Wednesday, May 26, 2010
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:6-8).
Our Lord said that John the Baptist was a prophet, and “more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:9). Note clearly that this rough-clad John was “a man sent from God.” Nothing greater could be said about any man. He was said to be “a witness” of “the Light of the world” Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ (who was the Prophet of all prophets, sent from heaven to be our Savior-Redeemer). No mere man could ever be who Christ was, but mere men can be true witnesses of Christ the Lord, heralding His name and fame to the ends of the earth.
Do we have any prophets today in the modern church? Some say we don’t even need them. Those who are self-proclaimed “prophets” do not qualify. True prophets have credentials and marks, and different views, with a different message from the “typical preacher.” True prophets are sent from God, as was John, then point men to God, as John did!
Prophets are not popular, and don’t necessarily pastor big churches. God-sent men are not popular television and radio speakers. They are not likened among those authors on the New York Times Best Seller List. They are often lonely, thought of as odd and eccentric, usually criticized for bearing a heavy demeanor, and giving out a weighty message of “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” (Exodus 28:36). Prophets don’t get publicized on popular news networks.
John was a baptizer, a preacher, a herald, a wilderness wonder. He didn’t wear “soft clothing” and eat “steak dinners” (like us). His wardrobe was “camel’s hair” and “a leather belt,” and his food was a special diet of “locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). Not exactly what you would call “clean cut” and “in style,” was he? But remember, he was different, being “sent from God.”
What does this tell us about prophets? Not that we should look for odd-looking men, whose appearance is rough, and who preach loud and long. That is not the point at all. Rather, we should be listening to his message: WHAT IS HIS BURDEN, HIS CRY? John was merely “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” What was his cry? Listen: “Prepare the way of THE LORD; make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3). What a message! What a burden! What a cry! Many who heard this started “confessing their sins,” seeking John’s baptism in the river Jordan (v. 6). But immediately old John scorned some “coming for baptism,” those who were “Pharisees and Sadducees” (religious leaders of the day), calling them a “brood of vipers,” stating they should “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (vv. 7-8).
What is this? A preacher turning sinners away? Who ever heard of such? That would not be kind and loving, would it? No matter: prophets have different views! Why such preaching? Because the axe was about to be laid to the low state of Jewish religion in John’s day. Christ Jesus Himself (the promised Messiah) was on the scene, and things were about to change. The message of judgment and “fire” was about to be heralded to the crowds of Judea, for the Messiah was not going to set up an earthly kingdom, but came with “His winnowing fork in His hand,” and “His wheat” was to be separated from “the chaff” (vv. 10-12). And so it still is today, whether we understand it or not. “But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” What a “burning” message John delivered! This message is never popular.
Think of Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. What of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel? Look at another by the name of Zechariah: he had eight “visions” in one night! He gives us the exact time he saw these visions. It was the twenty-fourth day of the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, king of Persia (1:7). He saw a rider on a red horse, four horns and four craftsmen, a man with a measuring line in his hand, Joshua the high priest, the golden lamp stand and the two olive trees, a flying scroll, the woman in a basket, and the four chariots. How about that for one night’s work! The interpretation of all these things is not our concern here; but it must be mentioned that Zechariah’s name means “whom the LORD remembers,” so the prophet’s visions were given to him that he might bring a message of hope and comfort to the Jews who returned from exile. “Therefore, thus says the LORD, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies; my house shall be built in it” (Zechariah 1:16). So here the prophet is used to bring “good words and comfortable words” to God’s people (1:13).
But then, in Zechariah 9:1 and 12:1, we read, “The BURDEN of the word of the LORD.” This was a message of judgment on the nations, a message or oracle that was heavy and burdensome. Yet, in the message there is a promise to the Jewish nation of repentance and conversion, deliverance and salvation, restoration and blessing. This is the prophet’s “burden,” for idols will be cut off, and “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (13:1). The prophecy closes with a glorious message of a future day when all nations will worship the true and living God (14:16), and “In that day ‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD’ shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar” (14:20). What a day of revival and restoration to look forward to!
How we need men sent from God to thunder to this generation (whether they hear or not) the absolute holiness and sovereignty of the true and living God. Men who are not afraid to stand and boldly declare, “Repent or perish” (Luke 13:3), and “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21). Smiling, clowning preachers are not going to get the job done. We need courageous, bold, fiery prophets! Men who are willing, with Paul, to say, “I die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31). And Paul says, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (v. 34).
