A word about prophecy…

I have the privilege this year of guiding our interns through Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Though I may respectfully disagree with some of Grudem’s thoughts, I do, however, love his openness to spiritual gifts – especially his openness to the gift of prophecy. My roots are in a Charismatic/Pentecostal environment where I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to the gift of prophecy from a young age. In my heritage in particular, I am thankful for the men & women who stewarded this gift so faithfully. The more cross-pollination among different streams of Christianity I experience to contrast/compare with my own the last few years has only made me more thankful for my stream I was raised in. The weirdness that’s out there in the “prophetic” is mind boggling at times and makes me realize why scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 5:20 are necessary. “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

This season of my life has me becoming more acquainted with my spiritual roots that go further back than the last 100 years. I want to share two amazing stories of prophecy that I came across in my reading that I found interesting in light of my spiritual heritage and tradition. Both stories show the gift of prophecy operating in its amazing power.

The first is the story is a prophecy given by John Huss at his martyrdom. If you want a little background on John Huss, you can read it here. John was influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe which in turn prompted him to write about six errors he observed in the church of his day. He posted them to the wall of Bethlehem Chapel in Bohemia. John was burned to death as a heretic by the Catholic Church in 1415 after refusing to recant his teaching. He is said to have told his accusers he’d repent of his teachings if they could show him from scripture how he was wrong. Though accounts vary, it is said that as he stood tied to a stake buried up to his neck in kindling wood he spoke these words: “Today you all bake a goose, but there comes a swan which you won’t be able to cook or boil…in a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed.” 102 years later in 1517, Martin Luther would post the 95 thesis on the church door of Wittenberg. Interesting also is the fact that Huss means goose and the family crest of Martin Luther included a swan.

Luther himself referred to this prophecy in his writings:

However, I, Dr. Martinus, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.

Another point of interest is the dream of Fredrick of Saxony the night before Martin Luther’s historical moment. Here’s how the site Lutheranpress.com tells it:

The evening before October 31, 1517, the Elector Frederick of Saxony had a dream which was recorded by his brother, Duke John. The dream, in short, is about a monk who wrote on the church door of Wittenberg with a pen so large that it reached to Rome. The more those in authority tried to break the pen, the stronger it became. When asked how the pen got so strong, the monk replied “The pen belonged to an old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old.” The Elector was unsure exactly what the dream meant, but believed he had an interpretation which he thought may be accurate. The very morning he shared his dream, Martin Luther was posting his theses.

What an amazing story from church history!

A second amazing story regarding the prophetic is about someone I have become quite fond of in the last few years – Charles Spurgeon. I’ve been enjoying but still working through Tom Nettles’ book on Spurgeon as I have time. I was pleasantly surprised to read about a prophecy given to Charles when he was 10 years old by a traveling minister whose name was Richard Knill. Richard prophesied in detail about Spurgeon’s ministry and also spoke in specifics about a certain event that would later come to pass exactly as described. He said Spurgeon would preach to thousands and would eventually speak at one of the largest churches in England – a church Knill actually mentioned by name.

Here’s Spurgeon himself talking about this prophetic word:

The Mission sermons were preached in the old Puritan meeting-house, and the man of God was called to go to the next halting-place in his tour as a deputation from the Society, but he did not leave till he had uttered a most remarkable prophecy. After even more earnest prayer alone with his little protégé, he appeared to have a burden on his mind; and he could not go till he had eased himself of it. In after years he was heard to say that he felt a singular interest in me, and an earnest expectation for which he could not account. Calling the family together, he took me on his knee, and I distinctly remember his saying, “I do not know how it is, but I feel a solemn presentiment that this child will preach the gospel to thousands, and God will bless him to many souls. So sure am I of this, that when my little man preaches in Rowland Hill’s Chapel, as he will do one day, I should like him to promise me that he will give out the hymn beginning,

“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.”

This promise was of course made and was followed by another, that at his express desire I would learn the hymn in question and think of what he had said. The prophetic declaration was fulfilled, and the hymn was sung, both in Surrey Chapel and in Wooton-under-Edge in redemption of my pledge, when I had the pleasure of preaching the Word of life in Mr. Hill’s former pulpit. Did the words of Mr. Knill help to bring about their own fulfillment? I think so.”

Rowland Hill’s chapel was the largest “dissenting” (that’s another story) church at the time the prophecy was given. Knill’s prophecy would be like someone coming and prophesying over my eldest daughter who is now 10, telling her that she will have a ministry to thousands, and as a confirmation of the word she would then be asked to preach at the largest church in America. In finality, seeing it all happen before she was 18. Simply amazing.

I can only imagine what Spurgeon felt as he stepped into Richard Hill’s pulpit and asked for that hymn to be sung. In fact, I know it was impactful for Spurgeon because he talked about it often as one of God’s great gifts of grace to him.

Just thought you’d be interested in these stories from church history.

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