Strike me, please: Becoming a prophetic people
On NECF's 30th anniversary, it behooves us to reflect on our role as Christians in our maturing nation.
IN its monthly Leadership Institute e-newsletter1, the World Evangelical Alliance described its core activities as: uniting evangelicals worldwide; serving and equipping members; representing by speaking to secular society and governments; and engaging in intra-faith and interfaith dialogue over issues of common concern.
It adds that we speak for the voiceless and promote peace and justice in a manner that is respectful, yet clear and uncompromising in matters of faith and conscience.
Simply put, we are to be a prophetic voice. This should be one of our predominant roles. The Bible records in 1 Kings 20, circa BC 901, the oft-forgotten role that present-day prophets should play today.
King Ahab, a capable but wicked leader, had reintroduced the cult of Baal into Israel and the royal family led the nation into moral and spiritual decline2. Earlier, in the same chapter, Ahab was saved from the unreasonable demands of the Syrian king, Ben-Hadad (v7). Through prophetic input, Ben-Hadad along with his thirty-two allies were called to account.
The mystery of this episode lies in the fact that prophetic input was intended to save the wicked King Ahab (1 Kings 20: 13-28.) What lesson can this story hold for us?
One, is that God moves and removes the wicked in His time. Till He acts, we are to speak prophetically, saying what He wants said. Prophetic speaking goes beyond promulgating standard refrains like "justice is right, corruption is wrong".
Speaking like this is not compromise. Today, many may not realise that prophetic input does not necessarily co-relate with the common expectation that wickedness must be removed immediately.
Having defeated Ben-Hadad, Ahab without consulting God, foolishly made a treaty with Ben-Hadad and spared his life (v34). It suited Ahab to make this alliance. Both needed the other to stem the rising power of Assyria. From Assyrian records, we learn that Israel and the Arameans joined forces to fight Assyria in the battle of Qarqar in 853 BC - the year before Ahab's death3. Inevitably, wickedness intensified in Israel. Today, this development could easily be interpreted as prophetic failure.
Following the treaty, the Lord sent another unnamed prophet to condemn Ahab. In wanting to act out the prophetic word, the prophet said to his fellow companion, "Strike me, please" (v 35). His companion refused. In refusing to act out the prophetic word, this man of God met his fate with a lion (v36). Donning the prophetic mantle has its perils. Herein is another mystery - godly men who fall away before the wicked are dealt with. In the New Testament, the Bible reminds us that judgment begins with the house of God.4
Subsequently, the prophet found another man to strike him. Playing the part of a wounded soldier, the prophet then waited by the roadside for King Ahab to pass him by on the return to Samaria. In disguise, the prophet feigned to have made the mistake of allowing an enemy to escape, to which the king pronounced a judgment on him. Thereafter, the prophet revealed himself and pronounced a similar judgment on Ahab: "Therefore, your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people" (v 42).
We should note that the prophetic message was birthed out of woundedness. The "Allah", Alkitab and apostasy issues have undoubtedly hurt the Malaysian Church. But these situations can turn out to be a prophetic message to our nation that bears the fragrance of a trampled rose. Hence, let us be careful not to let this message of the cross be sullied through immature and caustic reactions from any of us in the Church.
Another mystery of the prophetic role follows suit in 1 Kings 21. The wicked Ahab murders Naboth for his vineyard, despite the earlier prophetic assertion pronounced on the king's life5. Alas, to be prophetic also does not mean we will be able to put an end to the continuing ills of the nation.
In her impatience to be prophetic and relevant, the local Church is at risk of misunderstanding God's timetable and His ways, and ends up seduced into becoming a mere voting bloc.
The Church must fully grasp the balance between God's severity towards those who have been enlightened (e.g. the prophet who refused to cooperate with His plan) and His mercy towards wicked rulers.
Not every word will come to pass immediately. James alluded to this "patience of the prophets"6. Unfortunately, the Church is not known for her patience as many want to see all injustices dealt with in our lifetime.
Let's not be guilty of propagating a McChurch with a McGod whom we expect to provide fast McSolutions. While we may be eager to see the acts of God play out in our nation quickly, we must first understand the ways of God7.
May God help us mature in our walk to becoming a prophetic people.
1 April 2012 issue
2 Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987), The teacher's commentary (259). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3 Knowles, A. (2001), The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed.) (157). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.
4 1 Peter 4:17
5 1 Kings20:41-42 And he hastened to take the bandage away from his eyes; and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. Then he said to him, "Thus says the Lord: 'Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.'" (NKJV)
6 James 5:10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.
7 Psalm 103:7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.