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Description: The Marks of a Prophet
The Marks of a Prophet
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to the lesson that we read, I think a few Sunday’s ago in 2
Samuel 7:18? If you just have it open there, I’ll show you what preceded that. 2 Samuel 7:12,
you’ll see in verse 18 there in the left hand column, 2 Samuel 7:18, you’ll see the stage in his
life that David had reached, “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I,
O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? And yet this was a small
thing in thy eyes, O Lord God; thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to
come, and hast shown me future generations, O Lord God!”
“And what more can David say to thee? For thou knowest thy servant, O Lord God! Because of thy
promise, and according to thy own heart, thou hast wrought all this greatness, to make thy servant
know it. Therefore thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee, and there is no God
besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. What other nation on earth is like
thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for
them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?”
And thou didst establish for thyself thy people Israel to be thy people for ever.’” So David was
really at the height of his powers. Then he saw Bathsheba on the roof bathing. He brought her to
his palace and I suppose really raped her in a way, but certainly had intercourse with her, and they
of course had a child and then on top of that if you look at 2 Samuel 11:15, he wrote a letter to
his general Joab about Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.
In the letter he wrote that Uriah should be put in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then
asked Joab to draw back from him that he may be struck down and die. So he killed the husband.
It’s unthinkable, and in a way David was a mixture. He was in a way the greatest king, the Jews
think of him as the greatest king they ever had. He was a great man and very much a tender man, and
a kindly man, but he was like every man with a fatal flaw in his character so that God had to again
lift up his Son in him and redeem him.
Of course that was the situation when Nathan came. Why Nathan? Well we’re studying Ephesians and
we got to 4:11. You remember it say’s, God gave to the church what it needed, and it gave some
apostles and some prophets. So we’re at prophet. What is a prophet? Well this is something of
what a prophet has to do what Nathan did in 2 Samuel 12:1, “And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He
came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other
poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe
lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it
used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter
“Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or
herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared
it for the man who had come to him. Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he
said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore
the lamb fourfold, because he did the thing, and because he had no pity.’”
“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you
king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master’s house,
and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this
were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do
what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his
wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites.”
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have
taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up
evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them
to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it
secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’
David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also
has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly
scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ Then Nathan went to his house.” I’ll
go right on into the sermon because it teaches it all so plainly there.
Obviously a prophet is someone who puts it very vividly, you can see that. I mean there were two
men, a rich man, and a poor man, dead simple. Puts it very vividly, brings it home to the heart of
David in a way that enables David to see it himself. David says, “Here’s what you do to that
person,” so David is led really by Nathan to revelation about what he himself had done. Then, of
course, Nathan does understand God and he explains to David what is going to happen.
You deserve to die but you won’t die, and then he goes on to explain, what will happen to your house
and of course the son would die, the son that was born from the intercourse that David and Bathsheba
had had. And then what will happen to David’s throne. So a prophet is certainly one who as we all
know speaks forth God’s word, but he’s also a person who speaks it forth in a vivid way. If you go
to the other prophets, you remember how they would at times do things physically to themselves to
make it plain to their hearers what was happening. A prophet obviously says it in a very vivid and
clear way so that people understand it and hear it clearly, and yet they also understand God’s mind.
There’s that verse, you might want to look at it, it’s in Psalms 103:7. We’ve mentioned it before
but it applies directly to a prophet. “He [God] made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the
people of Israel.” So God makes his acts known to the people but his ways he makes known to his
A prophets is one who understands the ways of God, and understands what God does in certain
situations. That’s why we’ve come to that rather character of a prophet where we say, “Oh a prophet
prophesizes. That means he tells you what’s going to happen in the future.” Well actually that’s
just a result of the prophet knowing how God works and knowing God’s ways. So he’ll say, “Of course
it’ll work that way,” and to him it’s no mystery because he understands God’s heart and God’s mind
and the depths of what God is after. He is able to explain to people how things are going to turn
In that way we know the ways of God — not only the works of God — we know them through God’s
prophets who understand God’s mind and God’s heart. That’s why our present situation was in such
chaos because the prophets don’t understand God’s ways and God’s heart. Nobody understands God’s
ways and God’s heart so no one can tell what’s going to happen, and no one can understand why the
present things are happening.
There is great need for men and women who will understand what God is about and it does away with
all that magical idea that a prophet is somebody who get’s something out of the blue. It just comes
to them and they speak it, and they don’t know why they speak it, they just speak it. A prophet is
one who lives with God and knows God’s ways and the way God works, and knows what God is after.
