“The king of Aram, Ben-hadad, sent his servant Hazael to Elisha the prophet. The king was sick and wanted the prophet to tell him if he would recover. Hazael brought many gifts to the prophet and asked if the King of Aram would live…to which Elisha responded:
“…’the Lord has shown me that he will certainly die.’ [Elisha] fixed his gaze steadily on [Hazael] until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. Hazael said, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ Then he answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up’…’The Lord has shown me you will be king over Aram.’ “ 2 Kings 8:10-13, NASB.
In many ways, the life of the prophet (the proclaimer, the preacher) is a difficult life. We find ourselves seeing destruction in the future of others and we are not able to turn it around. [NOTE: I am not saying that I am a prophet in the same sense of Elisha or other OT prophets, but that as a student of God’s Word and as a shepherd of His people, I do see destructive patterns in the lives of people who cannot see it for themselves]. This aspect of ministry is difficult and heart-wrenching. I have had people in my office or over coffee that have heard me speak truth and have politely (or sometimes not so politely) ignored or resisted the truth and left on a course that left lives strewn along their path.
When you look at these situations as a “prophet,” you are left with two courses of actions: You can become clinical and emotionless and simply watch them destroyed according to the Word of the Lord…or you can (as Elisha here) weep as you watch their destruction according to the Word of the Lord.
Some wonder why anyone would intentionally subject themselves to such painful experiences. Well it isn’t all painful as a ‘prophet.’ Elisha raised the dead, provided for widows, made an axe head float, and opened people’s eyes to the greater reality of God’s Sovereign work (2 Kin 6:8-19). These highlights don’t diminish the pain though that leads to weeping and they don’t justify it in themselves. The reason a prophet engages in this difficulty is because the Lord has called him to such a mission.
It is God’s great plan that through the “proclamation” of His Word, men might be saved. It is foolish of course from man’s perspective, but is ordained in heaven as God’s chosen means. It is pastoral malpractice to withhold the truth from those God sends us to. It is pastoral malpractice to gloss over it or simply “spin” a gentler message. Fidelity to the calling requires us to announce even the difficult truths and to do it with weeping over the pain they will cause.
In many ways, this is the calling of all believers. It is a heavy message to speak to another and declare that apart from their repentance from wicked rebellion against God, they will be spiritually separated from God for eternity in a place of utter and intense torment as judgment for their rebellion…and that they possess the ability to reverse that course by yielding to the Sovereign plan of God for Salvation. We should do so with weeping over the future of the lost, but it is Christian malpractice to withhold truth from those wo whom we are sent (all the world), and it is Christian malpractice to gloss over their rebellion or simply to “spin” a gentler message.
Only the truth has the ability to set men free as they hear, understand, and respond to it. We are truth speakers and we must speak truth, or our silence speaks destruction.