By Bishop Dave Chikosi
Prophets seem to be everywhere nowadays. Some of them seem to know what an Old Testament military officer once told King Aram about Elisha. The officer told the king that the prophet knows “even the very words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!” (2 Kings 6:12).
The sacred and the secular world are both at a loss and don’t quite know what to make of this new prophetic phenomenon. We know psychics and mediums. But we are not used to prophets, even in our churches. At least not in the form and function they have recently surfaced throughout the church world.
What the church has traditionally called a prophet is simply someone who speaks forth the message of the Gospel as recorded in the Bible. A glorified evangelist-teacher if you would.
But what we have seen of late in the church world is mind-boggling to many. Prophets have surfaced all over the globe who go beyond just preaching and announcing the Good News of the salvation of souls. Now they can even tell you your phone number, the name of your dog or what you had for dinner last night. Maybe even the every words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!
Several questions immediately arise. Is all this really necessary? If I already know my phone number, why is the man telling me what I already know (this is usually asked with a sarcastic smirk)? How different is that from the good old fortune teller/n’ganga/sangoma next door?
I hope to tackle these and other related questions and objections in these series of articles.
A lot has been said and written by scholars and students regarding the prophetic phenomenon. But let me give some friendly advice before we get too deep into this: if you are not a Prophet or an Apostle then an accurate understanding of how this gift functions is something above your pay grade.
If you have never functioned in the grace gift of a prophet, you are very poorly equipped to profess any knowledge of how it works. You are like a man who has never ridden a rollercoaster trying to describe how it feels to ride one. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You can argue all day long with someone who has the gift, but at the end of the theological day, a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.
Only apostles and prophets have inside knowledge on how this gift really functions. Prophets yes, but why apostle? Remember, the apostle is the thumb in the five-fingered hand of God (Eph 4:11). The other four fingers are prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. The thumb is the only digit on your hand that can touch all four fingers.
The apostle is therefore the only one of the five gifts that can stand and operate in all five offices, as the Spirit wills. The apostle can function as a prophet, sometimes as an evangelist and other times as pastor or teacher, depending on the needs of the congregation for the moment. The Holy Spirit who knows the need empowers the apostle to function outside his main calling and become whatever it is that the congregation lacks for the moment.
So allow me, your humble servant, to address this controversial topic from the standpoint of one who functions, by the grace of God, in the office of an apostle and carries that mantle for the glory of God.
The Bible speaks, not just of prophets, but of “Prophets and Seers.” These are two streams of the same river of the Spirit. They work side by side everywhere you find them in scripture. The Old Testament uses two different Hebrew words: Nabi for Prophet and Ro’eh for Seer. The Seer sees; the Nabi Prophet does not. Which leads us to an important prophetic axiom: “All God’s seers are prophets but not all God’s prophets are seers.”
The main difference between a Nabi Prophet and a Ro’eh Seer is how each receives divine revelation. The Nabi Prophet tends to receive his messages in audio form. The Ro’eh Seer, on the other hand, receives his messages mostly in visual form.
The Seer will see pictures, lights, colors and words. His task is to tell what he sees, even though sometimes it sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. And then he must also try to make sense of what he is seeing, which is also not always an easy thing to do.
This is the reason why Seers often seem mentally detached and sound incoherent at certain times behind the pulpit. Downloading information from one realm (spirit) to another (physical) is not as simple as it sounds. Some things often get lost in translation – usually on the part of the listener.
Take for instance one of the visions that apostle John saw in the Book of Revelation. John saw locusts that look like horses with golden crowns on their heads. Their faces looked like men’s faces. But they wore long hair and had lions’ teeth. Well, go figure!
Now you can understand how, for listeners and readers, some things often get lost in translation. The message itself is divine, but understand that both messenger and recipients are human. The contents themselves are perfect but contamination can occur with either the giving or receiving container or both.
Many times the Seer himself knows neither the reason nor the season for which a particular vision is given. The apostle Peter speaks to this and says:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
On the other hand, the Nabi (non-seeing) Prophet has it a little easier when it comes to communicating divine revelation. God usually just dumps a whole message into his spirit, out of which the Nabi Prophet speaks. This was the case with Moses, Jeremiah and others.
Of Moses God says: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (Deut 18:18).
Again let me emphasize: the Ro’eh Seer and the Nabi Prophet are two streams of the same river. In scripture the two streams coexist and complement each other. In King David’s court, we see both Gad the Seer, and Nathan the Prophet, serving together (1 Chronicles 29:29). And during King Hezekiah’s reign we know that Asaph the Seer, and Isaiah the Prophet were contemporaries (2 Chronicles 29:30).
However, the Nabi Prophet’s assignment seems to be broader than that of the Ro’eh Seer. Prophets tend to address national issues and global events. In this sense we can call their ministry “macroscopic.” Seers, on the other hand, tend to go personal with their prophecies. They can be described as “microscopic.”
Microscopic prophecy, by its nature, does tend to get “all up in your business.” As you stand there listening to the prophet call out your name, address, phone number etc, you have to wonder how much of your personal dirty laundry is the man of God going to hang out in public? It can be quite a nerve-wrecking experience for a parishioner who knows he or she ain’t living right.
But of course, a real man of God will never embarrass you in public, no matter how black your sins are. Unfortunately some churches do that for self-righteousness reasons. We also know many media outlets that do it for a living. But that just isn’t Jesus’ style. Instead of causing further embarrassment to the woman caught in adultery, Jesus chose instead to embarrass the jokers who came armed to the teeth with stones, ready to, not only stone her to death, but bury her with the self-same stones.
How does Jesus handle the situation? “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” As soon as He said this He stooped down and began to write on the ground. What was He writing? The names of some of the brothels that these same “stone brothers” had recently visited! My guess is as good as yours! But as soon as these prostitute-visiting brothers saw they had been outed, they left faster than anyone can say Jack Robinson.
You see, real men of God don’t glory in someone else’s shame or demise. And where a rebuke is needed for “a saint living like an ain’t” a true prophet of God will whisper that in your ear and tell you to get your act together without making you a spectacle for the whole world to mock and laugh at.
I think that today’s Christians are too eager to expose the wrongdoing of others. We are like Ham. We love to expose the nakedness of our fathers to our own detriment. All Ham had to do was simply throw a blanket over his drunk and naked father, walk out quietly and never tell anybody about it. Then no one else, including you dear reader, would have ever known of this whole sordid account in Genesis.
But “thanks” to Ham we have this mess on record in our Bibles. Not content with just being a Peeping Tom, Ham had to become a news reporter also. He ran out and gleefully told his two brothers how dad had passed out naked and full of booze. But beloved, love does not delight in exposing others. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).
(To be continued)