Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Do not prophesy as they say prophecy!”
“They hate the one who rebukes [the wicked] in the gate;
they abhor him who speaks uprightly.”
Strange as it may seem, God’s people have a long history of rejecting the truth when their heavenly Father sends it to them, and of abusing the messengers He sends to them. The biblical record shows that only a small percentage of believers — people who truly do belong to God — welcome what He has to say to them or treat His messengers with respect.
In Micah 2:6, God quotes some of the exact words that His people used to demand that His prophets keep their mouths shut: “They say to those who prophesy, ‘Prophesy not!’” Then, He went on to tell Micah that since His people wanted Him to be silent, He would be silent. His prophets, He said, “shall not prophesy to them, so that they will not be ashamed.” In other words, God decided to cease from reproving them for their sins and causing them to be ashamed. He decided to give up and leave them to their own lusts. In short, He decided to let the darkness of sin have them (Mic. 3:6–7):
“Because of this, it shall be night unto you, without vision, and it shall be darkness unto you, without communication from God. The sun shall go down upon the prophets; even the day shall be dark upon them. The seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners shall blush; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.”
It is an honor for God to think on us and to speak to us, whatever it is that He says. As both David and Job said, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” Jesus said that he chastens and rebukes everyone whom he loves (Rev. 3:19), and we need him to do that for us. But if we stubbornly refuse His counsel when He offers it, and if we maltreat His messengers and demand that they stop speaking His word to us, we may provoke the Lord to do just as we demand.
Not Just the Old
This kind of rebelliousness against the word of our God is not just an Old Testament phenomenon. Paul lived to see every congregation that he established in the Roman province of Asia turn against him. With a heavy heart, the aged apostle told young Timothy, “All they of Asia have forsaken me.” Included among these fallen saints were Paul’s beloved converts in Ephesus, whom he had forewarned with tears, that “after my departure, vicious wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among your own selves shall men rise up, speaking perverse things in order to draw away disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29–30). But even though he could see it coming, there was nothing Paul could do to prevent that awful prophecy from being fulfilled.
Paul also prophesied of the apostasy of a large part of the worldwide body of Christ. He spoke to the Thessalonians of “a great falling away” among God’s people, and he told Timothy that the time would come when God’s children on earth would “not put up with sound doctrine, but will heap up teachers [that is, they will hire ministers] for themselves according to their own desires, having itching ears. They will turn a deaf ear to the truth, and they will be turned over to myths” (2Tim. 4:3–4).
Everything Paul said would happen to the body of Christ came to pass. But can we see it? Or are we among the ones whose eyes have been blinded by that strong delusion that has carried away the saints of God and made them unwilling, or unable, to hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people?