Have you ever thought about what it must be like to live like a prophet of God?
Unlike priests of old—who had an automatic right to ministry, who had a guaranteed job and income, who had impressive clothes and positions of importance in society—prophets were very different.
God individually chose prophets from all tribes of Israel, and even from foreign peoples, for a specific job—to speak and demonstrate his words. Typically, they came with no credentials, no training, no proof of their calling, except that when their dramatic statements came true, people took notice that this was no ordinary crazy person.
Their lives were all marked by shocking activity, unwanted predictions, extensive poverty, long droughts of loneliness, and brutal murder to cap it all off. Some laid on their sides, outdoors for months in public. Others cooked food over dung in front of everyone. New dishes were purchased with personal money and then destroyed, shocking the audience. One was required to marry a prostitute, knowing she would continue to cheat on him and break his heart. Another was prevented from crying when the wife he loved would suddenly die the next day. All were told that God’s people would reject their teachings.
“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them [Israel] through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” (2 Chr 36:15-16)
Eating bugs, getting thrown into death-pits, running for their lives, wearing filthy rags, being rejected by everyone around them, confronting sin in others, fasting for weeks on end, requesting that friends strike them with swords, and having their heads chopped off, were all part of being a prophet.
A prophet’s life is not something anyone should want.
The Bible teaches that Christians are called to
eventually become priests in the Kingdom,
while living like prophets in this life.
That does not mean we carry the title of prophet or do dramatic things a prophet did. Rather, we are expected to live a prophet’s lifestyle, to give up reliance upon everything dear to us and valued by others, accepting the same treatment they endured. Christians are called to be “living sacrifices” as we “hold out the word of life” to a hostile world. Their strange behaviors were only due to demands directly communicated by God upon those with the title of prophet, however the suffering and social rejection are common to all who live as personal representatives of God, both then and now.
To be a true disciple of Jesus, a faithful Christian, is to live like a strange prophet.
“everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
It is a biblical requirement, that in order to be accepted as a professed follower of Jesus, that each Christian take up their personal cross—that disturbing reference to brutal crucifixion, complete rejection and abandonment by everyone around, and suffocating death.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).
That means that those who live in a manner that tries to preserve their life, don’t belong to Jesus. It is only those who willingly live in a way that accepts the losing of natural living, even to the potential of complete loss in death, that show they are accepted by God. Neither priest, nor parishioner, were expected to live like that, only prophets.
This is why, in the introduction of the greatest recorded sermon, our Lord compares believers who reflect the beatitude qualities with prophets:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12).
The reason many early believers stopped believing is because they were confronted with the hard life of prophets and didn’t want anything to do with it. Those who followed Jesus, until he told them they would have to eat his flesh, stumbled at such a horrible idea, and refused to stay Christian (Jn 6).
Many of those who initially received the gospel with great joy, rejected God, when difficult trials pressed into their life. Others who lived as long-time Christians, also failed and lost everything, because they couldn’t face the increasing worries of life that are allowed to target believers. In some cases, those who think they are Christians, don’t make it to the Kingdom, because they prefer the attractive and comfortable living that wealth offers (Mt 13).
It is not easy or desirable to live like a prophet. It is hope in something far greater, promised yet ahead, that keeps the faithful in the game, in spite of such hardships.
“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we considered blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (Jms 5:10-11).
Christians are compared to prophets, because that kind of lifestyle most closely resembles what it looks like to faithfully follow God, while living on this earth. As the Lord stated, if he was treated poorly, so will those who rightly follow him. To bear the cross is to be acquainted with sorrows and endure what the Lord lays upon a person (Isa 53). His life and result on this earth, has become our own.
When you lose your health, pray, but remember it’s a prophet’s life. When your job fails, your standard of living tanks, and your support network crumbles, pray, and remember it’s a prophet’s life. When your church pursues physical and financial growth, with policies that cater to society and attract attendance, and distain living like the Cross, pray, but don’t forget that it is a prophet’s life. When things don’t work out and don’t ever improve, remember “jars of clay” are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, “always carrying around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor 4:7-11). It is a prophet’s life, because unlike the natural pattern, for us death precedes life.
That straight and narrow path is not popular. It is only traveled by prophets and those who live a prophet’s life. As observed about the faithful listed in Hebrews chapter 11, they were commended for their faith, but all died without receiving a good life. Rejected, sawn in two, flogged, humiliated, imprisoned, and stoned to death: “the world was not worthy of them”. For those who faithfully live a prophet’s life:
“God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Heb 11:40).
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them’” (Rev 14:13).
A prophet lives the life laid upon him by God, because he or she trusts that it is only temporary, because it is what God requires, because God offers sufficient grace to never give up, and because there is something far greater ahead and very much worth every little struggle endured through this life. Those who understand this truth, will live it and support it in others, with the belief that all who do so will share in a prophet’s reward.
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Mt 10:40-41).
Living as a Christian may often feel desperate, lonely, and frustrating. Pray. And remember, it is a prophet’s life for you. He will never leave you, even though the cross looks and feels like failure to us and others. Many, even in the church, live like enemies of the Cross, we are told. But, he has many other witnesses who are enduring the same things, so:
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:1-3).
It is easy to grow weary, because it is a prophet’s life.
The apostle Paul openly shared the unthinkable struggles he constantly faced in his life and taught that it is through such hardships we enter the Kingdom (Act 14:22). For those who desire the:
“fellowship of sharing in his sufferings [of Christ] and becoming like him in his death”, believers are encouraged to “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phi 3:10-20).
The Christian pattern of living resembles the life of a prophet. Deny self-advancement. Now is not the time for gathering wealth or popular power. Take up your cross. Embrace his grace. Be courageous to carefully promote the gospel just as he directs you. Love sacrificially.
Accept the storms and battering winds as you share your faith in Jesus. Be willing to toss your cargo overboard. Fix your eyes on the unseen light ahead. Realize that most people around you will take the life-boats and abandon you. At that point, take your hand off the tiller and raise your arms. Ride it out, no matter what happens to you, your cargo, your passengers, your boat, or plans. Your port-of-call cannot be reached by boat.
It is a prophet’s kind of life! The chariots of the Lord are on their way.