I’ve spent lockdown working hard on my new book about the prophetic church. Here’s an extract from chapter 2, “So What is the Prophetic All About?”
To truly understand prophecy we have to start with the character and nature of God. In fact we have to start with the theology of the prophetic in its literal sense. Theology is the study of God, and the prophetic is first and foremost rooted in who God is. Understanding the nature of God is the foundation for all our thinking on the prophetic.
The really big picture to be grasped is that prophetic consciousness and intelligence is a reflection of who God himself is. The prophetic originates with God; it’s grounded and sourced in him. We will get the fullest understanding of the prophetic role and ministry if we are able to pull right back and look at God himself, to see how prophetic roots (and in fact all fivefold roots) are found in the nature and purposes of God, to see how God’s nature informs and shapes the prophetic function and calling:
The God who chooses to be known Scripture shows us a God who wants to be known, the Deus revelatus. Despite the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the infinite, uncreated God and his creation, he takes the initiative and breaks into the finite created realm to reveal himself in love to us. He make knowing him possible. Self-disclosure is an aspect of his divine nature. Not completely known so that he becomes predictable or packaged; but still, he tells us his name; he speaks forth his character; he allows us to know his emotions. We love him because we know him. He holds out the promise that he can be found by those who truly seek him.
Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me. Jeremiah 9:23-24
The God of Revelation God is the one who initiates communication, the one who speaks first. Revelation is inherent to the very nature of God and is at the heart of the Trinity. It’s not just through the written words of scripture that he communicates to us. Throughout the biblical narrative God speaks to people: through creation, through angels and other supernatural experiences, but primarily through his voice. Indeed the Creator has designed creation itself to carry the revelation of God:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. Psalm 19:1-2
The God of Relationship The God we worship is not a distant, unemotional, unconcerned deity, satisfied with burnt offerings. The Bible speaks profoundly of God’s heart, and reveals the God of love, a God with thoughts and deep emotions, who chose to create people in his own image so that he could be in committed relationship with them. His passion for people is sometimes expressed in righteous anger against injustice. And this God is in fact our heavenly Father: the type of Father who picks up his skirts and runs towards his prodigal children. He’s personal! He’s relational!
Walter Brueggmann expresses it like this:
The prophetic alternative is rooted in the character of God himself… He is one whose person is presented as passion and pathos, the power to care, the capacity to weep, the energy to grieve and then to rejoice.
The God of Shalom The sense of shalom is rooted deep in scripture and in the nature of God. It means peace, wholeness, completeness and well-being. This rich, beautiful word reflects God’s intention that all things shall be restored and made new. Despite humanity’s best efforts to rebel and destroy, to sow division and wage war, God and his kingdom are all about wholeness, healing and peace. His desire is that all of creation will be reconciled and realigned back to him. When Isaiah prophesies the coming Messiah he declares that this king will be called the Prince of Shalom and that his reign will bring Shalom without end (Isaiah 9:6-7).
This is the ‘why’ of the prophetic: the most loving, kind and generous person imaginable chooses to reach out to the people he has made in order to reveal his heart, his thoughts; to reveal the very nature of his being; and to restore all things unto himself. Graham Cooke sums it up like this: “To live in Christ is to live in the prophetic nature of God.”