Prophetic Vocation


The prophet does not speak of a resolution or a purpose which he framed himself to devote himself to his vocation, but describes a decisive moment in which he received a call. He thinks himself as a messenger of God, sent by Him to his people (Jer. 26: 12-14, Isa 49:5); moreover, he does not speak on the strength of a single experience or sporadic inspirations. His entire existence is dedicated to his mission. Jeremiah was chosen even before he was born (Jer 1:5).[1]

In the Old Testament a prophet is somebody who is called by God to perform a task for him, and in particular to deliver a message for him. God called people with very different personalities in very different situations to do and say different things. The first responsibility of any prophet was to ensure that he himself was in right relationship with God- for it would be impossible for anyone who is not himself right with God to fulfil the mission entrusted to him. Their responsibilities were different, but they were all called both by their example and by their teaching to help Israel, as a nation called to be the people of God, to live in right relationship with Him.[2]

Certainly, the message of each prophet applied to a specific situation and was given to a specific group of people. But it is very clear that the recognized prophets were all relating to and speaking of from one and the same God. The emphasis may at times be different, but they all knew and presented God as the one who is opposed to injustice and hypocrisy and who seeks righteousness and faithfulness.  He loves Israel deeply and longs for them to relate to him, but he cannot and will not tolerate halfhearted service or worship shared with another. The prophets agree that God is the Lord of History; that is, he is present and active not in some separate mystical realm but in real everyday events.[3]  A true prophet is the one whose message does not contradict the known teachings and whose life reflects the message he brings showing that he really is in relationship with the holy, righteous and loving God.[4]

Several of the prophetic books contain call “narrative” in which the prophets express their conviction that they have received a particular summons to prophesy (Is 6; Jer 1; Ez 1, 1-3, 15; Amos 7: 15).[5] Prophets are called to their vocation by God. They all, however, share the experience of being called to serve as God’s voice to the people, and they all speak on a common theme: obedience to the covenant.[6]

The prophet sees what other humans see, but also sees something more; the prophet hears the words that others speak but within him hears a further word. The prophet is fellow human being who speaks to other human beings in fully human language that somehow represents God. The human words spoken by the prophet can be called “God’s word” because they communicate to other humans God’s perceptive on the human situations they share, communicating as well as God’s vision for the humanity that the circumstances impede.[7]

Prophets are key targets for satanic and religious attacks; they are often criticized, ridicules and go through seasons of great persecution from people who do not understand their assignments and purposes on this earth.[8] The prophetic call of Jeremiah gives us an understanding that the call to be a prophet is to have total   giving up of self and truly rely on God’s providence. And it is a task where one has to renounce the self in order to be the messenger of God. God was honest with Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s prophetic call would become the benchmark of his life long career of faithful preaching and painful sufferings he underwent physically, emotionally and spiritually. So, the prophetic call is a task where one has to deny to self in giving up one own in relying on God’s will.[9]

[1] Heschel. J. Abraham the Prophets (New York: Harper and Raw publishers 1995), 207.
[2] Mary Evans Prophets of the Lord, 17.
[3] Mary Evans, Prophets of the Lord, 20.
[4] Mary Evans, Prophets of the Lord, 22.
[5] Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan. ed., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press. 1993), 620 -623.
[6] Victor, H. Mathews, 101 Questions and Answers on the prophets of Israel, (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist press, 2007), 5.
[7] Luke Timothy Johnson, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church the: Challenges to Luke – Acts to Cotemporary Christians (Michigan: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 44.
[8] Stephen Clarke, The prophet has spoken (USA: Xulon Press, 2006), 38.
[9] James Reapsome, Jeremiah the Man and His Message (Colorado:  WATERBROOK Press, 1998), 1.

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