A Biblical Foundation For The Prophetic Mandate

A Biblical Foundation For The Prophetic Mandate

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77 A Biblical Foundation for the Prophetic Mandate Sunday Aigbe* Introduction Christians agree that one of the tasks of the church is to serve as the prophetic voice of God in this world. While this concept is derived from the ideal, from the role of the Old Testament prophets, just what this prophetic tradition means or exactly what the prophetic ministry of the church is today is rather vague. This is due in part .to the fact that the mission of the church has always been described in general in terms of the cultural mandatel and the evangelistic mandate.2 The prophetic ministry of the church is usually discussed either as an aspect of one of these mandates,3 or it is simply lost somewhere in the missio- logical discussion. Recent discussions, however, are indicative of the complex nature of mission and demonstrate that much is yet to be learned regarding the depth and breadth of the mission of the church.4 The central thesis of this study is that, properly understood, the bibli- cal concept of mission is not a matter of a dualistic approach of either/ or, but of a comprehensive approach of both. There is enough biblical and historical evidence to suggest that the cultural and the evangelistic mandates are intricate parts of a complex whole. And that this dynamic yet complex mission of the church is more adequately understood from the point of a prophetic mandate.5 Culture and Research *Sunday Aigbe is Director and a Research Fellow of the Center for African International, P.O. Box 366, Denver, Colorado 80201. He is originally from Nigeria. lJan Harm Boer, Missions: Heralds of Capitalism or Christ? Ibadan, Star Nigeria: Day Press, 1984; Paul Marshall, Thine is the Kingdom: A Biblical on the Nature Perspective of Government and Politics Today Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984. 2Melvin L. Hodges, A Theology of the Church and Its Mission: A Pentecostal Perspective Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1977; Paul A. Pomerville, The Third Force in Mission Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. 3Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter- Press, 1977; Dean S. Gilliland and Everett W. Huffard, “Relief as Varsity Organizations Prophetic Movements,” Together (October-December 1985), 29-31. 4Alan Neely, “Liberation Theology and the Poor: A Second Look,” 17:4 Missiology (October, 1989), 387-404; Donald A. McGavran, “Missiology Faces the Lions,” Missiology 17:3 (July, 1989), 336-355. 5For an extensive discussion of the concept of the prophetic mandate, see The Sunday Aigbe, Prophetic Role of a Church in a Developing Economy: The Case of the Assemblies of God in Nigeria, Chapters 6 and 7, (Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller ical Theolog- Seminary, 1989). Available in book and microfilm form from UMI, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106. 1 78 Prophetic mandate is proposed here as that aspect of the church’s mission program which concerns socio-political evangelism. It also provides, in its broader use, a basis within which the cultural and evan- gelistic mandates can constructively engage in a mutual dialogue. The prophetic mandate, therefore, calls for an inclusive wholism between church, state, and mission. By inclusive wholism I mean that process of mission practice which articulates all Bible-based means to reach Bible-based ends. It calls for carefully orchestrated mission strategies and methods aimed at reaching the spiritual, social. psychological, political, private, public, sacred and secular dimensions of individuals and society. In this article we will focus on the dynamic nature of the institution of the prophets in the Old Testament6 as a biblical foundation for understanding the prophetic role of the church as a vital aspect of its mission. But to appreciate fully the legacies which the prophets left behind for our examples, we must first understand the rise of the insti- tution of the prophets within its religious and socio-political contexts. There were three major institutions that constituted the leadership of Israel’s religious and political life. They were the institutions of the priests, the prophets and the kings. The first came into being before the last two did. And the establishment of the kingly institution gave the obscure and rudimentary institution of the prophets its prominent posi- tion. Therefore, the institutions of the priests and the kings shall be considered first, before the prophetic order. Finally, the three institu- tions will be reviewed together to bring to focus the significant roles of the prophets. Israel and the Institution of the Priesthood For the purpose of brevity. the priesthood will be studied in three sections: its establishment, priestly functions and a critical evaluation of their successes and failures. The Establishment of the Priesthood The concept of the priesthood in Israel antedates the Mosaic era when the head of the family or tribe was also the priest. It became institutionalized at the time of Moses (Ex 28ff). The Hebrew term implies “one officiating.” But, “in the precise terminology of the law it is used of one who may ‘draw near’ to the divine presence (Ex 19:22; 20:20), while other remain afar off 6This article is in most part abridged materials from my doctoral dissertation cited above. For elaborate of and further reading on the issues raised here, the reader is referred to development Chapters 2 (which focused on the Old Testament, much of which is used here) and 3 (which covered the New Testament). 7Memi11 F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1957), 881- 882. 2 79 By the time of the monarchy, the priestly order had become a major institution possessing both cultural and political significance. For example, when Jeroboam led the ten northern tribes to secede, he had to institute a non-levitical priesthood to legitimize and protect his polit- ical move (1 Kgs 13:33). But because the priestly institution was ille- gally constituted, that is, without divine sanction, it became one of the capital sins that brought him and his new empire to destruction (1 Kgs 12:25-33; 13:34). Contrary to Jeroboam’s act, the office of the priest was hereditary as prescribed by Yahweh (Ex 28:1-4; 30:7, 8; Lev 8:7; 1 Sam 2:28.35). However, Raymur Downey and others have noted that the hereditary system of the priesthood bred nominality, institutionalism, and disunity among those involved.8 But whatever criticisms can be leveled against the priestly institution, it still remains to be said that they were “mediators of men with God” and that there was a strong relationship that existed between the monarchy and the priesthood.9 This brings us to the role of the priests in lsrael. The Functions of the Priests The functions of the priests were many. First, they were to minister to Yahweh as priests (see Ex 28:1-4). In this passage, the phrase “minister to Me as priest” was repeated three times to underscore the primary purpose for which Yahweh was designating the family of Aaron as an institution of priesthood. They were to separate