With all of the doctrinal and paradigmatic developments of the Church in the last few decades, I believe there is still a woeful lack of true foundations. If the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2.20), we may conclude that a Church which lacks the characteristic realities that these servants impart is largely being built on sand.
Seeing that the Church is not only called to raise up prophets (which is a rarity itself despite voluminous self-appointed claims), but to function as a prophetic company, let’s see what we can gather from the Lord through the experience of Jonah.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD: THE CENTER & CIRCUMFERENCE OF THE PROPHETIC CALL
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.’
But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1.1-3a)
The prophetic call has never been one of convenience or ease, nor is prophetic ministry ever seen as a primarily pleasurable endeavor. The prophet is a servant who sees most of his fulfillment and reward in the resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age. A brief survey of Israel’s prophets, and their often gut-wrenching plights makes this crystal clear. For God to be glorified as God, which is the heart of foundational ministry, the man- in all of his fossilized opinions and human crutches- must be set aside. Every prophet has had this experience. “He must increase, and I must decrease.”
Take heart dear saint. It is not what you perform religiously, or muster up for some type of exterior display before men. The prophetic Spirit- that is, the condition of being intimate with the Lord and serving from the high place of His counsel- is given to those who come to know the entire SURRENDER of the heart. Nothing foundational to the faith was ever obtained by human zeal. Surrender and trust are the hallmarks of any true ministry.
The prophet is wrapped up in the word of the Lord. You can see that for Jonah to forsake the proclamation of the word that God had given was the equivalent of rejecting His very presence. The prophet is one with the word he bears. He carries the weight and gravity of his message. To refrain from speaking when commanded to is to cut himself off from life itself. In the same way, one cannot speak as an oracle unless he is eminently a man of God’s presence. Only one who has learned to abide in the presence of the Lord, walked with trembling and brokenness, worshipped Christ amidst the profundity of God’s mercy and judgments, and listened long and eagerly for the Voice of His Beloved King will be privileged to speak foundationally. In the simplest of terms then, THE AVOIDANCE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS THE FORFEITURE OF TRUE PROPHETISM.
To know the Lord intimately in the presence of His Mercy and His Judgments- this is the real bedrock of the prophet’s ministry. This was Jonah’s predicament. The Lord called him a son and a prophet, but he was not willing to receive that identity in full. When he saw what it would cost him, namely, going to a people detestable to him (a people that he thought to be out of the reach of Mercy), he forsook his identity and call and fled from the presence of the Lord.
“So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” (3b)
I cannot shake the emphasis of the writer here. It is pointed out again that all of Jonah’s actions in revolt against his calling were a literal flight from the presence of the Lord. Before you raise any question as to your specific “calling” in ministry, something else must be considered. How often have you fled the presence of God by denying your adoption in the Father’s Kingdom? Only sons who know they are sons can serve to liberate and upbuild the Body, so in what ways have we denied or temporarily disregarded our new heritage as children of the great King?
Are we discerning enough in our lives to know the point at which we have fled His presence? Have we fled His presence by neglecting secret prayer and Scripture reading? Have we fled His presence by having a complaining spirit regarding our jobs, families, or church experiences? Have we fled His presence by succumbing to unbelief or denying His supernaturalness? Have we fled His presence by speaking sharply and brashly to our spouses or children? Have we fled His presence through laziness? gluttony? compromise? the fear of man? Do we have such a high value of His presence that we are not willing to suffer any separation from Him, no matter what that costs us?
If the essence of the prophetic call is to abide in Him, why have we lost the sensitivity and awareness of the presence of God that should remain no matter what setting we find ourselves in? Who has walked in the fear of the Lord with this heightened continuity? Who has been diligent to keep a vessel full of oil? Who values His presence above all things? Surely we are called to be guardians of the awareness of His presence. To assume propheticness without this central blessing is the height of presumption. Is God speaking to your heart regarding something He would have you to do? Are you doing it? Let us not follow after Jonah in this manner. Let us cease this fleeing from His presence. May the Lord have for Himself a generation of believers who delight in His presence, and are willing to contend against sin, self and devils for the glory of an abiding life in Christ.
There is a copious waterfall of blessing and joy for those who will walk in the fear of the Lord, having a value for His presence that transcends all that is seen and felt. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Is. 40.31b)
Lord! Raise up a company of saints who are not willing to give permission to the world or to any power that would rob them of Your presence and life. Have for Yourself an army that abides in You, and You in them; a company of holy ones… a truly joyful people. Amen.