The Prophet - Audio Service 07.11.21
with Revd. David Burrow
or watch/listen on youtube here.
The book referenced in the recording including the story taken from it is credited to Peter Shilling in 'In a Believer's Ear' published by the Dome Mission, Brighton England and all copyright is with the author.
Subtitles available on the video, please click the 'cc' button.
Suggested Hymns & Songs:
MP 41 At the name of Jesus
MP 162 From heaven you came
MP 178 Go forth and tell
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Hello and welcome to this audio service by the Rossendale Methodist Circuit, what you'll hear shortly is a recording of a service that usually takes place at Longholme Methodist Church on Tuesday mornings at ten am. This is a live recording so do expect some background noise although we've tried to reduce this as much as we can. The hymns unfortunately have to be removed for copyright reasons but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video. This weeks service is entitled the Prophet and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.
We're going to begin our worship this morning with some words, well the words of Psalm 117 which is the shortest one in the Bible and it's only two verses and it says this, 'Praise the Lord all you nations, extoll him all you peoples, for great is his steadfast love towards us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures
for ever, praise the Lord.'
We're going to pray so let's pray. Almighty
God we thankyou that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and we thankyou that that is possible because of your love for us. We thankyou that you are indeed a God of love, a God of mercy, a God who just longs to offer us forgiveness for our sin. Who was willing in Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us and so we praise you for that love and we praise you for the promise and the gift of forgiveness, so as we confess our sin and
recognise that so often we fall far short of all that we would like to be. Never mind
what you would like us to be. We thankyou that we can come to you, that we can father say sorry, and so father this morning we want to say sorry for those things said and done all those things left unsaid and undone that really, so often we fail in so many ways. So forgive us we pray. Forgive us and fill us again with your love, fill us again with your Holy Spirit and we pray, come Holy Spirit, come and empower us that we might live lives worthy of you that we might share your love and share the goodness that we have received from you, and then Lord send us out, send us out to proclaim the message of that love that you have for all people. Send us out with that message of forgiveness, that message of acceptance, that message of joy and hope and peace and justice and a message that reaches the ends of the earth. Lord we thankyou that
we have been called by you, that we are sent by you and you give us the message to share. So bless us now we pray as we search your word and we look at all that you have to tell us, in Jesus' name, Amen.
People shouted, 'Hosanna, Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in highest heaven.' Other people listening to this sad, 'Who is this?' And the answer that came back was, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea.' This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea. Now it might seem a little strange on the second of November, all souls day of course, to read the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, after all that's a Palm Sunday reading, but not to worry, we're going to read it because at the end of it we hear those words, 'this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea.'
So when they, that's Jesus and his followers, 'When they had come, and the crowds, when they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage at the mount of olives, Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her, untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The lord needs them' and he will send them immediately." This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet saying, 'Tell the daughter of Zion look your king is coming to you, humble
and mounted on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' The disciples went and
did as Jesus had directed them they brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, 'Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest heaven.' When he entered Jerusalem the whole city was in turmoil asking, 'who is this?.' The crowds were saying, 'this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea.'' Amen.
So Jesus was a prophet, the crowd said, they all said, this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea, so if Jesus was a prophet I guess the first question we need to ask is, what is a prophet? Well sometimes people think that prophets are people who foretell the future. A bit like you know, Gypsy Rose Lee on the front at Blackpool. Jesus, that's not a prophet, that's a fortune teller, ok, who makes it up as they go along, alright. Jesus was a prophet and a prophet is not a fortune teller, a prophet is not somebody who foretells the future. They sometimes proclaim words of God that are fulfilled in the future but every word that a prophet speaks has a message for today, not the future necessarily, but certainly for today. A prophet is someone
who forthtells, tells forth the word of God. Put it simply, it's someone chosen by God
to speak for God. Someone chosen by God to speak for God, that's a prophet. And their job, whatever the time period, whatever the message was to accurately pass on God's word. To proclaim it. And the men and women, because there were women prophets as well in the old testament, and in the new, all those men and women who were called to be prophets came from different backgrounds.
Amos, for example. Was a humble shepherd and tender of sycamore fig trees, that's his job, God called him to be a prophet. Ezekiel was a young man who was a trained priest, he was called to be a prophet. Isaiah, probably one of the most famous prophets of all, was probably an aristocrat, so you don't imagine Isaiah maybe when you read Isaiah as an aristocrat, who was almost certainly married to a prophetess
as well. So, their backgrounds were all different, and those backgrounds didn't make any difference to God, anyone who God called to be a prophet, they could come from any background.
