A friend of mine, my closest friend in college a dear brother in Christ, shared with me something a friend of his shared with him. His friend claimed it to be a prophecy from God. I give it you as it was given to me. He said:
“In the wake of the panic-demic, a great national re-set will settle into the culture. We will witness clarifying ‘adjustments’ to what we value or hold dear. Healthy ones. Already this has served as a great sifting….. [W]e (collectively) have not lost much, though we have faced the specter close on the horizon. When the dust settles, we may be surprised to find ourselves in a much better place. Immunized perhaps by just a taste.”
Many people don’t believe that God gives people prophecies today as He did in Scriptural times. Indeed, if God does still do that, we should be careful to accept them. As Paul said then, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)
Were all of the prophecies Paul was talking about then written down?
No. We have letters from Paul and other close associates of Jesus, but we don’t have the prophecies Paul was talking about to the Thessalonians. Those prophecies, I believe, were for them. They weren’t to be despised [ignored, treated as nothing and lacking value][i], but they were to be tested.
Testing prophecies means taking them seriously. The word for “test”[ii] here implies that the prophecies are to be put to the test, examined and proven by testing. This is not a skeptical exercise, as a 21st Century believer (or unbeliever) might suppose. The idea was to prove what is good.
Perhaps, our reluctance to think that prophecy is a way God still communicates to us today is based in our lack of understanding of what is meant by prophecy. We think of predictions of things to come. Indeed, the Old Testament is full of such prophecies. Jesus also predicted things.
Prediction and foreshadowing of future events is partially what prophecy can mean, that isn’t all that prophecy means. The Greek word translated “prophecy”[iii] can mean simply speaking the mind of God. Hopefully, your pastor does that when he preaches!
Prophecy does tend to have predictive elements to it, but that isn’t all that it is, and prophecy doesn’t have to be predictive. It can simply be admonishment, encouragement, provide comfort or otherwise speak the mind of God in a particular moment or circumstance. When we seek to comfort or speak a timely word to a friend, praying to God for wisdom, we are attempting to use the gift of prophecy.
Sometimes we fail. We kind of know it when we do. What we say falls flat. But sometimes, we feel the Holy Spirit in the words that are spoken that confirms we have hit the mark. This is prophecy.
Prophecy is a timely word, a fitting word, a word that resonates with Scripture in the moment. It’s a word that carries some weight in the moment such that it encourages, comforts, rebukes, corrects or has whatever affect the Holy Spirit gives it. If you are blessed to have a good preacher in your church, your preacher may speak the mind of God (prophesy) most Sundays.
Prophecy isn’t to be confused with the gift of teaching. Teaching is the gift of being able to pull the meaning out of a text and communicate it clearly. The gift of prophesy is the ability to make Scripture poignant and apply it in the moment providing direction for the future. A preacher with the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy is a rare gift.
So, back to my friend’s friend.
I am not going to hang on what he said like Scripture. I don’t think that is the purpose of prophecy, and especially not since the time of Christ. Still, I take it seriously. It rings true to me.
People are panicking in the wake of the viral outbreak. Not everyone. Some aren’t taking it seriously enough. Frankly, as Christians, I believe we should be loving our neighbors during the corona virus outbreak and staying at home. This isn’t the time for bravado and the flexing of our spiritual muscle and faith at the expense of others. That isn’t love.
If God leads you out to help others in a self-sacrificial way, I pray His blessing on you. Christians have done that since the time of the plagues in Rome. Whatever we do should be motivated by our love for God and love for others.
In my previous blog post, I contemplated the call for changing priorities and taking hold of God’s promises in this time. If this viral outbreak leads to a national re-set, as the words spoken by my friend’s friend stated, I pray that the re-set is a changing of priorities to put God first, ahead of politics, and hobbies, and entertainment and other things – the idols – that compete for our attention.