them- selves from the other tribes and minister before Yahweh on behalf of all the people of Israel. This ministry included numerous religious rites which are detailed in Leviticus and in parts of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. ‘ Second, and closely related, the priests were to bless the people, pro- nouncing Yahweh’s (peace) upon them on behalf of Yahweh (Num 6:22-27; 1 Chron 23:13). That is, the priests were to minister to the people of God for God. The third major duty of the priests was to teach the people the law of God. They were to be its teachers in both words and deed (Lev 10:11; Mal 2:6-7; cf. Ps 119:142, 151, 160; Deut 33:8.9; Ps 37:37; Neh 8:7; Num 27:21; Deut 17:8-11; Jer 18:18; Ezek 7:26). The point of these references was that the survival of Israel depended on how well the people heeded the words of Yahweh which, in turn, depended on how well the priests taught the Torah to them in both theory and in practice. ‘ 8Raymur James Downey, “Old Testament Patterns and Leadership Training: Prophets, Priests and Kings” unpublished Th.M. thesis (Pasadena: Fuller 72-76. Theological Seminary, 1981), 9E.C.B. MacLaurin, The Hebrew Theocracy in the Tenth to Sixth Centuries B.C. (Sidney: Angus and Robertson, 1959), 66 and 70. 3 80 But as is evident from Scripture, events pointed in the opposite direc- tion, for the priests failed to perform their duties and, in effect, the people did not heed the law. This led to a sequence of ups and downs in the collective life of Israel that culminated in the judgment of God. An Evaluation of the Priesthood Yahweh explicitly revealed His will regarding the conduct of the priests and His regulation of their varied ministries (see Lev 21; Num 18). From this instruction it is apparent that they were called into a high vocation and were expected to contribute to the development of the religious and civil life of the nation. However, a careful study of Leviticus 16:21 and Numbers 18 reveals that the priests were fallible men who had to strive for holiness in much the same way as their fellow Israelites. The inauguration of the priestly ministry is recorded in Leviticus 9. But no sooner had the priests begun to function, when failure punctuated their newly established ministry. Nadab and Abihu disobeyed Yahweh’s instruction and brought profane fire before the Lord (Lev 10). The result was the judgment of God. Not much is recorded about the priests until the era of Eli in 1 Samuel. In his day. the priests were not only at a high point in their – ministry, but, they were also about to fail, and they failed miserably. The corruption and decline of the priesthood became inevitable. The book of 1 Samuel opens with Eli still active. But in 1 Samuel 2 the situation changes for the worse. “The sons of Eli were [became] corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Sam 2:12). Eli, now old, knew of their corruption but failed to take any drastic steps to remedy the situation (1 Sam 2:22-24). He failed to teach his household, and together they failed to teach the children of Israel to “know the Lord”. The end was the judgment of Yahweh. He rejected the family of Eli and brought judgment on them (1 Sam 2:22-3:18). As the Lord predicted through an anonymous prophet and through young Samuel, the two sons of Eli died in war. This led to the death of Eli himself (1 Sam 4:1-18). Instead of tapping the hereditary line of Aaron for a successor, God chose Samuel to become the new leader of Israel as priest, prophet, and judge (1 Sam 1:19-28; 2:18-21; 3:19-21; 7:lff). Scholars do not agree whether Samuel was simply a priest, or whether he is also a judge or a prophet. Some have identified him as exercising only one of these distinct offices. Others have identified him with all three offices. We will consider this point in the section on the prophets. Suffice it to say here that in Samuel we found the embodiment of the three offices. That is, his time was a period of historical transition when the priestly institution was on the decline and the emergence of kings, and later the prophets was on the rise. 4 81 Israel and the Judicial-Monarchical Establishment The institution of the kings will be studied under three sections; the establishment of the monarchy, the functions of the kings and an eval- uation of the monarchy’s performance. The Establishment of the Monarchy 1 Samuel 8:1-5 introduces a new epoch in the history of Israel: ‘ < Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your Now make for us ways. a king to judge us like all the nations.’ The external military threats of the Philistines and the internal threat of Yahweh’s imminent judgment due to the corruption of the nation (cf. 1 Sam 2:22-4:19) contributed to Israel’s urgent demand of Samuel that he provide them with a king. Whether their demand was right or wrong is open to discussion-10 What is clear is that the Hebrew word means “king” or “ruler”. While the institution was a new development in Israel, the idea and functions of a king were already present in the thinking of the Israelites. The phrase “a king to judge us like all the nations” occurred several times (cf. Deut 17:14, 15) pointing to God’s foresight that they will someday reject his theocratic rule and seek a king like the pagan nations. However, the king was a “vice regent” of Yahweh, and through anointing and consecration he became “the Lord’s Anointed”11 which sets a person apart for a special purpose or duty. The Functions of the Kings Aubrey Johnson’s two works explored these concepts of “vice regent” and “the Lord’s Anointed” in the Old Testament.l2 His con- clusions include the idea that Israel’s sacred kingship was a representa- tion of Yahweh’s kingship in His heavenly court. He examines the royal Psalms 132, 47, 48, 24, 149, 82, and 84 and other passages and concludes that: . ‘ laThe point that is not clear, however, is whether or not Israelites could have asked for a king if Samuel’s sons were merely judges, and whether Samuel’s family could have been chosen at all if Eli’s family had upheld the regulations and duties of the priestly order. These are big “ifs” granted that the destiny of a nation depends in on what we do or could have done. large part 1 lUnger, Bible Dictionary, 631. l2pubrey Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1955, and The One and the Many in the Israelites Conception of God Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1961. 