Peter writing in the New Testament in his second letter says, 'for prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God and they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.' So prophets are carried along by the Holy spirit, filled with God's power, with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash
Now when Israel, you remember the story, they were taken into Egypt weren't they and they became slaves in Egypt and then they were rescued, Moses went and lead them out of Egypt as slaves and lead them to the promised land, to the land flowing with milk and honey. When they got back to that land, God told them that he was going to be their king. But they grumbled, didn't they just all the time, well not all the time but a lot of the time. They grumbled against God and said 'No we want a king, like the other nations around us, we want to be like them.' and in the end God said, well on your own head be it really, if you have a king he's going to take away your sons for the army, he's going to tax you and you know all these things that kings do, but if you want a king you can have a king.
But God called the prophets to advise the kings, speak his word to the kings and to the people so that they would know what God's will was. God through the prophet Amos said, 'Surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.' So the prophets were servants of God and God revealed his plans to them and they went to speak it out. So prophets were first of all, sent by God,
sent by God. When we are first introduced in the Old Testament to Isaiah, remember that story in Isaiah chapter six, you know it starts off, 'In the year that king Isaiah died' well king Isaiah had been a really big king, he'd been king for over fifty years or so, when he died, Isaiah was in the temple and when he was there he saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, he says and then he described these heavenly creatures that he can see flying around, and then he says the temple was filled with smoke, you know, the theatre of this is just incredible when you think about it isn't it, if you're into sort of special effects and stuff this is perfect, you know, what a film this could make. So no wonder Isaiah was scared, and he said oh no I'm a man of unclean lips, you know, I'm not worthy to be in God's presence, but God forgave him and then says Isaiah, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send?' and who will go for us and I said, 'Here am I, send me.' and God called him and sent him and Isaiah said, 'send me' and so God sent him to the kings to five different kings, you know during Isaiah's lifetime and to the people of Israel, so the prophets didn't choose themselves, God chose the prophets and then sent them to speak for him.
Now, whenever you get something good happening, you always get somebody who tries to think, tries to get on board don't they, tries to think well I could do that. Because they think well I could make a name for myself, I could make a fast buck. As long as somebody wants to counterfeit that which is of God. So we have false prophets as well. And God warns the people of Israel many times about false prophets, he told his people that some who claimed to speak for him were only trying to lead them astray, they were not lead by the Holy Spirit. And this is what he says in Jeremiah about false prophets, 'Therefore declares to Lord, I am against the prophets who steal from one another, words supposedly from me. Yes, declares the Lord, I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues,' do you know anybody who wags their own tongue, careful, who wags their own tongues and yet declare, 'The Lord declares, indeed I am against those who prophesy false dreams, declares the Lord, they tell them
and lead my people astray with their reckless lies. Yet I did not send or appoint them,
they do not benefit these people in the least, declares the Lord.' So look out for false
prophets says God, they practice divination, they practice sorcery and fortune telling,
by relying on their own imaginations or even the devil's lies rather than God's truth.
So there's a serious warning, beware of the false prophets.
But it's by God's truth that we can stand against any deception, in his first letter John writes, 'Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God' because many false prophets had gone out into the world, and that's in the New Testament. So when you read the words of the prophets, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, you know read about people like John the Baptist who was certainly a prophet. You will see that they've got this inner conviction, they they have been sent by God and they've been given the words to say and having those words to say, second thing about a prophet is they are determined, determined, come what may, to speak out those words. Just like you and I they had different personalities the prophets, but they all had this heart for God. They had an anointing to hear from him and they had a faithfulness to share his message. You know even when the king didn't want anything to do with the prophet, the prophet would still go, he would still go and tell the king what God was saying, even when the people threatened them they would still tell the people what they didn't want to hear. They didn't want to hear what God was saying quite often because they would have to change their lives.
Some prophets were popular to begin with but that soon changed you know, you shouldn't be doing this, you shouldn't be doing that, this is what God says. And if you want God to bless you, you need to change the way you're living. And usually it was because people were not being, dealing right with widows, they were not dealing right with orphans, and often it was a question of justice. People were still offering sacrifices but God said, you know I don't want your sacrifices if you're not looking after the widows and orphans, if you're not doing justice, if you're not walking humbly. If you're not showing mercy. You're not being the people that I called you to be. So as soon as the prophet said things like that they were putting their lives at risk, their freedom at risk, sometimes the prophets complained to God, said God come on I'm always having to say these things. But every time they still would go and give that God given message, it burned within them didn't it, they couldn't keep it in. They had to say what God had told them to say. Sometimes they wrote it down. Other times they stood and preached it, to kings, to queens, sometimes to large crowds, sometimes to just
individuals and at times they acted out the message as well.
