Listen to the Prophet
By: Jim O'Brien
Wouldn't you like to know a prophet? Do you envy the folks who lived in Israel 2,600 years ago, who could walk over to the house of Jeremiah the Prophet and talk about world events. Once a man named Saul was looking for some stray donkeys in the hills of Israel and his servant suggested they walk over to the house of Samuel the Prophet and ask him where those animals had strayed. That's not something we would do today.
We typically think of prophets being consulted for something more spiritual. How many times have you faced a dilemma that human reasoning could not solve? Prophets offer a moral resolution to the problems facing the country. They also tell us the natural consequences of choosing the way that is not moral.
It's common for mankind to want to know the future, even if the forecast looks bad. We buy weather radios to know if a storm is coming, watch the news to know what stocks are going down, read Consumer's Report to see which refrigerator will burn out faster or which car will not protect us in a wreck.
Ironically, we can know the future. Jesus chastised people because, "You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!" (Matthew 16:3 GNB). As much as we may desire the knowledge to avoid disasters, God seems even more willing to provide it.
Then why don't men know what is going to happen?
Ancient Israel had a habit of rejecting God during periods of prosperity. They worshiped false gods, corrupted justice and slid into immorality. Tired of their infidelity God lifted His protection once, turning Israel over to the King of Babylon who moved an army onto their border. Zedekiah, King of Israel, called Jeremiah to ask if God would protect them. He wanted to see the future. Jeremiah's response is startling. "If I tell you the truth, you will put me to death, and if I give you advice, you won't pay any attention" (Jeremiah 38:15 GNB).
How do we deal with such an answer? If Zedekiah wasn't going to respond, why ask in the first place? Well, receiving an answer from God is only part of the solution. It must be met with faith. Zedekiah feared the politicians more than he feared God.
Jeremiah told Zedekiah to surrender to the King of Babylon because God had already given him the victory. But Zedekiah feared that he would be killed by his friends if he negotiated a peace. He was incapable of trusting God.
Later, when Israel was invaded by Babylon, Jeremiah was taken into captivity. Ironically, God gave Jeremiah a message for another prisoner, Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, who also feared he would be killed. But God intervened for Ebed-Melech. Why did God save the life of an Ethiopian after turning his back on the King of Judah? Listen to his answer, "I will save you; you...will escape with your life because you trust in me, declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 39:18 NIV).
Six hundred years after Jeremiah, the Apostle Paul had the same message for Christians, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Listening to the 6:00 news in the 21st Century can lead to serious depression. Want to talk to a Prophet? Jeremiah's words are still valid; "You will escape with your life because you trust in Me."
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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