Killing the Prophets

Stoning of Stephen 3It seems that today’s culture has become more than just the anything-goes culture of the 60s but a culture where anything-goes especially if it is opposed to the truth of God’s Word. Secular culture readily embraces and promotes anything that is opposed to that truth and denigrates anyone who stands in favor of that truth. While, on the one hand, they espouse tolerance on the other, they oppose the truth of God’s Word with intolerance, vitriol and hate. In this modern culture things that God’s Word calls out as sinful behavior are viewed with contempt and are proscribed as out of touch in this new modern time.

Things such as adultery, same-sex marriage and abortion are touted as normal and acceptable. Even church leaders of today are beginning to embrace this kind of behavior as acceptable for those who attend church (note I did not use the term Christians). While the culture of the day readily embraces these things there are those who truly believe God’s Word is truth and they also subscribe to the fact that God’s truth is applicable in today’s culture as well.

How does this apply to “Killing the Prophets”? Well there are correlations in today’s culture with that of ancient Israel as well as New Testament Judea. First we need to know what a “Prophet” is and what they are not. Most people today associate prophecy with predicting future events and while that is true it is not the primary role of the prophet. The primary role of a prophet is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Prophets do not pronounce judgment but proclaim truth through observation. When a prophet sees things that do not line up with the truth of God’s Word they are compelled to speak out. If God’s Word states that the situation calls for judgment that is what a prophet must proclaim. In Old Testament times the prophets interpreted the times based on God’s Word and proclaimed the evidence and result of deviations from the truth of God’s Word. In Deuteronomy 31:16-17 God proclaimed to Moses what would happen to Israel and why: “this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. ‘Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, “Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?”’”

What was the covenant that God said Israel would break? They would forsake His Law. They would forsake His Commandments. There needs to be a clear understanding that the “Commandments” are not the “Law” but the “Law” is centered on the “Commandments”. This did, in fact happen. Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and later Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon. Throughout the entire existence of Israel and Judah God provided prophets to warn them. The prophets of Israel observed the things happening in the culture and applied the truth of God’s Word to that culture and reminded them of what God said about those things. The culture of the day many times imprisoned, punished or killed those prophets because they called out the secular culture for it’s deviation from God’s Word. Hebrews 11:32 tells us how some of them died: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword;”. In every case this was done by the secular or religious leadership of the nation of Israel. What did the prophets do? They measured the culture of the day against God’s Word and many times gave their lives for calling out the evil of the culture and what is evil? Evil is that which is contrary to the truth of God’s Word.

I want to take a moment to draw attention to the greatest prophet who ever lived; Jesus Christ. Jesus was not crucified because he violated God’s Word, He was crucified because he exemplified God’s Word. The Jewish culture had become so legalistic they had transferred the allegiance from God’s Law to rules and regulations established by men. Look at how Jesus addressed this in Mark 7:6-9:

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’

“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

Note Jesus quoted Isaiah (who was sawn in two with a wood saw by Manasseh). Jesus called out the ungodly behavior of the religious culture using the same words as a prophet who warned Israel more than seven hundred years earlier. Not only does this demonstrate the unchanging nature of God and the truth of His Word, it also portrays the constantly changing nature of man. It portrays a nature that would always have a tendency to pursue man’s own will as opposed to God’s eternal truth. They sawed Isaiah in two and they crucified Jesus. Make no mistake, Jesus was crucified at the behest of the religious culture. While it was done by the hands of the Romans, it was prompted by the will of the religious leadership of Israel.

Why is that important today? The same culture of man-centric precepts has emerged today and those precepts always begin with questioning God’s Word. All sin begins with questioning God’s Word. Every sin that has ever been or ever will be committed by anyone and everyone starts with questioning God’s Word. It sprouted in the Garden of Eden with a question “Indeed, has God said” (Genesis 3:1). With that single question the seed of sin was planted. Indeed, it was not until man (I’m using this inclusively) watered that seed by embracing the notion that God’s Word was not true that sin blossomed into death. Questioning God’s Word always leads to sin and always results in death. It’s not democratic, it’s not theological, it is not a pliable commentary but an absolute, unmovable, inexorable and eternal axiom that is not applied through pragmatic thought but through unseen faith and conviction through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. But it goes much deeper. In order to question God’s Word one must also deny His power.

