Tag Archives: Prophet

God’s People, part 21: Miriam

Read Numbers 12

“For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you.” (Micah 6:4 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MiriamPart 21: Miriam. When we think of Miriam, if we think of her, we think of the girl who escorted her brother down the Nile in a reed basket. We think of her hiding behind reeds at the edge of the river as the Egyptian princess takes a peek inside the basket to see what lies in store. That’s it. That is just about where our memory of Miriam (if we even even know her name) ends.

Sadly, Miriam is not seen for who she really was because she tends to get trumped by her younger brother Moses. He gets all the credit and she gets nada, nothing, zilch. To be fair to Moses, it’s hard to not to attract all of the attention when you are channeling the power of God in such ways that an entire empire is rocked from the inside out. It’s hard not to attract all of the attention when you are parting the depths of the sea and summoning fiery pillars of protection between you and your enemies.

Yet, Miriam had true moxie. She was immensely brave, courageously daring, and a faithful prophet of the LORD. According to the Talmudic teachers, Miriam and her mother were the two midwives (operating under a different name) who refused to follow Pharaoh’s orders to murder baby Hebrew boys (Sotah 11b) and instead saved them. When, Pharaoh demanded that all Hebrew male toddlers and infants needed to be drowned to death in the Nile, Miriam helped her mother to save Moses from certain death. She followed the babe in the basket down the river and ensured he had a safe arrival to the palace of the Pharaoh.

What’s more, Miriam DID NOT simply hide behind reeds and sheepishly watch the princess pull the baby out of the basket. Instead, she approached the princess and shrewdly negotiated bringing her mother in to be the one to breastfeed and care for Moses. She did so without revealing that the “Hebrew slave woman’s” maternal connection to the child. Miriam, in her courage, did the unthinkable.

On top of that, you did hear me right in that I said that Miriam was a prophet. In Exodus 15:20-21, it is written, “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song: ‘Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.’” The Talmudic teachers taught that Miriam had the prophetic gift from a young age and, judging from her moxie, it’s hard to doubt.

With all of that said, like all people, Miriam had her character flaws. Earlier I wrote that Miriam got trumped by her younger brother Moses, who took all the credit while she got “nada, nothing, zilch.” That is not just a sentiment I bring into this devotion for rhetorical reasons; rather, it seems to be a how Miriam must have felt at points. For instance, in Numbers there is mention of a bit of contention between Miriam and Moses over his exclusive claim to be the LORD’s prophet.

In Numbers, it is written that God punished Miriam for her jealousy toward Moses, but one can hardly blame her. She, after all, had saved his life and was clearly a prophet in her own right. It needs to be understood that disease was seen to be a punishment by God; however, in today’s world, we undestand that God does not inflict people with diseases. As a result of knowing the theological and historical contexts of ancient Israel, I do not believe God “punished” Miriam. She may have come down with a skin disease; however, that is not what her true ailment was. She allowed her brother’s claims to get the better of her, she allowed that to consume her, and she allowed that to rouse bitter anger within her.

When we get consumed by our pride and our insecurities, we forget that who we are is not determined by what others think. We forget that who we are is not dependent on the self-proclaimed identities of those around us, nor is it dependent on the self-proclaimed identities of those who are close to us. Our identity is defined by and dependent on God, who created us and loves us. Like Miriam, we too were given gifts and and identity in God that cannot be taken away; however, we must strive to accept who we are in God, rather than competing over who we are in comparison to each other. Miriam learned this lesson and so can we.

“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” – William Penn

Lord, I accept my identity in you. Open my eyes that I may come to see who I am. Amen.

Religion and Politics

Read Luke 9:21-27

Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10 NLT)


There is nothing like a political campaign season to bring out the ugliness in people. One cannot go online without being barraged by people on all sides of any political divide, smearing everyone who thinks and views things differently than them. In this particular “Election 2016” cycle, things have descended to uncharted lows.

What’s more, the divide is not solely political either. There is a huge divide in terms of religion as well. Of course, religion has always been a divisive topic among Christians and other religious groups. There’s divisiveness within a religion, where people of the same religion are divided over doctrines, dogmas, and other such things. There’s also divisiveness between different religions as each fight to compete in whose religion holds the absolute truth.