5 82 In saying `Amen’ to the conditions laid down in the Davidic Covenant the king becomes the trustee of Yahweh’s chosen people…. In other words. it is the king’s function to ensure the `righteousness’ or within borders of his right rela- the territory which will ensure the economic well-being of his people … continuing an abundant life of the tionship social body, or, better, its ‘vitality.’13 The king was to ensure justice and peace for the entire nation. He was also to be aware of the “implications of Yahweh’s choice of the Hebrews…. The purpose of the Davidic Covenant was to ensure righ- teousness within Israel and thus make righteousness safe for the world.”14 However, Johnson does not indicate in his works whether he meant the ideal sacral kingship. Otherwise, Israel’s kingship had many flaws and many of them failed woefully. Perhaps Keith Whitelam provides a more accurate picture of Israel’s s sacred kingship in his book, The Just King. Having examined Israel’s royal Psalms and the extant materials of other nations, he observed that the Israelites had some conception of an ideal king which include the following ideas: (1) The acceptance that justice formed part of the underlying world harmony which was realized at the time of creation; (2) It was the king’s primary duty to guarantee the true administration of Justice throughout the land; and (3) By so doing, this covered not only right social relationships, as expressed in the king’s concern for the underpriviledged, but also guar- anteed prosperity and fertility for the nation as a whole.15 Within this frame work, Whitelam examines the performances of the kings during the “monarchical judicial authority” in ancient Israel. He concludes that, among other things, (1) evidence shows that the idea is never completely removed from the actual, and (2) the failure of a king in his divinely commissioned task of judicial administration seriously undermined his position on the throne (2 Sam 15:1-6; cf. 2 Sam 21 :1- 14 ; 1 Kgs 3:13-25; 2 Sam 1:1-16; 4:12; 21:1-14).16 This brings us to the question of how well the kings performed. An Evaluation of the Institution of the Kings As LaSor, Hubbard and Bush have noted, most of the kings per- formed less than what was expected of them. There were oppressions and resentment during the golden age due to the kings’ performances. Rehoboam finally added the last straw. 13 Johnson, Sacral Kingship, 127. l4Johnson, Sacral Kingship, 128-129. 15Keith W. Whitelam, The Just King: Monarchical Judicial Authority in Ancient Israel (Sheffield, Eng.: JSOT Press, 1979), 37. l6Whietelam, The Just King, 219-220. ‘ 6 83 The commoner, in fact, may have been less comfortable under Solomon that under David and Saul. The tendency towards centralization of wealth which angered the great of the in Solomon’s golden reign…. Solomon’s death prophets eighth century began brought Rehoboam to the throne. With this transition surfaced all the latent feelings of and abuse which the Israelites had oppression suppressed under the iron rule of David and Solomon.17 The subsequent kings of Judah and Israel, with the exception of a few, to a greater or lesser degree abused power, demonstrated a lack of faith in Yahweh, and failed to administer justice on behalf of the powerless such as the poor, the orphans and the widows. The sin of King Jeroboam became a pattern of behavior for most of Israel’s kings (1 Kgs 12:25-13:10; cf. 2 Kgs 13:1-9). Phrases like “He did evil in the sight of the Lord” and “He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam who had made Israel sin” became a common slogan which concluded the biographies of most of the kings of the northern kingdom of. Israel until they were taken into captivity. The same thing could be said of most of the kings of Judah, the southern kingdom. The sins of Manasseh (2 Kgs 21) who “shed very much innocent blood” (2 Kgs 21:16) only heightened the evils of the preceding kings and buttressed an irrevocable pattern of sinful behav- ior for most of the subsequent kings until captivity became inevitable. It was in anticipation of this abuse of power that Yahweh in His counsel set up the institution of the prophets for the purpose of intro- ducing checks and balances into the monarchical system. It is within this crucial context that the mission, message, and method of the prophets need to be understood. – Israel and the Institution of the Prophets This section will focus on the prophetic nomenclature. But to appre- ciate the intricate nature of the prophetic order fully, a preliminary consideration of the era before Samuel is necessary. Preliminary Considerations The institution of the prophets. unlike the kingship but like the priesthood, did not develop over night. There was first the era of the seers. This continued until the time of Samuel when his particular prophetic ministry marked a turning point in the rise of the prophets to prominence in Israel. For the purpose of this study, these two periods shall be considered separately. 1. The era of the The era of the both synony- mously translated “seers,” dated back to the early days of Israel. As P. J. M. Smith noted, “prophecy seems to have been a native product in l?William Sanford Lasor, David Hubbard, and Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testa- ment Survey (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 256, 258. 7 84 Israel as elsewhere in the Semitic world.”18 In his extensive study of the Semitic prophets he observed that while the view of Israel’s total borrowing of prophetism from other Semitic nations cannot be proven, the influence of the prophetic cults of these nations upon that of the Israelites cannot be denied. In the early days of Israel, prophetism was at its rudimentary stage.19 Wood compared the roles of the seers at this early stage with that of the priests who were at the center of power. He concluded that: (1) the priests used a physical device like Urim and Thummin to inquire of the Lord, while the seers never used such devices to gain revelation or divine insight; (2) the priests initiated revelation by trying to inquire, while the seers never initiated, instead God initiated a vision for the seers; and (3) the priests were limited to the cultic official business. while the seer dealt with any topic.20 This period also witnessed the rise of some individuals who were called “prophet” or “prophetess” and, on occasion, “man of God.” These individuals performed a variety of activities. For example, Moses perceived himself as a prophet (Deut 18:15) and was called a man of God (Deut 33:1; Josh 14:6). He was a statesman, a religious leader and a military commander. Miriam was a prophetess (Ex 15:20) who led Israel in songs of praise and worship. An anonymous prophet (Judg 6:8’10) under the leadership of Gideon inspired the Israelites to military victory. And, an anonymous man of God brought a judgment message from Yahweh to Eli the priest and his family (1 Sam 2:22ff). To be sure, certain prophetic characteristics exhibited by these indi- viduals during this rudimentary stage of prophetism were to some extent true of the prophets of the later period. However, except for Moses, all of these were localized individuals who were obscure in the . national leadership role. And they did not constitute any major move- ment or develop any major theology. Such a breakthrough did not seem necessary in this era, for theocracy in the strictest sense was much in effect. God was primarily ruling through the priests and judges. But by the time of Samuel, historical events had undergone some changes which brought prophetism to the limelight of history. 2. The turning point-The era of Samuel: The turning point came when Yahweh considered the priestly house of Eli closed. Yahweh chose Samuel in his place and the term “seer” took on the meaning and significance of the term “prophet.” The redactor of 1 Samuel was precise: , l 5Porvis J. M. Smith, The Prophet and His Problems (New York: Charles Scrib- ner’s Sons, 1914), 33. i9Smith, The Prophet and His Problems, 3-35. 