Prophets of Perception

Moses grew up in luxury as a prince in Pharaoh’s house. But now he tends smelly sheep for "forty years" (Acts 7:30). God prepares His messenger Moses, who "led the flock [of Jethro, his father-in-law] to the backside of the desert" (Exod. 3:1), to tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go" (Exod. 5:1). Elijah fled from Jezebel, to the deep, dark recesses of a cave, where he now listens intently to hear that "still small voice" of God (1Kgs. 19:12). Even so, he "was a man subject to like passions as we are" (James 5:17). To Jeremiah, God said: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee" (Jer. 1:5). This man was prophetically destined "to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant" (v. 10). Even so, Jeremiah now spends many days lifting one foot then the other from the deep muck inside the king’s low dungeon, where he is "let down . . . with cords, . . [where] Jeremiah sunk in the mire" (Jer. 38:6). Daniel suffered bodily mutilation and is now thrown to the lions as a servant of God to Babylonian kings for seventy years. The LORD spoke to Isaiah: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me" (Isa 1:2). That rebellion is pictured later when Isaiah is now found "walking naked and barefoot. . . three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia" (Isa 20:2-3). And "the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms" (Hos 1:2), thereby dramatizing God’s marriage to unfaithful Israel. All these are true prophets of the true God, who were used most ironically in His service. Even so, these and other prophets of perception suffered incredible affliction as they fulfilled their sometimes outlandish but God-ordained duties. Christian, is your gift the prophet? Then perceive your gift well and let no man derail your destiny!

by Jerry Gentry

"When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:22).

People love to hate the prophets of God, even while giving them much lip service. So it was of old. So it was in Jesus day as well. He confirms: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous" (Mat 23:29).
"And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets" (v. 30).

"Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets" (v. 31). So it is today.

Prophet bashing has been a favorite past time in Israel since ancient times, as is illustrated when Jeremiah stood in the opening hall of the great temple at Jerusalem and publicly delivered God’s message of judgment to come:

Jeremiah "stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people" (Jer 19:14). No doubt, Jeremiah is speaking openly here to the people of the ancient church, the congregation of Israel. The priests are listening from their private places behind the curtains. What will they do with this "rabble rouser," this "enemy" Jeremiah, who indicts:

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words" (Jer 19:15). Jeremiah cuts through the flack, pierces to the heart of the matter. The priests had earlier set themselves to destroy Jeremiah. He has now turned directly to the people. Neither will they hear the words of God. The priests have long conditioned the people against hearing God’s words. How do we know these things are true?

"Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things" (Jer 20:1). And what did this "Pashur the son of Immer the priest. . . chief governor in the house of the LORD" do, when he listened from behind the scenes to Jeremiah’s public message?

"Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD" (v. 2). For faithfully delivering the message of the LORD, Jeremiah was "smote" and "put. . . in stocks" by this church leader, who acted on behalf of the corrupt priesthood. These priests did precisely what every politically correct preacher does today. They defended their vested interests. "Whoa!" they said to Jeremiah. "Stop talking like that! You are upsetting the people. You are reflecting badly on our good names!" If you think it is any different in the "temple" today, than in Jeremiah’s day, then watch when God exposes an iniquity of your favorite preacher. What does he do? Does he repent? Or does he send out his hatchet men to smite the messenger with words and paint that messenger as an enemy, just as Pashur did to Jeremiah? Talk is cheap. The proof is in the putting. Which preacher do you know who will put up or shut up, even confess his sin when God opens that sin up to public scrutiny? It is into such an iniquitous religious milieu that God sent Jeremiah. It is into such an iniquitous setting that God calls prophets of perception even today.

The priests had already rejected Jeremiah’s message from God, early on. Now they were simply carrying out their earlier stated purpose.

"Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words" (Jer. 18:18). They had "had it" with this "two bit" maverick trouble maker Jeremiah. They smote Jeremiah with their tongues, while they made the brazen false claim that "the law shall not perish from the priest." They claimed falsely to be teaching the law of God. What they claimed and what they did were contradictions. Notwithstanding, God’s indictment against the priests through Jeremiah was precisely on target for the very backslidings and contradictions they denied! This is the problem every prophet of perception faces even today!