In America, and in Western Civilization as a whole, people have become less willing to share their faith because they have come to see faith and religious believes as something that is personal and something that is to be private. What’s more, people have also come to believe that faith should not interfere with politics and vice versa. There is a whole history in Western Civilization that informs us on the dangers of religion and politics mixing. Even families are guarded against discussing the two, as the phrase goes, at the “dinner table” because they can often bring about heated and divisive arguments.

While this is often true and the mixture of politics with religion can be quite toxic and devastating, this has also led America and the Western world to a skewed and incorrect understanding of the role of religion in society. As we saw in the devotion series I wrote on the wrath of God, religion and politics are not mutually exclusive. The prophet is one who is called to speak out against injustice, against sin, against systemic evil and the societal abandonment of God.

In order for the prophet to fulfill her/his role, she or he must speak out against the ills that are plaguing society. Not just moral ills and not just social ills…but all ills. Prophets speak truth to power and, by doing so, push for societal/social/religious change. The prophet’s words are never “politically correct”, nor are they ever politically wanted. As a result, prophets often pay high social, political, and sometimes religious costs for daring to speak God’s word to the people.

What’s important to note here is that, while the prophet is not called to politicize God or Scripture, she or he’s message will inevitably have political effects and ramifications. By remaining silent and refusing to let God speak through us, we silence our prophetic voice and choose to remain complicit in the way of the world. The prophet is one who recognizes God is calling us to speak truth to power, to stand up against injustice and to push for the changing of the hearts of God’s people.

The question for us is, what is holding us back from being such a prophet? What is keeping us from speaking truth to power and standing up for what’s right? What is stopping us from choosing to not hide our faith away like some sort of “best kept secret”? What is stopping us from keeping our religion in the proverbial broom closet? Are we ashamed of our faith? Are we afraid of the consequences and of what others might think? Let us not shy away from our obligation to speak the truth and stand up for what is right. It may have political consequences, but far better that than the spiritual consequences of remaining silent through, complicit in and culpable for, the evil around us.

We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. – A. W. Tozer

Lord, help me to speak the truth at all costs and steer me from turning a blind eye to the injustice in the world. Amen.

Jonah Was a Prophet

Read Jonah 1

“The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!” (Matthew 12:39 NRSV)

JonahVeggieTalesHave you ever read the book of Jonah? It is one of the most interesting books in the Old Testament. Let me sum it up for you. There was this well-known prophet in Israel by the name of Jonah. The Lord called upon this prophet and told him to go to Nineveh and give them the warning that God’s wrath was about to fall upon them. Nineveh was an Assyrian city and it’s inhabitants were enemies of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As a result of their ongoing and wicked brutality toward the the northern Israelites, God told Jonah to go there and proclaim God’s judgment against them.

Presumably, but not necessarily, out of fear, Jonah disobeyed God and tried to run away from God and the call God was placing upon him. He fled to Jaffa and from there sailed to Tarshish, trying to go as far in the opposite direction from Ninevah as he could go. On his way to Tarshish, however, a great storm came over the ship he was on and, after determining that it was Jonah who brought the storm upon their ship, the sailors aboard through him overboard. It was then that he was swallowed up by a gigantic fish (note, the Bible does not say it was a whale).

For three days and three nights, Jonah was in the belly of that fish. He prayed to God during that time, begging God to spare him. In an answered prayer, Jonah is spit out of the fish and saved. God again tells him to go to Nineveh and this time he listens. He goes to that city and fiercely proclaims the judgment of God upon them, but something unforeseen happens: they repent and God forgives them. That’s right! God forgives them. Jonah is enraged! How dare God forgive them! How dare God not follow through on God’s word. How dare God make Jonah out to be a false prophet! How dare God! Jonah was so enraged that God could not comfort him. He sat out in the middle of the desert hoping to die from heat exhaustion and dehydration! That’s how angry Jonah was!

So often, this story is told from the angle of Jonah getting swallowed up by the fish. Usually the focal point is that Jonah tried to run away from God and tried to hide from God’s call. The moral, as it is typically conveyed, is that you cannot run and hide from God, that God’s will comes to pass one way or the other. Yet, if we read the story properly, we will see that this is missing the point. God’s will did not have to come to pass at all. Jonah ran, got thrown overboard, and God saved Jonah by having a big fish swallow him and spit him up on shore. God then told Jonah to go to Nineveh, a demand Jonah could have once again rejected.

