Paul Revere gets plenty of glory for his role in the American Revolution. Our history books depict the emboldened Bostonian straddling his stallion as he rides furiously to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching to arrest them. We’ve seen paintings depicting his famed midnight ride, heard songs commemorating his selfless bravery and read literature that heralds the adventure behind his proclamation that “The British are coming!”
Revere certainly deserves recognition for his brave acts of patriotism, but he hardly acted alone. In fact, there were many unsung heroes who we don’t hear about, like William Dawes. Dawes was also commissioned to deliver the message about the impending arrival of enemy troops and met up with Revere in Lexington. Dawes’ act was just as heroic, but we don’t sing songs or write poetry about him. Revere borrowed a horse from his friend Deacon John Larkin for the historic journey, but few have ever heard his name.
Indeed, there are many unsung heroes of the American Revolution, faithful men and women who were dedicated to reformation. They were not concerned about their own glory. They were acting for the glory of the Creator to establish one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Today we are at the front end of another revolution – a spiritual revolution that seeks to establish one Kingdom, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Sure, there will be Paul Revere prophets who announce critical messages for the hour in the national spotlight. But there will be many more whose names we will never know – but who are just as instrumental in bringing God’s will to earth as it is in heaven. I call them the unsung prophets. They are the faithful mouthpieces of God who complete their assignment without the demand for personal recognition and fanfare. They are the prophetic heroes that bring change to their generation by being obedient to the Spirit of God.
That may mean delivering a message that promotes another believer while you remain in relative obscurity. It may mean tireless watches on the wall while others are prophesying on the circuit. Or it may mean a behind-the-scene wrestling match with principalities and powers to make a way for others to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. The common characteristic of these unsung prophets is self-sacrifice. These prophetic heroes are not seeking their own honor – complete with titles, radio shows and conference invitations – they are seeking to honor the One who commissioned them.
Remember when Jehu was anointed king of Israel? Can you tell me who anointed him? You can’t remember, can you? That’s because the Bible does not record the name of the prophet who accepted this important assignment: “The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” (2 Kings 9:1-3 NIV).
This unnamed prophet obeyed Elisha’s command. He sought out Jehu, anointed him as King over Israel, and commissioned him to destroy the house of Ahab. This unnamed prophet went on to deliver a powerful prophetic word about the fate of Jezebel – dogs would devour her in Jezreel – and then he opened the door and ran, giving no one an opportunity to applaud his powerful prophetic announcement or pat him on the back for a job well done. Jehu would ride his chariot furiously to Jezreel. Jezebel’s fate was just as the unnamed prophet had announced. Jehu gets all the recognition, but it was the unsung prophet’s faithfulness to complete his mission that sparked a major turning point for Israel.
There are other examples of unnamed prophets who accomplished important works in the Bible – and there are hundreds of modern day prophets following in those humble footsteps. Thank God for the prophets who seek to honor the One who sent them instead of vying for self-glorification.
I have heard unappreciated prophets mutter about how “prophets are not without honor except in their own country.” It’s true that local congregations should treat their prophetic gifts with respect. It’s true that if they believe the prophets they will prosper (2 Chronicles 2:20). It’s true that God doesn’t take kindly to those who touch His anointed and do His prophets harm (Psalms 105:15). But that doesn’t mean the prophet should don a bad attitude when his prophetic word is not received or get offended when someone forgets to address him with his ministry gift title.
Yes, it was Jesus who said, “a prophet is not without honor except in his own country” (Mark 6:4). But are we seeking our own honor, or are we seeking to honor the Prophet? If we are seeking our own honor we can expect little more than humiliation. If we are seeking to honor the Father, then we can expect to be exalted in due time as trusted vessels, fit for the Master’s use. Like William Dawes, we may not wind up in history books, or even featured on Christian television and magazines, but we can rest assured that if we do the will of God as He establishes this spiritual revolution that we can be history makers in God’s book. Instead of “15 minutes of fame” that the world offers we can enjoy the satisfaction that lasts an eternity.