The apostle Paul laid this out clearly for his young protégé Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 where he begins with “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;” and ends the that chapter with a clear directive “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Note that the spiral around the porcelain of sin is a result of denying the power of God and the result is questioning God’s Word by “holding a form of godliness“. Why would Paul say to Timothy “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”? The answer is clear! To reach a point where sin becomes the norm in one’s life, family and culture, God’s Word must be questioned and to question God’s Word His power must be denied and the power of man’s intellect must be exalted.

Once God’s power has been denied the tenants of faith are relegated to the adherence to rules and regulations. As worldly education is exalted the precepts of man become adopted resulting in a religious culture that slowly begins to diminish the power of God and ultimately, the truth of God’s Word. As secular precepts begin to be adopted as part of religion due to education that emphasizes cultural and “scientific” discoveries as truth, God’s Word begins to be deemphasized to the point where Jesus would say “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you…”  Why? Because God’s Word is timeless and unchanging versus the precepts of flawed, imperfect, sinful men which are temporal and equivocal.

truthToday, modern day prophets look at the truth of God’s Word and call out the culture of the day as disobedient and in danger of being judged. But the response is not one of repentance but anger, resentment and hate followed by a concerted effort to silence the one proclaiming God’s Word. A modern day prophet is killed by denigrating and criticizing their proclamation of the truth of God’s Word as judgmental, intolerant, hateful, unloving and insensitive. As a matter of fact those who speak God’s Word have now come to be treated with such contempt and vitriol that many have stopped proclaiming God’s Word. In truth God’s Word stands eternal whether or not someone abandons the proclamation thereof but the goal of the evil one is to silence anyone proclaiming the truth of God’s Word that he might capture the hearts, minds and ultimately, the souls of those who may otherwise have heard the truth of God’s Word.

The question that needs to be answered is: “Are people who proclaim the truth of God’s Word judgmental, intolerant, hateful, unloving and insensitive”? The answer is they should not be and if they truly have love in their heart they will not be! Remember that the Pharisees were absolutely committed to the Law of Moses to the degree they missed the whole point. In Matthew 23:23-24 Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”. The idea behind the Law was “justice, mercy and faithfulness” not the rules and regulations themselves. One must have love in their heart in order to administer justice because it requires mercy and faithfulness. Jesus clearly condemned the Pharisees because they focused on things that made them look good rather than that which pleased God. Truth must be proclaimed in love but it must, none the less, be proclaimed. Galatians 4:15 gives the prescription “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ”. The interesting thing to note is what preceded that prescription of “speaking the truth in love”. A look at verse 14 gives clear insight; “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;”. The apostle Paul warned the Galatians to lovingly speak truth when confronted with untruth. So the key ingredient to prophetic proclamation of the truth in God’s Word is love. When one is motivated by their love to speak the truth their goal is not to declare condemnation but to express opportunity for redemption. It is not a motivation of intolerance, hate and judgment but one of love and concern.

People who seek to diminish the power of God by questioning the truth of God’s Word is nothing new. Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes 1:9 –

That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.

