“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but Yahweh tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3).
In every generation the hearts of Adam’s sons are tested. These temptations are tailor-made for each generation, crafted to appeal to contemporary culture, style and pace of living. Some examples of how previous generations have succumbed to such temptations include Victorian England, which embraced a belief in “the White Man’s Burden,” (a worldview which sanctified racism and colonialism). Britain’s Chamberlain spoke delusionally of “peace in our day,” leaving his nation woefully unprepared for Hitler’s attacks. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush each proclaimed the soon arrival of a “new world order” as darkening clouds of Fascism, Communism and finally Islamism rolled across the world.
I would like to briefly draw attention to one of the temptations confronting the modern prophetic movement.
Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher and communications theorist, spoke of how media culture shapes one’s worldview, perspectives and even one’s values. He coined a famous proverb, “The medium is the message” (in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man). The speed and ease with which a McDonald’s hamburger appears at the fast-food counter can lead consumers to expect the same service, friendliness and lack of surprise in other areas of life.
For some believers this type of expectation can bleed over into spiritual or prophetic areas – expecting a tamed prophetic ministry which will not rock the boat or cause controversy; or accepting only prophetic words which are uniformly upbeat, victorious, devotional and positive.
He who develops an appetite for mass-produced look-alike hamburgers, can end up caving in to a similar cultural/spiritual pressure and end up facilitating the “mass production of prophetic words.” Like fast-food, the result in such cases can turn into a homogenized “product,” a castrated form of the prophetic – less than fully authentic in its truth and power.
This spiritual dynamic is not new. In 1 Kings 22, we read of Ahab’s royal displeasure with Micaiah the prophet. King Ahab’s 400 court prophets were in the habit of uniformly prophesying good news – prosperity, victory and rejoicing. Only one prophet begged to differ. ”The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of Yahweh, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ’The king should not say that,’ Jehoshaphat replied.” (1 Kings 22:8). Evidently Ahab was used to hearing bad prophetic news from Micaiah for quite some time – perhaps even for many years. It is equally obvious that Ahab preferred to give the microphone to what he saw as a more jovial and “positive looking” prophetic ministry.
The desire for positive prophetic words is as old as the Bible. Certainly, Scripture itself teaches that one of the important and valuable characteristics of the prophetic is to strengthen, encourage and comfort (1 Cor.14:3). But from a God’s-eye perspective, what is important is the ultimate result, the practical effect of the prophetic word. Jonah’s message to Nineveh may have indeed sounded harsh, but its result led to a season of real repentance for the Assyrians. Conversely, what sounds sweet to prophetic consumers’ ears in the short run may lead to audio agony in the long run.
As a young Jewish child, I attended a YMCA summer camp and had my first experience of attending Sunday chapel. The words of one hymn written by Isaac Watts made a strong impression on me, even to this day (“O God Our Help In Ages Past”).
Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the op’ning day.
Like flowery fields the nations stand, pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand lie with’ring ere ‘tis night.
Even at eight years of age, I was struck by how Watts painted a picture of the fleeting and ephemeral nature of the world’s kingdoms – namely, that human history is like a perpetual slow-motion “instant replay” of proud superpowers crashing into the dust, one after the other. It is also worth noting that this hymn was sung at the first and last services on the Titanic, prior to the sinking of this “unsinkable” ship.
Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book and All the Mowgli Stories, said something similar in a poem he wrote for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration. These words speak deeply to the heart of any superpower:
God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold dominion over palm and pine –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.
Far-called, our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire.
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use, or lesser breeds without the Law –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget – lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust in reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust, and guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word – Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!
In Kipling’s day, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was the world’s strongest superpower. Its colonies were so vast that it was said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Its armies and navies controlled the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. Its weaponry was second to none. Yet Britain’s cursing of the Jewish people (its abandonment of European Jewry to Hitler’s murderous savageries, its attempt to destroy the Jewish state while it was yet in utero , its armed aid and strategic counsel to the Jewish state’s enemies, its attempt to divide up the land of Israel) – all these brought the speedy collapse of its fabled empire. A “once in an (empire’s) lifetime” opportunity had been lost. Even today anti-Semitism is alive and well in England, and most British citizens are blind as to what actually catalyzed the Empire’s demise.
Castles Made Of Sand Fall In The Sea Eventually
While living in the U.K. Jimi Hendrix spoke of the fleeting nature of life in his famous song “Castles Made Of Sand”. Another lyricist of “rock star” status in Britain, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley said something similar about superpowers in his famous poem “Ozymandias”:
I met a traveller from an antique land who said:
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.
Near them on the sand, half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
the hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay of that colossal wreck,
boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.
These are the days of kingdoms staggering and trembling. International public confidence in the economic strength and national destiny of people’s own countries is weakening, Now is the time for clear prophetic input. It is essential. It is strategic. It will bring life itself to those who are shaken and afraid. And it will break the fear of man from off of some aspects of the prophetic movement. As the Apostle implores us all, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols!” (1 John 5:21).
“I also raised up prophets from among your sons
and Nazirites from among your young men …
But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy”
(Amos 2: 11-12)
“You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you for all your sins.
Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
Does a lion roar in the thicket when he has no prey?
Does he growl in his den when he has caught nothing?
Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set?
Does a trap spring up from the earth when there is nothing to catch?
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city, has not Yahweh caused it?
Surely Yahweh the Lord does nothing without revealing His plan
to His servants the prophets.
The lion has roared – who will not fear?
Yahweh the Lord has spoken – who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:2-8)
In Messiah Yeshua’s bonds,
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