2 Peter 1:19-21
Led by the Holy Spirit
What prophetic word has revealed an important truth to you?
Prophets are both truth-tellers and fortune-tellers in the Bible: They can see the truth about problems in human life and predict the consequences of those conditions. Prophets do not actually see specific events in the future, but they are able to identify the logical consequences of sinful, selfish, and unjust human behavior.
In the 20th-century, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., acted like a biblical prophet as he spoke the truth about racism in the United States and said, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” The day after he spoke these prophetic words, he was assassinated. King knew that his struggle against racism was dangerous, and that it might cost him his life. He saw both the truth and the future clearly.
The apostle Peter reminds his followers that “we have a most reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, just as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place” (1 Peter 1:19). The words of the prophets are certainly reliable, because they speak the truth about our lives as individuals and communities. We do well to pay attention to them, because they can give us the light we need to avoid stumbling in the dark, and hurting both ourselves and others.
Prophetic words are especially valuable because they come from God and are transmitted by the Holy Spirit. “Most important,” says Peter, “no prophecy of scripture represents the prophet’s own understanding of things, because no prophecy ever came by human will. Instead, men and women led by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (verses 20 and 21).
This has been true since ancient times, such as when a powerful judge and prophet named Deborah spoke the truth to a military man named Barak, giving him the insight he needed to be victorious in battle (Judges 4). This story is a clear example of the importance of shared leadership, with a woman and a man playing important roles in advancing God’s will.
Where do you see people telling the truth about problems and predicting the consequences of those conditions? Perhaps they are pointing out racism in society, and predicting the difficulties that will continue if we do not work together to overcome racial injustice. Maybe they are identifying sexism in the church, and the ways in which the gifts of women are not fully appreciated. If such insights are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, we should heed them. They are lamps shining in the dark.
God of the prophets, help me to hear your difficult and truthful words, and respond faithfully. Amen.