THE ROLE OF A PROPHET IS MORE THAN JUST SPEAKING PROPHECIES
I believe that many still have misunderstandings and lack the knowledge of what is entailed in the ministry of an office prophet. Many are of the understanding that this role only involves sending out and giving words of prophecy to the nation or a group of people within their particular sphere of influence. Actually this is only one part of an overall ministry and it entails much more than this.
Jer 1:10: 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.
The 5 major roles of a prophet are: –
1. To pull down
2. To destroy
3. To throw down
4. To build and
5. To plant
And yet these particular roles aren’t just about giving words of prophecy; they encompass many other forms of service and influence.
We are all called to intercession, but the entirety of this role is interceding and standing in the gap for a people who may well be wandering and have become complacent in their focus.
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Ezekiel 22:30
Along with the deep need for prayer and the reception of the prophetic word, one who is called to this office must face a deep dealing at the hand of God with suffering.
Prayer is paramount to the prophet and actually for any child of God. God’s watchmen must always be praying and become men and women of prayer. Prayer and worship go hand-in-hand as one approaches the Almighty. Each person must find their own time and place for periods of prayer and worship. I have found that the early morning hours are best of me because can spend longer periods of time in prayer and worship.
The prophetic ministry can often play an important part in worship. Paul said that when the church gathered together,
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor 14:29-33).
When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them, "sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted." (Exodus 15:19-21).
In the temple, there were people whose role was to prophesy as part of the worship. They were professional worshippers and prophets, responsible for leading the worship in the house of God. This true still today as seen in how worship leads people into the throne room of God.
David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service: . All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the Lord , with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. Along with their relatives- all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord- they numbered 288 (1 Chron 25,1,6).
Receiving the Word of God
One must wait patiently upon the Lord, seeking Him in His temple, to begin the process of the inception of the prophetic word. This time is precious and each person receives the prophetic word differently from another person. We are all unique in how we have been created. But above all else, those who are called to a prophetic ministry must be able to hear clearly from the Lord. For it is so easy to mix our own thoughts and wishes with the voice of the Almighty. But over time and experience, a mature prophet has developed a listening ear that can discern between what is true and what is not. And then even so, he or she must mull over the word, bathe it in prayer, and then when it is time to deliver it, there can be more of an assurance that it is pure and true.
A prophet is often called to suffering. A deep dealing at the hand of God will often be needed to prepare the prophet for receiving the word of God. Oftentimes he may have to experience beforehand much of what the people will experience whom he is addressing. Jeremiah spent many years in captivity before his people went into captivity. He like Christ himself, was rejected and ostracized, and even accused of being a traitor. Ezekiel had to lie on his side for 390 days to symbolize the judgment that was to come upon the nation to the people. This then causes the prophet to give his message which is very harsh, in the spirit of love and understanding to the people.
When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord 's temple (Jer 20:1,2).
We see examples of this in the faith chapter of Hebrews:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground (Heb 11:32-38).
A true prophetic ministry then will offer one a foretaste of the judgment which will come upon a nation because of their sin and iniquity. In such a commission one must be willing to pay the price involved in foreseeing the coming events, in suffering and experiencing them in advance. Only then in this way, can the warning be passed on.
Many are eager to wear the Prophet's mantle, but are reluctant to bear the Christian's cross. There is a burden in being a prophet, which the OT prophets found that they could not always bear .
Encouragement of the brethren is an important aspect of the prophetic ministry.
Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort he who prophesies edifies the church (1 Cor 14:3,4
And yet this verse indicates the scope of “the simple gift of prophecy” and does not entail the parameters that the office of a prophet would speak. The words of the prophets will also build up and strengthen the church. This will be especially important in times of trial and tribulation. Silas and Judas were two prophets who encouraged the church in Antioch.
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers (Acts 15:32).
Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them (Ezra 5:1,2).
So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia (Ezra 6:14).
