Thursday, September 08, 2005

Now Accepting Applications for the Position of: Prophet 

I know I said I wanted to blog about a couple of other things, but what I want to say about when I think it is justified to go to war is going to take a while for me to put together cogently, and what I wanted to say about looting in the wake of Katrina has been efficiently summed up by Charlie Madigan in his most recent Chicago Trib. column. Looting food and water, and even shoes to safely navigate flooded streets = understandable. Looting TV's and DVD players = ludicrous, despite how Laurel tries to frame it in a more positive light. Looting anything at all = unlawful, civically and religiously.

But, on to the matter on my mind. A friend and I had an interesting phone conversation today. Periodically she calls me with some question or other about the Bible, religion, Episcopal traditions, and whatnot, and I do my best to formulate an answer for her, usually learning a great deal in the process. Last time she called we straightened out just why we rub our foreheads in ashes on Ash Wednesday. Today, she had a question concerning prophecy, and what the qualifications for the job are.

The questiona rose when she and her roommate were discussing the subject and they reached a stalemate. I was to answer the question of what the Bible said a prophet was. More specifically, is a prophet a person sent by God to tell the future and actually do something about it, or can a prophet also be a person who suddenly feels the need to pray for someone they haven't talked to in years, then finds out later that person was going through something awful at that time? Her roommate apparently was talking about some guy who said he had predicted the Hurricane. I repsonded with: so did the weatherman.

I then went on to say that to be a prophet first and foremost means to be a truth-teller, more than a future fore-teller. In the Bible, God sends people we revere as prophets to peoples in order to get them to, usually, straighten up and fly right. The job is not one anyone wants or enjoys having. Indeed, Jeremiah speaks against it in the strongest possible terms, practically accusing God of raping him by means of the burden of prophecy (Jer. 20). One of the OT's greatest prophets, Samuel, didn't even know he was being called to be one until God practically shouted at him (1 Sam 3). So, it seems to me, that I would want to be wary of persons running around saying, "I'm a prophet," with a grin on their face and a superority complex. Furthermore, the Bible also acknowledges times when prophecy was not heard much and no visions were abroad in the land (1 Sam 3).

The Hebrew root of the word, (shoresh: nun-bet-aleph), seems to have connotations of "announce", "sound", and "information". It spawns the word nabi, which means "spokesperson" first and foremost and only later has the sense of "prophet". Likewise, another word of this root, a verb, naba', has as its oldest meaning "a form of religious ecstasy with or without song or music; later, essentially religious instruction, with occasional predictions."

St. Paul talks about it as a gift of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12, 14), but not to all are all or even some gifts given. And when they are they should be used according to God's will and not for gain or profit. So, I guess you could call the person on whose heart God laid a need to pray for someone, a prophet if you wanted too. But it seems to me a great difference of degree.

What do you think? Part II of this thread can go off on a tangent about the place of dreams in all this. But that is for later; I have to go to bed to get up in 6 hours to go riding.



No fair, you used more Hebrew than I have today. I guess I better get hopping.

By Anonymous Jeff, at 9:33 PM  

I don't think we live in an age when prophets would be killed physically... just socially.

Count me in.

By Blogger Tony Myles, at 2:13 AM  

Mary Deeley, at Seabury, used to say that a prophet is not a fortune-teller, but rather someone who has their finger so accurately on the pulse of current events, and on the character of the God as participant/observer, that his immediate forecasts had to be taken seriously. It always made me think of the prophet as a physician to the body politic: if my doctor says that I'll be unable to walk for a week or so, it is not because she has a crystal ball or hears voices, but because she is so well-informed about the state of my body now.

By Blogger G. Brooke, at 9:58 AM  

awaiting the prophetic words on when it is acceptable or not to go to war.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 PM  

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