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Radicals, Crazies and Prophets All Claim to See God

Both the sane and insane have claimed to see God. Skeptics and radicals, geniuses and lunatics, prophets and heretics -- there is a person in each category who has supposedly been transformed by seeing the most mysterious, illusive and illustrious being in the universe, God.

So is it true? Have all these individuals really seen God? Who has, who hasn’t? Who’s right, who’s wrong?

Some psychologists claim that if a person says they have seen God, Jesus, angels, or demons that they are crazy. Is this true? Could all these people be wrong? Is a vision of God something the imaginations of lunatics conjured up?

There are endless discussions we could have about this topic, all of which I would like to engage with eventually. But for now, let’s discuss Moses, the second prophetic figure to be addressed in our series about “seeing the infinite God in everything.” Let’s also discuss the radicals and the crazies.

Moses, the prophet who led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, has a very interesting encounter with God in Exodus 33:18-23.

In this passage we are told that if anyone sees God's face, they will die. But Moses is allowed to see God’s backside. What precisely is going on here? Well, in the ancient world it was understood that if you saw the “glory” of God, which is His “face,” you yourself could face death.

To really understand Moses we have to back up the horse a bit to Exodus 3, the story of the burning bush. After Moses’ first encounter with God in Exodus 3 he became a radical, but a good kind of radical. He turned the social structures of an entire country on its head. At first, Pharaoh probably thought Moses was a lunatic – “Who is this crazy who thinks he can oppose the gods of Egypt, and their representative god (who by the way is Pharaoh)?” Moses was a heretic in Pharaoh’s eyes, but a prophet in the eyes of the God of the Hebrews – Yahweh.

Many have said, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” I say: One religion’s heretic is another religion’s prophet. One king’s enemy is another king’s hero. One psychologist’s crazy is another psychologist’s norm.

Well, what do you think?

Comments

For those of you who do not know the passage I am referencing off-hand, here it is:

Exodus 33:18-23 (ESV)
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

I agree that it is all about arena (who is watching and listening determines whether it is real) when it comes to prophecy and vision, but I wanna ask more further input from you because I would definitely like to know your opinion more. God said in the Old Testament that a prophet is from Him if what he says comes true. So how do we give weight to the "prophets" of today? Or do we even try to give weight to them? I would definitely like your insight on this! Thanks for bringing it up.

Joel,

Thanks for your comment.

Before I answer your question in detail, I would like to address the issue of the role of a prophet in society. Throughout the Bible prophets have two roles: (1) to be forth telling – to critique the current generation and call them back to God; and (2) to be foretelling – to tell about the future events that will happen if the people do not come back to God (and some things that will happen either way). Even though we often focus on the second task of the prophet (to be foretelling), this is usually a secondary task. The first role is more important. If the people change their ways, the catastrophic events to come will not happen (i.e., they are prevented by the changed hearts of God's people and God’s mercy). A classic example of this is Jonah. Jonah prophesies that Assyria will be destroyed, but the people repent (come back to God) and Assyria is not destroyed after all. What Jonah said did not come true, but the intent and heart of his message was true – God intended to destroy the Assyrians, but He chose not to destroy them after seeing their repentant hearts.

Jonah's story makes clear that there is a measure to truth. Sometimes that measure is not always what actually occurred. The measure is really whether or not what the person said came from God, the source of truth. God then becomes the measure.

With that said, let me get to the heart of your question about prophecy today. I would firmly say to be very cautious about calling someone a prophet, or listening to anyone who says they are a prophet. The prophets in the Bible did not come out and say, "I am a prophet of God; therefore you have to listen to me." They simply spoke on behalf of God. This is not to say that everyone who makes these statements is completely off-base, but it is to say that we must test their words through prayer and compare their message to the Bible. There are many deceivers and false prophets out there, so be careful.

The prophetic voice is all about being willing to say what is right and what is wrong (what is God's will and what is not). Essentially, each person who does this, is in a way, a prophet. It was the intention of the prophets to help others hear the prophetic voice of “honest indignation” and act upon it. Anyone who acts upon God's word (whether in prayer or in the Bible) is hearing the voice of God and seeing God at work.

Thankfully, we have the words of the previous prophets recorded in the Bible. We can measure truth by these words. And thankfully we have the words of the greatest prophet of all, Jesus, recorded in the Bible as well.

Above all, we should think for ourselves and closely examine everything. It was Socrates who said, "A life unexamined is not worth living." If something is true, right and good, it will hold up to examination.

Weigh what a person says, not who you think they are (someone's words often reveal their true feelings, because their actions will follow their words). We are not to judge people, but we are to test their words against what God has said. There is nothing worse than a self-proclaimed prophet; there is nothing more dangerous than someone who deceives others by claiming they (and they alone) have the very words of God.

I often ask myself, what kind of radical will I be? What kind of voice will I possess? Am I willing to be thought of as crazy when I say what I know is right?

We will discuss Deuteronomy 13:1-5 on the next post, which will help to further address your question.

Well, what do you think? Do you think I am on the mark here? Or would you take a different approach?

--John

John,
You are definitely on the mark. I think the mind and heart of God should be way more important to us than whether or not some guy can tell the future! I say that in reference to Jonah's story. Jonah was definitely "telling the future" (God is going to destroy you), but that future was conditional on the softening of the heart of God. So, I definitely agree with you and thank you for your spiritual insight. Please keep this up.

Joel,

Thanks for reading the blog and my comments, as well as for your feedback. It is great to have the encouragement. It really gets me motivated to keep on writing.

I hope many others like you will begin to comment as well.

--John

Joel,

You can also consider Paul's words to the Galatians:

"1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Brandon,

Thanks for bringing up Galatians 1:8-9. In this passage, Paul is attempting to help the Galations establish a standard and to use that standard to judge the truthfulness of the words of others. The passage also makes clear that there are false teachers who will attempt to lead the people astray. Paul encounters this problem a lot, 2 Corinthians is a classic example of this. In 2 Corinthians is almost entirely devoted to defending his apostleship against false teachers.

By the way, for those of you who do not know the passage I referenced in my last comment off-hand, here it is.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (ESV)
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Jesus told people that if they saw him, they saw the Father.

We're Jesus' body.

So if people see us, they should see him.

SHOULD...

Christy,

I am with you there. By us "seeing the Infinite God in everything" and "living it," others too can see "the Infinite God in everything," but obviously we can be a hindrance to them seeing Him as well.

--John

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.