ShePonders: Prophets


“Prophet” is such a strong, heavy and unequivocal word in my vocabulary. But it did not begin that way.

prophetMy initial encounter with the word “prophet” was in my post-college days when I attended a Vineyard Church. People spoke of prophets as easily as they mentioned the pastor or the greeters or the janitor. Prophets were often contrasted with those gifted in mercy, implying and sometimes even saying outright that while mercy people were gentle, sensitive and touchy-feely, prophets were none of these things. A prophet saw things–about you and sometimes your future. They spoke words of personal comfort (at least the New Testament instructed them to do so); they spoke of predictions regarding the church, community and even country. They had a reputation for being brash and having sharp edges. More than once I heard it said that prophets saw in black and white.

During years steeped in this culture, I had my own personal encounters with prophets. I received many words of knowledge. These prophets claimed to know things about me or offered a God-given directive for me to follow and even spoke of grand future exploits. Some words were formative, others fell flat. Such was the way with modern prophets I surmised–even they were practicing their gift imperfectly, learning as they went.

When I entered seminary I had to engage prophets once again … but this time the robust personalities of the Old Testament. These crazed men (mostly) spoke in poetic cadence and dreamed dreams, saw visions, often acting in strange ways. They were of a different breed entirely from the prophets I knew. At first glance I wrote them off as being archaic, as outdated as the Old Testament itself. But they stayed with me and began to burrow into my psyche, those poetic verses and haunting metaphors provoking me to come closer and listen. (I must pay tribute to Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann for offering me a proper introduction to these wild and wonderful prophets.)

And here is what I have learned about prophets–they don’t see in black and white, they see in technicolor.  Now I find it interesting that the “tech” in Technicolor was inspired by the founder’s technical training at MIT. The name of his revolutionary color process and company are an homage to inspired instruction and his own innovation in color saturation. The prophets of old are similar in this respect; they honor their inspired instruction (which comes from the Torah) and marry that with their unique innovative vision. The prophets understood deeply the words of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers–and that shaped what they saw and what they spoke.

Allow me to share some simple observations from years of studying these great prophets:

A prophet sees.

A prophet can see Torah. She sees the words of God and has studied the ways of Jesus. Because these words and ways are written on her heart, she sees through them into her world.

A prophet can see the world around her truly. She sees with clarity the good, the bad and the ugly. She sees that the dominant story of the world misleads people into elitism, racism, poverty, violence and consumerism.

A prophet can see the margins. She sees who is there, how they got there and what keeps them on the sidelines of society.  She notices the human rights denied. She sees the invisible–who is missing from the classrooms, the hospital rooms, the voter rolls and the pews.

A prophet can see injustice. She sees the injust structures that keep people out; the policies meant to exclude. She sees unfair trade agreements, environmental exploitation and corrupted banking systems. She sees crooked leaders and crooked laws.

A prophet sees an alternative.  She sees another way to be in this world – a way rooted in Torah, love and justice.  She sees God’s abundance, not scarcity.  She sees humanity in her enemy and knows that forgiveness must be on offer.  She sees conflict and dreams of reconciliation, swords into plows (or tanks into tractors).

A prophet sees newness. She sees that God is doing a new thing. God is on the move with fresh ideas and a fount of creative energy. She knows the world may be in a rut of poor choices–but God is not stuck! He is free and leading us into new freedom all the time, she has seen it!

A prophet sees potential. She understands that the way the world is now is not set in stone. She sees potential for age-old wrongs to be set right in our day, for the brutally broken to know gentle mending, for systems of oppression to give way to unprecedented liberation, for truth to trump the lies we believe about ourselves and others.

A prophet sees the connections. She sees the connection between her personal issues, the ones that hit closest to home, and the public practices. So her difficult pregnancy allows her to see the infant and maternal mortality rates in other countries. Her white skin and accompanying privilege help her see those in townships without access to something as simple as books. Losing her home makes her see the underside of the economic system that benefits some and exploits others. She sees the connections beyond herself, out into the larger world that God has called her to address.

A prophet sees the colors. She sees the dark and dim for what it is. She also sees the bright and bursting hues–and all the shades in between. Seeing color means seeing life in its full spectrum.

A prophet speaks.

A prophet speaks the truth about the world as she finds it, looking through Torah-colored glasses. She speaks truth not just to power; she speaks truth to the status quo. She says that this is not the only way life can be! This is not the only way to manage your family! This is not the only way to run the world! Children don’t have to die of malaria–girls don’t have to miss out on education. Ecosystems don’t have to be trashed!

She looks at the world as it is and says it can be otherwise.

A prophet speaks about an alternative way. She tells us that there is another kingdom where justice reigns.  She says there is a better option than Caesar. She dares to say that violence is not the only way to bring peace. She tells another story and narrates a new world of possibility into existence guided by the Spirit.

A prophet speaks … wherever God leads her. She offers her voice to tell His story, she offers her voice to advocate for others (because she sees them) and proclaim good news. She speaks and allows her voice to become His–and that is what the prophets of old did when they spoke to their community. The prophets had eyes that saw, ears that heard and voices that spoke His truth into their world.

May it be so for us … women who can see, hear and speak into His world in full color and full voice!


My dear SheLoves sisters,

  • What has been your experience with the word “prophet?”
  • What stirs in you and speaks to you now?
  • Any other comments or thoughts? I’d love to hear.


Audio:  ShePonders: Prophets

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Image credit: Waiting for the Word