2°Leon J. Wood, The Prophets of Israel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub- lsihing Co., 1979), 57-59. 8 85 Then the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation in (no vision). Formerly Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he let us spoke thus: ‘Come go to the seer,’ for he who is now called a was prophet formerly called a seer (1 Sam 3:1; 9:9). Note the trend of events. First, the word “then” referred to the pre- ceding events and the entire context in which Eli’s family became cor- rupt and was judged by God (1 Sam 2:12-17, 22-36; 3:11-18; 4:12-22) while Samuel grew up in favor with God and was chosen by Yahweh to become a priest, prophet (seer), reformer, and judge (1 Sam 2:18-21; 3:1-10; 7:1-17; 1 Chron 6:28; 9:22). Secondly, the i:;1:r (Word) of Yahweh became scarce.21 Third, there was no vision, which was alarm- ing.22 Fourth, the seer was an obscure local individual who saw visions and provided divine insights for people for a small fee (1 Sam 9:7-8). He later became known as a prophet who subsequently became declarer, announcer, and proclaimer of the 7$J of Yahweh. This 7$J spoke to theipresent will and future intentions of Yahweh (1 Sam 9:9; cf. 1 Sam 16; 2 Sam 7; lsa 6).23 With these observations in mind, the prophetic nomenclature will now be probed further. Problem of Definition and Classification The problem of definition and classification is as old as the prophetic tradition itself. Scholars use terms like i1tn and RIM3 differently. But most of them do agree that these various terms were used at different times and places and that there were times that the editor’s terminolog- ical usage overlapped.24 For example, the term (man (man of of God) God) was used was used generically generically in Deuteronomy 33: l, Joshua 14:6 for Moses, in Judges 6:11 and 13:6, 9, 10, 11 for the angel of God, and more specifically as equivalent to classical prophet in 1 Kings 12:22 and 13 :lff, 2 Kings 23:17, 2 Chronicles 11:2 and 12:5-7. But by the time of the captivity the term was not very much in use. Instead, terms like “shepherd” (Zech 11:5, 16), and “watchman/watchmen” (Ezek 3:17; 33:2; Jer 6:17) were more frequently used. , 21 The psalmist later remarked that the was supposed to be hidden in the heart to avoid sinning and to be a lamp unto the feet and a light unto the path of a righteous life (Ps 119:105). 22 As the sages remind us, where there is no vision the people perish or go unre- strained (Prov. 29:18 KJV). 23The’1;7 of Yahweh and the divine vision, which were scarce during this era, later became the larger corpus of the prophets’ vocabulary and modes of communi- cation. 24For a fuller discussion see David Peterson, The Roles of Israel’s JSOT Prophets (Sheffield, Eng.: Press, 1981), 9-88. 9 86 Similarly, (seer) was used more frequently during the time of Samuel. Eight out of its twelve occurrences in the Old Testament applied to Samuel himself. But nun (seer) was used much more in David’s time (2 Sam 24:11; 1 Chron 25:5; 2 Chron 29:30; 19:2). Wood noted that. “If there was a change from ro’eb to nabbi, there could well have been a change also from roeh to hozeh.”25 The term (prophet) was used much more than all others both as a generic and specific term. The Hebrew word has several meanings, including “to announce,” “to call” and “to declare”. Downey contends that the passive meaning “to call” is more plausible. He admits, how- ever, that although the noun “occurs more than three hundred times in the Old Testament,” Hebrew scholars are not sure of its etymology. Nevertheless, “the most prominent leaders among the Hebrew people of that (OT) era were the prophets.”26 Two related observations flow from the above pattern of prophetic nomenclature. First, as historical event and human drama unfolded, Yahweh became more and more involved in using the institution of the seers and later of the men of God. Secondly, as more and more roles were assigned to or were taken by these obscure and local individuals called seers, they began to gain more cultic prominence and social popularity, and gathered power of influence. Some did remain as local prophets” others became national and international itinerants. While the earlier prophets could be classified as the speaking prophets, the later ones could be labeled as the writing prophets. Thus, the prophets rose to a prominent and influential position second only to that of Christ. On the other hand, the basic characteristic of the unique divine call of Yahweh, rather than biological and social privileges, remained uncompromised. Yahweh specifically called them into different situations and ministries. . The Message of the Prophets The messages of the prophets had a measure of similarity which allows one to think of their various messages as the prophetic mes- sage.27 In this subsection, I want to focus on these unifying elements, namely the sequence of themes and specific contents of the prophetic message. The prophets covered a wide range of issues. A common trend is discemable in their messages. This structure includes the following: (1) the rejection of Israel; (2) the reason for the rejection; (3) the wrath – _ 25Wood, The Prophets of Israel, 58; cf. 1 Chronicles 29:29. 26Downey, “Old Testament Patterns and Leadership Training,” 23, 24; Albert C. Knudson, The Prophetic Movement in Israel (New York: The Methodist Book Concern,1921), 16-24. 27Gerhard von Rad, The Message of the Prophets London: Harper and Row Pub- lishers, 1962. 10 87 of Yahweh; (4) the need for repentance; and (5) restoration. In the mes- sages of some of the prophets, the order is reversed. With few exceptions, the prophets stated the rejection of individuals like a king and/or the nation or nations. This was usually followed by an illustration of the rejection. Otherwise, they went straight into the reason for rejection, then they gave Yahweh’s position-judgment or warning-about the situation. They described the judgment in one form or another and whether it would be sooner or later. Depending on the audience’s reaction, God either reduced or post- poned the judgment. But the prophets were always pleading with the people to repent. Nearly all the prophets asserted the graciousness of Yahweh and the hope of restoration should the nation repent. In the case of an individual, pardon and blessing were promised following repentance. Prophetic Range of Tolerance Also important to our discussion is the human and spiritual temper- ament of the prophets. A careful look at the messages and the intensity of delivering those messages will reveal some basic phenomena. In dealing with the kings, priests and the people, the prophets seemed to classify the issue at stake under either the biblical range of tolerance, allowable range or unallowable range, or a combination of these. The first consists of biblical prescription such as observing the sabbath that must be done. It evokes intensive praise when obeyed or intensive blame when violated. The second consists of negotiable issues such as marriage/polygyny. These were amoral issues which could turn either way, hence the prophetic messages in this category were mostly per- suasive in nature and less intensive