Foretelling and Forth-telling
Prediction of the future is part of the prophetic ministry. Almost every prophet in the Old Testament was shown to be one who foretold the future. Through his personal fellowship with the eternal God, the prophet has access to the future. He is the one who has insight into God's purposes for history. However, whatever he sees for the future is always related to the present. He warns of future judgments so that people will change their behavior now. He speaks of future blessing to give hope for the present. However, much of what a prophet speaks is more “forth-telling” rather than “foretelling.”
The prophet speaks to our present time, in light of the future that God has revealed to him. For example, Isaiah warned Hezekiah, that he would die.
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord (2 Kings 20:1,2).
Direction and Guidance
Prophets bring the word of the Lord to the church. Christians can get so caught up in the events that are going on around them that they cannot see what God wants to do. This is particularly true in great times of tumult and upheaval, when it can be very hard to see the hand of God at work. Prophets will give direction and vision in these situations, so that God's people know what is happening, and what they should do. The prophet Gad provided guidance to David and showed him how to avoid trouble.
But the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah." So David left and went to the forest of Hereth (1 Sam 22:5).
Prophets can and will give direction to those who are seeking the will of God. Oftentimes this will involve church leadership, individuals, or other groups of people.
The Prophet admonishes, warns, directs, intercedes, teaches and counsels. And yet even more importantly, he stands upon the walls to alert the people to know what is approaching so as to warn them ahead of time what may be coming.
One who is involved with personal prophecy must proceed with caution, for it can be quite dangerous in making life-changing decisions based upon the utterance of a prophecy from someone who is not a seasoned prophet. Oftentimes a prophet will give direction, but this should still be a confirmation of what the person has already known deep within their own spirit. God leads His people by His Spirit and as such, wants every believer to learn how to hear God’s voice for themselves.
One must not let their own plans interfere with the directive that God is showing you through a reliable personal prophecy.
When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry (Ezek 14:4).
One must first confirm the word given with their own heart, seek counsel, and then wait upon the Lord for the correct timing and direction.
Interpreting Dreams and Visions
An important aspect of the prophetic ministry is interpreting dreams and visions. God often speaks in dreams to people who are not listening. We must learn to interpret these to understand what he is saying. Prophets are sometimes skilled in interpreting dreams. Some prophets and prophetic people are more skilled with the interpretation of dreams and visions, and this may well be their overall ministry.
This is that time in history in which God is raising His prophets for His end-time purposes.
"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you... (Deuteronomy 13:1),"
It becomes quite clear that the Lord regards prophets and dreamers as one and the same. Unfortunately, the Body of Christ, for the most part, has not yet grasped that. It is imperative that at least His prophets, and hopefully the entire Body, come to understand how important this aspect of prophets' equipment actually is, and that all His prophets become skillful both in having their own dreams and in interpreting theirs and those of others.
Daniel was a prophet who was skilled in interpreting dreams (Daniel 2:1-28).
During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: you have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king" (Dan 2:19-23).
Dreams often include people and objects with which we are familiar used in symbolic ways. We must not assume that they will be fulfilled literally. For example, Joseph saw the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing before him. This was not literally fulfilled, but he eventually saw his father and eleven brothers bowing before him. (Genesis 37:5-12; 40:5-22; 44:11-32). Dreams should be interpreted like parables.
Kings and rulers will often hear God through dreams. Prophets can help them to understand what God is saying.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of Kings (Prov 25:2).
Correction and Admonition
There is also a strong admonishing word given to those who are true prophets. This can be seen in the calling of Jeremiah:
See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow to build and to plant.
Four of the expressions mentioned to Jeremiah in his calling were negative ones. God often has to up root and tear down, destroy and overthrow, before he can begin to plant and build. Prophets work with God in breaking down all that is not built upon His true foundation. Then the prophet watches over the building of God to see that it is laid and built upon His word.
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" (1 Cor 14:24,25).
Elijah was a confrontation prophet. God used him to confront the prophets of Baal. This is also true of the prophet Amos, as he understood the condition of his nation, and knew what issues that the Lord Himself was concerned with.
