Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to do if a Prophet brings bad news

The common prophetic ministry, particularly of house prophets and platform prophets is to bring only good news. To reinforce the status quo or the perceived dream. Today Ron from Blessed Economist wrote on this. He is right.

So if someone wants a word and you don't have good news what does a prophet do? It is not crepe hanging or gloom and doom to prepare people for changes that are coming in their lives. The good news is, all of these kind of Prophetic words carry as part of them in the end that in the rear view mirror things will be better. Of course it's true. Romans 8:28 has not been revoked.

When I have been in the unenviable position of bearing bad tidings, I grieve. It pains me. I get no joy in bringing a difficult word.

Now what?

If you are the recipient of a prophetic word that does not talk of golden sunshine and great prosperity in your future you first need to weigh it. Judge it. Don't reject it. Hear and ponder it in your heart. Then seek God for his Mercy.

For instance (and this is truly hypothetical) if you are suffering from a disease and the prophet tells you to prepare for the end, prepare. Faith in Faith will disappoint. Then, ask God to reverse the situation. Believe God for better. Perhaps HE will change the situation. Many times prophetic words are conditional. Jonah is an example. He brought the word of impending doom and then God relented at their repentance.

So, the prophetic word is NOT the kiss of death, it is a warning. One you must take seriously.

There are natural reactions to bad news, health, death, bankruptcy or legal problems. The grief cycle is alive and well. The healthy end to the grief cycle is to accept and then set about doing what you can and might to improve the situation.

First, make sure your heart is pure, sins confessed, ready for God to heal. He will if you are in the place of desperation. King Hezekiah got some bad news from the prophet. Here's how he responded to the Bad News from the Prophet in Isaiah 38:

1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah
son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in
order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. [NIV]

So let's be clear about the prognosis here: Hezekiah is facing certain death. YET: God heals him. Gives him extra years. Was the Prophet wrong? NO, he brought the news that Hezekiah would die, it was the word of the Lord. Yet God relented and extended his life.

4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

7 “‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

So what was the result for Hezekiah after having been healed by God? The Lord gives him another fifteen years which really only takes him to 54 years, not old age by any means. The fact that Hezekiah is so relieved and composes a song of praise in response gives weight to the view that there was more on his mind than physical death. But let's take a look at the effect this whole matter has on the last fifteen years of Hezekiah's life. We read it in verses 15 - 20 of Isaiah 38

15 But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul.
16 Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health and let me live. 17 Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins
behind your back. 18 For the grave [c] cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness. 19 The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today; fathers tell their children
about your faithfulness. 20 The LORD will save me,
and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives
in the temple of the LORD. [NIV]

Hezekiah resolves to walk humbly for the rest of his life; not that he was a proud man to start with, but the anguish of facing certain death and then the experience of deliverance has changed him forever.

There were two other episodes of Bad News that Hezekiah had to deal with. One happens in Chapter 36-7 of Isaiah. An evil king, a government comes against Hezekiah. He threatens to destroy him. To cause the people to turn against him. To dispose of him. Hezekiah seeks his counselors, officials but not yet the prophet. He knows instinctively that he MUST repent and puts on sackcloth and ashes. Then he does something I think anyone who gets bad news from a prophet must consider in following the patterns of Hezekiah. Isaiah 37:

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

18 “It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. 19 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 20 Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, LORD, are the only God.b]">[b]”

His repentance and laying out all the accusations, true or otherwise, caused the Lord to change the circumstances that looked so dire. Once more the prophet speaks to the situation in Isaiah 37:33

“He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
34 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,”
declares the LORD.
35 “I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

And it was so. The city saved and Hezekiah preserved.

Yet, at the end of his life there came a time when Isaiah had to give a hard word to Hezekiah. Hezekiah had bragged about how wealthy he was to visitors and kings. How much treasure he had. Isaiah rebuked him and prophesied that the treasury would be looted as a result. Of course it happened. YET, Hezekiah's response was essentially, "I'll be dead soon and at least during my tenure there will be peace and prosperity". I am not so sure that had Hezekiah once more turned his face toward heaven that the word spoken over him could not have been reversed.

Chapter 39 of Isaiah:

3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”

4 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

8 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

At least his ministry was intact for the rest of his life. That was his motivation. He didn't care about the future. His children. His grandchildren. Or his country. Could this have been reversed?

When bad news comes, it will come from a prophet who has nothing to gain or lose by sharing the prophetic reality with you. A platform prophet won't. He wants to be invited back. A house prophet won't. He doesn't want to lose his position or paycheck.

It may not make friends and influence people, but a bold prophet must tell the prophetic truth. THEN the rest is up to God - and YOU.

When you get bad news from a Prophet, don't blame the prophet. He or She didn't make it up. He sought the Lord for you. A great understanding comes from the death of Ahab. He had made a pact with Jehoshaphat to go to war. Ahab asked what the Prophets were saying. 400 stood and said, "You will win this". "The day is Yours". Ahab wasn't happy about this report. In fact the true prophet of God had given him bad news before: 1 Kings 22

7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

When Ahab asked the question, should we go to war, Micaiah said Sure, you will win. But it must have been said without tears. A true prophet in bringing a hard word will bring it in tears.

After some coaching the bad news was delivered. They would lose. Ahab would die.

Ahab's response? Put the prophet in jail with only bread and water.

And Ahab died as prophesied that day.

I suspect he had an opportunity to repent, to seek the face of God and set things right and like Hezekiah might have seen the Lord relent.

Pride is the enemy of our souls. It will keep us from facing the reality of our situations. Even when a word is hard, it can be turned, but the responsibility lies with the one who receives the word.

So, if you get a hard word, prepare, then seek God for his further purpose. Who knows, He may relent. If not, you have His promise to turn it all for GOOD.

I have been the recipient of hard words over my life in the past. I have faced certain disaster and yet the Lord relented. We must be bold and brave to trust God for the outcome whatever it is. There was such a day when I stood on top of bad news notices, bills, summons, lawsuits and cried out to the Lord.

That's another story, but we must have the willingness to put on the sackcloth and seek God when bad news comes.

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