As a former prophet once said, we sadly say also: “God pity us that we have swung from the Upper Room with its fire to the church with the supper room and its smoke” (Leonard Ravenhill). Another former prophet said similarly: “Where does our duty lie? The New Testament word is ‘Awake!’ (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14). We need to snap out of our stupor and come out of our coma and awake from our apathy. The devil has chloroformed the atmosphere of this age. We need ‘stirring up’ to take hold of God (Isaiah 64:7)” (Vance Havner). These are “hard words” for our day, and rare, but Christ does still “gift” men to be His “prophets” (Ephesians 4:11). There just aren’t many.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken (1 Samuel 4:21,22).
Most people of my generation have heard the name Ichabod from Washington Irving’s famous short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The story was set in upstate New York in the 1790’s. In the story a schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane was pursued by a phantom called the Headless Horseman. Washington Irving was one of the first American writers to gain acclaim in Europe. He also wrote the short story Rip Van Winkle. These were two of my favorite childhood stories.
Ichabod is a Bible name found in our text above. According to Strong’s Concordance it is Hebrew for “there is no glory”. In reading the entire account, we see the corruption of the Aaronic priesthood, especially of the high priest Eli’s evil sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Also we read about the death of Eli. Eli himself was a faithful priest, except in his weakness of ruling his corrupt sons. Eli was the high priest, so he not only had authority as their father, but as their priest. Yet Eli failed to reign them in. He attempted to correct them when they were committing evil acts, which included having sex with women that came to the tabernacle (See 1 Samuel 2:22). Eli’s corrections were only ignored words, since he did not use his authority to remove his sons from the priesthood as he should have done.
God sent a prophet to rebuke Eli and warn him of coming judgment (1 Samuel 2:27-36). This man of God told Eli that there would be a sign to him -- that both of his sons, Phinehas and Hophni, would die on the same day. This is exactly what happened! The Philistines overran the Israelites, and the ark was taken by the Philistines, and truly the glory of the Lord was departed from Israel, which meant that God’s presence was removed from them for a time of judgment. As all this was happening, Phinehas’ wife was giving birth to the son who was to be named Ichabod, and she died giving birth to him. This was an ominous warning to Israel of much worse things to come. Earlier Jehovah had spoken to the very young prophet, Samuel, that this judgment was coming “And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).
This Old Testament example has application to us in the New Testament church. Throughout the NT, especially in the epistles, we are warned of forsaking the “Faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The little book of Jude warns of apostasy (falling away from the faith), and it’s consequences. Just as departing from the true way brought judgment on Eli, his sons and the nation of Israel, it brings judgment on the NT church as well. In our day there are many “ministers” of a false gospel leading people away from the true faith. They are not following the admonitions of the Lord given by Christ and the apostles to “walk in the Spirit”. Revivalists used to speak of Ichabod being written “over the doorposts” of many churches. In our day here in North America, Ichabod would have to be written on the doorposts of most churches, for the glory has departed along with the true gospel.
God is not going to bless deviation from His explicit instructions and commands, rather He curses it! God says through Paul‘s inspired words “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”(Galatians 1:6-9). It is not modern methods of preaching such as the internet, television, satellite radio, mail outs, etc that God opposes. What God opposes is changing the gospel message! Perhaps never before in American history have we had so many who claim to be preaching the gospel, but are not really preaching the true, uncompromised, message.
The pressure to accept any religion as true as long as it has faithful followers is evident as never before. It is not ecumenism that is the major thrust now, but acceptance and working in harmony with all religions. But Christians cannot be in harmony with idolatry! The Bible, God’s inspired word, tells us clearly that there is only one savior and one true religion! This makes some people angry, but it is the truth! Jesus did not say He was one of several ways, but He said “I am the way, the truth and the life: No man cometh unto the father but by me” (John 14:6).
With this in view, why does Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren, who is perhaps the most influential pastor in the world, advocate that all the various religions of the world (whom he calls “people of faith”), work together with governments of the world to support health care, and other needs? Warren said this at Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative meeting in New York on September 26, 2008. These “people of faith” Rick Warren speaks of are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Shinto’s, etc. He regards all religious people as people of faith. But faith in what? Warren deviates dangerously from God’s word. I am not making this up! Read the insightful article here by Paul Proctor: http://www.newswithviews.com/PaulProctor/proctor163.htm
I have no doubt that those pastors and churches who follow Rick Warren’s philosophy have become Ichabod, for truly the glory of the true God, our Jehovah-Jesus, has departed from them. If it has not already, it soon will, for God does not change His mind about truth. He never has, and he never will. Please listen, dear friends; there is no other gospel than the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other savior than Him, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Bible it is stated clearly, speaking of Jesus: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).