Prophetic ministry is something which has not come in with time, but is eternal. It has come out of the eternal counsels.
Perhaps you wonder what that means. Well, we remember that, without any explanation or definition, something comes in right at the beginning and takes the place of government in the economy of God, and involves this very function. When Adam sinned and was expelled from the garden, the Word simply says, God, "placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim ... to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24).
Who or what are the Cherubim? Where do they come from? We have heard nothing about them before; no explanation of them is given. It simply is a statement. God put them there to guard the way of the tree of life. They have become the custodians of life, to hold things according to God's thought. For the thoughts of man's heart have departed from God's thoughts and have become evil; everything has been marred; and now the custodians of the Divine thought about the greatest of all things for man - Divine life, uncreated life - the custodians of that, the Cherubim, are placed there.
But later we are given to understand what the Cherubim are like: this symbolic, composite representation has a four-fold aspect - the lion, the ox, the man and the eagle; and we are given to understand very clearly that the predominant features is the man. It is a man, really, with three other aspects, those of the lion, the ox, and the eagle. The lion is a symbol of kingship or dominion; the ox, of service and sacrifice; the eagle, of heavenly glory and mystery. The man, the predominant aspect of the Cherubim - what is that?
We know that throughout the Scriptures the man takes the place, in the Divine order of things, of the prophet, the representative of God. The representation of God's thoughts is a man. That was the intention in the creation of Adam in the image and likeness of God - to be the personal embodiment and expression of all God's thoughts. That is what man was created for. That is what we find in the Man, the Man Who was God manifested in the flesh. He was the perfect expression of all God's thoughts.
Where has this symbolism of the Cherubim come from? It is simply brought in. It comes out from eternity. It is a Divine, an eternal thought, and it takes charge of things, to hold things for God. So that man - and we know that phrase "the Son of Man" - is peculiarly related to the prophetic office, and the prophetic function is an eternal thing, which just comes in. It is, in its very nature, the representation of Divine thoughts, and it is to hold God's thoughts in purity and in fullness. That is the idea related to the man, to the prophet, and that is the prophetic function and nature.
The Identity of the Prophet With His Message
But what does that carry with it? Here we come to the most important point of the whole. It is the absolute identity of the vessel with the vessel's ministry. Prophetic ministry is not something that you can take up. It is something that you "are." No academy can make a prophet. Samuel instituted the schools of the prophets. They were for two purposes - one, the dissemination of religious knowledge, and the other, the writing up of the chronicles of religious history. In Samuel's day there was no open vision; the people had lost the Word of God. They had to be taught the Word of God again, and the chronicles of the ways of God had to be written up and put on record for future generations, and the schools of the prophets were instituted in the main for that purpose. But there is a great deal of difference between those academic prophets and the living, anointed prophets. The academic prophets became members of a profession and swiftly degenerated into something unworthy. All the false prophets came from schools of prophets, and were accepted publicly on that ground. They had been to college and were accepted. But they were false prophets. Going to a religious college does not of itself make you a prophet of God.
My point is this - the identity of the vessel with its ministry is the very heart of Divine thought. A man is called to represent the thoughts of God, to represent them in what he "is", not in something that he takes up as a form or line of ministry, not in something that he does. The vessel itself is the ministry and you cannot divide between the two.
(continued with # 2 - "The Necessity for Self-Emptying")