in delivering them. The third cate- gory consists of biblical proscriptions against such things as idolatry. These were non-negotiable issues. It was these unallowable “spiritual” sins which bred spiritual, social and political sins, all of which consti- tuted the challenges of the prophets. The contents of the message of the prophets, therefore, were an attempt not only to rebuke the unallowable conducts but also to proclaim biblical values. ‘ ‘ The Contents of Their Message: Faith, Justice, Service The prophets made many declarative statements, and described many visions and judgments. Micah, for example, who was at the heart of prophetism, and Zechariah, who saw the last days of the prophets, provided a summary with which to begin. They wrote: He has shown you, o man … What is Good And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly To love mercy And to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8; emphasis mine) _ 11 88 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Execute true justice Show mercy and compassion to his brother Everyone Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless The alien or the poor Let none of you plan evil in his heart his brother. (Zech 7:9-10; emphasis mine) Against 6:8 have their antecedents passages read: The phrases “has shown you”and “the Lord require of you” in Micah in Deuteronomy 30:15.16 and 10:12. These now, your . . 30:15, 16; 10:30 contain a summary and upheld as of the law. This summarized in Micah 6:8 and Israel’s history, recognized preached, See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His and to keep His commandments, that you may live and ways multiply…. And Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways to love Him, to serve the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul. The point is that Deuteronomy law was what the prophets preached Zechariah 7:9-10. Jesus Christ, later in the law and the prophets (Matt 7:12). And then he pointed out the essential content of the law which the prophets as follows: . That is, “the weightier faith”. Taking Deuteronomy 7:9, 10 and Matthew fundamental tenets. spiritual (faith for all) and socio-cultural sions of the the nation individually The Methodologies of the Prophets were individuals Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!! For you pay tithe and mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone (Matt 23:23; emphasis mine). matters of the law (is): justice, mercy and 30:15, 16; 10:30, Micah 6:8, Zechariah 23:23 together, message include: (1) faith; (2) justice; the prophets reached out in Yahweh), the politico-economic (service/mercy/love for one another) dimen- and collectively. people the contents of the prophets’ and (3) service. Through these in various forms to the (justice and fairness who teamed up with God to push is . The prophets forward His purpose in history. A furtherance of this observation that the prophets were the “little Yahwehs” who physically met the in their situation for the invisible “Big Yahweh.” In this sub- section, we want to probe further how these prophets received the “i:;1′ of the Lord” from Yahweh, how they decoded and encoded it, and then how they passed it on to their intended audience. 12 89 Receiving Word of the Lord) The prophets received their message through inspiration (cf. 2 Pet 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16). But exactly how this happened is not clear, for much about the private life of the prophets is unknown. One can only conjecture what the nature of their private life was as it affected the process of inspiration. There are, however, enough extrapolations from some passages to assert that the prophets were human. Samuel grew up as a nice reli- gious boy (1 Sam 2:18-21; 3:19) into prophetism (1 Sam 3:20-21). Nathan had a house to live in (2 Sam 12:15) and played politics (1 Kgs 1:10-53). A man of God betrayed his prophetic call for a “morsel of bread” having been deceived by another local man of God (1 Kgs 13:11-32). Elijah had his ups and downs. He won a victory for Yahweh (1 Kgs 18), only to flee for his life from Jezebel and then to turn around and ask God to take his life (1 Kgs 19). Isaiah, in spite of his prophetic and royal position, was conscious of his essential sinfulness, especially of his unclean lips (lsa 6:lff). Hosea knew about and had a husband-wife relationship (Hos 1:2). Ezekiel had a romantic love-life with his wife; hence the inevitable mourning for one’s beloved was forbidden by Yahweh when He took her away from him by a stroke as a way of teaching Israel a lesson (Ezek 24:15-27). Two factors emerge from these facts. First. the prophets were human beings who dedicated themselves to Yahweh’s call. They were not divinized. Secondly, Yahweh called them. He gave them a message. Their distinctive mark came from the varied forms in which they received the T v of Yahweh. Salvation History and Prophetic Contextualization Contextualization implies paimess : the gospel and the theologies, the absolute truth and its relative applications, the indissoluble core and the layers of cultural skin surrounding it, the oneness and its differen- tial forms. We have said that faith, justice and service constituted the contents of the prophetic message. The totality of the message was seen as equivalent to the of Yahweh. “the Word of the Lord” which came to the prophets by “the Spirit of the Lord.” It is in this way that scholars talk of the message of the prophets and not messages (plural).28 But from the point of contextualization theory, the plural form “messages” is not wrong when referring to the various contextu- alized messages of the prophets. The point is that there was always an unchanging fundamental truth, otherwise there would be nothing in the first place to contextualize. Truth is rooted in Yahweh’s everlasting convenants with His people. He made a general covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-16), a more specific one with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3); l5:lff; l7:lff; 18:17ff), the Israelites 28jbid. 13 90 at Sinai (Ex 19; 20:1ff) and with David (2 Sam 7:1-17; 1 Chron 17 :1- 27). The last three in particular had “everlasting” as their duration. It is not a matter of God changing His mind every now and then as is often suggested. At least for the prophets, “There was always deep identifi- cation with the abiding values of earlier periods …”.29 The central thesis of John Bright’s book is that the covenants and the promises are the basis of not only Israel’s survival but also of the messages and theology of the pre-exilic prophets. His argument for a fundamental oneness is convincing to a degree.30 Indeed, a careful study of Genesis 12:1-3; 15; 17; 18; Exodus 19:20; 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and 1 Chronicles 17:1-27 reveals a basic structural characteristic of the three covenants; obedience leading to blessing and disobedience leading to curse/judgment. As we have said previously, this Covenant/ Torah tradition with Yahweh in the foreground was the fundamental and indissoluble core of the message of the prophets, directly or indi- rectly. Having said that, we must also admit that the prophets were not monolithic