So often when we hear of “prophecy” we think “predicting the future.” While the prophets often spoke of the future, revealing the future was never their primary purpose. The prophets were messengers of God. When we read the prophetic books we often read the phrase, “Thus says the LORD.” This indicates that their primary responsibility was to speak God’s words. God often spoke of the future for his people, yet even a cursory reading of the prophets reveals that God’s message was usually something akin to “Stop sinning so that I may bless you.”
It is the very nature of God to seek to bless. This is the reason for which he created the world: that he might bless his creatures with himself. The greatest gift God can give is himself, for there is nothing greater than God. In Christ the fullness of God is available to all who will believe. A significant barrier to this blessing is sin, for God is holy. This is why the prophets cried out against Israel and the other nations. Their sin and rebellion against God only led to their downfall. The path of blessing was humble submission to the one true God. We looked at the prophet Jonah a few weeks ago and saw that God intended to save the city of Nineveh and the means of doing so was to call them to repentance for their many sins. (Jonah, as you know, left out the part about God’s offer of mercy.) When the king and all his subjects repented, God spared them and granted them mercy and grace.
The prophetic role is one of proclaiming God’s holiness and the need to repent and believe, and of proclaiming God’s promise of salvation, of mercy and grace. This was the role the nation of Israel was supposed to perform in the ancient world. This was why God promised to make them a “kingdom of priests,” for priests brought people to God through their sacrifices. Israel failed in their priestly role and in God’s wisdom he fulfilled his plan anyway by building his church, his true Israel, his true kingdom of priests.
The role of the church is prophetic. We are to proclaim God’s holiness and his incredible offer of mercy and grace in Christ. As we proclaim God’s holiness we must speak to issues of justice and of good governance. We must never be partisan, for partisanship obscures the truth of God in Christ, making repentance and faith in Jesus equal to voting for a particular party. By refusing to participate in partisanship, we are free to speak prophetically, to call out sin and injustice and unrighteousness while also pointing the world to Jesus, the only King worthy of our total allegiance.
In our politically divided world we often see Christians make the claim that to stand up for Jesus, to stand for truth and righteousness, is to vote a particular way—as if Jesus needs an electoral college victory to accomplish his mission! This is not prophetic. This is partisan, and has no business in the church. By refusing to participate in partisanship, we are free to speak prophetically, which necessarily requires that we speak out against injustice and unrighteousness in our world, regardless of which party is in the wrong. (If at this point you can only think of injustice and unrighteousness in the “other party,” you’re partisan, not prophetic.)
Consider the wisdom of Solomon:
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…Proverbs 29:18a ESV
If we are to be salt and light in this world, we must embrace our prophetic role. This requires we leave behind partisanship, for the church has one Lord and his name is Jesus. Our hope is never in electoral victories, Supreme Court justices, House or Senate majorities. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and him crucified, risen, and coming again. When he comes he will establish true and everlasting peace among the nations. As we saw last Sunday, we must proclaim the excellencies—God’s mighty acts of salvation—of the very one who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
We must be the prophetic voice in our nation, calling all to faith and repentance. Notice closely what the Scripture says. Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint. That is, they become lawless. They dive deeper into sin and depravity. This is part of the reason Jesus calls us to be salt in this world. Salt offers many benefits, and while we could point to some of them (salt preserves, salt is essential to life, etc.) it is likely that Jesus’ point is simply that we must be beneficial to the world.
Partisanship benefits no one. There is no partisanship in the kingdom of God, for there is no struggle for power. Jesus is Lord. Period. Living as the people of God in the midst of a hostile and broken world offers the world hope. We must be our nation’s prophetic vision. We must show the world what life is like under the authority of King Jesus. To truly love our nation we must refuse partisanship and we must offer our neighbors God’s prophetic vision, a vision of a world in submission to Jesus. We must demonstrate what his kingdom is like by living as his citizens right here and now. God seeks to bless this world; let’s tell the world how to participate in that blessing.