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Beyond the Priest Collar and Polo Tie: Overthrowing the Pulpit Nuts

There are as many nuts behind well lit pulpits as there are in dark alleys. Seeing beyond the priest collar, and the polo tie is the difference between re-emerging from the womb and entering a tomb.

Visionaries, miracle workers, prophets—they are all shrouded in mystery. We encounter one, and we wonder: Are they authentic or phony? Full of truth or fiction? What are the signs of a prophet we can trust—an Isaiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist? Answer: Where they came from and where they are going. Let’s look to Ezekiel as an example and then converse about all the nuts claiming to be prophets.

Ezekiel says, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezek 1:1 ESV).

Where they come from. Every prophet is called and has visions. Ezekiel didn’t get sucked into the heavens by a giant Bissell vacuum cleaner. Rather, the heavens were opened for him. He didn’t just see a vision, he saw visions, plural. A prophet’s vocation is to see God and guide others to see Him working in their lives.

Specificity is part of prophecy. Ezekiel recounts exactly when the event happened: “in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month.” A liar’s account is never this detailed. Try asking someone you suspect of lying to recount the event again. If someone is lying, it will likely be different the second time.

Where they are going. Ezekiel goes on to guide the people to call on God, and give them hope in their restoration (Ezek 34) and resurrection (Ezek 37). Ezekiel is moving towards God and is not interested in self-glorification.

These two principals hold true for prophets, as well as any spiritual leader. Ask your leader: Where did you come from, and where are you going? Then ask yourself the same questions.

You may not being seeing visions now, but just look around you at God’s creation and think about the complexity of the universe. You may not be a prophet in the sense Ezekiel was, but you can have a prophetic voice. You too can call a generation back to faith. Sometimes vision involves intuitiveness and questioning everything. Sometimes it just means putting the puzzle pieces together.

Tell the community what the Infinite God looks like in your life. Let’s converse about our visions.

Comments

I know I'm commenting ~3 months after this was posted, but I had a couple comments.

First, I wanted to disagree with your point that "a liar's account is never this detailed." The quote that you give isn't really giving that much detail, just the date. In addition, details usually make stories seem more convincing, and liars (convincing ones, anyway) are actually more likely to use details than people who are telling the truth. Also, in studies of eyewitnesses to crimes, it has been found that the witnesses who recall more unimportant details (the number of pictures on a wall, for example) were actually less accurate with regards to the crime than witnesses who didn't recall those details. Granted, the majority (if not all) of these people weren't intentionally lying, but they were inaccurate. So, I think it's dangerous to base someone's accuracy on the number of details they include.

My second comment is more of a question. How do you evaluate where they are going? Obviously scripture lends some insight to this, but there are competing themes within scripture as well. For example, Haggai is quite in favor of the Temple, which is a view that I am not sure the Deuteronomistic Historian would agree with. Haggai also seems to have some tensions with the communalization of the Royal office found in 2nd Isaiah (ch. 55, specifically) in his support of Zerubabbel becoming YHWH's "signet ring (Haggai 2:23; an event that has no historical support)." Also, in the NT, Paul warns the Galations against anyone preaching a gospel other than what he preached (Galations 1:8-9), speaking specifically against the Judaizers(sp?), a group who apparently had influence on even Peter (see Galations 2).

My point in the last paragraph is this: If there are tensions even within scripture, how do we evaluate where a "prophet" is going?

Sorry, I ended up writing more than I originally intended, but I'm eager to hear what your view on this is.

-John

John (not Barry),

Point 1: Good point. Anyone can fabricate a story -- I had actually considered that after I wrote the post. Nonetheless, the detail about dating is important. Details are important when identifying liars and those who are telling the truth.

Point 2: We evaluate where someone is going based on their end goal. Is their goal ultimately Christ's glory, or are there signs that they are in it for their own glory? Do they intend to lead a group of people to follow God or themselves? This can take all kinds of forms: (1) financial gain; (2) self fulfilling prophecy; and (3) fame. The list goes on and on. Throughout history people have used religion for power and we have to guard against this. Our greatest guard is evaluating an individual’s ultimate focus. Even among divergent views, like those you have presented, the purpose was either to lead the people to Yahweh or Christ -- that is what made them real prophets. Prophets who led people to follow after other gods where eventually dethroned, either in life or in death. True prophets call false prophets on the carpet when they err.

--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.