Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prophecy and Teaching II

I was hit with something good tonight. I was thumbing through the index at the back of my NASB Bible, looking for what Scripture could tell me about prophets. Looking in the section labeled “prophets,” I found a reference in Exodus 7 to Aaron as a prophet, and became instantly intrigued.

I started a special section on “prophecy and teaching” a few days ago, and thoughts about both subjects have been rattling through my head ever since. But what got me was the reference in Exodus 7, and then Exodus 4, about Aaron as prophet. This is what Exodus 7:1 has to say: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.” What was Aaron to do in his prophetic role? “he shall speak for you [Moses] to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him” (Ex. 4:16, NASB).
The above verses from Exodus are fascinating, indeed. What God says about Aaron is that Aaron served as a prophet to Moses. Aaron did what all other prophets did in the Old Testament—they spoke for God, they told the people what God told them to pass to His people.

I see the critique coming, though: “Aaron was a prophet to Moses, not to the people.” However, can we be sure of that? Look at Numbers 12. This chapter concerns Aaron’s and Miriam’s murmuring against Moses because he marries an Ethiopian, a Cushite woman (v.1). This is what Miriam and Aaron said against Moses: “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well” (Numbers 12:2)? Both Miriam and Aaron complain against Moses—but they do so because, in a sense, they are on the same level as he: they are prophets, just as much as he is! However, they are different, and God reveals the difference in Numbers 12:6-8—“If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision, I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses…With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD.” Moses was different in his prophetic office than Miriam and Aaron because God spoke to him directly, in contrast to how God spoke to Miriam and Aaron—through dreams and visions. But notice that God doesn’t chide Aaron for claiming to be a prophet—but for speaking against Moses!

This is significant because in Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Grudem attempts to separate the offices of prophet and priest entirely (136-137). Here, however, we first see that the offices are somewhat connected through Aaron, who was a prophet as well as a priest (he didn’t lose his prophetic office even after becoming priest—see Leviticus 10 and Numbers 12). In Leviticus 10, Aaron is made a priest in addition to his sons. In Numbers 12, located after Leviticus 10 (in Israelite history), Aaron is still claiming his prophetic office.

While this connection between prophecy and teaching is great, there exists another thought about the two offices: while the prophetic office remains even in the New Testament, the priestly office disappears: “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12). The priesthood has been abolished because the ultimate sacrifice, Christ Jesus, has come.

The priesthood has been done away with because of Christ, our High Priest (Heb. 3:1); however, the prophetic office still stands, even though Christ has already come. While the Old Testament prophets prophesied concerning Christ (1 Peter 1:10-11) as well as the sins of the people, the New Testament prophets are to give revelations from God regarding God’s people in the present as well as God’s activity in the future. The nature of New Testament prophecy is up to God, but the office continues for God’s people. The long-standing prophetic office outweighs the short-term priestly office. The priestly office was a “shadow” of that which was to come, namely Christ (Heb. 10:1), but the prophetic office testifies to Christ long-term, since God is, even now, equipping people for this office in order to build up His church and edify His saints (Eph. 4).
While the task of teaching the law was committed to priests in the Old Testament, it is not connected to priests today, and, as such, is a separate gift that God gives. While no women ever served as priests in the Old Testament, by discontinuing the priestly office and making the saints a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5), God now designates those whom He pleases, no matter gender or bloodline, to teach His Word. As I’ve often stated, Grudem has a 1 Timothy 2 bias that won’t let him go. Everything in his book is connected to 1 Timothy 2, and even when he can’t explain something, he appeals to 1 Timothy 2. It seems as if, for him, this one passage stands out as his view of women, no matter what other evidence (including contextual) tells his otherwise. Don’t worry, though: we’ll get to 1 Timothy 2 soon.

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