It is the task of a true prophet to warn. We have recently heard such a clear warning of perilous days just ahead of us. The prophet is like a man who comes to warn a shepherd that ravenous wolves are approaching.
It then becomes the shepherd’s task to appropriately discern the warning and to guide those in his care to a place of wisdom and security. I am not a prophet. I am a local pastor. I must ask myself what I am to do in light of hearing the warning from God. What should I say to those under my pastoral care?
First, I want my people to clearly hear the word. What is it saying and what is it not saying. Some have heard of fires and looting and their hearts are filled with fear. I am to assure my people that God is always completely in control. God is sovereign. Nothing takes place outside of his notice and counsel, and all things happen for his ultimate, highest glory. Even in the most troubling of times, our God knows exactly what he is doing.
Second, I want those I serve to know two things concerning God’s wrath. First, some leaders in the church have sadly fallen into the deception that there is no such thing as the wrath of God. Roman 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Some act in ungodly ways, others are ungodly by their suppressing the truth of God’s wrath. Some leaders reduce, ignore and even ridicule anyone who reminds them of the certainty of God’s wrath. Romans 2:5 also tells us clearly that the wrath of God is toward those whose hearts are hard and impenitent. This leads to the second element of understanding God’s wrath. It is never, ever, ever poured out on the children of God. In I John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins.” The word propitiation means “wrath quencher.” What marvelous grace, what redemption! God’s wrath at my rebellion and sin has been quenched on the Cross of Christ. Hard times come; rain falls even on the just but wrath does not.
Last, I am obligated to guide the flock given to me with loving-kindness and soberness. If a wolf or a storm is coming, I as a shepherd must know the conditions of my flock. Are any sitting on the fence? Warn them that this is no time for compromise or close affiliation with the world. Partying in the house of an Egyptian on the night of the Passover is definitely not a good idea. This is a time to stay close to the Chief Shepherd. This is also an opportunity for us to call out to those outside the gate. Jesus is the Door and has opened his heart. His cry is that all flee from wrath to come. More than shrinking behind a double-locked door or fleeing to a rural farm, this is a call from Jesus to move your life into the sheepfold.
When a prophet comes with a message of warning, often people want the prophet to give them specific advice about what to do in response. At times, God gives the prophet a word, but more often it is up to the shepherd, and even more so, up to every man of God to take the word into account for his own family. Just as a pastor has stewardship of the church, a man of God is to give an account of his own family. When one comes to warn that wolves are coming, it is not always his responsibility to tell them what to do. We can hear from God. Joseph heard God say to store up food for the season to come (Genesis 41). Moses heard God say to receive gifts from the Egyptians for their journey (Exodus12). We as well can hear from God for our situation. Sheep do hear the Shepherd’s voice.
Jesus—in this hour, in this storm—will not only guide his people and comfort his flock but will also give them boldness, confidence and a heart to serve those troubled by the afflictions. A prophet once came to Paul and prophesied that if he went to Jerusalem he would be bound and put in prison. The prophet was faithful to give his word; it was up to Paul to hear from God how to deal with that warning. Paul, after hearing the prophecy, still decided to go to Jerusalem—willing to risk his life for the gospel (Acts 21). Some will hear and stay in a place of safety; others will hear and go to a place to serve. Some churches are positioned in cities that will need their spiritual strength and compassion. Perhaps the wisdom of Paul in Ephesians 5:15-18 speaks most to what we need, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”