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    Ravens and the Prophet

by Robert Weston  

The Schools of the Prophets
Chapter twenty-five
Part One

  The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha. (2 Kings 2:3)  

Elijah might have been happy to spend the rest of his days in quiet devotion, but the Lord was thinking of the next generation, and of sharing with others all the wisdom and hard-won lessons His servant had learnt. In the decade that followed the mighty showdown on Mount Carmel, Elijah and Elisha may have been rarely in the news, but they were far from idle: they were musing the time wisely to revive the schools of the prophets.
Elijah might have been happy to spend the rest of his days in devout seclusion, but the Lord had other plans. He was thinking of the next generation, and of sharing with others hard-won wisdom His servant had acquired in the course of his rugged training. In the decade that followed the showdown on Mount Carmel, Elijah and Elisha may have been rarely in the news, but they were far from idle: they were using the time wisely to revive the schools of the prophets.
These missionary centres in Bethel, Gilgal and Jericho had once exercised a considerable influence in the land. It had been Samuel who had first gathered about him the pious and studious young men who became known as ‘the sons of the prophets’. We are permitted on several occasions to glimpse the spirit and faith that were at work in these communities, which clearly sought the spirit, rather than just the letter, of the law.(1)

The emphasis in Elijah’s schools would have been devotional rather than academic, with the study of Scripture, prophecy and sacred song being all important. Praise God for all such centres that God is raising up today around the world! May His Spirit recruit the right people to them, then thrust them out into His vineyard in works of sterling service!

As sanctuary where the spiritually hungry could find instruction, comfort and peace, these schools provide an early forerunner of the medieval monastic tradition, and today’s Spirit–led training colleges. It was the goal of these communities to understand God’s heart, and it was from their number the Lord would select certain ones to be His chosen seers and prophets.(2)

These seminaries stand in stark contrast to certain seminaries today, where prospective pastors are pushed through academic courses that have no concept of the realities of spiritual warfare, and which leave graduates trained more, one sometimes feels, in business management skills than in the vital spiritual preparation for the opportunities and opposition they will encounter in front line ministry. For us, too, there is a call to train believers in the spirit and power of Elijah; to teach people how to listen to the Lord, what to do with the words we receive from Him, and to understand the dynamics of corporate prayer. In other words, to transform our meetings into encounters with the Risen Lord.

The Prophetic Ministry and the Power of Music
Central to these schools was the dimension of sacred song. In 1 Samuel 10:5 we find a whole company of such disciples playing instruments and prophesying. This aspect of providing instruction through psalmody is of more importance biblically than most of us realise.

Some years later, when the kings of Israel and Judah embarked on a joint campaign against Moab, the army ran out of water. When the king summoned Elisha, his immediate reaction was to send for a harpist. In the stress of the situation, and hindered as he was by the presence of an ungodly king, Elisha urgently needed to quiet his own spirit.

Just as the gift of music opened the way then for a wonderful deliverance of the Lord,(3) so we have much to discover about the ways in which music can aid intimacy, reinforce intercession, facilitate healing and paved the way for hearing an authentic word from the Lord.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described music as ‘the universal language of mankind.’ Luther held it to be the ‘art of the prophets, and the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul . . . it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.’

There is enormous power when music combines with the Word of God. If we agree with the man who said, ‘After theology I give to music the highest place,’ then we should honour this in our meetings by affording plenty of time for prayer and worship. Instead of rigidly compartmentalizing our services, we should be actively seeking to find ways to integrate worship, prayer and preaching do that they flow naturally and powerfully from one to the other in a true reflection of His longings and desires.

Heaven is full of music, and our worship should express what God is doing, as well as who He is.

Ushering in the Prophetic Ministry
There are many today who are called to devote themselves to the arts, in order to bring a prophetic edge back to what was once, but no longer is, very largely the Church’s own domain.

The Lord has ‘redeemed us from all wickedness, and is purifying for Himself a people who are His very own, eager to do what is good.’ (4) As we saw in the chapter ‘The Prophetic Ministry,’ the Lord wants us to catch a glimpse of the things that He is involved in, and to understand where it is that we should most direct our efforts.

For each of us this will be different. Many of us will be called to edify the Church, but some will be called to work primarily in the field of politics, or the arts, while still others will be called to attend natural disasters, either in terms of practical relief or through intercession. God loves to create new openings for the gospel, and to develop strategies way beyond anything we could have thought of by our own efforts.

Whatever our calling, however, we cannot accomplish it on our own. Jesus taught the Kingdom of God, rather than just personal salvation. Special power is released when members of a profession or organisation come together to seek God’s blessing. Who can say how much good has been done by groups of people gathering to pray for their schools, workplaces and communities?

When I consider the fruit my friends have borne in the work of the Musicians’ Christian Fellowship (a mantle now largely taken over by Epiphany) to name but one of many such ministries) it seems to me that there are indeed many such modern day schools of the prophets around. Elijah himself would have been proud of many of them! This is something to pray into more and more.

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1 Eg 2 Kings 6:1-7
2 Amos refers in 7:14-15 to his calling as being an exception to the rule. The original word for prophecy meant a ‘boiling or bubbling over,’ a ‘spilling out’ of the things of God that were on their heart. cf 2 Peter 1:20-21.
3 2 Kings 3:11-20
4 Titus 2:14