One of the foundations of House without walls was a prophetic word given to Richard in 2010: “build a house” and “release the prophets.” Ever since then, I (Jill) have been wondering what this actually looks like: in what sense do they need to be released? Is it a matter of setting them free from a prison of neglect, misunderstanding and rejection? I think there have been elements of that in church history – the Elijah post-victory syndrome where the prophet wants to crawl into a cave and die groaning “I alone am left and they seek my life also.” From the beginning we have believed that House without walls is amongst other things an eagles’ nest – a family that helps the prophetic voice to be nurtured, matured and understood – to interact better with the church and the world. If church is a family, then prophets are the “gifted” kids in the family – precocious, touchy, hard to fit in but so valuable, equipped and destined to be world changers.
So again, I came back to this question – what does a fathered prophet look like? When the prophets are matured, empowered and released, what will they say and do? I love the way the Old Testament talks about “the sons of the prophets” and I think if we want a more fleshed out version of what a “fathered” prophet looks, then we can look at the life and ministry of Elisha. He is truly the son of Elijah – adopted, called, shaped, discipled, mentored and then released to be the very thing that every father wants for a son or daughter – twice as anointed! He gets a double-portion of the spirit that rests on Elijah – and of course, we know that a double portion doesn’t just mean twice as much in a numerical sense – but it’s the inheritance of the first born. Elisha gets the same kind of endorsement that Jesus got – “behold, my beloved son on whom my favour rests.”
The story of Elisha is a breathtaking chronicle of miraculous intervention. I have often wondered why Jesus called Elijah the greatest of the Old Testament prophets if Elisha was actually more anointed than Elijah. But we have to understand that Elijah was indeed the greatest of the Old Testament and John the Baptist is a re-incarnation of the old. But in many ways, when we look at Elisha – we see the new spirit man, a prophet pre-figuring Jesus himself.
Do you believe me that Elisha is actually a New Testament prophet in the Old Testament? Well, let’s look at the fruit of his life. In the space of 6 chapters from 2 Kings 2 to 2 Kings 7 Elisha does pretty well most of the miracles that Jesus did: he breaks curses, heals the sick and raises the dead; he purifies food and multiplies bread; he miraculously provides finances for the widow by multiplying oil (a bit like Jesus pulling a coin out of the mouth of the fish to pay Simon’s taxes) ; he exercises authority over natural elements – parts the Jordan and causes metal to float; he opens the spiritual eyes of the blind and blinds the natural eyes of the enemy.
It is not so much that Elisha does more miracles than Elijah – it’s the way that he does them – for example in 2 Kings 2:19: Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.
I don’t know if you have ever made the connection, but the city they are talking about is Jericho and in one simple act. Elisha broke the curse that had been spoken by Joshua: “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.“At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates. (Joshua 6:24)
Joshua’s curse had been extremely effective: in the days of the evil king Ahab, a bold but foolish man called Hiel was crazy enough to rebuild Jericho and 1Kings 16 tells us that “He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”
Now I don’t know if Joshua in his zeal exceeded what he was meant to do in the name of the Lord but Jericho was indeed cursed. And then in one simple act of throwing salt into the water, Elisha lifts the curse. He gives them a fresh source of water and redeems the land – sounds a bit like something Jesus said to us about being the salt of the earth? We are not here to criticize or condemn but to redeem the world around us. Every curse is broken through the power of the cross. We carry that power through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Notice that Elisha didn’t bind any strong men, or rebuke any curses, or repent on behalf of the ancestors – he simply threw the salt into the water.
That is powerful! He is a son – he knows what he carries. We don’t submit to the principalities and powers and historical curses over our land – we change those things. Our land can become fruitful and prosperous, because whatever the previous inhabitants have done to bring cruses upon the land, we are here to nullify those things. So when the sons of the prophet are revealed, our nation will no longer be cursed by apartheid or xenophobia, or tribalism or nationalism – the land will be blessed because we bring blessing upon it.
Recently we heard Bill Johnson preach something that was certainly not new to us, but summed up so much of what we have been saying in the last while – we owe the world an encounter with God – have you heard that before? But we don’t just owe them an encounter, we owe them a message – the message of the gospel (salt and light) and we also owe them an example. Our lives should be something that unbelievers look at and want to know “where did all that blessing come from?”
Elisha, as a son of the prophet, demonstrates this incredible Holy Spirit overflow wherever he goes – if they have no food, he shares his bread and multiplies it. When there is no water he tells them to dig ditches and fills them. When their food is poisoned in a famine – he redeems it. How often do believers get poisonous around one another when resources are scarce and we are struggling for our own survival – we become toxic to those around us! But the son of the prophet is able to minister to those around, to bring peace and healing.
And not just healing to the worthy and likeable – Elisha healed Naaman, a foreigner but not just any foreigner. He is the commander of the army of Israel’s worst enemy at the time – in fact a couple of chapters after he gets healed, he is besieging Samaria. Elisha heals the commander of the enemy army. Not only is that an act of supreme grace – it probably also took a great deal of courage! The sons of the prophet, when they are released, are here to heal not just your nice next-door neighbour, but bad people, your worst nightmare at work, your enemy, your adversary. Why? Because people are never really the enemy.
One of the wonderful things we got to hear about at the European Leaders’ Advance in the UK is the incredible outbreak of revival that is happening in the Reading area – that’s Reading, UK not Redding, California. Yinka Oyekan, the leader of a group of UK churches, gave a testimony of people from their church going out on the streets, getting first time and second time commitments – one of their best evangelists was an 11 year old kid who had led most of his classmates to the Lord. After I had heard Yinka’s testimony God reminded me of a really nutty business man we knew in our church in Witney about 40 years ago – he was a very serious pin-striped city business man who would get words of knowledge and do crazy things – like one time he was in Hong Kong on a business trip and over the weekend he hired a bicycle and rode into mainland China with some sign-boards that he had got a Chinese friend to write saying “God loves you.” So one of this guy, John’s, nuttiest stories was that he was on Reading station when he saw a man get off a train wearing an enormous sombrero and God told him to go over and witness to this guy – who turned out to be the Chief Witch of Bogota who had come to Reading for a Witch’s Convention! I was hearing about this incredible outpouring of grace for salvation in Reading and God just reminded me of a nutty prophet who 40 years ago prayed for a very influential witch on Reading station. That’s loving the enemy. Heidi Baker, another speaker at the conference, made a similar comment – that the potentates, people with significant spiritual powers, that entrap Western Europe are not so very different from the witch doctors who enslave Africa. They could be loved into the kingdom by an encounter with a son or daughter who knows who they are. Taking the seven mountains is not always about sitting at the top of those mountains – but sometimes the person who makes the tea for the CEO could impact that influential person by having a word of knowledge about something the CEO cares about, like a sick child.
Releasing the prophets is not about getting more prophesies on a Sunday morning – great though that is, or about words of knowledge in church, wonderful though those are. It’s about sons and daughters who know who they are and carry Holy Spirit fire to heal, bless, break curses, bring unity, not just in here – but out there. We are all sons of the prophets – because Joel tells us that in the last days all sons and daughters will prophesy. We don’t have the gift in the same measure, but – the greater the personal prophetic anointing, the greater the capacity to release that anointing in other people. Ephesians 4 prophets, as we have taught so often, are not here to be the super-prophets but to teach and release others to prophesy. And there is a corporate anointing that when the sons of the prophets become a company if prophets and operate together corporately, even the insecure King Saul is able to prophesy. We are believing together and risking together to see that kind of a company of prophets unleashing blessing on our world.