Saturday, 29 August 2015

May Real Prophets Please Stand Up.

The need for guidance calls for an analysis in view of prophets and prophecy. Lack of direction drives people to seek for guidance through other means. The context in which this study is based is that of people who want to hear the voice of God due to social, economic or political day to day challenges.

Before the existence of prophets, God has been providing with guidance to humanity. Psalm 32:8 teaches that it is God who instructs and teaches people His ways.

For those who put their trust and faith in God, He guides them. This has nothing to do with the location of the hearer of the word. When people are saved through Christ Jesus, they are weaned from guidance by traditional belief systems. Isaiah 48: 17-18 clarifies on the wisdom of God in regard of this matter.
 May Real Prophets Please Stand Up.
Above all, the role of prophets in the church should not replace the role of God to His people. No other new teaching should exceed that which God does to His followers. God’s teaching is a standard for Christian faith and anything less or more becomes heresy or manipulation.

Depending on human guidance by a society is a sign of idolatry. The source of guidance is important in the life of Christians in any given community.

The sources of guidance tend to influence the belief systems of any society. Under this discussion, it appears as if the new approach to African Christianity is facing a dilemma on matters of guidance.
Guidance is not the major word we should really focus on in this study. The focus will be on who should be guiding Christianity and how? Many societies in Africa under the banner of Christianity have been misled because they have failed to answer the above mentioned question.

Misleading prophets
When a different way of worshipping God replaces the word of God, the hearers tend to be misled. Prophets in Africa have introduced different ways of worship associated with animism. The Bible attests to this truth.

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer (Deut 13:1-3).

That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. (Deut 13:5).

In this respect, we find out that Prophets are prone to speak on behalf of other gods and not God the creator.

A prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. (Deut 18:20).

At times prophets spoke presumptuously (Deut 18:21-22).

Also to take note of is the role which was played by priests in the Old Testament dispensation. For the atonement of sins, various animals were slaughtered by the priests on behalf of those in need. This practice fulfilled the old covenant which God had with His people pertaining deliverance.

However Jesus came and fulfilled the same law in the New Covenant so that people no longer depend on sacrifices (Hib 10:4-10). Bringing new covenant Christians to sacrifices and rituals, removes the purpose of Jesus in a Christians’ life.

This was the problem with the Galatians. It appears the prophetic ministries in Africa are just doing the same as in the Old Testament. Introduction of sacrifices or rituals in an African context has been well received because it brings people closer to traditional religion. All this has been done in the name of deliverance.

In some portions of the Bible, we read of needy people offering gratuity to prophets, as was the case of Elisha.

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.” The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.”

And even though Naaman urged him, he refused (2 Kings 5:15-16).

This passage shows that true prophets of God never attached any commercial value to their service to the people. God cannot trade His services with the subject of His creation. The other school of thought justifies the concept of business prophets by quoting the story of King Ben-hadad who sent a gift to Elisha in exchange with healing (2 Kings 8:8). We are not told of the results.

The same Elisha who had refused Naaman’s gifts could not have accepted King Ben-hadad’s gift. The moment the gift of God is sold that means the ability of the prophet would have been traded too. This results into a cult. People will end up looking to the person and not God.

The story of Saul looking for the lost donkeys further clarifies on this analogy. Saul said to his servant,

“If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” (1 Sam 9:7-8).

An examination of prophets and the development of African Christianity points to a concept of offering gifts to prophets as a form of appreciation of the service rendered.

This has resulted in siphoning of unsuspecting masses of their resources. Livestock sacrifices are made for transgenerational curses

Dr Augustine Deke is a theologian, pastor and organisational development consultant based in Gweru. Feedback: