"What makes a prophet” or rather “What is a prophet“with Norm Rennie
8 weeks ago, I guess, in a discussion with Harley, he was telling me more or less that, he had plans to do a series on the Old Testament, 4 weeks prior to the advent, which I believe he thought that being Christians, we could look at 4 weeks of Old Testament messages.
Of course, I opened my big mouth!!!! ....
That I was very concerned about what is happening in the world, the whole concept of what is happening in the world, of what is happening in the Middle East and that it might be a time that we need to address having more understanding ...of those people that were involved in these conflicts which is ourselves, by the way and our opponents or enemies you might call them. So I thought messages that dealt with that were actually what was needed at this time.
So, of course Harley said: Well, why don’t you stand and speak about that, because I have been reading the Quran at that point in an attempt to understand what is going on, in an attempt to understand the culture, to understand the religion. So he says why you don’t do a message on that!
I said: I am actually a singer not a preacher... so I prefer to preach through a song and not from the pulpit.
So he said: well, it is time to expand you horizon!
So, here I am!
And it is an important message, but he said what you we will do is try and tie in to the messages from the Old Testament which as it turns out in not very difficult to do because the Quran is absolutely packed with Old Testament references and stories.
So he asked me just before the bulletin was put out, what we should call the message, did I have a name for it. I had juggled around a few names so I though let's just take the one on top of my short list here. We will call it: "What is a prophet.” But I noticed in the bulletin it translated itself into "What makes a prophet". But we will assume that it is the same thing.
The dictionary definition of a prophet, I have it written here. It is: a person who speaks by divine inspiration or one through whom a divinity expresses itself.
Muslins actually recognize 124,000 prophets; not all of them obviously are Major Prophets so they kind of fall into categories of Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. But in fact, the people, the ones who fit that definition are numerous not few, but there a few who are truly Major prophets.
The Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet. We believe that Jesus was a very extra special prophet.
But my heritage of course is Norse. My genetic heritage is Norse. I come from people that come from the North. So how did the message of Christ find its way all the way to the North, to the Norse people? The story of the people of the dessert. It creeps up through the Greeks and the Romans of course who came North with the message to a people that they would have regarded as what Harley would have called Barbarians last week.
The people from the North were Barbarians even though, the Norse had their own seeress : the story of Siegfrid, Hildegard and Valhalla. But of course when the News and the Word came up North, it was recognized by the Norse people immediately as being the Truth. It was like a light. Like remembering the words that were said for like remembering things that were forgotten. It was not like teaching something new.
The message was easily received and easily adopted. And of course with the message of Christ came all the messages of the Hebrews; the Hebrew messages that came down with the Hebrew Scriptures which is the Old Testament. The Norse people accepted that as well, read all of this, learned about the story of Creation and started with the first prophet Adam and down through the other prophets. We won't talk about the 124,000; we will just do some major prophets here, being Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham.
We will stop at Abraham because there were many other prophets, but we stop at Abraham because he was a particularly pivotal prophet, of all the prophets in the Old Testament. He is the prophet of what I call "The great divide". He was the prophet that gave birth to the division between the Arabs and the Jews. How did this come about? Abraham was a prophet that God had spoken to, through all of his life, telling him to go here and to go there, and giving him promises that his progeny would be the seed of kings and kingdoms to come.
So he went on along with this, didn’t listen to some of God’s messages and got into trouble and made mistakes etc. etc. As he got older, he really began to doubt and said: I don't see how this Word that was delivered to me from God is going to be fulfilled. Because here I am an old man and my wife Sarah is an old woman. They were both in their 70's at the time. He said it’s not going to happen. God speaks to him and says to him: It is going to happen.
In the state of depression he was in, his wife come forward and says, and this was legitimate in the culture of the day to say: Why don't you have a child by my Egyptian slave and handmaiden Hagar and he is accepted that idea and said that would be a good idea. So 9 months later, Hagar bears a child, a son, and Abraham is delighted and they name the son, Ishmael.
And then in that chapter, from the book of Genesis, we fast forward and skip over a whole chunk of time, and 13 years later God speaks to Abraham again and says that your wife Sarah is going to bear a child. Sarah of course keels over laughing when she hears this news, because Abraham is almost a 100 and she is in her 90's.
But sure enough, 9 months later, Sarah bears a child, a son and they name the son, Isaac; that was the name that God in a message had said this child should be named. So the family is very happy about this. Now they have a genuine son born from Sarah.
But a couple of years go by and then Sarah sees Ishmael playing with Isaac around the house and she gets very jealous because according to the tradition and culture of the time, the first born is going to be the legal heir. She is jealous because the son, which she bore, was the second son.
So she says to Abraham. This is it, they have to go. So they send Ishmael and Hagar packing, not with any great wealth because Abraham was not a very wealthy person. They stuck them on a donkey and gave them some bread and water and said, off you go. But from that beginning, that is the Great divide.
From the seed of Isaac come the 12 Tribes of Israel and the whole story of the Old Testament that we are familiar with. And from the seed of Ishmael come the 12 Tribes of the Arabs of which we know very little and very little is known because they did not have a written tradition. Their tradition was an oral tradition.