Even in the wake of the financial devastation that we have already experienced – and it will become more acute as time goes on – we haven’t lost much. Unemployment is at Depression era levels, and this recession has been fast and deep, verging on another depression.
Yet, God reigns eternal. His offer to us is eternal life with Him, but we have to let go of the treasures we have in this life to take hold of His offer.
We can’t take the things we accumulate in this life with us when we die. And we will surely die. If not during this COVID-19 outbreak, then at some point in the future. Why not take hold of what God has to offer now? He is waiting for us to do that!
COVID-19 reminds us of the reality of death as we see the number of cases rise exponentially and the deaths that follow. You might even know people who have the virus and who have died from it. This “taste” of our own mortality is something God can use to get our attention and gently urge us to turn from our diversions, to turn to Him anew. It may be the immunization we need to wake from our spiritual slumber and reawaken to God and His priorities.
(I don’t believe that God caused the virus, but I believe God can use it to draw our attention to Him – if we are paying attention.)
As I was thinking of writing about my friend’s friend’s prophetic word, I had a conversation with a woman I represent. She is a woman of great faith. When I listen to her sometimes, with my lawyer’s practical and educated mind, I cringe at things she says and does. They seem naïve and foolish from the standpoint of a person without faith – maybe even to a person of faith who doesn’t believe in prophecies and spiritual gifts in the present time.
But, I am reminded that God confounds the wise in the world and the proud with things that seem like foolishness to them.
Though I wonder at times whether she is really hearing from God, I have traveled hundreds of miles and spent hundreds, of not thousands, of hours helping her with the things she believes God has given her to do. When I hear her talk, I feel the Holy Spirit. She loves God.
She recently talked to me on the phone and told me that God had given her a word for this time, and the word was re-set. It’s time for a re-set.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But perhaps not!
As the writer of Hebrews said (Heb. 3:13-15),
“[E]xhort [encourage] one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence [conviction] firm to the end. As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’
The writer is quoting from Psalm 95:7-8, a Psalm attributed to David.[iv]
It’s all too easy for us to be distracted by lesser things, for our hearts to captivated by lesser things, and for us to devote our attention to passing things in place of the affection and attention we should give to God. These are idols. It’s time to put them away and destroy them.
It’s time for a re-set. Whether the entire “national culture” follows in that way, or not, it’s time for God’s people, the people who have committed themselves to God and the Lordship and salvation of Jesus Christ, to hit the re-set button and to devote themselves anew to God. That (I believe) is the word for the day.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says….”
[i] Biblehub is a great resource for looking up the Greek (and Hebrew) words and definitions, with cross references to other places where those same words are used, and many resources. The Greek word translated “despised” or “contempt” is exoutheneó (meaning to despise, treat with contempt and used in the sense of setting at naught, ignoring and despising).
[ii] The Greek word translated “test” is dokimazo (meaning to test, by implication to approve and used in the sense of putting to the test, proving, examining and approving after testing). In particular, the goal of the testing is to show what is good. Dokimázō (from dókimos, “approved”) means, properly, to try (test) to show something is acceptable (real, approved); put to the test to reveal what is good (genuine). Dokimázō (“to approve by testing”) is done to demonstrate what is good, i.e. passes the necessary test. Dokimázō does not focus on disproving something (i.e. to show it is bad).
[iii] Prophéteia means “the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth. Prophēteía (from prophḗtēs, “prophet,” is derived from pró, “before” and phēmí, “make clear, assert as a priority”) – properly, what is clarified beforehand; prophecy which involves divinely-empowered forthtelling (asserting the mind of God) or foretelling (prediction). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states, among other things, that prophecy means “discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; especially by foretelling future events.”
[iv] See Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4:1-11, reminding the readers that the people in the time of Moses hardened their hearts in the wilderness, and David warned the people in his time not to harden their hearts as the people in the time of Moses did. The writer of Hebrews is saying that the same warning stands today – don’t harden your heart.