I don't know if you remember but Isaiah walked, he actually walked barefoot for three years to warn the people of Jerusalem about how they were going to be taken captive and would be lead away barefoot. Jeremiah made out of wood a yoke, you know the old, the yokes that go over the cows, and the milk maids use to carry, those kind of yokes, he made one of those to show how the Babylonians would come and oppress the Israelites eventually if the Israelites didn't change their ways. Ezekiel and he's one of my favourites is Ezekiel, cause I think Ezekiel was a manic depressive at times and we've got a little dog called Ezekiel and it's the perfect name for him when you put his walking harness on him, he hangs his head and looks so depressed, you know Eeyore, he looks just like Eeyore, just like that, just stands there with his head down and his tail down, don't want to, so Ezekiel is a bit like that, he's well named our puppy after Ezekiel the prophet. But Ezekiel I mean he had to act out all kinds of different things to get his message across, but one of the best ones is, he lay on his side and it says for over a year, so he must have been allowed to get up and go to the toilet but he lay on his side facing a brick with a picture of the city drawn on the brick, he lay on his left side and then he lay on his right, it might be the other way round, he lay one one side for over a year and the other side for forty days and it was just to represent the siege of Jerusalem, how the enemy was going to come and lay siege to Jerusalem, so imagine lying on his side looking at this picture of a city on a brick, you know. But
that's what he did, that was how he got his message across. And the fact that we're still talking about that you know, two thousand seven hundred years later you know, it shows how effective visual aids are doesn't it really. So I'm sure these stories would make great films, if not playstation games.
So prophets were sent by God to get God's message across and they were determined to get that message across whatever the cost, they were willing to suffer, so that's the
third thing. They were sent by God, they were determined to speak out and they were willing to suffer. You know prophets were often lead to difficulties, to dangers, Isaiah was completely and utterly frustrated by the people's refusal to listen to his message. Jeremiah was accused of treason, his writings they were burned in the fire by the king and he was thrown into a well, there was no water in it but it sank deep into the mud until finally he was pulled free. By a friend who hauled him out. So verbal abuse, beatings, imprisonment, and even death were common amongst prophets.
And Stephen the first Christian martyr in acts chapter seven and eight, Stephen the
first Christ martyr said to the religious authorities who eventually stoned him to death,
'Which of the prophets were not persecuted by your fathers,' and the answer of course
was, they all were.
All prophets were persecuted. So what does this have to teach us about Jesus. Jesus who we said at the beginning was a prophet. Well he was sent by God wasn't he. You know, Jesus was a prophet just like all those who had gone before him and his eventual birth was right at the heart of the words of all the prophets, despite all the messages of judgement that are mentioned, that they proclaimed against Israel against Judea against Jerusalem, you know, the prophets always, always had, a message
of hope. There was always hope and that hope was in God's promise at the coming of Jesus. The ultimate prophet if you like, the prophet of supreme qualities. Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you, a prophet.' Deuteronomy. And when Isaiah said 'A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Emmanuel.' Which means God with us, of course. He was talking about Jesus. And when Ezekiel said, 'I myself will,' these are the words of God through Ezekiel, 'I myself will become the shepherd of my sheep, I will seek the lost, I will bring back the strayed and I will bind up the crippled and I will strengthen the weak.' He was talking about Jesus, they didn't know at the time. They didn't know that this was Jesus who was going to come, they just knew that these were the words of God that they had to speak.
But God knew, you know, the prophets didn't have all the details they could only see sort of their own context, they could only see what was happening around them. But this was for the future. As we read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament we recognise Jesus in the words of the prophets. The words of the prophets were fulfilled in Jesus, Jesus was a prophet like them, filled with the Holy Spirit. So like the prophets before him, as I said, Jesus was sent by God because Jesus himself said, 'My teaching is not mine but his who sent me' Jesus' teaching he said, came from his heavenly father, God himself. Jesus was sent by God, like the prophets he was sent by God and like the prophets Jesus was determined to speak out, again in John's gospel he says, at the passover festival, Jesus cried out and said 'I have not spoken on my own authority, the father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what
to say and what to speak and I know that his commandment is eternal life, what I speak
therefore, I speak just as the father has told me.' He was sent by God and he was determined to speak the words of God and like all the prophets Jesus was willing to suffer.