But Ishmael and Isaac of course have grown up in Abraham's house and they worship the same God that Abraham worshipped. This was passed on to the Arab people through Ishmael. They worshipped the same God as Ishmael's father worshipped the same God. The Jews people worshipped the same God that we worship. It gets murky because it is not being a written tradition and the Arabs being a nomadic people and a trading people, circulated back and forth from east to west, all over. They did not just stay alone in the Arabian Peninsula. They traded with Eastern people and the Western people, and Arabic became the common language through the entire area, various dialects of Arabic.
My shoe maker actually speaks Arabic. I was in there one day and he was listening to the radio and I said what language is that that you are listening to? He said it is Arabic. He is Armenian, and so he speaks Arabic and he was listening to an Armenian station. So I talk to him and he said Arabic it is a language but some of the dialects are barely intelligible.
That is where it is hard to follow it is because it is not written. So during all this nomadic backing and forthing, they were exposed to a lot of different religions other than the religion of Abraham and so they would have gotten exposed to Hinduism and all the religions from the east and others that were extent at the time, and some of them were following religions that predated Abraham. So the Arabs were a people that would have had a whole variety of beliefs in there and of course a big chunk of Arabs believing all the way down the line in the God of Abraham. So it comes all the way down. Of course they followed all the prophets that spoke to the Jewish people because that their God and the God of the Jewish people was the same. So every new message which came to the Jewish people, the Arabs people also accepted because they worship the same God. The word God is the word God.
So we come all the way down to Mohamed. That is really fast forwarding. We are now about 600 years after the birth of Christ. There comes a prophet to the Arab people, who gives the Arab people a book, an Arab scripture, the Quran, in a plain language by an unlettered man. It was written by a scribe who would sit at his elbows and note the words that were given to him and these were delivered over a long period of 20 years. The structure of the Quran is not a story, like much of the Old Testament is and the New Testament; the entire Quran is the Word of God spoken directly to the Prophet Mohamed. All except for the very beginning, the opening of the Quran opens with a prayer and that prayer is recited by Muslins 5 times a day every day of the week and I will tell you what the words of that prayer are:
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE ALL-MERCIFUL, THE ALL-COMPASSIONATE
All praise and all gratitude is for God, the Lord of the worlds, The All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate Master of the Day of Judgment. From You alone to you alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help. Guide us to the Straight Path, the Path of those whom You have favored, not the path of those who incurred anger, nor those who are astray.
That is the prayer which Muslims repeat every day, 5 times a day on their knees with their head in the dust.
Now what is in the Quran, what does it contain? The main trust of the Quran repeated over and over again is about believers and non-believers ; and the reason that there is so much of the Quran devoted to that was because the Arabs had mixed religions and many Arabs (probably the majority of Arabs) were atheist. They worshiped Gods other than the God that was the God of Abraham. So a huge portion of the Quran addresses the believers and the non-believers and it is a warning to non-believers to say that there is a terrible faith awaiting for you on the day of resurrection, on the day that you return to God , your unbelief is going to be paid with a terrible torment and for the believers, they will have a reward and a kingdom. That is really the main message of the Quran.
Another big chunk of the Quran of course is a reminder, and it is a reminder to the Arab people, the believers, that the stories of the prophets, the Hebrew Prophets, the Prophets of the Jews and the Prophets of the Christians (because they regard Christ as a Prophet) are all to be heeded. All! This is a huge chunk of the Quran that devotes itself and repeats. It’s a very, very repetitive, it was delivered over 20 years. Those topics are to be recycled, and it is the important topics. So it asks believers to remember and to heed the words of the prophets of the Old Testament.
The difficult part of all of this, it is a difficulty that we have with the Old Testament’s scriptures and the New Testament’s scriptures and with the Quran is that the topic of translation comes up, these are scriptures that were delivered to people that were not of our culture, ancient people, not of our culture in Egypt languages and what we read is the translation into English. The Muslim people will not accept any translation of the Quran; that the Quran in Arabic is the Holy Quran and that any translation of the Quran is by its very nature a corruption of the message because we cannot translate from another culture and another language and have exactly the same syntax, the same meaning and that is true of course of the Hebrew scriptures and is also true of the Greek scriptures which is our New testament. Christian scriptures written in ancient Greek, Greek being a language which evolved: there is the Ancient Greek and there is Modern Greek. Not so much with Arabic. Because Arabic has really changed very little, it has not changed the way even English has changed. It stayed very much the same but it is a very difficult language to translate into the English language. So we have to bear that in mind, all of us whenever we are reading anything out of our Old Testament scriptures New Testament scriptures or from the Quran, that it is all a translation and it loses and is corrupted in the translation. Now we can talk for ever and ever after translation about interpretation. But we have got to wrap there so we will stop there. Because interpretation is where it gets interesting and we discuss what in fact was meant by these words and messages that were delivered.
So the conclusion of all of this is that the God of the Jewish people and the God of the Christian people and the God of the Muslim people is the same God, and we have to find a way to increase understanding between us because we have that as a very solid foundation at starting point, and it is hard to believe that with that, we can reach a stage where we have such enormous differences between us and that is what has to be resolved because the conflicts cannot be resolved without that being resolved.
Now I wonder if you would bow your heads and share this short prayer with me.
God accept our humble gratitude expressed in inadequate words but you know what is in our hearts: gratitude for the guidance you have sent to us in the form of Christ who has shown us the path to you, gratitude for all your messages sent through all the prophets, gratitude for the amazing variety of people and cultures with which you have populated the world.
Please note that this is Norm's integral lesson as recorded by Rob Ireland and converted to text by Marcelle