What is a prophetic word?
Here is an example. In 1941 the Nazis required Danish Jews to wear a yellow star on their breast to mark them as Jews. Others were required to treat them accordingly. The yellow star was not a compliment. A large portion of non-Jewish Danes donned the yellow star the same day in solidarity with their countrymen. The non-Jews in the yellow star suffered accordingly but their countrymen suffered less. This is a prophetic word.
What is a durable sin? Let me illustrate. Durable sin requires linguistic gymnastics. Hence, African slavery in the United States was billed as a “blessing to both races.” The blessing of slavery was pronounced from Christian pulpits from coast to coast, not just in Southern climes. The chattel was not consulted about their blessing.
If you want to know if you are a Danish non-Jew of the 1940’s or a Preacher of the Americas in 1830, there is an easy test. Do you make people feel uncomfortable as you risk personal discomfort, even dislocation?
Jesus, who knows a great deal about discomfort, says a prophet would feel uncomfortable or yellow starred mostly in a place where he might expect to feel most comfortable. He does not have a real home for his home or his ministry. His ministry makes people who do not minister uncomfortable but it is not his words alone that make them feel uncomfortable. The durable sinner practices those actions that make them feel their ignobility. They will not change so they must find someone else to blame.
The durable sinner is consistent only in his inconsistency. We may all may find a smidgen of durable sin in us if we only know how to look in our ignoble soul.
For instance, we know we are ignoble if we want to control when we do not contribute.
A preacher would say, “Those who gripe the most give the least.” People often smile when preachers say such things. Let me speak straightly.To insist on control over the prophet when one takes no part in the prophetic ministry is the essence of durable sin. Durable sin is hypocrisy. Durable sin is ignoble. Durable sin is acceptable to men and so makes acceptable to man what is anathema to God. Durable sin is not good or noble. Indeed, a person who practices durable sin, who needs to control when they do not contribute, is a dangerous, unstable person.
Durable sin wants control; over prophets and prophecy, over godly persons and finally over God. They must make all men common so they themselves may appear greater. These are not people who do things with others. They are people who do things to others.
Please notice how much these durable sinners discourse about Jesus in our text, Matthew 6:4f. Is this not the carpenter’s son? Do we not know his family? Do you remember how his family thinks of him? Is he not the crazy one?
Let us ask, “Do you think Jesus is at any of those meetings?” No, these meetings are next to the pool or over lunch.
One or two demur at first but lack the energy or courage to sustain. Soon, the whole thing falls apart. The fellow who demurred for the first two meals wants you to know he held out awhile. He will suffer most in the coming calamity, for he knows to do right and does it not.
When these durable sinners decide on his commonality do you suppose Jesus is in the building? I assume he is not but the wreckers have meetings to take common cause and their common cause is to make him seem common.
Please note. Jesus does not reply to them. That is, his reply is neither argumentative nor discoursive. Jesus answers the Pharisees repeatedly. Jesus instructs the priests, Jesus preaches to thousands. He even replies to His accusers in short statements at the end. For this band of durable sinners Jesus skips the argument. He does not instruct. Jesus goes straight to judgement on them. He refracts their light in the subject of his person, for His person is the object of their attack.
They cannot see this good thing in their midst, so they will not have great things in their midst. There is no happy ending for the durable sinner. Her ignoble words taste like ashes in her mouth. She does not know why she is wrong, for she is incapable of deep thought. When she is confronted with righteous witnesses, she stares down at the table and asks for sympathy. Jesus has no sympathy for her, only a warning and a farewell wave.
Or, we might surprise the ignobility in ourselves, since this is our task, when we discover how we must leave off the noble task to act on the common outrage. Seriously, can the gospel preachers who defend slavery expect to deliver a freeing word when they desecrate the pulpit with a defense of bondage? In fact, are the bondage preachers not slaves themselves; slaves to the acceptable word of their day? Are the bondage preachers not just slaves to the congregation? A prophetess is the highest person in the body. Most preachers do not wish to be prophets because it is so uncomfortable to be a prophet. A preacher can go along to get along. He will not the late night call from a meeting he did not know about, to tell him he must go. He can be a good little preacher who wets his finger to test the wind.
Only the prophetess, alone among the preachers, sets her face against the wind and so bears the brunt of change. Bugs fly with the wind. You can tell a prophetess by the bugs in her teeth.
The bondage preacher preachers bondage. All who hear him are in bondage and hold others in bondage. He is a coward of the lowest order, a man who would never wear the yellow star of shame with his fellow man. In 1941 the Danish King would not take the yellow star. He reasoned that it was “below his station.” He used his status as Chairman, as Lead, as Head man to protect himself. He criticized those who attacked His majesty.
Now, you and I would never defend ourselves on the basis of our majesty. Or would we? If we hold sway over a prophetess on earth and judge her for doing with courage what we do not do ourselves, are we not holding ourselves in majesty? If we use our headship among men to scandalize the prophet, do we not do this because we think ourselves majestic? How do we maintain our majesty?
Notice, in the Matthean text, 6:4f, there is one voice, but the speaker speaks in the plural. Do we not know him (Jesus?)? Do we not know his family? Did he not grow up among us?
This is an appeal to our majesty. Others must be beneath us. This prophet must be a bad match for us, for he says what we cannot hear in comfort. Surely, we do not need to grow, to mature, to change! We are majestic. He is beneath us. We are majestic in our being.
Our majesty means we cannot bear the yellow star. We slink along in comfort, glad the Nazis are just after the Jews. We could not risk our majesty on the prophet. He might speak about stewardship of finances, or personal faith, or sacrifice or sharing. Our friends will never come to hear this hard word. Why not?
The prophetic word is a hard word. The prophetic word insists on a new course. The prophet speaks painfully.
He might speak to us, rather than the straw man we like to see kicked. This is our majesty.
And, we read a certain desperation in the local voices. They might easily ask, “What else could we do?”
The prophet is so uncommon they cannot bear him. The royals put Jeremiah in a pit they use for garbage, so that they may humiliate him. Jesus ends up naked in broad daylight, about three feet off the ground, in agony, and unable even to cover his privates. He is humiliated.
What is the purpose of humiliation? Is it not to make common the uncommon, so we may appear greater? The locals who defame Jesus want to make Him common to them, so they can compare Him unfavorably to themselves. If the locals follow Jesus they must change. Change will never do.