before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
What is a prophet? There is much
talk today about this, and also sometimes,
much confusion. I believe there needs to
be made some clarity on the subject.
We are told in I Co. 14:3,
"But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for
their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."
And this is true, in essence, concerning the "gift of prophecy."
However, what about the setting apart, and
the place of a "prophet?" We have
many examples for us in the Old Testament,
and yes, there are a few in
the New, but what distinquishes a prophet
from someone who has the "gift of prophecy?"
There are "schools of the prophets today,
and there were these in the Old
Testament as well. Does a school such
as this, help develop someone into a
prophet? No. No amount of training, seeking
after the "gifts," leading a reclusive life
of meditation, prayer, and service will cause
one to become a prophet. No, this is
something which God does in the shaping,
and in the heart of man or a woman.
Don't misunderstand me, schools such as these
are quite necessary and good for the
"equipping of the saints," and helpful in
developing these "gifts" within a person's life.
Again though, this does not "make a prophet."
To quote Abraham Heschel in his book
THE PROPHETS, "The prophet is not a mouthpiece,
but a person; not an instrument, but
a partner, an associate of God. The
conception of the prophets as nothing but
mouthpieces, the assumption that their hearts remain
unaffected, would almost compel us to apply
to them the words that Jeremiah used
of the people: "Thou art near in
their mouth And far from their heart. Jer. 12:2
The point here is that they
have the "burden" of the Lord;
they feel what God feels, and
are not merely "mechanical mouthpieces."
Heschel goes on in saying:
"To a person endowed with prophetic sight,
everyone else appears blind; to a person
whose ear perceives God's voice, everyone
else appears deaf. No one is just;
no knowing is strong enough, no trust
complete enough. The prophet hates the approximate,
he shuns the middle of the road.
Man must live on the summit to
avoid the abyss. There is nothing to
hold to except God. Carried away by
the challenge, the demand to straighten out
man's ways, the prophet is strange, one-sided,
an unbearable extremist."
"The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but also to "
strengthen the weak hands and make firm the
feeble knees" (Isa. 35:3). Almost every prophet brings consolation, promise,
and the hope of reconciliation along with censure and castigation.
He begins with a message of doom; he concludes with a message of hope."
What is a prophet?
We need to consider the call of Jeremiah,
"Then the Lord put forth his hand
and touched my mouth. And the Lord
said unto me, Behold, I have put
my words in thy mouth. See, I
have this day set thee over the
nations and over the kingdoms, to root out,
and to pull down,and to destroy,
and to throw down,to build and to plant"
(Jer. 1:9,10) As stated earlier, "the gift
of prophecy is not to be confused
with the office of the Christian prophet.
The Holy Spirit may speak through any person,
for edification, exhortation, or comfort. A prophet
is a watchman. His task is one
of standing upon the walls of the city;
looking out and warning about the immanent
danger of what is to come. He
or she, admonishes, warns, directs, intercedes, teaches,
and counsels, as well as illuminates, and
corrects, (in love.) The word must not
be his own, for the Lord says through
Jeremiah: 23:21-22, "I did not
send these prophets, yet they have run
with their message; I did not speak
to them, yet they have prophesied. And
25-32, "I have heard what the
prophets say who prophesy lies in my name.
They say, 'I had a dream! I had
a dream! How long will this continue
in the hearts of these lying prophets,
who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?
They think the dreams they tell one
another will make my people forget my name,
just as their fathers forgot my name
through Baal worship. Let the prophet who
has a dream tell his dream, but
let the one who has my word speak
it faithfully. For what has straw to do
with grain?" declares the Lord, "and like
a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
"Therefore, "declares the Lord, "I am against
the prophets who steal from one another
words supposedly from me. Yes," declares the Lord,
"I am against the prophets who wag
their own tongues and yet declare, 'The
Lord declares.' Indeed, I am against those
who prophesy false dreams," declares the Lord.
"They tell them and lead my people
astray with their reckless lies, yet I
did not send or appoint them. They
do not benefit these people in the least,"
declares the Lord."
Well, can we see what is in store
for those who would speak presumably in
the "name of the Lord"? What a
warning to us, and what a heavy responsibility
to not speak what the people would
want to hear, but to speak what
the Lord would have us to speak.
There are words which sometimes, have been spoken,
which seem to "tickle the ears."
They speak about money and gain, and "flatter"
those whom they are given to. Not
to say that there aren't words from
the Lord, such as these. But let us remember:
"For the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it
penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts
and attitudes of the heart." Heb. 4:12
Whatever the word is, it will discern
the thoughts and intentions of the human heart,
and will "lay it open," before
him who judges all.
There is a difference between Old Testament
prophets, and those of the New Testament.
We now have a new covenant. This
covenant is one in which the Holy Spirit
dwells within each believer. There are also
now, no more "lone rangers" such as
there were in the Old Testament. In
the past, prophets received unmistakable revelation, and
were 100% accurate. They didn't need others
to discern whether their message was from God
or not. The only way that they could
have had the message wrong, was to
drastically change the message which they were given.
Judgment on Old Testament prophets was such
that those who spoke falsely in the name
of the Lord, were stoned to death.
Instead of doing this now, the leaders
are instructed to "let two or three
prophets speak, and have the others judge" (I Cor. 14;29).
> Remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 7:16:
>"By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or
figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree
bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears
bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad
fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."
Lastly, the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
or the ministry gifts, (Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors,
and teachers), are not given as a badge of
God's approval, or sign of our consecration.
They are rather, gifts of God's grace.
"But one and the same Spirit works all
these things, distributing to each one individually as
He wills (I Cor. 12:11). God wants
the lives of his people to "proclaim" his
word; not only the "words which they speak
from him." Ezekiel was told to lie on
one side for 390 days according to the
years of Israel's sin, and then on
his right side for Judah's. (Ezek. 4:1-8).
When people's lives are used to illustrate a
purpose of God's, then they feel his heart
in the matter. God wants His servants to
not only "speak" what he would have them to,
but to be "like" Him. To feel his
"heart-strings," and show forth a witness of
this in how they demonstrate it to the
world and to the church. Remember that "the
testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10.