Sent by God, determined to speak out and to suffer.
You know, Isaiah all those years before, seven hundred and fifty years before Jesus was born spoke of the suffering servant who was to come and Isaiah wrote, said this, 'Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted, but he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed.' Because of Jesus' willingness to suffer we are healed, we are put right with God. Throughout his ministry Jesus fulfilled the role of a prophet, speaking God's word into each of the situations he found himself. But if he'd died, if he
had died like all the other prophets, he wouldn't have paid the price of our sin, if he'd died in just the same way as the other prophets he wouldn't have conquered death. He wouldn't have been raised victorious, he wouldn't have ascended to heaven and been able to offer us the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.
If Jesus had just been a prophet, we would not be here today. Jesus was more than a prophet. As we've seen over the past few weeks, our brother, our friend, our shepherd. So when the palm sunday crowds shouted, 'who is this' and the answer that came back was 'this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilea' you know, then it's up to us not only to recognise that Jesus was a prophet but if we can say with those people that yes, Jesus was the prophet, if we can believe what they're saying then, as Peter Shiling in his book puts it,
'What we are saying is, Jesus sent by the father, to find me. Jesus determined to speak
of God to me. And Jesus willing to suffer in order to find a home within my heart.'
That's the personal statement of truth that we are claiming when we sing 'Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend and Jesus my prophet.' Amen.
So we're going to spend a few moments in prayer, as many of you know we have had several Iranian asylum seekers come to worship with us here at Longholme and we've been very much blessed by their presence with us and they've sort of moved out of the area now because they've been given permission to stay in the country which is wonderful. But we've had a text message, there's a whatsapp prayer group for this church and on that whatsapp prayer group Nooshin, Nooshin's mum who's in Iran of course is having an operation today and so Nooshin asked for our prayers for her mum. So we'll pray for Nooshin and for her mum and for the medical staff and everybody at the hospital where this is taking place and of course it would be good to pray for COP26 and all that's happening up in Glasgow and any other prayers that anybody
wants to offer so we'll have a, I'll pray for Nooshin's mum and then we'll, I'll just
leave it open as usual and if we want to sit quietly and just reflect on God maybe something about Jesus the prophet then that's fine. If you want to pray out loud please feel free to do so. So let's pray and we'll close with the Lord's prayer, so let's pray.
Lord God we thankyou, for the opportunity to come to you and bring our prayers to you. We thankyou that prayer is such a wonderful gift and that we can not only speak to you but we can listen to what you have to say to us too. And so today as we bring our prayers we give you thanks and we pray for Nooshin's mum as she faces this operation, we pray that you will give her the sense and the knowledge of your peace, of your presence and we pray for the medical staff who will take care of her, we thankyou for them and pray for your guidance as they go about their work and we
commend Nooshin's mum into your care today, and we pray that Nooshin and the family will also know your presence as they rest in your peace. And we pray for healing and for wholeness in Jesus' name. Amen.
Heavenly father we pray for all those people meeting in Glasgow for COP26, father after listening to some of the speeches yesterday it's perfectly clear that this is a matter of life and death for some countries and the climate crisis threatens our very existence. So we pray for those leaders and those negotiators and we pray for courage and a willingness to make decisions that might be difficult but will make a difference. And father as we pray for them we pray that action will be taken and those decisions will become real on the ground as it were and Lord as we listen to the representatives of indigenous peoples of various nations and islands we just thankyou for their courage to come and stand in front of presidents and prime ministers, royalty and all the rest of it, determined to speak out as modern day prophets recognising the dangers that we face and trying with their words to persuade those who are in power to act. So Lord we pray for that courage to act, that determination, not just to speak out but to make it real. And father we pray too for those people who have given their lives in this battle, in Brazil and so many other places, that determination to speak out whatever
the cost. Lord we thankyou for them, for their example, for their witness, most of all for their courage and we pray for a brighter future, for hope for tomorrow.
Lord God we thankyou that you hear all our prayers spoken and unspoken and we bring them all to you now, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and our savior who taught us to say together, Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, they kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen.
Whenever you or I speak God's word into a
situation, whenever we speak God's word into someone's life we are a prophet, we are taking on the role of a prophet, I don't know if you've ever thought of yourself as a prophet, but that's true.
And we'll share the grace together. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love
of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore, Amen.