Jeremiah 32: 1-15; 36-44 – What is a Prophet?

rootedchristThis week we are going to be looking at Jeremiah 32: 1-15; 36-44.  Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet, as his book is full of sadness and pain over the capture and destruction of Jerusalem.  He wrote this book that is named after him, as well as Lamentations, which is exactly what it sounds like, these are books of pain as the people see the judgment of God laid out upon the because of sin.  Yet, today’s passage is one of the more hopeful passages in scripture, as even during judgment there is hope and grace. We’ll explore these things through this week, but first, even before we get to the World Behind the Text, I wanted to talk about what a Biblical prophet is.

When we think prophet in our context today, we think – future teller. We think about someone who is going to tell us the future, tell us what is going to happen in days to come.  And for many Biblical prophets, that is part of what they do.  In fact in our passage this week, we see that that is part of what happens, Jeremiah, during the midst of all the destruction says, life will happen here again.

But the job of prophet is not telling the future, the job of the prophet is speaking the word of God. And yes, there are sometimes futurist elements to that.  But not always. And not exclusively. And not mainly, to be honest. The prophet mostly speaks for God about the actions of the people.  If you look at the prophets most of what the are saying to the people are things such as this – treat the poor with kindness.  Seek after  God, not just with words, but with all your life.  Do justice, love mercy.  Yes, there are beautiful parts that point to the coming of Christ, but in the Bible, the majority of the words of prophets speak to the here and now, how the people are living in this moment.

For many of the prophets, their lives were hard.  Many were killed by the leaders.  Most were ostracized from society.  Hebrews 11 talks a lot about the fate of them.  It was a hard life.

So, why did they do it?  One of the common refrains you’ll see in the prophets is something along the lines of – The Spirit of the Lord came (or fell) upon Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or whomever. Before Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and fell upon the entire world, the Spirit was much more targeted.  It fell upon specific people. And that’s who the prophets were. They were men and women (yes, there were female prophetess in the Bible, as they were called) whom the Spirit of God came upon, and they spoke his word.  And many, if not most times, it was a hard word.  But it was also a needed word.

And while they are not prophets, in the same manner, today, because we all have access to the Holy Spirit, there are those among us that have a specific gift from the Spirit to speak God’s word at the moment it is needed. As a preacher, I do not believe that my specific gift is that of a prophet, there have been times in my ministry where the Lord has told me before a sermon – No Andy, you are not preaching the sermon you have ready, you are going to preach this word, to these people, at this moment. Those times are terrifying and also exciting. And for the people, it is always that word that they needed to here at that exact moment.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the World Behind the Text of Jeremiah 32: 1-15; 36-44.

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