I know, I know. Last week you were “priests,” this week it’s “prophets.” You’re probably catching on that this is a technique to get your attention, with a point coming shortly about how you’re all prophets. But this is more than just attention-getting – this is necessity. As far as prophets are concerned, I simply cannot be the only one here. Do you know why?
Because this burden is too heavy for me alone.
That’s how Moses described the feeling, anyway. He’s out in the wilderness, leading the Israelites through their forty-year wanderings that will eventually get them to the Promised Land. It’s yet another day of their all-manna diet. Like back seat children the Israelites start their complaining: “We’re starving! This food stinks! We want hamburgers, and fruit snacks, and ice cream! All we’ve had is peanut butter crackers since we left home!”
Moses has had it with this never-ending road trip. Every parent has their snapping point, and Moses has arrived at his. So he goes to God with the intention of throwing in the towel.
“Do you see what I’m dealing with here? These people are miserable. Are you punishing me on purpose by making me be their leader? Set me free from them – and I don’t care how you do it, honestly. Kill me if you need to, because the weight of them is crushing me anyway.” And here’s one line that doesn’t need modernizing to understand: “I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14).
God doesn’t kill Moses. God doesn’t relinquish Moses of his duties. Instead, he calls up seventy leaders. God takes that special spirit that Moses has and shares it with these men. Numbers 11:25 tells us that “[w]hen the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” In the NRSV the verse finishes, “And they did not do so again.” * But at least for a moment Moses got relief from the burden of being the only one witnessing to the power of God.
That’s what it can feel like to be a lone prophet: a burden, a weight too great for one person to bear.
To “prophesy” is one of those things that sounds more intimidating than it is. When we hear “prophet” we might think of some radical shouting on the street corner. That’s an extreme example, not necessarily the norm. “To prophesy” simply means to see or hear God, and then report to others what you see or hear. That’s what the Old Testament prophets did. So when we say:
God is good,
All the time!
All the time,
God is good!
Friends, we are prophesying.
When I stand up here and preach a sermon, I’m telling you what I’ve seen God do and what I’ve heard God say. In other words: I’m prophesying.
But if I’m the only prophet here, then we’re in trouble. Because in that case the only people who hear the Good News of Jesus Christ are the folks who come here on Sunday mornings. And the only one who’s declaring how good God is in this town is little ol’ me, when there ought to be a couple hundred of us out there, every day, letting the world know what we know about God.
But don’t take my word for it. Take it from a prophet.
Late in the Old Testament we find the book of the prophet Joel. One of the things he heard God saying and reported to others was this prediction:
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh,
your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28-29).
Fast forward to the day we call “Pentecost,” found early in the book of Acts, just after the four gospels. The disciples are all in one room after Jesus had died, and resurrected, and finally left them for good. Then the Holy Spirit comes – fire! wind! drama! – and they all start to speak in a miraculous kind of way. People from all over the known world can understand them, no matter their native tongue. As some begin to speculate about what in the world is happening, Peter steps in to explain by quoting the Old Testament:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
You see what he’s quoting here, right?
Peter and Joel are both talking about you, you followers of Christ. You may or may not be able to speak a foreign language, and that’s okay. If you have felt the Holy Spirit in your life, then that same Spirit will give you the ability to see and hear God and then tell others about it.
You are prophets.
As proof, I have three prophets from our congregation willing to share with you today. Two of the three of them submitted their stories in writing, so I can share them with you here. In the tradition of many prophets before them, they are going to tell you what they have seen God do and heard God say.
Malachi, 4th grade:
Hi, I’m Malachi Haines. I wanted to tell you how I’ve seen God at work.
For instance, when I was in Cincinnati this summer I saw lots of homeless people. They were on the street outside of the ballpark. We gave them money and they were thankful for it and said they were blessed to receive it. They were very happy and told us “God bless”. We prayed about these people and we did feel blessed to be able to give them money.
Another time in 2013, Gloria Hardin, my great grandmother died from complications of cancer. When the funeral came it was very sad, but God was with us. We knew it would be a long day, but He comforted us and we were peaceful knowing she is in heaven.
Joy, an adult who began volunteering with the children this fall:
I wasn’t raised in a religious home and it was something that I missed growing up, more than anything else I can remember. I felt this Light in my heart, but I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. Every Sunday, I’d watch my friends go to church and wonder if the same Light in their hearts and did they know what it was?
When I found this church and all of the children, I knew my Light found its home.
Yes, you – you are prophets. I need you to prophesy. More importantly, God needs you to prophesy. That doesn’t mean you have to stand up and talk into a microphone. It can be as simple as
God is good,
All the time!
All the time,
God is good!
Even better, being a prophet can be telling someone else about a time you saw God at work. You can tell someone how you saw God in a homeless person, or at your great-grandmother’s funeral. It can be in seeing someone else go to church or through working with the children.
God is all around us, all the time, always at work.
So go, tell someone about it.
Be a prophet.
* There are other versions that finish, “And they continued to do so.”