This passage tells the story of Samuel as young boy who, at the time, was serving Eli in the Temple. The Lord called to him four times, “Samuel, Samuel.” When Eli helped him realize it was God, not him, who had been calling his name, God spoke to young Samuel that the house of Levi was about to fall.  This was a heavy word for a young boy. At the time of this word, Samuel’s  maturity was described like this;

This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.

Eli, in spite of his error, was not void of wisdom. In fact he imparted the council to Samuel that positioned Samuel to hear God’s for himself. He instructed Samuel, if God speaks his name again to respond, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” This little story was the beginning of big things for Samuel and the nation of Israel. Of Samuel it was said;

Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord

As I read the scriptures, it does seem that God is sovereign and gets done what he intends to get done. Yet, I also see God involving men along the way as he goes about his business. In both the old and the new testaments, the prophet was one who God regularly involved in the administration of his affairs. Yet sadly, much of the body of Christ today has written this gift off as an artifact from an ancient dispensation. As one who has lived for three and half decades along side this gift, this amazes and saddens me. 

I believe the New Testament is a living and active reference point for life in the Spirit; not just a static historical account of the unique things God did to inaugurate the Christian religion. While the prophetic types can be spooky, particularly the religious ones whose ability to hear God’s Voice is impaired for want of grace, there are so many legitimate prophetic voices that suffer from the abuse of a few.  (If you do not think there is distance between the camps, I actually heard a sweet godly sola scriptura women say, “The bible instructs that the erring prophet must be stoned!” Yikes!)

Where grace has not yet converted servants into sons (and daughters), those wielding their gifts tend to use them as bludgeons. Those wielding their big sticks have failed to graduate from bond slaves to friends. For these, even though born again, love has not yet fully converted their hearts. Whether its the grace-deprived preacher or the prophet, it will remain man’s impossibly wicked heart and the judgment he deserves, that serves as the central theme of their messages.

To discern the spirit behind the gift, ask yourself,  “Is this person speaking down at me from a platform of superiority?” “Is this word tainted with frustration?”  “Is the speaker attempting to guilt me into God’s service?” “Does his words feel like a whip or a cattle prod from behind?” If the answer to these questions are yes, you should strongly consider that this an immature messenger of God who still perceives God as primarily angry with his children as opposed to delighted.

The prophetic gift was bequeethed to the body of Christ to be an encouragement in our battle and provide wisdom in our mission. Effective prophets know that God is affectionately and patiently disposed toward mankind and especially his children. The credible prophet approaches everyone with the assumption that God has something alive and encouraging to impart. The mature prophetic gift assumes that God is in a good mood, that he hasn’t lost control of the cosmos; (in other words – fallen man, in his depravity, is not going succeed in shipwrecking the will go God). The mature prophet lives and speaks out of the assumption that for every situation (individual or corporate) there is always a redemptive opportunity embedded in the circumstances, however bleak they may appear to the natural eye.

Perhaps, most importantly, healthy prophets live and breathe the air of the new covenant. Their constructive prophetic words flows out of the assumption that the deepest truth about God’s children is not their fallen nature; rather its their new nature. This absolutely changes everything

Sin is not a natural expression or outcome of a born-again person! Even if the sin is habitual, that does not prove that the christian’s heart is primarilly depraved. More likely, it is simply deprived! Deprived of  gracious words that can restore people to their kingdom identities as new creations, beloved children and friends.

More than likely, the defeated heart is just a conditioned heart – a heart trained to think of itself as one sentenced to fighting a loosing battle with the (biblical?) identity of a depraved, pitiful old sinner, lucky to be saved by grace and qualified, “praise the Lord”, to make it to heaven some day. Speaking of prophecy. The mind of the religiously-conditioned plays out like a self-fulfilling prophecy; “I am just a sinner, so in a sense, what could be more natural for me, than to sin. Thank God, Christ will forgive me. Come soon Lord Jesus and rescue me from this hopeless battle!” Having fought the battle with my identity rooted in fallenness and with my identity rooted, more deeply yet, in my new nature, in Christ, I highly recommend the latter!

There have been prophetic words that have dramatically effected my life. None of them came from 100% purely refined prophets. (There is no such thing.) However imperfect, the prophetic types I know operate out out of the assumption that God is speaking and that he likes to speak to us. 

I believe that the prophetic gift is alive and well and just like the gift of teaching or preaching, it is always being refined. We need the encouragement of the prophet. Those with a flow of prophecy live with the same instructions Eli imparted to Samuel, restated as the perpetual request of their hearts “Speak, Lord, for I am listening.

Perhaps, if we who have limited God to the bible only for revelation, would approach him in humility, he would allow us to recover this precious gift for more of the body of Christ. Perhaps as it finds its way into the sola scriptura camps, it might operate with greater responsibility and effectiveness there where the scriptures are a strong and needed underpinning.

Father, I cannot help but grieve that there are divisions in the body of Christ over things as fundamental as the gifts of your Spirit. Grant us repentance for rejecting things that we can’t understand and therefore cannot control.  Grant us humility to recognize the vast and mysterious space of your great heart that cannot be accessed through books, only by your Spirit and the revelation He grants. Awaken us to our capacity as agents of personal encouragement and revelation. Just as you inspired the written word, help us to see ourselves as those upon whom and through whom you might breathe your revelation. Amen.



























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