Manners of Prophecy
The Heavenly Vision
The way God related to his prophets in the Old Testament has often been a source of great amazement to me that has dazzled my eyes and gripped my whole heart and soul at times. Truly, I have been made to sit with Ezekiel certain days as I, with him (as it were), beheld the tragic visions of the near annihilation of God's people in his generation; or I have, while standing by the side of beloved Isaiah, felt my heart and lips purged from their iniquity while I saw the seraph touch his lips; and heaven knows how I have been sick certain days after standing in the presence of God with the favored Daniel. The first days of my coming to know this God were peculiarly taken up with saturating my soul in the words of these prophets. O how I see the need of the people of God to be reconciled with this God and his ways as these prophets were! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
God knew these men, and these men did know their God. This holy intimacy these men had with heaven left them utterly undone and ruined to see the glory of this God they loved fill the earth! Lying at the root of the callings of these men, you will find something significantly synonymous among them: a heavenly vision. This is the gateway to this awe-ful highway of the prophetic ministry. Without this entrance established, the prospective prophet will not only be thoroughly unequipped for this way, but he will (by necessity) speak visions of his own heart and deceive the people of God!
When God calls a prophet, he will take this man into his presence and cause him to see the very heavenlies in all of their holy employments. These men will be forever distracted by the vision and will be taken up with this one endeavor: to see his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Ezekiel marks the straightness of the feet of those living creatures, and how they move as swift as the lightning stroke – O! how they never turn to the right hand or to the left – and he is, consequentially, forever filled with the holy desire to be as they are! Isaiah sees the Lord high and lifted up and the train of his robe filling the temple, and he never doubts the absolute and immediate sovereignty of God over his people again! He hears the seraphs crying with unbroken strains one to another, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” and he makes it his holy aspiration to ceaselessly cry with them!
“He that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer” (I Sam. 9:9). This reveals to us the origin of this peculiar breed of men. They saw. Everyone else around them were as relatively blind men. Not as though other men had not their natural eyes in proper working order, but they saw not the spiritual landscape which these men see. God called these men seers because they alone saw things as they were in truth, and all others only saw “men as trees” (Mark 8:24).
With this before us it very much involves us to know, 1st) What these men were seeing, and, 2nd) What these men were doing with the things which they saw.
The Burden of God
There are few expressions in the scriptures as pointed and cutting as the prophet's, “Ah!” This word is worth a thousand. Or Jeremiah's, “How?” How expressive and full of pathos are these words, and yet how stifling are they to the broken heart of the prophet, for even in the vent of poetic verse with the most heart-rending eloquence, they feel that they cannot do justice to what they have found to be the living, moving, heartbeat of the very God of heaven – the burden of God.
It would be a gross understatement and obnoxiously insincere to say that I have only been, through the years, challenged merely, by the things I have seen and heard of the prophetic burden the Lord imparts to the heart of the men of his right hand – nay, much more! I have been ashamed! I have been confounded! I have wept and bawled as for my only son, when I have been made to see the heart these men possessed, or rather the heart whereof they were themselves possessed.
How weak are the knees of these so-called 21st century prophets, how narrow are their shoulders! It's amazing they could carry a baby upon such a frame, much less be pregnant with the burden of the Lord! They have not the time to muse and meditate, they have their business and financial meetings to attend, and of course they cannot wet their Bibles with their tears, for they must protect the screen of their latest iPad you see... This is what the prophetic ministry has been reduced to, and I know that I am not the only one ashamed of it... God Almighty is ashamed of it! And as much as I have seen this in myself, I have been ashamed of Jake.
When all of the sad calamities come upon the world in which we live (this high nest of American and Western civilization we've made for ourselves – the 1st world!), your prophets will weep and so will you, but, O, how late! “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (I Thess. 5:3). “Too late,” saith God, “too late to find the burden of God then, too late to prepare your heart to be awake in the hour of tribulation, too late to buy oil then, the hour is midnight and your lamps are not trimmed, your love has grown cold and your eye has waxed dim!” O! will you hear the voice of the friends of the Bridegroom today, my reader? Will you turn away your ear from them which think to steal God's word every man from his neighbor? This is not a game and this is not some book I'm reheating to make a profit off the people of God – I make no money from this! God give me your soul for my hire!
The Day of The Lord
“How could I have known? how could I have told?
Whilst I slept it came, and as my hands did fold,
The Day came as a thief, it entered without sound,
The trouble it came! terrors of hell did surround!
O! that I had only been wise and given ear to my teachers,
Surely I had not been wasted by the evil – those most dreadful creatures!
My mind is still filled - I cannot escape,
The sights that I saw on that most dreadful Day!
