Israel’s classical prophets had many things in common with each other. One of those things was suffering. They all paid a steep price for carrying God’s burden and message to His people. For example, we read these words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3 after the exile of Judah: “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light…….I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long” (verses 1,2 &14). Jeremiah ended up being thrown in cisterns and dungeons for bringing God’s word to His people.
In Ezekiel, we see the same kind of price paid by a true prophet of God. In Ezekiel 4, the Lord calls the prophet to lay on his side for 390 days which represented the years that the northern kingdom lived in unfaithfulness before their covenant LORD. And then he had to lay on his other side for forty days representing all the years that the southern kingdom of Judah had lived in crass idolatry before the LORD. Ezekiel had to ration his food and water for this time period.
Later on, the LORD said to Ezekiel that his wife was going to suddenly die and that he couldn’t mourn for his wife. This was going to symbolize the suddenness of Judah’s demise. It was also going to represent how great their despair would be – so great that they would have no desire to mourn for the Jerusalem Temple’s destruction or the death of their sons and daughters (Ezekiel 24:15-27).
These sufferings are the mark of the true prophet of God. When we went through the Book of Isaiah, I mentioned that some Jewish-Christian traditions taught that Isaiah was sawed in two during Manasseh’s reign (Hebrew 11:37a). There was a price to be paid by these faithful men of God.
I have mentioned before that we live in a time when there are many people who are acclaimed by their followers or proclaim themselves to be prophets. It is my opinion that many of these “modern” prophets lack many of the biblical characteristics of a true prophet. For example, instead of paying the price themselves in carrying the burden of God’s heart and message to His people, they subtly get their followers to pay the price. They do this either through people giving generous financial gifts to their “ministry” or by selling merchandise like cds and dvds which carry messages of a substandard biblical quality. In the messages of the Old Testament prophets, the emphasis was on God’s people repenting of their sin and walking faithfully with their covenant LORD.
The greatest need for the world today is for God’s people to live in the holiness and love of the LORD. Many of the church’s ills and the world’s problems would be healed by the LORD’s presence which is fostered among God’s people through the faithful preaching of God’s shepherds. Let us live faithfully with our bridegroom, the LORD Jesus. And let us be more discerning of what we are hearing. Many of us don’t even realize when we are reading Christian versions of the National Enquirer. Let us shake loose of the “sensationalist” messages of the church’s false prophets. In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John