November 1, 2019

Beyond Prophecy to Prophetic Voice

We may know the future, but do we know our role in it?

Chris Blake

Prophecy is surely beneficial in confirming God’s overarching design. Yet could we be so focused on prophecy that we lose sight of that which stands directly before and within us? Is it possible to proclaim the mark of the beast more than the mark of the best? Should the 2,300-day prophecy supplant in urgency and importance the days and nights of struggle for people now?

To find answers to those questions, we must first name the practical difference between prophecy and prophetic voice.

Prophecy is settled dates on a calendar. Prophetic voice is our must-do list for this marvelous today.

Prophecy is declaration. Prophetic voice is application.

Prophecy is a record of vital signs following a physical exam. Prophetic voice is our lungs filling and emptying, heart squeezing and releasing, brain synapses firing and calming.

Prophecy is imminent, focusing on when. Prophetic voice is immanent, concentrating on why and how.

Prophecy is Daniel and Revelation. Prophetic voice is God’s indwelling Spirit.

Prophecy provides assurance that God has been present throughout earth’s chaotic history, and will, in the end, win. Prophetic voice supplies vivid hues, prompts, and purpose for living out our personal histories that will, in the end, resolve in the liberating love of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus embraced both prophetic voice and prophecy. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus started His public ministry by announcing, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).

And He went beyond. At the conclusion of His earthly life, in the actual Lord’s prayer of John 17, Jesus said to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent [My followers] into the world” (John 17:18).

Response Ability

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Micah spoke up for justice, peacemaking, and liberation. In every generation prophetic voices challenge power, wealth, and comfort, offering a microphone to the voiceless. At times this means speaking truth to power and pointing out systemic evils.

Conveying a prophetic voice, Ellen White wrote, “Ye will not give your voice or influence to any policy to enrich a few, to bring oppression and suffering to the poorer class of humanity.”1 Hélder Càmara famously remarked, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. But when I ask why the poor have no food, they say I am a Communist.”

Whoa, whoa! Aren’t you simply parroting the media’s fixation on the latest headlined cause?

Well, actually, no. We’re following biblical precedent and directives from the Redeemer. Imagine telling Jesus, “I don’t want to be involved in helping those people, because it’s a political thing.”

Look into His sad eyes as He whispers, “Really? That’s your reason? You must not have heard about My followers in the Netherlands who disobeyed laws and hid persecuted Jews. Or My followers in the United States who fought in nonviolent ways for civil rights. Or My followers in Poland who gathered to act out their prophetic voices and tore down an Iron Curtain. Today, across the planet, even at deep personal cost, My followers use their privileges to protect and sustain the vulnerable.”

“My followers use their privileges to protect and sustain the vulnerable.”

What’s your response?

Jesus also observed, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8, KJV). And: “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” (Luke 12:56).

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Peter related a promise from God: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Acts 2:17). Notice the promise says all people. This prophesying involves prophetic delivery that moves beyond foretelling to forthtelling—communicating with clarity and boldness why and how to love God and God’s creation, including our families, colleagues, oceans, forests, and bees.

Shane Claiborne comments, “New prophets are rising up who try to change the future, not just predict it.”2 Following Peter’s words places us in our present time directly on the path of God’s activity.

Naturally, even beyond telling is living out with integrity. Specifically, we’re living out Jesus’ example. Our Master continually disturbed the comfortable and comforted the disturbed. So do we.

Seven Woes, Eight Blessings

Using His prophetic voice, Jesus pronounced woes and blessings for His time. Here are some for our contemporary landscape, invoking beyond our when prophetic voices, to our how and why.

Woe to you when the enticements of materialism wrap like dripping seaweed around your soul.

Woe to you when fear reigns in your hearts through local and cable news reports and quiet desperation.

Woe to you when you concentrate on “Jesus is coming soon!” and miss “Jesus is here now.”

Woe to you when you focus more on what we avoid than on what we do and are.

Woe to you when you make a habit of witnessing human suffering created by injustice but do not speak out in love against it (see Eph. 4:15), when you default your godly power to discern and act.

Woe to you when your messages and sanctuaries are not filled with joy, for in God’s presence “is fulness of joy” (Ps. 16:11, KJV).

Woe to you when you take your eyes off Jesus and lose hope.

Blessed are you when you live out your marvelous todays with defiant optimism, uninfected by the epidemic depression and envy germinated in social media’s glow.

Blessed are you when you get angry and do not sin (see Eph. 4:26). May you never lose your anger against injustice, and may you ever do your balanced best to see beyond labels and to work toward lasting solutions.

Blessed are you when you focus on listening, realizing that all truth is God’s truth, wherever and in whomever it is found.

Blessed are you when people get infuriated with you for your inclusivity and impugn your motives and imply that you are a radical as they remain smug in distraction and resolute in bias, for so they did to the prophets and to Jesus and His disciples (see Matt. 5:11).

Blessed are you when you are a living, thinking, laughing sanctuary—a safe place for God and for God’s creation.

Blessed are you when the Holy Scriptures grip and goad you to live more fully, courageously, and purely. In doing so, you will share the gospel of salvation and will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (see Micah 6:8).

Blessed are you when you discover the supremacy of righteousness by love (see Matt. 22:36-40; John 13:34, 35; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 John 4:7-21).

Blessed are you when you listen to God’s voice to find your own.

  1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923), p. 333.
  2. Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006),p. 24.

Chris Blake is lead pastor for the San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay Seventh-day Adventist churches in California. A former editor of Insight magazine and professor emeritus of Union College, he has written many books and hundreds of published articles.