The third week of Advent is traditionally associated with John the Baptist as a servant of God’s call and preparation for prophetic ministry
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
If asked, who would you say was your favourite biblical prophet? Does that seem a bit odd? It may be and the question does cause one to consider if it is a trick question. I don’t mean it so but I think we can be drawn towards wanting to spend more time reading prophets who say things we like in ways we enjoy. Jeremiah would top a lot of people’s list despite his life of suffering, because it was Jeremiah who said. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ v29.11 A verse frequently used without reference to the context but one that comforts many and can be used when facing new beginnings. Micah 6.8 is a reference point for me, ‘He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?’ So, I would be tempted to say Micah. However, I believe Isaiah would probably top the polls because from his pen came the most eloquent prophecies concerning Jesus that capture the reader’s heart and inspired Handel’s Messiah. In truth it is a vain and useless exercise because it misses the core issue that they were simply servants, obedient to a master conveying a timely message.
The prophet’s role was to point away from themselves towards God and his message. Their authority was not their own, their message was not their own, the power of the message was entirely dependent upon the Spirit of God. Before they were equipped to speak they first of all had to encounter the Holy God. Some of these encounters are vividly recorded in scripture. Isaiah had a vision of, ‘the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train filled the temple’ Isaiah 6.1 Ezekiel had a vision of mysterious heavenly creatures. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah with the words, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ (Note the plural) Jeremiah 1.5 Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road temporarily blinded him and brought profound repentance. In each case the experience was one that was fearful in the sense of awesome, and caused them to understand the holiness of God as well as his greatness.
A common impact on the prophets is a sense of their own sin but also a knowledge that God and God alone has cleansed them. Isaiah 6.5-7 It is then they are able to be as Isaiah was and say, send me. The role of taking God’s word to the world is not limited to a few chosen ones. In the New Testament it is the church as a whole that bears this responsibility. To do this however the church needs the same things as prophets of old in preparation. A knowledge of the holiness and greatness of God. A repentant but forgiven heart. An understanding of the commission God has granted and to go in the power of the Trinity. The Lord asked Isaiah, ‘who will go for us?’ At Pentecost the church received the fullness of the tri-union God himself to take the gospel to the world. Individuals are still commissioned for specific purposes but the church bears the responsibility to be his witnesses to the end of the earth.
Does the church leave the role of advocating the gospel to a chosen few?
What is our response to the Lord’s question, ‘Who will go for us?’
Here I am Lord with lyrics