That’s the great need of today, for a prophet who will do that, or for prophets who will do it.
I would encourage you to see that that’s really what we are called to do in our websites and in our
newsletter articles. We are not just called to write little Christian lessons and little Christian
morals. We are not called even just to tell the truth about Christ himself, but we are called to,
well, Milton put it this way, “to justify the ways of God to man.” That’s why he wrote Paradise
Lost to justify the ways of God to man.
Really to explain the way God works and why he is working that way, and that’s what the Father has
in mind for us. Which is why I’ve mentioned to you before what I tried to put on the flag head of
the newsletters, isn’t that right? Have I got the right?
It’s on the mast head of the newsletter. I said, “There’s a federation of Christian businesses that
are at Christ’s disposal, their primary purpose is his filling the earth and subduing it.” This
transposes the power and purpose of work from man, Genesis 3:19, to God, Genesis 1:28. If you look
first at Genesis 3:19, you know what it says. Genesis 3:19, it’s the normal interpretation given to
work, that work, is a punishment for man’s sin. Genesis 3:19 reads, “In the sweat of your face you
shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to
dust you shall return.”
Really that’s the basis of a lot of what goes on in business. It’s through fear, fear of getting
hungry, fear of not having enough clothes for my back, fear of not having a shelter for me and my
children, fear governs a great deal of the business that is carried on in the world today. It
governs a great deal of people’s attitudes to work.
Of course the plan that God had for work is the one given in Genesis 1:28. You know it’s a totally
different emphasis. It’s God’s great commission command in regard to the earth. “And God blessed
them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that
moves upon the earth.” God called man to do it in joy, to fill the earth and to subdue it. Not to
empty it, and to end up serving it, which is what most people at work do, and so the two ways are
One is concerned with man’s power to do things, and the whole emphasis is on, can I do this job?
And how can I use this job in order to get what shelter, food and clothing I need? And the whole
emphasis here is Christ in me, Christ power in me.
Of course it brings an absolutely different attitude to business and to work. It seems plain that
God has given us our experience of work and business so that we could bring this home to people. In
a vivid way and we could explain to them why God has created work, and why he has created business,
and the difference in the two attitudes.
I know you think I’m very hard on a certain gentlemen in the computer business, but it does seem to
me that when you’re preoccupied with yourself, and with your own success, and with the success of
your business then you tend more and more to think in terms just of your business and your success,
even if it wipes out the competition. Often your responsibility becomes to wipe out every other
business and every other competitor.
So it results in very, very harsh competition which can make a business successful and can turn it
into a monopoly, but can be incredibly hard on other business’s and in fact can fail to fill and
subdue the earth. Often American business has benefited by the readiness of entrepreneurs to
encourage other entrepreneurs. It seems that when you do that you set lose all kinds of creative
energies that would otherwise be dampened. Often in these recent days of mergers, we’ve seen of
course all kinds of businesses go under because the competition was so harsh, and so it seemed to us
so unfair and unjust in its demands. You remember the approach often was if you use our product on
your computer then you cannot use this other person’s browser, you must use ours.
Especially when your operating system was the dominant one it gave you an iron hold on all the
competition, and often that kind of approach can make one person very successful but in the course
of it can impoverish hundreds of others. So there is a great difference between these two ways in
business. Often it will change the way you do your own business.
You’ll have a sense that there is a fair competition and there’s unfair competition, there is a way
that in which I can benefit people and then a way in which I can benefit only myself. There is also
an attitude to labor that is different because you will not want people to live in fear, you’ll want
to live in joy, and your whole attitude will encourage that kind of thing. So, we all know certain
American companies that are well known. Hewlett Packard was very well known for being in the days
Hewlett and Packard themselves, being a company that was concerned and that treated its employees
There is a great difference in the two ways as far as the employees are concerned. And I think that
what God has called us to do is to make this clear again, and again to the world. This is really in
a sense a very none religious task, everybody is concerned about work that’s one of the reasons we
went into business, because everybody goes into a grocery shop at some time, they don’t all go to
church all the time but they always go into a shop to buy groceries. Everybody goes into a restroom
at some time. That was our idea to be where people are. It’s the same in regard to this whole
sharing of the gospel.
