• Library
  • Outlook
  • Populi
  • Donate
  • The Glory of the Unnamed Prophet

    Local Church, Pastoral - May 11, 2020
    Man Walking
    by Preston Kelso

    Guess Who?

    Who was it that rescued young Moses from the waters of the Nile River? For that matter, who was her father? Who came from “the East” to worship and honor the young King Jesus? Who, hanging next to the crucified Christ, said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”? All of these people share a place as an important character in a prominent story of the Bible. You may notice they all share another quality- anonymity. The work that God did through them endures throughout the generations, even though their names are long forgotten.

    I want this article to be an encouragement to the ministers of the Gospel, in fact, the many of them, who take their place alongside these unnamed men and women in God’s story of redemption.

    The Desire to be Known

    At some point in almost every minister’s life, there is a desire to be known, important, even remembered. Because well-known conference speakers and prominent authors dominate the theological discourse of the church and academy, there is a temptation to want to take one’s place alongside them in the public arena, if only to validate years of intense study and faithful ministry to the Church. The vast majority of faithful Gospel ministers have no such platform. To the faithful servant of the Lord, wherever you are, you need to know this- your ministry is important, and God is glorified in His servants wherever He chooses to plant them.

    Consider Judges 6:7-10, which records the ministry of an unnamed prophet:

    “When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

    God’s Nameless Ministers Have an Important Role in Redemptive History

    The role of the unnamed prophet is an important one. Throughout the period of the Judges, there was a recurring theme of Israel’s apostasy, which brings God’s judgment against them, leading to repentance and deliverance. This theme is repeated in Judges 4-8. Israel was delivered from Canaanite oppression under the leadership of Deborah and Barak (Ch. 4-5), leading to a forty-year period of peace in Israel (Judges 5:31). After this period, Israel once again apostatized and was subjected to the oppression of the Midianites (Judges 6:1). The severe hardships imposed on the people led to their repentance (Judges 6:6). Eventually, the Lord responded to Israel’s pleas by summoning Gideon to raise an army and overthrow the Midianites. By the providential intervention of the Lord, Gideon was successful in subduing the Midianites and bringing another forty-year period of peace to Israel (Judges 8:28).

    On one shore of this story stands Israel’s apostasy, God’s judgment, and His people’s cries for deliverance. On the other shore is God’s loyalty to His people and the vindication of His glory among them. Standing in the brook between them is the unnamed prophet. When the people called out to the Lord, He did not send a Judge as He had previously done. Instead, He sent His messenger. The unnamed prophet brought a message of judgment against Israel, vividly illuminating their lack of faithfulness to God against the backdrop of His steadfast loyalty.

    The role of the prophet’s message is obvious. His condemnation of Israel’s unfaithfulness was designed to drive Israel to a deeper repentance. To the reader of Judges, the outcome is known, but to the people of Israel, the future was still uncertain. God sent His prophet to shame and condemn His people so that they would reflect deeply on His faithfulness to them in spite of their apostasy. To return to the earlier illustration of this, before God would answer their cries for deliverance, He would confront their sinful condition through His messenger, the unnamed prophet. This prophet was raised up by God for the precise time that God determined to confront Israel in this way.

    Part of a Bigger Story

    The minister of God’s Word does not carry out his ministry in chronological abstraction. Every man who has been called to preach and teach God’s Word, and to care for the souls of God’s people, does so at a critical time in God’s plan of redemption. Rarely are they aware of the larger narrative that they are a part of. Indeed, there is no indication that the unnamed prophet was aware of how God would eventually respond to Israel’s pleas.

    The task of the minister is faithfulness to God’s call in the day that He has called him. It can be hard for a pastor of a small congregation to envision his work as a part of God’s plan to call all nations to Himself. The pastor in a rural area, far from the multiethnic kaleidoscope of urban centers, can feel far removed from the all-encompassing work of Gospel in the world. It can be tempting to believe that you must gain a platform before you can glorify God. Likewise, it is easy to try to assess the “success” of your ministry by gauging how many people are reading your books or listening to your sermons. The reality is the vast majority of God’s most faithful servants operate in the realm of the unnamed prophet. They play a vital, God-ordained role in the work of redemption, and it is not important that history remembers their name but that their humble service should glorify God and bring about His purposes in redemption.

    God’s Nameless Ministers Are Stewards of a Divine Message                  

    The prophet addressed Israel, not with his own assessment of their situation, but with the prophetic introduction previously heard from Moses and Joshua, “Thus says the LORD.” The Lord, by way of the prophet, reminded the people that He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, given them victory in the land that He promised to them, and had promised to establish them safely in that land. He also called them to account for their failure to consecrate themselves to Him and to obey His voice. The prophet’s message was important and true because it was not his own, it was from the Lord.  

    God’s ministers bring Him glory in the proclamation of divine truth. Unlike Moses or the unnamed prophet, the Christian minister has a completed, authoritative, all-sufficient revelation from God in His Word. The minster of the Gospel needs to hear and even meditate on this: You glorify God when you open His Word, proclaim it to the people, skillfully explain it, and call upon others (as well as yourself!) to obey it.

    This was the foremost ministry of the apostles (Acts 6:2) and a necessary task for the pastor (I Tim. 3:2, 4:13). To the faithful minister who never writes a best-selling book (or a book at all), to the pastor whose messages aren’t broadcast around the world, to the humble servant never to be the featured speaker at a conference, take heart. Find contentment that God is glorified and He is pleased by the proclamation of His Word to the tens as much as to the thousands.

    The Glory of the Unnamed Prophet

    It is fascinating to think about this unnamed prophet apart from what the author of Judges records of his message. He was a real person who had an experience with the Lord so intimate that he could speak and say, “Thus says the LORD.” The whole work of his ministry was condensed down to four verses and his name not even assigned to it. The glory of the unnamed prophet was not in his fame or his legacy. His only glory is in God’s own- the glory of His work of redemption and the divine message that the He gave.

    That is where our glory is found, my brothers in the ministry. It is found as we play a nameless role in the work of the Gospel in the world and we impart to it the divine message that God has graciously given to us. Let us take refuge in the thought that we minister by God’s grace and for His everlasting glory.  

    Preston Kelso has been serving as Pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church in Quitman, Ark. since 2012. He is a graduate of Central Baptist College (B.A.) and the BMA Theological Seminary (M.Div). Preston and his wife, Breana, live in Greenbrier, Ark. with their two children. You can contact him at pbkelso@gmail.com

    More Resources

    The corporation shall not discriminate against applicants, employees, students, volunteers, and others on the basis of race, color, nationality, or ethnic origin; however, as a religious institution, the corporation reserves the right to deny or terminate employment or to deny or  terminate any other status of persons whose lifestyle, words, actions or otherwise do not align with the corporation’s Statement of Faith, standard of conduct, or other policies of this organization.