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    All the Prophets Were Artists: A Free Extract from “Reframing the Prophetic”

    9 Min Read

    26 January 2024

    In this exclusive extract from Christine Westhoff’s new book Reframing the Prophetic: A Biblical Observation of an Ancient Gift, she explores the fascinating relationship between art and prophecy:

    All the prophets were poets” is a phrase we’ve heard from the likes of Eugene Peterson, Dr. Ellen Davis at Fuller, as well as many other theologians, artists, and poets. It could be said that all the prophets were artists, not just poets.

    Several prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Ahijah, Elijah, Isaiah, Deborah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jesus used symbolic actions—without words—to prophesy. Their creative demonstration, action, gesture, movement, or posture was an artistic approach to communicating vital messages to the people. It could be argued that a large part of God’s interaction with Moses on the mountain for forty days might have included intricate instructions for the artwork within the temple that would prophetically point to the redemption of Christ.

    To remove art from the prophets would mean removing the prophets themselves. One-third of the Bible is poetry, one-third of the Bible is prose. Removing poetry, prose, and artistic, prophetic demonstration from the Bible would leave scattered fragments behind. So we must ask ourselves why the arts, especially poetry, are often marginalized in our culture, especially within the walls of many of our churches. I’m sure there are several ways to answer that question, not the least of which would be to point toward the Greek mindset in the West that exalts knowledge over creativity. 

    So if all the prophets were poets, the flipside must also be considered. I’m not saying that all the poets in the world are prophets, but I am saying that I believe there are many, many poets, sculptors, dancers, musicians, and actors who truly are prophets and may not know it. Most of them certainly wouldn’t know where they could possibly fit within our churches. 

    Let’s take a look at David. We often think of David as a king, a worshiper, a warrior, or a poet, but rarely is he referred to as a prophet. Yet David shares more Messianic prophecies than any other prophet in Scripture. Often, in the middle of his lament, his poetry, or his praise, he pens seemingly cryptic or even off-topic sentences that end up being fulfilled very precisely in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I don’t think it is far-fetched to say that the Psalms are hugely responsible for us being able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 

    So, if this book is about observing the prophetic in Scripture, then we must take a good look at the personality of the prophetic in the songs, lament, poetry, and worship found in the book of Psalms. Truth be told, if we look at David’s prophetic credentials, we could say that the book of Psalms should be one of the primary places in which we should study the prophetic.

    The prophetic within the arts is not a new conversation. Many people in today’s world discuss prophetic art, but I have found that most of these conversations barely scratch the surface. How do artists prophesy? What is their experience as the Holy Spirit moves through them? How do they relate to the Church at large? How do they influence the local church? 

    David painted pictures with his words. He prayed violently with his words. He lamented passionately, honestly, and vulnerably through his words, and his words were his art. And his art was often intensely prophetic.

    Prophecy, Artistry, and Time

    In a further extract from Reframing the Prophetic, Christine explores the need for time in the creative and prophetic process:

    When you take time to ponder the depth in which a poet relates with the voice of God as they search for the exact words the Spirit wants to use to communicate, you can begin to see the importance of time. Poets need time to allow the creative process to churn within them slowly. They often carry inspiration in the same way that a pregnant mother has a growing child in her womb. They grapple over various words and metaphors to try to communicate the expanse of the message from the Father to whoever will listen. 

    It is the same with painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, etc. Each of these artists would most often tell you that they have a message they carry within themselves—not just a picture or a song, but a message they want to communicate. This message needs to grow, evolve, and take shape over time. Eventually, they will slowly and painstakingly give birth to how they want to communicate. It will take much time and meticulous attention to every detail. Often, they don’t understand the why of the message or for whom it may specifically be. They just know it must come into being.

    I think about this often as I read the Psalms, and I wonder why God chose David to drop the most extensive popcorn trail that led to Jesus. Something about the artist’s message engages the receiver’s heart and soul more deeply. They don’t spoon-feed us information by giving us facts and instructions. They express something from heaven that calls us to look beyond the obvious. We, therefore, pause, reflect, and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us through their creativity. There’s an intimacy that art pulls us into that is unique and to be cherished by us all.

    Reframing the Prophetic: A Biblical Observation of an Ancient Gift is available now. You can learn more here.

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