Spirited Reflection: Children as prophets, servants and leaders

Today, as with Scripture, we find news and stories of children and youth as prophet, servant or leader.

From Isaiah 49:1-7: the servant’s role is to turn God’s people back to God, to make them a “light to the nations,” and to bring about justice on the earth. The servant is like a prophet.  Indeed, elsewhere in Scripture, God’s prophets are also referred to as servants. And it’s pretty remarkable that the servant is being called while still in his mother’s womb in this Isaiah passage:

God calls servants and prophets even before they are born!

In the Scriptures, stories of children and young people whom God called to serve as prophet, servant or leader abound. These include Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Daniel and his friends, as well as Mary. The story of Samuel is particularly noteworthy.

The young boy Samuel was called to be a prophet during a time when “the word of the Lord was rare” and “visions were not widespread” (1 Samuel 3:1). In other words, this was a time when there was far-flung disregard for God’s law and ways. Even Eli, the Shiloh priest who was Samuel’s guardian, was not free of guilt. Eli’s two sons were greedy “scoundrels” and Eli did little to discipline or restrain them. God instructed Samuel to speak a word of judgment to Eli because of his failure and that of his sons, and so Samuel did.

Later, we learn that as Samuel grew, “the Lord was with him” and he became “a trustworthy prophet of the Lord”.  In the Samuel story God raised this young boy because the adults, including religious authorities like Eli, had more or less abandoned their commitment to live in God’s way. God’s law was not honoured or lived out; and there was little sense of God’s purpose for humanity and all of creation. So, God helped transform an innocent child to speak a powerful truth to Eli, a person who clearly should have known better.

Someone reviewing the 21st century in the future might say that ours is also a context in which the word of the Lord is rare, and visions are not widespread. They might point to the reality of climate change and other ecological catastrophes.

These observers from the future might shake their heads, saying that people of the 21st century should have known better. After all, for decades we knew of the need to drastically reduce the carbon emissions which cause climate change. We knew of the need to eliminate the plastics and toxins that contaminate the oceans and rivers. Yet we carried on, living in ways devastating to the earth, its creatures and future generations.

Enter the young people: In this fearful time, young people have emerged as the prophets who are sounding the alarm and pleading for urgent action to preserve the planet. Greta Thunberg of Sweden was only 15 when in August 2018 she skipped school on a Friday and began a solitary witness outside the Swedish parliament, demanding bold action on climate change. The leaflet she distributed said, “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.” Eventually, Greta’s action caught the attention of the media and, before long, school children around the world were participating in “Fridays for the Future” actions.

Here in Canada we can point to Autumn Peltier, the young Anishinaabe teenager from Manitoulin Island, a prophet calling attention to the need to honour and protect water. In 2018, at the age of 13, she addressed the UN General Assembly as it launched the UN International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development. Across the globe, children and youth are demanding action so they will have a future.

God continues to raise up young people as prophets, servants and leaders that urge us to live according to God’s way – seeking justice, pursuing peace, and honouring all creation.  And hopefully we are listening.


Holy God, we gather our prayers giving thanks for the power of the Spirit at work today.

Holy God, we listen to you

As we listen to the Children

For the children who inspire and proclaim your truth and are driving change.

Holy God, we listen to you

As we listen to the Children

For understanding of the urgency, diversity and complexity of global issues.

Holy God, we listen to you

As we listen to the Children

We pray for those in positions of power who are making decisions. May they govern with open hearts and ears, with wisdom and grace and be guided by your Spirit. Amen.

With thanks to the KAIROS Epiphany Team, including all the child/youth consultants and Shannon Neufeldt, to Esther Epp-Tiessen for this reflection. Esther Epp-Tiessen is the former MCC Ottawa Office Public Engagement Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCC) in peace and justice advocacy. When in Treaty 1 Territory and Homeland of the Metis Nation, she loves to walk, read and write and hunt for wildflowers in the spring.

Filed in: Spirited Reflections


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