The line between being Prophetic and Pharisaical is so thin that it is often crossed without us even being aware. It is easy to feel so passionately about something that our emotions – or the devil – trick us into believing we are carrying out a righteous mission when, in truth, we have become self-righteous like the Pharisees of old.
Before breaking down the differences, let’s narrow the terms as there are many ways people perceive them. For the purposes of this series, Prophets are people chosen by God to guide His people and call sinners to righteousness. Biblical examples include, Moses, Miriam, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Deborah, Elijah, Elisha, Anna, John the Baptist, Agabus and Jesus.
The Pharisees were a group of people who had both good qualities and bad. Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees believed and taught about the coming Messiah and the resurrection of the dead. This paved the way for Jesus’ teachings and ultimate death and resurrection. Unfortunately, Pharisees are now largely remembered for their legalistic, sanctimonious, self-righteous and hypocritical actions. It is this stereo-typical perception that we are going to compare to God’s Prophets.
Like so many things human, our spiritual life is often duplicitous. We have the capacity to love God and love sin at the same time. It should not be this way, but sometimes it is. Likewise, a person called to be a Prophet (Ephesians 4:11) – or a regular person with prophetic giftings (1 Corinthians 14:26-39) – can truly have a message from God, but end up handling it in an ungodly way. One of the ways we can miss the mark is by making it about ourselves.
Question 1: Is it about God, or is it about me?
When we make the message or the assignment about ourselves, we miss the mark entirely. The central theme of the Bible is clear. God wants a loving and mutually gratifying relationship with humanity. He has gone to great extremes throughout history to rescue man from his own foolishness and re-establish his created purpose. When we set ourselves against others, through an air of judgment or superiority, we allow our pride to obscure and hinder God’s will in much the same way the Pharisees did.
Jeremiah was an Old Testament Prophet with an extremely difficult assignment. Most of the time he handled his assignment with admirable grace, despite great persecution and danger. In Jeremiah 15, however, he begins to complain, feel sorry for himself and makes himself a judge over the people instead of Gods messenger. He said, “Avenge me on my persecutors… think of how I suffer… [I’m not one of them] … Why is my pain unending?” While most of us probably would have felt the same way and may have said even worse, God was not impressed. Instead He replied, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.” (v. 19)
May we learn from Jeremiah and reflect on who gets the benefit before we engage. Is it about God, or is it about me?
Next time: “Is this Kingdom or is this Personal?”