The moral of the story has little to do with how Jonah get’s to Nineveh, but has everything to do with Jonah’s attitude the whole way through the story. He did run from his call, for whatever reason, but his attitude was no better when finally did decide to go to Nineveh and deliver God’s message. In fact, one could say he begrudgingly went and was defiant in his answering God’s call. What’s more, when God decided to renege on his promise to bring judgment upon Nineveh, Jonah became downright indignant and refused to have a relationship with God even if that meant denying the protection God was trying to provide in order to save him from dying in the desert.

The lesson here is this: God is calling each and every one of us to serve in ministry. Some of us are called to be prophets, others healers, others still are called to speak in different languages. Whatever you are called to, whatever your gifts are, God is calling you. But God’s call does not come with a guaranteed ending. God’s call does not come with certainty. We have a choice to answer God’s call willing, to turn and run from it, or to obstinantly and defiantly answer it for all of the wrong reasons. Only one of those paths leads to the Kingdom of God. The other two lead to the depths of sea and the scorching hot desert. The choice is ours: God’s way or our way. Let Jonah’s story be a reminder of what our way leads to.

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose.” – Aristotle

Lord, soften my heart to answer your call  and to use my gifts willingly for the transformation of the world. Amen.


Read Luke 4:22-30


But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown.” (Luke 4:24 CEB)

 Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 12: Response. In every movie I have ever seen of Jesus, when it comes to the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people become outraged when Jesus utters the words, “Today, the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people are infuriated that this carpenter’s son could dare call himself the fulfillment of this prophecy. “How dare he call himself the Messiah and act as if we don’t know who he truly is. He’s Joseph’s son, is he not?” And of course, the people throw Jesus out of the synagogue and seek to stone him.

In reality, this portrayal in the films is far from the truth. Luke tells us that after having claimed that the words of Isaiah had been fulfilled in the moment he read them, the people “spoke well of him and [were] amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips.” (4:22 CEB) So, in reality, the people were excited he read those words. Their initial response was one of affirmation and support. They “spoke well of him” and were impressed that this son of a carpenter was so well spoken. They were also excited that this son of Nazareth might possibly be the Messiah.

Yet, things took a turn for the worse as Jesus didn’t stop there in order to accept the accolades. Rather, he challenges them and tells them that they’ll no doubt want him to perform a miracle like the ones he performed in other towns around Galilee. He then predicted that he would not be accepted by them, for he was coming to them a prophet. In other words, he was coming to them as a voice crying out against them and the ways they were playing a part in the impoverishment, blindness, captivity and oppression of the suffering among them. Not only the people literally suffering in the streets and jails, but all people including themselves.

Then Jesus pointed them to two examples in the Scriptures where other prophets were sent by God, not to the people of Israel, but to outsiders. Rather than performing miracles for those who supposed themselves to be “people of God”, God sent the prophets to peform miracles to those who were supposed to be Gentiles who were “under God’s curse.” In other words, according to Jesus, God was about to pass Nazareth by because they had hardened their hearts to God’s call to change. They weren’t interest in changing their ways. They weren’t interested in being a part of the solution. They weren’t interested in anything but sitting idly by and awaiting the arrival of one who would change the world while defending their own status quo.

It is at that moment, at the realization that this Jesus was not an ally but someone who came to speak against them, that they grew enraged and wanted to throw him off of a cliff. That was there response to Jesus’ Manifesto of change. The question for us is this, what is our response? Does Jesus go to far in calling us to subscribe to this manifesto? Will it require too much of us, make us too uncomfortable, and cause us to change our worldview? Or will we embrace it and allow the Christian Manifesto to manifest itself within us, to change us, and altar the course of our lives? Ultimately, that choice is left up to you: will you try to push Jesus off of a cliff, or join him in bringing about the Kingdom of God in the world? The choice is yours.


“Christians should be ready for a change because Jesus was the greatest changer in history.” – Ralph Abernathy


Lord, prepare me for the change you are bringing into my life and help me be a part of the change you are bringing into the world. Amen.