on prophets and teachers

Ezekiel was called to be a prophet.

“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

It’s not easy to speak knowing that people will ignore you or toss you in a well or stone you.

But not all of us are called to be prophets, called to announce “Here’s what God says”. Some of us are called to be teachers. To explain and train. To talk with people who say, “But I don’t know how,” and offer direction and examples and guidance and feedback.

There are a couple of great examples of teaching. Jethro told Moses  “Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.” He was telling Moses to do what piano teachers, trainers and math teachers do.

Moses was responsible to live out God’s instructions himself. In the same way,  Ezra committed himself to study, practice, and teach the Law (which we know as the law of Moses, but was actually from God).

Often, people get the roles of prophet and teacher confused. They assume that simply proclaiming something should be enough to help people participate. They assume that announcing is the best way to approach behavior change. Or they just like to be right and yell at people.

Maybe this is a good rule of life: unless God tells you to announce, try studying, living, and teaching.

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More on teaching at Show People How To Live

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

3 thoughts on “on prophets and teachers

  1. Okay, I’m confused. MLK was more prophet than teacher, right? So is there a place for an announcer, a prophet? I ask because a pastor friend recently said he sees some “prophet” in my writing…wasn’t sure if that’s good or bad. He did point out that things tend to end badly for prophets!

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    1. Oh, there absolutely is a place for the prophets, people who tell out the truth. And I think that he may be right. However, there are people who delight in pointing out truth for everyone else but themselves. And who think that being prophet means pointing out the failures of the other side, whichever side that may be. I think, perhaps, that starting from personal obedience rather than public condemnation may be a good principle.

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  2. So authentic prophets have to be real leaders, right? They have to say things like “WE should go this way” or “Follow me” rather than “you guys should be going that way.”

    Seems like prophets mostly lead down difficult, dangerous, unpopular paths. Maybe they know most folks won’t follow, at least initially? Maybe their job is to mark the trail? That would distinguish them from pastors and teachers, right?

    Perhaps you can tell I’ve been pondering this topic a bit. Thanks for the prompt.

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