Everybody works, everybody is experiencing the benefits or the hardships of these two ways of
working, yet very, very few people tie up these things at all. Of course this idea that work is a
punishment for sin lays the emphasis on sin and self. This work is part of what our maker put me
here to do and it is his way of bringing the world into his will through my work and through my
Of course the moment that person begins to be identified with some power or some person that is
greater than themselves, that moment they experience liberation, they experience a freedom and an
exaltation that in fact leads to actual joy so that often we have seen things like that. There’s a
fellow I think in Los Angeles that had built a massive car out of garbage and rubbish and it goes up
a tremendous height and he just does it for the joy of it. It’s well known. There are things
here and there like the two people, the two dear people that put all the gold or orange flags
throughout Central Park last year. It cost millions of dollars, these two artists who did it with
their own money, and it really did cost, I think, ten million dollars, some incredible amount of
money. They did it just for a week or two weeks, and they did it, and they talked about how the
light fell on the flag there were something like, I don’t know if, it seemed thousands of flags all
right throughout New York’s Central Park on huge concrete stanchions.
So that they had to have a factory, they actually had a factory in which they manufactured all this
stuff and then put it up just for two weeks and that was it. And everybody asked them of course,
why did you do it? Just for the joy of it, we do it for the joy of it. Well from down to time God
enables some people to do that, and immediately it’s done, of course, it fills the earth with a
sense of light heartedness, and a sense of uplift. There’s a huge difference between a business
that is run as God intended it and a business run by fallen man trying to make his own way in this
world and trying to sustain himself by his own ability.
So that, I believe, is part of what God has called us to do. We are called to be prophets, to be
people who can explain God’s ways to our brothers and sisters, and explain it in vivid ways. That’s
where it seems to me we need to see that God will inspire us. God will, through his Holy Spirit,
give us insight and give us understanding, and he will bring to our minds illustrations and
instances that will light the thing up to our readers and to our viewers.
It’s actually an endless possibility that we’re called to, because you’ll begin to think through
this, begin to understand it and they’ll come to you all kinds of ways in which you can explain it,
and which can make it clearer. And I would encourage us for instance where we can to find visual
images both for our websites and for our newsletter articles that will actually illustrate this kind
of thing. There are plenty in this room because we have seen so many pictures of the slaves at
looms, loom upon loom, upon loom, and still we know what’s happening in Asia these days without
So again, you can see where you’re driven by this desire to be successful at all costs. Then
actually you produce this fear and you produce this service. But if you’re determined to beat
everybody else in the prices that you pay by squeezing the vendors as tightly as you can, then you
actually produce slave markets, you produce slave factories where thousands of people lean over
sewing machines and work day after day, after day often in half light, and often in difficult
circumstances. But where this is the attitude then the joy it seems to me of God himself comes into
the life of the people and it becomes actually in a strange way and end in itself.
Which in a strange way is built deeply into God’s words where he says that you were created in
Christ Jesus, why? For the good works which God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in
them. [Ephesians 2:10] We’re often reluctant because of our fear of the Mary/Martha situation
where your careful and troubled all the time about your works or that you can’t be concerned about
God — where often we go over to the other side and say, “Yeah, there’s no place for work,” but work
has work, God has work very much in the center of his plan.
We were created in Christ Jesus, why? For good works that Christ would do through his own power,
for good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Of course as soon as
people begin to enter into that, then work becomes a joy and a delight. And I don’t need to tell
you what is the primary attitude here in Britain and possibly in lots of Europe. Strangely enough
beginning to be something of the attitude in America where the loss of loyalty to companies has
taken its toll, and where men have begun to realize the employers don’t care about me. Work has
become in America the same as it has been in Europe for some time, it has become something that you
didn’t want, something that you didn’t enjoy, something that you put up with, something that you
endured, something that you had to face every Monday morning.
I do think that the Father has brought us to the kingdom for such a time as this, and that there is
a great light and a great truth that he can bring through us. You don’t need me to say to you the
obvious, it starts at home, and it has to start with us. And I suppose where you often are
challenged is, what do I think of my work? Is this something that I have to do and I have to endure
for awhile until we get to the real work? Or does God really know I’m here, does he really know
what I’m doing every day? And he couldn’t possible want me to do this, could he? And you can see
the great need to understand the ways of God for yourself to see God does know I’m here — God does
know I’m doing this –this is his way. He has something here that he’s after and so what we
probably each should do is start right where we are ourselves, and enter into the joy of our Lord.
Let us pray.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the steadfast love of God and the fellowship of the dear Holy
Spirit be with us throughout this week. Amen.