The Plight of The Prophets
As trite as it may seem to say, I've always had a profound
admiration, respect, and appreciation for the old testament prophets. And my
feeling about these noble souls has only continued to grow throughout the years. These
great, great men were so instrumental in the hands of God, in blazing the trail
of truth, and keeping the pathway of genuine knowledge alive for the benefit of
those who would dare to follow in their footsteps, and find the real
understanding of the
mysteries of God, and be identified with Him (and them) in truth. I'm certain
that it would take quite a hardened heart indeed, to not feel reverence for the
way these men endured isolation, misunderstanding, rejection, and even
martyrdom; for the sake of being faithful to the word of God that was revealed
to them from on high. But I wonder how many realize that throughout the ages,
nothing has ever changed,
except for the names and faces; and that since the time of the prophets until
this day, there have always been those who shared the identity that these men
shared; that being true fellowship with God by means of walking in His revealed
truth. And though not everyone has suffered as much as these men, the scriptures
do confirm that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).
In regard to Jesus the scripture says "The
reproaches of them that
me" (Psm. 69:9; Rom. 15:3). This has been the true burden of everyone
who has ever followed hard after God in truth and reality. Since God isn't here
to reject personally, His messengers have always borne the brunt of the
opposition that men, especially God's own people, have always had toward God.
You may recall that it was those who were in covenant with God that rejected and
killed the prophets. And I'm sure that you realize that it was the Jews, God's
chosen people, who likewise rejected Jesus, and demanded of the Romans that He
be executed (Jn. 1:11; Lk. 23:20-24). The harsh reality is that although it's
evident to us that these were great men of God, that doesn't mean that they were
seen that way by the people of their generation.
I would like to get into some of the real
detail and insight of what these things mean, to the intent that you and I do
not fall into the same age old trap of persecuting the righteous,
while believing that we are the righteous. First of all, nobody who has
ever persecuted the true elect of God, have believed that they were doing so.
The mind of this world, ESPECIALLY the religious mind of this world, will
ALWAYS find a seemingly good reason for concluding that someone with the
real word of God is wrong, and damaging to others. You see, the words that the prophets preached
were usually words of reproof and rebuke, simply because God's people have
always needed plenty of reproof and rebuke. The only way to salvation has
always been doing the will of God and keeping all of His commandments; and God's
people have always had an inclination to stray from God's will, and invent
doctrines that support their unrighteousness. So these men
always had the grueling task of preaching things that were contrary to
what everyone else thought was the truth. And when people's pride will not allow them to receive correction for their own good,
then it becomes a very easy and convenient thing to say that the messenger of that reproof is
in error. And so the Proverb is fulfilled, which says "Every way of a man is
right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts" (Prov. 21:2).
Isaiah took it a step further when he warned, "Woe unto them that call
evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in
their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isa. 5:20,21)
Isaiah, painfully seeking for someone to hold with him in the
burden of truth that He had received from the mouth of God for Israel, said "Who
hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed"? (Isa.
53:1) And finding none, he also despairingly stated, "Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain" (Psm. 49:4).
Knowing that these men were great men of faith, one may not consider as he
should, that they were made of flesh and blood, with all of the feelings and
emotions that we know and experience. Think about these words of
Jeremiah, who possibly
bore the greatest weight of all the prophets: "Woe is me, my mother, that thou
hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have
neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them
doth curse me .... Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein
my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my
father, saying, A man child is born unto thee" (Jer. 15:10; Jer. 20:14,15). And
lest we be tempted to think that these men were somehow immortal, hear these
words of Jeremiah, born of bearing such reproach, for so long a time, that most
of us couldn't even imagine; much less identify with: "Why is my pain perpetual,
and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? Wilt thou be altogether
unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?.... Then I said, I will not make
mention of him, nor speak any more in his name" (Jer. 15:18; Jer. 20:9). And to
confirm that this valiant warrior of the faith had down times, the Lord
answered these things thusly: "Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return,
then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take
forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return
unto thee; but return not thou unto them" (Jer. 15:19).
The point here friend is that these men were real people with
real feelings of hurt and frustration, for not being accepted and embraced by
those whose hearts should have been with their hearts in the truth of God, but
in fact were not. And if the previous quotations are not enough to drive this
point home, consider this overwhelming request from Jeremiah to the Lord: "Let them
be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be
dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and
destroy them with double destruction" (Jer. 17:18). In his time there was nobody
who loved God's people more than Jeremiah did, but there also was no one who hated
their despite for the God he served and loved, more than he did. And certainly
there was no one who felt the pain of the breach of God's people, as he felt it.
