Prophets, Priests, and Politicians
For the most part, prophecy in the Old and New Testaments was not miraculous foretelling of a future event, though that did happen on occasion. Most often prophets simply warned a thoughtless and arrogant people of the inevitable consequences of their evil actions. Politicians try to please enough people to get elected. Journalists relish scandal. Priests ease troubled consciences. But prophets tell the unpleasant truths even if they must stand against the whole world. Prophets see clearly the difference between good and evil and right and wrong. They know that God sees all and judges in truth and justice. And they cannot refrain from speaking the truth.
During my hike today, along with thoughts of the beauties of nature in the California springtime, I kept returning to a disturbing thought. How long before God’s wrath erupts on our world? Everywhere I look I see corruption, rebellion, despair, greed, envy, dissensions, blasphemy, idolatry, indulgence, violence, and arrogance. Romans 1:18-32 contains a chillingly accurate description of contemporary society. I fear for my contemporaries. I do not feel like Jonah who looked forward to the destruction of Nineveh. I have grandchildren who must live in this world for a long time. And there are many righteous people among the citizens of Sodom. I pray for God’s mercy, but sometimes God’s mercy can be quite severe.
I could never see myself standing on a street corner holding up a sign on which the word “REPENT” is written. It always struck me as a bit kooky. And yet the first words Jesus spoke in the Gospel of Mark are, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). The Gospel of Luke records Jesus as saying to some listeners, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Paul observes that in his own day, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). And in Romans 6:23, he says “The wages of sin is death.”
A Word of Prophecy
I have a prophetic word for our world, especially for those to whom we look for leadership:
However cleverly you lie, no matter how many people believe it, or what kind of culture you construct on the basis of these lies, reality and truth will smash your imaginary world to bits. Contrary to the popular postmodern saying, there is only one reality. All others are merely deceptive appearances. Reason, logic, and nature are irresistible and relentless. And the wrath of God will come upon anyone who acts otherwise. Divine wrath does not always fall from heaven like fire. It can also come in the form of God’s will to stand by the laws of logic and of cause and effect. If you rebel against the Creator, if you think human beings can save themselves from themselves, if you think indulging the flesh will bring happiness, and if you follow your imagination into every sort of evil, you will suffer the consequences that inevitably follow. “The wages of sin is death.” That is a divine law written into the fabric of reality.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).
And so, I shall not stand on the corner with my sign crying, “The end is near” or run half naked through the streets like Ezekiel; nevertheless, I say to our generation, “Repent or you will likewise all perish.”