It was 5:30am when Jacob dropped me off at the Starbucks located at the entrance of Cross Creek mall, just next to Zoe’s Kitchen. The sky was still dark, and there was a layer of fog on the whole of Fayetteville. I was planning on meeting up with Christie, one of the ladies in the ministry and a developing kindred spirit, as the day for most of the military began.
When I walked in, I quickly noticed that I was the only customer in the coffee shop. I took my place at the long table in the center of the majority of the other two-seater tables, slinging my heavy backpack down into the seat next to the one in which I would sit. There was a lone barista behind the counter, a middle-aged lady with her burgundy hair wound up into a tight bun.
I thought of the times back at Pratt, when I would finish basketball practice early in the morning, and would go to the Starbucks on campus around 8:00am, only minutes after it had opened. I’d often be the only one there as well, and it came to the point that I went there so often at that time of the morning that the barista knew my order, and we enjoyed seeing and speaking to each other. Those mornings were prayerful, and quiet.
Christie wasn’t coming for another hour or so. I began reading through the book of Ezekiel and praying to God. As I infrequently glanced out at the darkness of the morning, I thought it amazing how God can experience all of the mornings of every nation as the sun rises across the earth…but then maybe God instead doesn’t see any of the mornings that way, because He can see the sun as it’s remaining stationary, and the earth as it rotates…or maybe both…I think both.
As I read through Ezekiel, I hit the passage of chapter 33, verses 1-9.
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (v. 7-9)
Okay, so, Ezekiel is kind of heavy, and there’s some pretty wacky and inexplicable stuff going on here. But this particular passage struck me as reflective.
In the New Testament, there’s about eighteen spiritual gifts (see Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16). One of these is the gift of prophecy. Now, going through Ezekiel, I’m equating “prophet” to “watchman,” or, someone who is watching the walk of those believers around them, and playing a significant role in telling those believers when they’re getting off track, or when their walk is steering contrary to the Word of God and His clearly revealed desires for their life. An extreme example would be to say that I’m deciding to spend tout les temps pursuing financial security and becoming a millionaire at the sacrifice of all fellowship and growth, and someone with the gift of prophecy would come alongside saying something like, “‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’ (Matthew 5:24) ” Or, if we want to dive into areas of gray, Person A is a believer who’s planning on having a romantic relationship with Person B who is a confirmed atheist. Person C, who’s a believer with the spiritual gift of prophecy, comes alongside Person A, saying, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).”
The above description is more of how I think the gift of prophecy works today. As the church was getting started in the book of Acts, before the Bible was complete and everyone had God’s Word, prophecy was necessary in order to give the church direction and guidance on different issues. But once the church was founded and the word of God complete, prophecy seemed to be no longer necessary.
Some Christians do believe that prophecy as it was in the New Testament is still applicable for today, but I don’t think this is the case, since we have all that God desires us to have concerning principal instruction for living on this earth as we seek to follow Him, and any guidance we have comes from the outworking of the Holy Spirit based on the truth of God’s Word anyway. But hey, I’m no theologian. I’m a millennial writing a blog from my dining room table that’s still sporting a Christmas-themed covering.
Ahem, moving on.
The point! In Ezekiel 33, the implication is that God is giving Ezekiel (“son of man”) a responsibility as a prophet of the people. If this prophet doesn’t use his gift of prophecy to guide and direct the people concerning God’s wrath, will, and word, then Ezekiel is responsible for any suffering they endure because of his failure. And so, my thought, considering the New Testament gift of prophecy, as well as the other gifts, is a question of if our spiritual gifts and the use of those gifts are our responsibility to the body of Christ, the Church? So, if the Church is discouraged and struck with confusion and anxiety, and I have the gift of exhortation (consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment, def. found on Blue Letter Bible), then does that mean it is at least in part my responsibility to encourage and restore them to hope and comfort?
Sometimes we tend to treat spiritual gifts like we do personality types, but this thought makes it so that my spiritual gift, whether it be encouragement, teaching, shepherding, evangelism, or prophecy, to name a few, is not just some part of being like Jesus that I’m particularly good at, and certainly not just a part of my personality, or a Church niche/category into which I fit, but rather it is my necessary contribution to the unification of the Church and its growth in Christ-likeness. It is my responsibility to God and to this body, with Christ as the head, to figure out what my gifting is, to develop it, and use it to grow myself and the rest of the believers around me.