The Prophet’s Burden
The significance of true prophets was never found in who they were but in the message they proclaimed. It should be the same for us, too.
Take Habakkuk, for example. Biographical content about him is virtually nonexistent. All that we know of him is derived from the book of prophecy that bears his name, and that tells us very little; you can’t find him anywhere else in the Old Testament. However, this silence is significant. Habakkuk’s credentials were to be found entirely in his call.
We encounter this same perspective throughout biblical prophecy. We know more about some prophets than others—but even the things we know are not profound or compelling. Amos, for example, was simply “a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs” before God laid His hand upon him (Amos 7:14). Similarly, when John the Baptist was pressed for information about who he was, he testified, I’m a voice crying in the wilderness. I’m a light that is shining for a little while, but Jesus is the Light of the World. I am a finger pointing to Christ; He must increase, and I must decrease (see John 1:23; 5:35; 3:30).
In this opening verse of Habakkuk, the word for “oracle” is sometimes translated “burden.” What was the burden? It was the burden the prophet felt in seeing things according to the insight God had given, of looking at circumstances that others had seen but didn’t understand, and of bringing God’s wisdom and designs to bear upon those who listened.
Despite our modern preoccupations with personalities and credentials, in gospel preaching, teaching, and sharing it is the message that should always be the main focus. Every sermon preached and lesson taught and gospel conversation held eventually withers like grass. Its only worth is found insofar as the unerring truth and reliability of God’s word anchors itself in the listener’s soul. As David Wells writes, preaching—and any form of communication of God’s truth, based on God’s word, for that matter—“is not a conversation, a chat about some interesting ideas … No! This is God speaking! He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God.”
Whether we are called to preach, teach, or share God’s word with a neighbor, there is an important lesson here: in our very core, there should be a genuine humility that comes from understanding the compelling nature of God’s call upon our lives. There should also be an excitement about it, though, for what would we rather give our lives to than this message that is so much bigger than ourselves, whose effects in the lives of others will last for eternity? Today, do not be too concerned with the messenger’s aptitudes and abilities; rather, make your concern the sharing of the message, however and with whomever you have been called to do it.
11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?3 And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
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