in their preaching ministries. How much the separate schools of the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament influenced the prophets’ styles of preaching has not been determined. And there is no record of a prophets’ convention. Yet, the principles of contextualiza- tion are so uniformly adhered to by the prophets that no school curricu- lum or convention could possibly account for it. Such unity of situa- tional theologizing can only be the product of a “wholehearted dedica- tion to Yahweh.”31 1 Their contextualization covered the total range of issues. On the ability to adjust a theological theme of individualism, for example, Smith remarks: . This study of the rise of individualism among the Hebrews, and of the particu- larly prophet’s share in that movement of thought, shows the abil- ity of the prophet to adjust himself to changing scenes and problems.32 On the situational theology of judgment Bright adds: ‘ One might almost say that they differed chiefly with regard to how severe the judgment would be. And here one must remember that they addressed different situations: Hosea’s word was to the northern Israel, and it turned out to be valid in that situation; Isaiah’s word was to Judah, and it turned out to be valid in that situation.33 29Armur F. Glasser, “Help from an Unexpected Quarter or the Old Testament and Contextualization,” Missiology 7:4 (1979), 403-4 1 0.. 30John Bright, Covenant and Promise: The Prophetic Understanding of the Future in Pre-Exilic Israel (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), 49ff., 171ff., 196-198. 3 ILaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 300. . 32Smith, The Prophet and His Problem, 207. 33Bright, Covenant and Promise, 114. ‘ 14 91 And Von Rad, on prophetic theologizing in different contexts notes,: Nevertheless, however bewildering the ease with which the from one form of address to prophets pass another, there are two constant factors which never fail to find a place with them all. The one is Yahweh’s new word for Israel which he allowed the prophets to read off from the hori- zon of world-history. The other is the election, within which the and his hearers both stand alike. The comfortable words of the tradition prophet are, however, both called in question by the prophet’s message of judgment and reconverted by him into an anti-typical new form of prediction.34 ‘ As Glasser noted, contextualization was practiced by the Israelites as a whole.35 It was not limited to the prophets and their message. How- ever, it was the prophets who watched with keen interest how new forms and elements were used to express the “election tradition” and other fundamental values. We have already covered this in the section on the range of prophetic tolerance when we pointed out how the prophets were definitive in some cases and in other cases allowed for leeway in their condemnation of syncretism and paganism among the Israelites. Now that we have reviewed the process through. which the prophets developed their message, our next step is to consider how the message was delivered. Delivering and the Two Formulas The prophets were inspired to receive the revelation of God. This increased their understanding of what God was revealing to them. But the prophet’s audience never experienced divine inspiration in their hearing of the prophet. At least, there is no record that their audience was inspired. Thus, the prophets did two things to insure that their audience came as close as possible to their level of understanding. First, they contextualized their message as noted above. The second thing they did was to boost their communication credibility by employ- ing what Kraft has called the “message-credibility principle” to effect “high impact” upon the hearers.36 To achieve this goal the prophets used two formulas: the messenger formula and the acknowledgment formula. The Messenger Formula, iltill (Thus said the Lord) was used by nearly all the prophets.17’ – ‘ it was not used, the term was implied. This is not to say that God never spoke prior to the prophets, but it does mean that they regarded themselves as his peculiar vehicle through whom to address his people and the world. 34von Rad, The Message of the Prophets, 101, 265-27. ‘ 35Glasser, “Help from an Unexpected Quarter.” 36Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1979), 156-163. 37von Rad, The Message of the Prophets, 18-21. 15 92 By the time of the judges, the prophetic military Lord sent a prophet to the Lord God of Israel…” By 22:3; Amos 2:1, 6; 3:11; Lord, Yahweh. Secondly, the messenger formula had the worsening required additional assurances victorious. The conviction was Fourth, it identifies however, become part of tradition. For example, threats from the Midianites from Yahweh that Israel would emerge widely held that when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord “the the children of Israel, who said to them “Thus says (Judg 6:8-10). the time of Eli, this had become a well established formula by which prophets introduced the delivering of their message. It continued even after the captivity (1 Sam 2:27; 2 Sam 7:5; 1 Kgs 13:2; Ezek Mal 1:4). The diction may sometimes change, like “says the Lord of hosts” at the end of the oracle or “Hear ye the Word of the Lord.” But the meaning and purposes are essentially the same. Permit the following amplification of this. First, it is used to identify the source of the message: it is from the it serves as an introduction to gain the people’s attention. Thirdly, it marks off the direct quotes from Yahweh and the prophet’s commentary or theologizing. who the speaker is; a messenger from Yahweh, hence the messenger formula. Fifth, it enhances the prophets’ raising the chances of achieving kind of oral passport that provides prophetic the messenger formula were to help the prophet successfully deliver his message. That is, they were means to an end. To make the very point (end) of the whole episode, the the acknowledgment formula. “That You May Know,” was the specific phrase that prefixed the stating of the specific message of the incident. Von Rad has noted that the Israelites and the prophets did not worry about the fulfillment The simple reason was that: together, all these purposes of prophets employed The Acknowledgment Formula, entire message or prophecy. meaning communication credibility, high impact. Finally, it serves as a immunity. But taken of every minute In the end, therefore, the question could never be one of fulfillment, taken by itself; it was a question of Yahweh and his Lordship. That is the of…. ‘formula of Acknowledgment’ which occurs so frequently in the words of the prophets, and particularly those of Ezekiel … ‘that know that I am Yahweh. ’38 , they may One example is the case of Elijah and Ahab in 1 Kings 17 and 18 where the two formulas were used to achieve a maximum result.39 38von Rad, The Message of the Prophets, 269. 