Exposing Controlling and Rotten Leadership
Controlling and Rotten leadership has oftentimes hurt many of the sheep simply because they have submitted to unruly leaders. When the leadership of a church is rotten, the prophets should be exposing it. The truth of the matter is that most people within a church setting know quite well about the problems that are inherent in their leaders. But most of them are so loyal to them that they would never have to courage to approach them.
God raised up the prophetic ministry to speak to evil people and nations and warn them of approaching judgments. God's purposes in judgment are clearer, if a prophet announces them in advance.
The world around us considers that any judgment that would come would come from an angry God who is so stern that He cares little for His people. But nothing could be further from the truth, for actually this is God’s justice in a world where justice is seldom seen or heard.
Warning of Danger
When Paul was going up to Jerusalem the prophet Agabus warned him of danger that he would face there (Acts 21:10,11). God often prepares his people in this way. The prophet is a watchman, who warns God's people of coming trouble.
Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set? Does a trap spring up from the earth when there is nothing to catch? When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:5-7).
Interpreting the Signs of the Times
Jesus criticized the Jews because they could understand the weather, but they could not interpret the signs of the times.
He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time? (Luke 12:54-56).
Prophets must be able to understand the signs of the times and interpret them to the world.
And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment. 1 Chron. 12:32
Testing of Prophecy
Prophets are called to speak God's word. Another important part of their ministry, which we need to see developed, is testing prophecy.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said (1 Cor 14:29).
Part of the prophetic role is to sit and listen to prophecies and "weigh carefully" the words that are spoken. This is something that two or three should do together. If a prophecy does not get a consensus of support it should be discarded.
Testing prophecies is a very important aspect of the prophetic ministry. We are now hearing more and more prophetic words being spoken to the church, but the quality is still very mixed. Many of these words promise of financial success and an elevation to a new job. Christians do not know which words they should take seriously. And then on the other hand, there are many prophecies that speak of disasters and calamities ahead. One needs to be able to clearly discern what truth is and what is not. This unclear sounding of the trumpet is producing confusion in the church. The solution is for prophets to get more involved in testing of prophecies and sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
Some prophets are watchmen or men of vision who stand on the walls of the city of God to see what God is doing. They look into the distance to see what is coming. They often see a long way ahead. Several scriptures describe the role of the watchman.
The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God (Hos 9:8).
Ezekiel was called to be a watchman.
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.' "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself. "Son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'This is what you are saying: "Our offences and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?" ' Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?' (Ezek 33:1-11).
The prophet was called a watchman because he basically functioned in the spiritual realm just like the literal watchmen did in the natural realm. The natural watchmen were stationed at specific posts on the walls of the city. This gave them the visibility to watch for the king or other members of the nobility to announce their coming. They were also to look ahead to see when the enemy was approaching.
Elijah's servant needed to have his eyes opened to see the full reality of his situation. This is something we all need.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked. "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).
Challenging the Nation
The primary responsibility of the prophet is to speak to the people of God. He brings both direction and correction to the Church. But a prophet may also be called to speak to his own nation or to others. Many of the prophets of the Old Testament found themselves confronting kings, and taking an important role in national affairs. Some also addressed their words to foreign nations. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel each prophesied to the surrounding nations (Is 13-12, Jer 46-51, Ezek 25-32).
The church will always be the prophet's main concern, but this wider prophetic role urgently needs restoring.
The ancient prophets of Israel didn’t live in isolation but rather, were quite aware of the political and cultural affairs that were happening around them. Some of them pronounced messages against the nations of their times. All of them were concerned about the overall world situation, and it was part of their calling to issue prophecies against the other nations of the world.
Levels of Activity
Prophets can minister at different levels.
Some prophets specialize in speaking to individual people. Personal prophecy provides:
Other prophets speak primarily to their church. As they develop in this ministry, they may also speak into other churches. Prophets provide a church with:
3. The Nations
Some people will be called to be a prophet to their nation. They may also develop to speak to other nations. A prophet to a nation provides:
o advice to rulers
o interpretation of God's law
o warning of judgment