Grant Marshall – Lost Sheep Community/AoE UK
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
Grant Marshall – Lost Sheep Community
Isaiah 40 “Comfort; comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, that her compulsory labor is fulfilled, that her sin is paid for, that she has ⌊received⌋ from the hand of Yahweh double for all her sins.” 3 A voice is calling in the wilderness, “Clear the way of Yahweh! Make a highway smooth in the desert for our God! 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall become low, And the rough ground shall be like a plain, and the rugged ground like a valley-plain. 5 And the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all ⌊humankind⌋ together shall see it, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”
A man called to be a Preacher, by which I mean a person chosen to speak out for God, must consider himself an enemy to Satan and a stranger to others. He is by definition in contention with everything ungodly. He must force himself through the thick darkness and the stench of human wickedness and depravity, a symbol of hopelessness and idolatry, to bring a comforting note and point to those attending his audio announcement into the direction of Christ. He must consider his visit to church platform, or to the assembly, a one off, unless that is, the Lord gives him instruction to stay in a particular place for a time.
He will become an agitator and an aggravator to those whom he will convict, but a deliverer of hope to those who realise their wretched state before God. The message of repentance is the foundation of his preach, and for those who receive it in all humility, and as the way forward, will not have an easy journey.
Among the rules of the five fold ministry, where exactly does the role of the Preacher lie? He is not specifically a pastor or even a teacher of the precepts of the law. He’s not really a discipler, tho’ he may bring many out of the crowd to Christ. In fact, he brings the word, as prophetically as John the Baptist, and brings those who cry inwardly from the wilderness of life, to God. His passion is to see the lost and lonely found, and brought into relationship with our creator. The Preacher moves around, and his role falls between the Prophet and the Evangelist.
He is an advocate for revolution — a deliverer of the message — and that indeed is his purpose — to bring a revolution upon humanity in order for it to be restored through repentance and in right relationship with God. He is a proclaimer and a publisher of the gospel. In the New/Renewed Covenant, the word ‘Preacher’ is used at least sixty times. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the word ‘Qoheleth’, is used. It means ‘ a wise man or scribe, one who collects the word, or a sentence.’ This would also have been incumbent upon the King, who was considered to be both wise and a scribe, as he would have to write his own Torah scroll.
We also see for example, the word ‘Preacher’ in the following:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach (Strong’s H1319 : Basar – announce, to bring forth the good news) good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year…
2 Pe 2:5
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, (Strong’s G2783 : Keryx : to herald, ,preach or publish divine truth) a Preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Mark 16: 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. G2784 : Kerysso : to herald, ,preach divine truth)
You see, God takes everyone who believes from the wilderness of darkness into the wilderness of light. The transition finds the sojourner in many grey areas. It is like getting into a bath when you have been covered in dust or mud. The water, though it washes you, becomes discoloured and filthy as the dirt mixes into it. What is required are further baths until we emerge from clean water. It’s all a process.
Telling someone the truth is hard enough if you know them and love them, but receiving it from a stranger is not acceptable. Truth and judgement are co-workers. The voice that cries in the wilderness must be heard by one who is in the wilderness also, wherever that wilderness may be.
The Preacher is not so much a teacher, as our modern understanding goes. He may well have the capacity to do so but it is not his prime function. He is a ‘Nevi,’ a prophet, an audible sign post. The Preacher says, “ If you want life and freedom, If you want identity, destiny and purpose, then turn, repent of your wickedness and return to God; if you hear His word, then do it!”
The Preacher must bring the bitter and the sweet together, but ultimately, he is nobody’s friend and certainly not a people pleaser.
Jesus confronted the religious fraternity of His day. He highlighted their misdirection and manipulation of the Torah and their intentions of misleading the people. They had numbered themselves among the elite and forgotten that they are the servants of God. Their traditions and teachings had become embedded within their worship of God and now Jesus would be the realisation of the stumbling block before them, as it was prophesied in Isaiah 14 (a) and reiterated in 1 Peter 2:8 (b)
“And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.13“It is the LORD of armies whom you are to regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. 14“Then He will become a sanctuary;But to both houses of Israel, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (a)
6 For it stands in scripture, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Therefore the honor is for you who believe, but for those who refuse to believe, “The stone that the builders rejected, this one has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” who stumble because they disobey the word to which also they were consigned. (b)
Jesus called the Pharisees ‘white walled sepulchres,’ comparing them to ‘painted mud walled tombs’ whose true foundation could not be seen. Jesus goes on to call them ‘sons of the devil,’ ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44) and John the Baptist and Jesus both refer to them as a ‘brood of vipers.’
The Preacher, in his preaching must encounter the threat and the accusation, and cannot enter into battle with the sweetness of the word. That is why the word of God is a two edged sword. Its edges, both sweet and bitter. The Preacher does not have time to make friends. He may, however, find true worshippers along the way but he must soon hand them over to his master.
In part, the Christian world has reflected the nature of Christ with His humble, sacrificial and servant qualities in reaching out to the orphan and the widow, the sick, the poor, the hungry, but it has also reflected the pharisaical heart throughout its history. Peddling its traditions, the hired man has hidden the truth and traded his wares among the merchant corridors of the temple.
