand up for his position, his rights; he just handed the matter over to the Lord. His attitude was, ‘We will allow the Lord to decide.
PROPHETIC MINISTRY A LIFE, NOT TEACHING
Well, what is a prophet? what is the prophetic function? It is this. God takes hold of a vessel (it may be individual or it may be collective: the function of prophetic ministry may move through a people, as it did through Israel), and He takes that vessel through a deep history, breaking and undoing, disillusioning, revolutionising the whole mentality, so that things which were held fiercely, assertively, are no longer so held. There is developed a wonderful pliableness, adjustableness, teachableness. Everything that was merely objective as to the work of God, as to Divine truth, as to orthodoxy or fundamentalism, all that was held so strongly, in an objective, legalistic way, as to what is right and wrong in methods – it is all dealt with, all broken…First He has pulverised us, and then He has reconstructed us on a new spiritual principle, and that expresses itself in ministry: what is said is coming from what has been going on behind, perhaps for years and even right up to date.
Do you see the law of prophetic function? It is that God keeps anointed vessels abreast of truth by experience. Every bit of truth that they give out in word is something that has had a history. They went down into the depths and they were saved by that truth. It was their life and therefore it is a part of them. That is the nature of prophetic ministry.
A PROPHET, TOLERANT BUT UNCOMPROMISING
Reverting to what I was saying about the change in Moses: you can see a reflection of it in the case of Samuel. I think Samuel is one of the most beautiful and lovable characters in the Old Testament, and he is called a prophet. Do you notice that although his own heart is utterly devoted to God’s highest and fullest thought, and inwardly he has no compromise whatever, yet he shows a marvelous charity toward Saul during those early months? (It seems not to have gone much beyond a year, the first year of Saul’s reign, during which it seems that Saul really did seek to show some semblance of good.) And yet you must remember that Saul represents the denial of the highest of all things – the direct and immediate government of God. Such government was repudiated by Israel in favour of a king – “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations”, they said. God said to Samuel: “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me” (I Samuel 8:5-7)…
A true prophet, like Samuel, will be charitable as long as possible, until that wrong thing takes the pronounced and positive form of disobedience to light given. The Lord came to Saul through Samuel and gave him clearly to understand what he had to do. It was made known to him with unmistakable clearness what God required of him, and he was disobedient. Then Samuel said, ‘No more charity with that!’ He was implacable. “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath rejected thee from being king” (I Samuel 15:23). Samuel went as far as he could while the man did the best he could. That is charity…
The prophet Samuel showed a great deal of forbearance with things that were wrong, even while in his heart he could not accept them. He hoped that light would break and obedience follow and the situation be saved. We have to be very charitable to all that with which we do not agree.
The point is this – Moses had to learn that; he had to be made like that. We are better fitted to serve the Lord’s purpose, we are truer prophets, when we can bear with things with which we do not agree, than when in our zeal we are iconoclasts, and seek only to destroy the offending thing. The Lord says, ‘That will not do.’
In all that we have said we have emphasized only one thing – that prophetic ministry is a function. Its function is to hold everything in relation to God’s full thought – but not as holding a ‘line’ of things, in an objective and legalistic way. You do not take something up. You can only do it truly as God has wrought into you that thing for which you are going to stand, and in so far as it has been revealed in you through experience, through the handling of God – God has taken you through it, and you know it like that. It is not that you have achieved something, but rather that you have been broken in the process. Now you are fit for something in the Lord.
Me again. Looking back through scripture, at Abraham, David, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, John the Baptist, and finally Paul, it’s clear to me that this is completely true.
As Ravi says of Ezekiel, “suddenly he could feel the message in his bones”. The message the Lord gave each one of them was so intertwined with the unique events of their lives that they could not run from it, they could not miss the message. It became obvious to them. It was worn into them like creases in the leather of your favorite pair of shoes. They had become the message.
I don’t know why, or where I was going with this ;>)
Time for some chili.