"The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit" (Jer. 2:8).

What is Jeremiah telling us? He is telling us that the religious leaders from top to bottom had corrupted their way. They "handled," or manipulated, the law to satisfy their own special interests, while they "transgressed against me." And of course the popular court prophets confirmed their unprofitable falsehoods. It was a sorry state of the church, no different then from today, when religious leaders trust to their own means and not to God, while the "people love to have it so" (Jer. 5:31).

God always speaks to and through His prophets, those most hated people of all the Bible, when He confirms: "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). He says this of no other gift. It is true that all must hear and heed "the words of the LORD" (1Sam. 15:1). Those words are first found and trumpeted through the prophet gift alone. You would think that prophets are really special people in God’s eyes, and they are. But seldom does God cut them slack for their own comfort. On the contrary, they often must suffer double. First, they are persecuted, even killed, for delivering God’s words faithfully. And second, they must often endure a measure of the same judgment that falls on their unrepentant listeners.

Further, the lives of the prophets of perception of old often manifested profound personal moral failings coupled with incredibly bizarre behavior. Moses "slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (Exo 2:12), in his misguided zeal to deliver Israel long before God’s time was right. Later his wife Zipporah did not accompany him when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt. She returned later after the miraculous deliverance was completed. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then murdered her husband Uriah to cover up his plot. What ensued was a lifetime of bitter violence, intrigue and warfare for influence and power of the throne. God sent Elijah to live in the home of a poor lonely widow and her son. Such a living arrangement would raise eyebrows in just about every church today. Hosea was called to "take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms" (Hosea 1:2) and experience her unfaithfulness for a very long time. Such a marriage would assure Hosea a back row pew in every church today. Isaiah walked naked through the streets of Samaria for three years. No church today would claim this man. He would simply be thrown in the slammer as a perverter of public morals.

These great prophets were all just men, whose sometimes bizarre behavior often dramatized a special message from God to his people. They were imperfect humans, who demonstrated one positive quality above all. They faithfully delivered God’s message. To the prophet Ezekiel, God said: "As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house" (Ezek. 3:9). You could say that Ezekiel’s head was hard as a rock toward those God sent him to prophesy against. He pulled no punches, made no compromise, in delivering the words of God, even though he himself was also a sinner.

Think of all the outlandish examples of requirements God placed upon His prophets of old. Such men of God would be unwelcome in any church of our land today! Even so, they fulfilled their respective destinies in the plan and will of God. And even today, not every man of God is welcome in the church of God, as the prophet Isaiah perceives: "Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isa. 66:5). Do you know of men or women who are not welcome in churches today, who are shunned by ministers and brethren alike, when their major offense is simply their willingness to stand up and speak the words of God?

Jesus Christ, the greatest prophet of all, understood the prophet gift, and kept that gift in total balance with all the other gifts. He served his disciples, while he taught in their synagogues and showed mercy and longsuffering by eating with publicans and sinners. This incensed the religious establishment of his day. He received prostitutes, telling them only, "go, and sin no more" (John 8:11). One of his closest followers and servants was a woman, "Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils" (Mark 16:9). Yet against Peter, Jesus minced no words when He announced: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me" (Matt. 16:23). Jesus showed his strength as the greatest prophet of all, when he "overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves" (Matt. 21:12), and declared, "It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Luke 19:46).

The out of control prophet points his finger and condemns. He is a self possessed person who has not advanced beyond the "milk of the word," (1Pet. 2:2). He is really little more than a spoiled "baby." He screams and rants and raves and cries at the slightest opposition to his self made world. Afterwards, when he does not get his way, he pouts. He tries to intimidate others through quarrelsome hostility. He quickly reaches the "end of his rope" with anyone whom he cannot control. He takes his marbles and goes home in a huff.

