Acts 11:27 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; 30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Sometimes the role of the prophet is misunderstood because there is an expectation that this is one who will predict the future. The voice of the prophet is not so much about prediction, as it is calling a people to action. In this case Agabus is preparing the fledgling church for the challenges ahead. It appears that a famine will probably reach the entire Roman Empire, and therefore the Christians must prepare to take action. The mother church in Jerusalem would suffer greatly and now those who had benefited from the mother church spiritually would have to determine how they would respond. The Jerusalem church had provided spiritual food but soon they would need physical food.
We are to respond to the needs of those around us, not just of those neighbors close-by, but to those who have provided the pathway for us to receive the good news. Odem, paraphrasing Chrysostom tells us, “Our failure to hear, in the cry of the poor, the call of the gospel, is in itself a spiritual famine for us much as it is a physical one for those we ignore.” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Acts 11:27-30) Chrysostom challenges us, “Now, both we and the poor are famishing: they from a lack of necessary sustenance and we because we, in our luxury, lack the mercy of God. (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 25)
Therefore the preparation for action is two-fold; both physical and spiritual. Meeting the needs of the poor and suffering becomes spiritual food for God’s people.
The prophetic voice is calling out in regard to a world which is suffering, both physically and spiritually. How will the church today respond to that call? Amazingly it is in the Middle-East, where Christianity began, that struggles continue as God’s children become caught in the cross-hairs of those wrestling for power. Not only are they hungry and displaced, but small children suffer as victims of war. Hoping to find a place of refuge they flee to other parts of the world, awaiting a welcome embrace from those who are listening to the prophetic voices. Today it may be a Syrian child in a boat in the Mediterranean but next year it could be your grandchild who is seeking a place of safety and won’t you be praying that someone would respond and lend a hand!
The prophetic voice challenges our consumerism which is enjoyed on the backs of those who have very little. You’ll find this little article on “Your Clothes Are Killing Us” a wake-up call. Follow-up by watching the trailer for the documentary, “The True Cost.” Then, you’ll discover that as Christians we need to ask ourselves some really hard questions when we realize the trickle-down effect of our lifestyles.
The call to action was for those who were living in the blessing of that which they had received physically and spiritually. For many Christians in the west we are living with far more than we need and someone, somewhere, is paying. What will we do to help bring balance is the question of the prophet. In the Old Testament the prophetic words were often a call to justice. Justice is seen over and over again in the Scriptures as a revelation of God’s nature and we are called to reflect God in all we do.
Difficult days are here and I believe even more difficult days lie ahead. How will we respond now, and what will we do to prepare for the future? It’s time to prepare for action.
Lord, please help me to hear the voice of your prophet and not just listen, but take action. Amen.
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