King David declared in Psalm 2:1-3 –

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

The juxtaposition of the world view against God’s view is ongoing and it is just as active today as it was in ancient Israel or in Jesus’ time. Those who stand in opposition to God’s Word will always be there to oppose God and today’s religious thinking, for the most part, has either lined up with the ungodly purview or has retreated into Sunday morning sin-free zones called “church”. Why? Because it is easier to go along with things that don’t sound too bad even though they are the antithesis of the truth in God’s Word. It is easier to retreat into a Sunday morning commiseration in acclamation against the world than it is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word.
Proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in love is hard. It requires deep soul searching and an understanding that each of us has sinned and, apart from the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we fall short of the glory of God and would otherwise be relegated to judgment. Today’s culture condemns expressing the truth of God’s Word as hateful, intolerant and judgmental and the notion of expressing truth is associated with hatefulness, intolerance and judgment without regard for what is actually in the heart of those who proclaim that truth. Just like Manasseh sawed Isaiah in two for proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, so the modern day Manasseh’s do the same by criticizing, denigrating, repudiating and doing everything in their power to silence those who proclaim the truth of God’s Word and the judgment of God that results from such disobedience. Often times scriptures are used to “condemn the condemner”. “Judge not let you be judged”, “let the who who is without sin cast the first stone” and “first remove the log from your own eye” are scriptures that are used to accuse one who proclaims the truth of God’s Word. In other words, you  can’t judge me because you are a sinner. But as Paul encouraged Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”! So many times those of this age defend their sin and the sin of others with scripture intending to bring condemnation on those who proclaim truth. If “All Scripture is inspired by God” and is thus “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” then proclaiming that which is not aligned with “Scripture” is not judgment but observation. And, if proclaimed in love provides the opportunity for redemption.
Jesus expounded upon how modern culture, even religious culture, creates an environment that denies the truth of God’s Word. Let’s look at the end of the earlier passage in Mark 7:13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that”. In other words the tendency of man is to establish man-centered traditions and precepts invalidating the truth of God’s Word making those precepts and traditions a central focus.
Does it mean that the truth of God’s Word is any less truth? Absolutely not!

Does it mean that God does not love those who portend tolerance through intolerance, hate through hatefulness and judgment through judging? Absolutely not!

Does that mean that God does not love those who violate the truth of God’s Word? Absolutely not!

Does that mean that those who proclaim the truth of God’s Word in love are intolerant, hateful or judgmental? Absolutely not!

In Psalms 118:8-9 it tells us:

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes.

King David tells us here that we are to trust the Lord over man and princes. No matter how important someone may be or how influential they may be, if they do not subscribe to the truth of God’s Word one must prefer placing trust in His truth. That means trusting in the truth of His Word rather than following the temporary, yet fleeting, notions of man.

The key thing to remember is that there is a huge difference between judgment and observation. Was Isaiah sawn in two for proclaiming judgment on Judah or proclaiming the observation that God’s judgment rested on Judah because of disobedience? Was Jesus crucified for proclaiming judgment on the Pharisees or proclaiming the good news of the gospel which stood in stark opposition to the rules and regulations of religion? Is today’s modern day prophet guilty of proclaiming judgment or proclaiming the observation that because of disobedience there is danger of judgment? When someone observes that a culture is not aligned with the truth of God’s Word and proclaims that fact, as did Isaiah and Jesus, they are not pronouncing judgment but stating an observation based on the truth of God’s Word. God is the only one who can judge, and He will certainly do that, but those who proclaim the truth of God’s Word are not judging but making an observation relative to the truth of God’s Word. The majority of the time calling out sin that leads to death is not judgmental, intolerant or hateful but a courageous attempt to call sinners out of darkness because of love and concern. God’s love is the best reason to transfer one’s trust to Jesus but everyone must be cognizant of the fact that eternal judgment rests on everyone who does not transfer their trust to Jesus.

So killing the prophets is still applicable today for the same reason that the profits of ancient Israel and Jesus Himself were killed. They are killed for making an observation that the truth of God’s Word is applicable today.

A simple question can determine whether something lines up with the truth of God’s Word. Is the notion of questioning the truth of God’s Word involved. Is there a “has God said” in there anywhere? If so, turn and go the other direction.

I’ll finish with one scripture that can serve as a guide to us all. It’s easy to align with the axioms of the world and difficult to align with the truth of God’s Word but there is a key to success for that age-old conundrum:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14


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