Nabi — Prophet
Unlike kings and priests, which were normally hereditary offices held only by males, prophets had to be commissioned by God and they could either be males or females. While the primary role of the priest was to speak to God on behalf of the people, the prophet’s primary responsibility was to speak to the people on behalf of God. The great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures include Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and Elisha. While prophets sometimes predicted future events, more often they conveyed God’s messages to his people, calling them to faithfulness. The Hebrew word for prophet is nabi (na-BEE).
Though we don’t normally think of Jesus as a prophet, he seemed comfortable when people acclaimed him as one. Within a Jewish context, it would have been clear that Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, when the Spirit descended on him, constituted a commissioning by God as a prophet. But unlike the prophets who preceded him, Jesus would be the one Prophet who not only perfectly revealed God’s Word but who perfectly revealed God.
The New Testament identifies several people besides John the Baptist as prophets or as people who prophesied at one time or another. These included John’s father, Zechariah; Anna; Simeon; Elizabeth; the high priest Caiphas; Agabus; and Barnabas. The New Testament also indicates that there were prophets in the early church and that prophecy was considered one of the spiritual gifts. The Greek word prophetes is found 144 times in the New Testament, which in proportion to its length, contains as many references to prophets and prophecies as do the Hebrew Scriptures.
Praying to Jesus, Our Prophet
Flannery O’Connor wrote short stories filled with grotesque characters and violent plots in order to highlight what was distorted and needed forgiving in human life. Her writing was designed to shock, as she admitted, saying, “When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
Though the life of Christ is anything but grotesque, it is shocking in many ways. That God would reduce himself to human stature, entering his own creation as an infant cradled in the arms of Jewish peasants, barely able to protect him from a king who tried to murder him. That he would live a simple life as a carpenter and then as a wandering sage. That he would allow himself to be arrested, disgraced, and nailed to a Roman cross like the most wicked of outcasts. That after three days his grave would be empty. Surely, in all of this, God was shouting to a deaf world, drawing a large and startling figure so that the spiritually blind could see.
Who do you know that seems spiritually dull and hard of hearing? Who in your life seems resistant to the gospel? Take a moment now to pray for them. Ask God to open their ears so that they can perceive what the Father is saying through his Son, Jesus Christ.