By Ted N. C. Wilson
Imagine that the first face you ever saw was the face of God. Imagine that the first voice you ever heard was God’s voice. That’s how it was with Adam and Eve. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).
“Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (verse22).
When Adam and Eve opened their eyes, they looked into the lovely face of Jesus, and the first words they heard came from His melodious voice.
Everything was perfect in their beautiful garden home. They enjoyed the company of angels, of each other, and of God Himself. Ellen White describes the scene: “The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between.”1
But once sin entered this world, things went horribly wrong. Instead of delighting to meet with God, our first parents fled in terror, seeking to hide. But of course, one can never hide from God.
Of the many things they lost that day, one of the most painful was the privilege of open, face-to-face communion with God Himself. “Adam, in his innocence, had enjoyed open communion with his Maker; but sin brought separation between God and man, and the atonement of Christ alone could span the abyss and make possible the communication of blessing or salvation from heaven to earth.”2
God Did Not Abandon Us
When we love someone, we want to talk with them and spend time together. Those of us who are parents long to spend time with our children—sharing experiences, teaching and encouraging them, and offering help when needed. We want to give them the gift of being there and communicating together.
If we human beings have such a longing to communicate with those whom we love, how much more does our Father in heaven long to communicate with us? Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11).
God did not abandon His people, leaving them to the devil’s devising. Since God could no longer speak face to face with fallen humanity because of the sin barrier, nor teach them as He had previously, He created other ways to communicate His all-important, lifesaving instruction to the world.
The Bible identifies at least nine avenues that God has used to communicate with people: (1) angels; (2) creation (nature); (3) the cloud/pillar of fire; (4) the Urim and Thummim; (5) dreams; 6) voice from heaven; (7) the Holy Spirit guiding individuals; (8) Christ in person; and (9) prophets.
While God has used all these communication methods, “the major revelations of the will of God for the instruction of the church in all ages have been given through the prophets,”3 with Jesus being chief among them (Luke 24:19; Matt. 13:57, 58). God’s prophets are so important that the Bible assures us, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Why Did God Send Prophets?
Why did God send prophets? We find the answer in the Bible: “Because He had compassion on His people” (2 Chron. 36:15).
The context of this passage is interesting. The kingdom of Judah had lost much and was on the brink of Babylonian captivity and destruction. Following a series of wicked kings, Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and “all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the Lord which He had consecrated in Jerusalem” (verse14).
This happened in spite of God sending numerous prophets, including Jeremiah, “who spoke from the mouth of the Lord” (verse12). These prophetic messengers were sent because the Lord “had compassion on His people” (verse 15).
How did God’s people respond? “They mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (verse 16).
It is a serious thing to despise the messages God sends through His prophets. In this case it resulted in the death of young men and women, elderly individuals, even those who took refuge in God’s sanctuary. The remaining treasures of the sanctuary were plundered and God’s house was burned. Jerusalem’s walls were broken down and the city destroyed. Those who lived were taken to Babylon as captives.
All of this the Lord had warned them about through His prophets, including Jeremiah, but the people refused to listen (verse 15).
Sadly, God’s prophets, and the messages He sends through them, have often been rejected. Nevertheless, God has persisted in maintaining a prophetic channel of communication to His people—the apple of His eye (Deut. 32:10; Zech. 2:8).
God Works Through Prophets
Through the ages God has given vital, lifesaving messages through His prophets. Prophets are ordinary people whom God has chosen to represent Him by receiving His divine messages and delivering them faithfully to His people.
God spoke to His prophets in visions and dreams; and the prophets, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, conveyed what they saw and heard using their own language, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
Prophets have played a vital role throughout human history, illustrating why God has blessed His people by sending prophets. In his book Messenger of the Lord Herbert Douglass gives eight reasons God used prophets “rather than some dramatic attention-getting device such as writing on the clouds or thundering out His will every morning at dawn.”4
1. Prophets pointed to and prepared the way for Christ’s first advent.
2. As representatives of the Lord, prophets showed people that God valued human beings enough to choose from among them men and women to represent Him.
3. Prophets were a continual reminder of the nearness and availability of God’s instruction.
4. The presence of prophets tested the people about their attitude toward God.
5. Messages through the prophets accomplish the same purposes as personal communication from the Creator.
6. Prophets demonstrate what fellowship with God and the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit can accomplish in human lives.
7. Prophets helped to communicate the plan of salvation, for God has consistently used a combination of the human and the divine as His most effective means for reaching lost humanity.
8. The prophets’ outstanding work is their contribution to the Written Word.5
Prophecy Is a Gift
Clearly, prophets serve as a key communication link between God and human beings. Many of God’s messages of instruction, explanation, warning, reproof, encouragement, and ultimate plans are preserved for us through God’s Written Word, the Bible.
The Bible is a collection of God’s messages for His people and a record of His working among them, written by His prophets over a span of nearly 1,600 years (from Moses to the apostle John) as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The gift of prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, and God’s Word indicates it will be present at the end of time. In identifying God’s last-day remnant people, we read, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17, KJV).
Related to this passage and the concept of God speaking through His prophets, we read the words of the angel to John: “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).
Seventh-day Adventists believe that God, in His wisdom and compassion, has raised up a prophet for these last days. While it is not necessary to mention all of the tests of a prophet here, one important test is that a true prophet will never contradict previous messages given through God’s prophets, for “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32) and “if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).
Throughout all of her writings, letters, sermons, and messages, Ellen White upholds the Bible and never contradicts its teachings. Millions have been led to Jesus through her prophetic ministry; millions more have been blessed through the God-given counsel she provides. Insights into healthful living, education, ministry, and more continue to serve as guideposts for God’s people today. Warnings of things to come and instruction on how best to prepare are messages that benefit all who take them seriously.
During this Week of Prayer I encourage you to consider the incredible gift of wisdom and compassion God has given to us through His prophets, and to remember the blessings that come from heeding His Word. “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20).
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Prophets showed the people that God valued human beings enough to choose from among them men and women to represent Him.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER
1. Pray for the ability, supplied by the Holy Spirit, to hear what God is saying to you through His prophets.
2. Pray reflectively on the blessings that God has granted through the encouragement of His prophetic words in your life.
3. Ask God to bring to your mind a clear understanding of the role of His latter-day prophet, Ellen White.
¹Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 50.
²Ibid., p. 67.
³ T. Housel Jemison, A Prophet Among You (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1955), p. 23.
⁴Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: The Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1998), p. 10.