However, we cannot ignore what Christianity has achieved through God’s use of fallen man. Imagine how much more we could achieve if we were a little more perfect, and embrace the way of holiness. We may conclude that perfection is unattainable in our current sate, but nonetheless we should strive to attain close proximity to it, and thanks to God, we can, if we walk the way of holiness.
Now let me tell you a true story. Many years ago my son and I were walking in the peak district in Yorkshire. He was fifteen at the time. Our goal was to reach the summit of one of the peaks. We had walked it before but this time we decided to take another route. As we reached the base of the peak, the weather turned from rain to cold and then thick fog. The going got tough as this side of the peak was steeper. We climbed and we prayed and soon, emerging from the fog, we came to a level. We thought we had reached our destination, but the fog had only hidden the next part of our climb. The fog was getting thicker and we were getting colder. We found that this level was one of three; we had two more to go. Once we reached the top we could take the easy route home. The second peak got harder and still we prayed. We reached another level and prepared to take the third peak. The fog was thicker still but eventually reaching the top we stood for a few moments and tried to get a visual point. A compass would tell us the direction but the fog hid the path. We just could not see the ground in front of us. I moved forward carefully to try and see the terrain. I stopped just in time; I was standing at the edge of the peak. Another couple of steps and I would’ve been over the edge. We tried desperately to see if we could spot any sign of a nearby village. We did not know where to go. Suddenly through this curtain of fog, a fell runner ( a crazy, incredibly fit runner of hills and peaks, appeared). Despite the cold wet weather , he was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. For a brief moment he stopped, seemingly surprised to see two more crazy people who had also ventured up the peak. We had barely enough time to ask him where the nearest village was and the best way down. Following his brief direction, and with him jogging on the spot, he ran off into the fog unfazed by the climatic conditions. We began to make our way down, and as we did, the fog lifted. We could see our destination clearly.
God will often take us along uncharted and less travelled routes. Familiarity is not part of God’s plan for His sojourning people. The fog comes down to hinder or to prevent frivolous action. The man of God must walk step-by-step, day by day, into all kinds of situations. His safety is in not running ahead because he could soon find himself on a cliff edge looking down to his permanent place of rest. The danger of running ahead is of course that he may look back, only to find that he is lost. It is not that God has changed course at all, only that the man has veered off route.
I dare say, that perhaps we, as the church have too veered off route, and in this respect gone off just a little too far. This is why it is imperative that we must always, on our journey, check marker points behind and in front, and adjust our self to the compass bearing. Sometimes of course, mountains get in our way. Then we must decide if the mountain needs to be climbed or if there is another safe route around. But what happens if both options are just too perilous? Well, we look and listen, watch and pray, and believe God will show us the next move or even send a crazy fell runner along, just as He did for my son and I on that cold, wet, foggy day. And if that next move means that we must spend some time at the base of the mountain then so be it. Until we cry out to the Lord, recognising our dilemma and condition, we cannot expect a response. God may not personally come back for us, but He will send his Preacher.
One of the reasons why we may still find ourselves at the base of the mountain, may simply be down to the fact that we have not been attentive enough to God’s voice. The prevailing condition will ultimately lead to frustration and the propensity to create a set of camp rules that will address issues arising in the future. Not knowing that God has moved on, leaves us open to attack.
Today we fight against the enemy of freedom as we see liberty of worship and speech, including the evangelism of the people being gradually taken away. We can no longer reach out in the ways we were used to. We can no longer reach out with a caring hand or give someone a warm embrace without the laws of protection, safe guarding, racial and gender equality coming into play. Fear and reservation have exchanged the natural function of love and service.
Preaching the truth of scripture brings conviction to the sinner, but now we are not allowed to judge anyone because what we find as sinful and wicked must be tolerated. Believing in the inherent word of scripture, believing in Christ and the God of creation is foolishness and abnormal. It is the stuff for weak and gullible fools, and yet it is quite acceptable that others can propagate the things of witchcraft and wizardry quite openly and be praised for it.
Alternative ways of expressing the fallen human state and tolerating physical and mental morphism in all its facets, must be the new normal. Recognising the psychological conditions involved cannot of course be tolerated by the secular world and the new age of man it is creating. The believer in Christ recognises sickness and looks to Him to heal us. The unbeliever refuses to look at his sickness and therefore looks to someone to accept it as normal. It’s like wearing a decorated plaster cast over a broken arm and not taking it off because it looks good.
In truth, the believer must be offended and must be ready to contend and defend the truth. Jesus warned us that this will be the latter stages of the life of His people. If we are to experience none of this, then sadly we have become friends to the world. As a result, our identity will be brought into question. Our image of Christ, whom we have tried to emulate, will all but fade.
So, the role of the Preacher is thus: preach the truth, make enemies along the way. He should not look to make friends and should not expect to return to the place where he once preached. A Preacher is not your father or mother, tho’ he will clothe and feed you. He is not your saviour, tho’ he will be ridiculed, accused and persecuted and in doing so, he will give his life for you. He is not your physician, tho’ he will heal you. He is not your counsellor, tho’ he will give his time for you. He will lay down all his dreams and he will not ask you for anything, tho’ he needs more than you can imagine.
He is a voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord. He says, “Know the truth, know God, know Jesus as the Son of God and live, believe and be baptised.”