39Note from the context that: (1) the prophets of Baal depended on pagan rituals; (2) Elijah rebuilt the altar of Yahweh and identified with the recital of Yahweh’s sal- vation history; (3) he used the appropriate strategy of power encounter to deliver his to both an obstinate king and an indifferent people, and (4) he reminded them that “Yahweh, He is God!” And his audience indisputably got the message, we must admit that for some unknown reasons this was not always the case message although 16 93 Thus, when a prophet received a message through the process of inspiration, it was not enough for him to repeat it verbatim to his audi- ence. He had to pass it through the process of contextualization to make it both authentic and relevant to his hearers. Further, he had to employ suitable communication principles as well as a well calculated strategizing4° to deliver the message effectively. The Achievements of the Prophets What is the purpose of prophetic ministries? What did the prophets achieve for our learning? Some have argued that, granted the discrep- ancies in and the lack of fufillment of many prophecies, the prophets failed to some extent.41 Others argued that the positive attitude and courage of the prophets against all odds deserve some merit.42 Indeed, one way to view the achievement of the prophets is to exam- ine the difference they made in the life and history of ancient Israel. Take, for example. their position in the suffering of Israel versus the vox populi. In brief, the vox populi, or the popular theology as it is commonly called, was the majority voice of the official (false) prophets. It was, in effect, the official and dominant theology of many Israelites until the captivity. Its basic concept was that Yahweh elected and covenanted with the Israelites as His chosen people and that they would remain Yahweh’s people forever. He established the throne of David and His kingdom forever. Peace and prosperity were to charac- terize its glorious future. Hence, the official prophets were dubbed the . “shalom-shalom” prophets.43 There is some validity to the popular theology of the false prophets. When the oneness of the message of the true prophets was discussed, it was said that the elements of blessing and perpetuity were inherent in almost all the covenants Yahweh had made with His people at one time or another. But the election traditions were conditional, as we have said before; obedience leading to blessing, and disobedience leading to curse and judgment. This was the point of departure between the true prophets and the false prophets. _ for all the prophets at all time. . 40Each prophet had to target his audience. He had to develop a ate to the nature of his strategy appropri- message and audience. This appropriate include the audio-vocal approach, audio-visual strategies approach, audio-parable approach, audio-visual life drama, and the pen approach. For a detailed discussion see Chapter 2 of my doc- toral dissertation cited above. 41James L. Crenshaw, The Prophetic Conflict Berlin: Walter de Gruyter and Co., 1971; Robert P. Carroll, When Prophecy Failed London: SCM Press, 1 979. 42C. F. Whiteley, The Prophetic Achievement London: A. R. Mowbr·ay and Co., 1963; Leon J. Wood, The Prophets of Israel Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979. 43Crenshaw, The Prophetic Conflict, 69-71; Nathaniel Ndiokwere, Prophecy and Revolution (London: SPCK, 198 1), 206-209. 17 94 The false prophets failed to tell the whole truth to the erring kings, priests and people of Israel that in the tide of events judgment was imminent. This was the truth. It was unpopular and nobody wanted to hear it, especially Israel’s leaders. But this was the crux of the whole matter. God’s people were going to perish because the people were neither taught the truth nor given the right insight into the true nature of God and His covenant with His people. The true prophets were aware that knowing the truth of an imminent judgment enabled one to muster the courage to face it. They argued that to face reality for better or worse was to be preferred to pretending everything was fine, only to suddenly be overrun, unprepared and unaware. This latter posture would have been far more disastrous. To be sure the prophets had their difficulties. Their prophecies were actually fulfilled or fulfilled exactly as they predicted. Hulda, the prophetess, said Josiah would die in peace. But he died violently in war (2 Kgs 22:12-20; 23 :26-30)44 Besides, it was not easy for the prophets to experience the personal anguish of telling their own people that they were doomed. Nor was it an easy task for them continuously to carry a message of doom that was forever rejected, ignored and challenged by their hearers. After all, they loved their own people and naturally desired acceptance with them. But through their divine commissioning and later experiences the prophets were brought to a higher level of perception; to see all things from the perspective of Yahweh. They saw how Yahweh had been faithful and how the Israelites had been unfaithful. Beyond this they also saw the “cruel” but correct method Yahweh had chosen to disci- pline His people. They were impressed again and again with what He had stipulated in this connection in the election traditions. The prophets mustered courage to declare these hard and profound truths to the people. They told them of their rejection by God, gave the reasons for their rejection, and spoke explicitly of the type and nature of His judgments. But beyond this, they pleaded with the people for repentance. When judgment became a “necessary evil” as the last resort, they encouraged the people to accept it. But their last word was that restoration was equally possible and imminent. Indeed, Israel suffered. They experienced a series of bloody wars and ended up in captivity for seventy years as Jeremiah had predicted and as Daniel recollected. The captivity, however, was not the end. The prophets’ achievement arose from this fact of suffering and sur- vival, and this enhanced their dedication to their tedious service. They gave Israel a sense of meaning when the “whole world” was falling apart. Geertz said: 44Cf. Crenshaw’s long list. 18 95 The greatest human loss is the loss of meaning—of an explanation. This is worse than hunger, slavery, isolation and death itself. We need a sense of meaning and order to be human.45 Israel could not have survived their political upheavals and religious turmoils were it not for the prophets who spoke to them from Yahweh’s point of view and proclaimed that there is meaning in his- tory. All was not over, for Yahweh was still in control. And the fact remains that Israel did survive at last, and this was the second most important achievement of the prophets. If the first significant achievement of the prophets was helping Israel to cope with their suffering by providing them with a sense of mean- ing, their second achievement was found in their ingenuity in giving them a sense of the future. They made the point clear that the suffering of Israel was penultimate. Ultimately, Israel would survive to bless the world. The prophets were caught up in a divine mission to remind Israel of her divine commission. Thus, when the future was gloomy and the horizons of world history became uncertain, the prophets persistently gave Israel and the world a sense of the future. The chaotic situations of generation after genera- tion will someday yield to something different that will reflect the glory of the garden of