And in addition to these things, even our Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, Himself expressed this
same untold burden of rejection by those He loved the most; saying in prophecy,
"Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for
some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none"
(Psm.69:20). And for what reason was He seeking for comfort? "Because for thy sake I
have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face ... When I wept, and chastened
my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach ... They that sit in the gate
speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards" (Psm. 69:8,10,12). My
goodness friend, I hope that you feel something that should be felt in these
sacred statements of divine truth and reality, from men who truly knew what it
was to walk with God in His ways, while everyone else walked in their own ways,
believing themselves to be in God's ways.
I'm certain that by this time you can see that these holy men of
old were NEVER a majority, but rather were always a minute MINORITY;
and that being among God's own people! In the days of Ahab, king of Israel, Micaiah, the son of Imla prophesied Ahab's death to his face, against the
agreement of four hundred of Ahab's false prophets, who prophesied of his great
triumph in God over the Syrians (II Chron. 18:5-22). And also during the reign
of the same evil king, Elijah withstood four hundred and fifty Israelite false
prophets; with God manifesting to His people that Elijah was truly His servant,
while also showing that the prophets of Baal were nothing (I Ki. 18:22-40). And
after still being rejected after all of these things, this great man of God
requested death from the Lord, being no longer able to carry the weight of the
reproach of God's people against God, which fell upon him (I Ki. 19: 4). And one
of the most sobering things to consider while acknowledging these facts, is
that each generation of God's people have condemned those who
before time rejected the righteous, while they unwittingly repeated the process
themselves! The religious majority of Jesus' day revered Abraham, Moses and the
prophets; while rejecting Jesus, who embodied everything that those men had
spoken of and believed in (Jn. 8:39,40; Jn. 9:28,29; Mat. 23:29-31).
What is really left to consider friend, are these very weighty
questions: Which lot do you fall into? If we have been
baptized with the precious holy Ghost, then we
are God's people, even as old testament Israelites were God's people then (I Cor.
12:13; Rom. 8:9). And
if we are God's people then we have no choice but to fall into one of these two
groups: the religious majority, or the few who really want to know
the truth of God for what it is, and are willing to suffer the reproach of
walking in it and of holding with the scant minority of the true servants of God
who publish it. Jesus made it clear that we could not understand or walk in the
truth, as long as we are concerned about being accepted by one another more than
we are concerned about being accepted by God (Jn. 5:44).
With that in mind, it is also a wise and sobering acknowledgment that there have always been those who knew who really had the truth, but were too weak to
hold with them in it, and suffer for the sake of God and of Christ. Zedekiah,
the last king of Judah before the third and final Babylonian captivity,
knew that Jeremiah was the true messenger of God; but he feared men more than he
feared God, and was not able to hold with Jeremiah in the truth that he
preached. And the price he paid for his chosen weakness was very great, and
worth reading carefully about (Jer. 37:16,17; Jer. 38:14-24; Jer. 39:1-8). The
scripture also plainly shows that there were many of the religious majority of
Jesus' time who believed on Him, but would not confess Him openly or follow
after Him because they feared the religious authorities, and the reproach of men
(Jn. 12:42). And on the other hand, holding with and upholding those who uphold God's truth,
comes with great reward. Ebedmelech, a faithful eunuch of Zedekiah, alone was faithful
and courageous enough to speak up for
and procure help for Jeremiah when he was cast into the miry pit of the dungeon
(Jer. 38:7-12). And this is what the Lord had to say about it afterward to
Jeremiah: "Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD
of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for
evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.
But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given
into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver
thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey
unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD" (Jer.
39:16-18). Praise God! Truly it pays to be on the right side of what God is
doing, and being a blessing to the few who are truly forwarding the work
of God in the earth.
We are clearly informed in the Bible that unless we
identify with and suffer with Christ in the reproach and rejection that He
suffered, we cannot be saved (II Tim. 2:12; II Cor. 1:7; Philip. 3:10-12; I Pet.
4:13; etc.). Are you willing to find out and identify with the true, revealed
word of God; or are you comfortable being accepted among the religious majority?
And with the sobering realities of this article in mind, consider these
challenging words of Jesus: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!
for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Lk. 6:26). In closing
friend, I must sadly say that God's people today surely revere Jesus, the
apostles, and the prophets; but no doubt would disesteem them if
they were here today, because they would be preaching contrary to what is
widely upheld today as the word of God. What about you friend? Do you really
know who is preaching the authorized word of God, and do you truly value the
blessedness of being identified therewith? I trust that this writing has
manifested the consequences of preferring the honor of men. May God bless
you in all things.