Friday, July 30, 2010
Lay My Burdens Down
“But stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the LORD.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” - Jeremiah 23:36How often we appropriate God's will for ourselves instead of subject ourselves to it. How often we claim God's authority when we seek only to garner authority for ourselves.
The phrase translated here as “prophecy from the LORD” employs a play on words in the original Hebrew. “Prophecy” renders the Hebrew term masa’, which literally meant “burden,” but also came to refer to an inner burden placed on the heart of a prophet. Thus masa’ could mean “an oracle” from God. You can see this play on words especially in Jeremiah 23:33. If someone asks “What prophecy [masa’] has the LORD burdened you with now?” Jeremiah was to reply, “You are the burden! [masa’].”
To build on Jeremiah’s word play, I’d say that we should not burden people with our “burdens.” Although God might truly speak to us, we must not use the language of “God spoke to me” simply to authorize our own desires.
I have seen this so abused over the years that I usually STOP listening as soon as anyone claims direct divine guidance. Which leads me to the point I really want to make.
So many times when leaders have claimed direct divine "word" or authority and then ended up wrong, they are very quick to point out the call to grace and "confess." But here is the thing - Where is the doubt and confession going in?
Think about this for a minute. The difference between "I think we should..." and "God says we should..." is an enormous gap. In the first instance we failed - confession and grace indeed are excellent resolution. In the second instance we have operated in a manner that not only makes us wrong - BUT MAKES GOD APPEAR WRONG. Folks - that is serious damage to the church and to God's image amongst the world. Confession and grace does not begin to fix that.
The humility learned in failure needs to come into play somehow before we start claiming direct divine authority. I think the lesson of humility is that we can never be sure - and in such cases prudence demands the lack of the claim.
It is worthy of note that prophets generally lived on the fringes of society, ostracized, in poverty, often thought of as gooks, and generally compelled beyond all reason to keep talking like that. A lot of them, including Christ Himself, ended up executed or killed in some other fashion. It is not a pleasant place to reside. This fact also generally raises my suspicions of those that claim prophetic voice - anyone that would want it does not understand what it truly entails.
I pray that what I write here and say this is what God wants, but I am a sinner and therefore can have little confidence in it.