Eden. The present kingship shall give way to the Messiah who will reign on the throne of David forever. The priesthood would become corrupt, and the prophets would disappear. But the Kingdom of God would reign until there is the “knowledge of the glory of Yahweh on earth as the water covers the sea” (Hab 2:14). ‘ . A Wholistic View of the Three Institutions In the first section, the establishment and functions of the priesthood were discussed and evaluated. In the second section it was pointed out that the poor performance of priests, among other things, contributed to the rise of the monarchy. We noted that it became a necessity for Yahweh to revamp the degenerating structure of Israel’s religious, political, and cultural life through the relatively obscure institutions of the seers. Hence, “Nabis (in the traditional and classical’sense of it) was mentioned in Israel round about the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the tenth century B. C., about the same time as the rise of the monarchy.”46 Thus, the decline of the priestly institution witnessed the rise of the institutions of the prophets and kings. But while the prophets and kings 45C. Geertz as cited in Paul G. Hiebert, “Folk Religion (MR520) Course and Syllabus Notes,” unpublished, Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary, no date; cf. C. Geertz, “Religion: Anthropological Study,” in David L. Sills, ed., International the Social Sciences (New York: The Macmillan Company and The Free Press, 1968), 13 :398-408. Encyclopedia of 46Klaus Koch, The Prophets (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982) 1:19. ‘ ‘ 19 96 declined and disappeared into history during the captivity, the priests continued even until the destruction of the second Temple, circa A. D. 70. It should be said, however, that in the person of Samuel, the three offices found a point of convergence and divergence. Since that time, the three arms of leadership in Israel have been in constant interaction with each other institutionally and functionally. Institutional Independence It is misleading to think that up to the book of Judges ancient Israel had a theocracy and that from Saul on, they had a monarchy. Downey remarked, “prior to this, the Hebrew nation was a theocracy, with God ruling directly over His people, even though ideally, the monarchy was also theocratic, God ruling through the king The point is that the kings, and in effect, the priests and prophets were to make the reign and power of God more evident among His people. What was necessary was a balance of power and the proper use of it. “The truly successful pattern of government for Israel was a deli- cate balance-not theocracy or monarchy but theocracy through monarchy. God must always be the true ruler if Israel was to be His people.”48 However, Israel’s history was full of the failures and successes of the kings and priests. Johannes Pederson remarked that in the light of Israel’s history, the kings and priests were responsible for the nation’s s fate (Ezra 9:7). The prophets rose to keep the kings, the priests and the people on their toes and on the right track.49 And the prophets, having done their duty, faded away in the course of time. This brings us to their functions. Functional Inter-dependence Thus, the three institutions were not only complementary but also inter-dependent. For example, the kingship was like the supreme gov- ernment in charge of the overall administration of the nation. The priestly order was like congress making, teaching and expanding the law, “legislating” the moral and socio-political life of the people. The prophets were like the Supreme Court which declares unconstitutional the acts of the kings, priests and people within the biblical and allow- able range of tolerance. In effect, the three structures were institution- ally separated, but their goal was that the will of Yahweh be done in Israel for the t71`7m (total well-being) of the entire nation. The relation- ship was a dynamic one. 47Downey, “Old Testament Patterns and Leadership Training,” 92; cf. MacLau- rin, The Hebrew Theocracy. 48LaSor, Hubbard and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 235. . 49Johannes Pederson, Israel: Its Life and Culture (London: Oxford University Press, 1948), 150. 20 97 The prophet is like a referee in a historical football game where the kings, priests, and the people are playing. He does not only know the rules of the game, but he also is capable of playing, at least capable of running around blowing the whistle. On their relationship MacLaurin noted that the prophet was a “channel of divine grace to the monarch”, hence, “He (the prophet) was empowered to give him instructions on matters of religion and government.”50 Sometimes the relationship between the kings and prophets developed into tensions. Saul was frustrated and wanted to kill Samuel (1 Sam 16:2). Jeroboam wanted to hurt the man of God (1 Kgs 13:3-5). Ahab and Jezebel sought to destroy Elijah (1 Kgs 18 :4- 13 ; 19:1-2) and Jeremiah suffered persecution (Jer 36, 37, 38) while Amos was told to flee for his life (Amos 7:13). At other times a king would attempt either to assimilate or silence the priesthood as a politi- cal move to cover up injustice and thereby reduce criticism of his godless policy. In such a case the prophet could but speak. The point is that the historical context, and the individuals involved within it contributed to the dynamic nature of the prophets’ ministries. Conclusion In conclusion, it should be noted that by institutional definition the king’was the supreme head of the nation surrounded by his royal court. The priests were the ministers of the cultus, with offices at the temple. The prophets, scattered over the entire national cultic and political structures, were mostly resident urbanites and national/regional itiner- ants, while others were international ambassadors of God or a combi- nation of these. But by functional definition, a clear-cut line between three institu- tions is hard to draw. Their divinely assigned duties were complemen- tary to each other, and their roles were interdependent. Within the institution of the prophets, their ministries overlapped but were not necessarily dependent of each other. Missiologically, it is this kind of vocation in which the church is obligated to engage within the dynamics and complexities of the society in which it is situated. The church is to be a “channel of divine grace” to the nation in matters of spirituality, socio-political justice and moral demands is the essence and substance of what it means to be a prophetic voice in our world today. Thus, church growth and socio- political justice can and should be seen as two sides of one namely, the prophetic mandate.5 1 coin, . 5OMacLaurin, The Hebrew Theocracy, 87-89. 51By analogy, if the cultural mandate is the head, and the evangelistic mandate is the tail, or vice-versa, then the prophetic mandate is the cutting edge of-the coin- mission. Or as I have argued elsewhere, these three mandates do constitute the three triangular lines of the mission of the triune God hence Yahweh’s will can indeed be done on earth by the church as in heaven. 21

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