Such a "baby" prophet falls apart under pressure. He is worthless in God’s service. He creates new problems for every one he tries to solve. Regardless of his good intentions, he must often be sent home to his mamma, who is sometimes bound to this spiritual babe by little more than her marriage vows. Had she known of his bull headed belligerant attitude toward life, she would not have married him. You have known such "sand box" perceivers, who have sometimes blown up like firecrackers in your face. It is only through the gift of repentance and conversion, that these perceivers will bring their natural ranting and raving and finger pointing and belligerant rejection of others under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and fulfill their God ordained destinies.

Genuine prophets of perception follow God’s leading, through thick and thin, regardless of the consequences. Prophets of falsehood prefer their own imaginations, their "humble opinions," to God’s plain word. Genuine prophets of perception cannot be derailed off the course of God’s word, no matter how unpopular that course may be. Prophets of falsehood tell you what they think about God’s word, what they imagine in their compromised and deceived hearts. There is a world of difference between what God’s word plainly states, and the spin that prophets of falsehood place on that word! Prophets of perception follow the truth of God’s word wherever it leads, no matter how unpopular, even into far-fetched positions of theological loneliness. How did Isaiah feel when at God’s command he walked naked for three years? How did Elijah feel when he was told to go live with a single mother and her child? Prophets of falsehood always follow their own opinions about God’s word, but never defend that word uncompromisingly. For every true prophet of perception there are many counterfeit prophets of falsehood who will lead you astray through popular interpretation and ear tickling humanistic theology.

Since the canonization of scripture was long ago completed, prophets today have only the tools of God’s written word with which to bring forth their calling and destiny. Perceivers today who claim direct revelation from God apart from His word are false prophets, frauds, charlatans. The message of any man who claims the prophet gift must be tested against the truth of the Word of God. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1John 4:1). God reveals Himself and His plan today, through His written word only, called together and made plain to the hearts of Christian men and women by the Holy Spirit. That word and that word alone is final. The secrets of that word are called forth and made plain by the Holy Spirit through prophets of perception. "He revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7). Once that message is delivered, their job is done. It is then up to the preachers and people to respond, not to the prophet, but to the word which the prophet has made plain. "Who does he think he is?" is not the question. "How will I respond to God’s word?" is the only question of any consequence. The test God lays on the prophets of perception is twofold. Will these men deliver the words of God accurately, without opinions and compromise? And after the words are delivered and made plain, will "they then accept of the punishment of their [own] iniquity" (Lev. 26:41).

You see, prophets of perception are not immune from the very message they are called to deliver. They too will be judged by the words of God. Are the prophets of perception, after having received and delivered "the words of the LORD," willing also to live by those words? Are these prophets willing to lay aside the oft unreasonableness of the message and follow God’s instructions anyway? Are they willing to stand alone against the world, as Jeremiah stood alone against the nation, when others reject their message and persecute the messenger? If so, then God has sometimes shown special mercy on such prophets. Jeremiah was not required to go into Babylon with his fellow Israelites. He was freed and allowed to travel with two of the former king’s daughters, whom he took to Egypt. From Egypt, he ultimately sailed to Ireland, where he was highly revered as a teacher of the Law of God to other ancient Israelite kings and queens residing there.

Many prophets of perception of old often suffered notable moral failings at one time or another. However, we must not be too quick to judge these prophets differently than God judged them. James tells us that "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are" (James 5:17). Even so, God used him to execute judgment against the prophets of Baal. Later he lived for a long time alone with a single mother and her son. Moses killed a man. Hosea married "a wife of whoredoms." Jesus, the greatest prophet of all, was "a friend of publicans and sinners" (Matt. 11:19). He befriended "Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils" (Mark 16:9). He offered no condemnation upon "a woman. . . taken in adultery, in the very act" (John 8:4), telling her only, "go, and sin no more" (v. 11). What seems to us to be unreasonable behavior is not always outside the will of God.

Nobody in his right mind would ask to be God’s prophet to the church today. However, God is merciful to His church in that he has sent prophets of perception even today to deliver His words plainly for all to see. Is your gift the prophet? Then find your marching orders from God, through His word alone prompted by the Holy Spirit and defend that word faithfully. Rejection and persecution are part and partial with your calling. Remember the words of Jesus: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Mat 5:11). God uses prophets of perception to deliver His word faithfully, who must afterwards remember what Jesus tells us in verse 12: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

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