Can I go back now and open my eyes?
It's too late for me now to see Paradise!
My teeth, how they gnash - astonished by wrath,
When I always believed to be on the straight, narrow path!
The Day I desired and prayed would soon come,
Came with sackcloth and blood, blotting out moon and sun!
I could not run, no, I could not hide,
For when I fled from lion and bear, then a serpent did bite!
God's vengeance will rest when the Day has been spent;
God's called a sacrifice at the Great River, the swift posts has he sent!
All flesh shall come trembling, down to the brink,
Ah! hear his voice now, or on that Day of wrath shall you sink!
How few can hear these words!.. Fewer still are bearing this burden!
The burden of God is an uncomfortable thing...
It always gets in the way.
It is socially awkward.
It can't stop crying.
It sticks out like a sore thumb.
It keeps you up at night.
It has a mind of its own.
It is absolutely restless.
It disturbs the peace.
It disrupts religious assemblies.
It has no appetite.
It knows no respite.
Wilt Thou Judge Them?
It was said of Phinehas, when the plague had gone forth from the presence of the Lord and many men had already been consumed, and while the people wept their tears of intercession against the wrath of God that had been kindled in the camp, when one of the princes of the house of Simeon was flaunting his blasphemous fornication across the camp (“in the sight” of all those then present weeping at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even Moses himself [Num. 25:6]), “He saw it” (Num. 25:7). Likewise, it was said of that great prophet of old, David, when he had come on the scene at the valley of Elah, and all men (including King Saul) had been hearing the railing blasphemies of Goliath against the God of heaven for forty days long (I Sam. 17:10, 11, 16), that the scripture states, “David heard them” (I Sam. 17:23).
Do you see how these men were marked by the tenderness of their spiritual senses? This is the mark of a true prophet of God, how the Lord captivates their whole soul, all of their mind, will, and emotions. These men were consecrated unto God; they were not self-consumed but they themselves were consumed of God the Holy Ghost! We need more men abandoned to the glory of God, that are not afraid to stand out in the crowd, only if the Lord be with them. These march to the beat of another drummer and are always against the grain of the common Christian of their backslidden generation. They are uncompromisingly convicted, and care more about their conscience than the good approbation of the lifegroup leader. You see David had no heart in the matter, but God's. Phinehas wasn't eyeing Moses; he impulsively took the javelin: he'd rather his reputation before the congregation be marred than his Lord's.
God told Ezekiel not to weep for his wife when, with one stroke, the Lord smote the “desire of his eyes”, and when he came back from preaching that day she died, and the next day he just went right back out, without shedding a tear! How can it be?.. He was overcome of the Spirit of God! God told him another time to go out and sigh before the people, God told him to eat cakes baked over cow manure, God told him another time to move from his comfortable homestead, and all of these things he did impulsively.
God told Jeremiah to take no wife. What a discomfort was here enjoined upon the prophet! Unlike his contemporary, Ezekiel, this prophet was allowed no such creature comfort, but was obliged to spend his days generally alone, never to know the comfortable embrace within the bosom of a well-beloved bride! That may have been one side of the matter, but I’m sure that this eminently godly fellow was not going about the cities of Judah weeping for his own loss, I’m sure the overwhelming thoughts of his heart were not so much his loss, as his gain! He lost the comfort of a wife – sure – but gained the everlasting consolations of the presence of God for both time and eternity! Jeremiah: the gainer!
The burden of God is not cheap – it costs a man everything. It was fitting that some of the most notable prophets, yea the greatest prophet of the Old Testament (John the Baptist), were called Nazarites. This was an extraordinary calling, the very name signifying something peculiar; thus it was a stigma by the time Christ appeared upon the scene of 1st century Judaism, “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23).
To be a Nazarite one had to be absolutely committed to the cause of God in their generation – absolutely surrendered. Consecration: this is the lost note in all of the Christianity I have ever known in this generation. There are many among the ranks of Charismatic Christianity at large, who claim to be consecrated men and women, but how many of them have actually divorced themselves (by the grace of God) from this world’s pleasures and pastimes? How many are actually dead to the fashions, music, entertainment, and amusements of this culture? I don’t just mean “dead” in some deep and ethereal, impossible to judge kind of way, I mean DEAD in the sense that it doesn’t move or motivate, call or compel, or in the slightest mark or make-up the man!
Are you dead?
This is not a game, this is eternity on the line, and not just for your own precious soul, beloved, but for an entire generation for whom hell moves and gapes as I type! Who will wake up and take to the fields in this hour of temptation? Who will stand in the gap? Who will make up the hedge? Who will intercede?
Dear reader, wilt thou judge them?