Monday, April 13, 2009

A Presumptuous Prophet (Part 1): Dt 18:20-22

"'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
Under the previous covenant, God was serious about the conduct of His prophets. If they spoke the word that God had given them, they were to be feared and obeyed. However, if they spoke from their own imagination, they were to be put to death. God had a "zero tolerance" policy for false prophets. In the end, the ultimate test of a prophet was whether or not the thing prophesied actually came to pass.

So if God was so extreme then about false prophets, why don't we stone those who prophesy falsely in His name today? What has changed between the previous and the present covenants that lends more grace and forgiveness to those who prophesy what is less than the complete and perfect word of God? I believe that there are two basic reasons.

First, I believe that there is a qualitative difference between how prophesy was received under the Old Covenant and how it is received in the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, God appeared to His prophets and, in many cases, they heard the audible voice of God. Consider the following scriptures.
"Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him." (Numbers 7:89)

"Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, 'Are you for us or for our adversaries?' He said, 'No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.' And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, 'What has my lord to say to his servant?'" (Joshuah 5:13-14)

"The Lord called yet again, 'Samuel!' So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he answered, 'I did not call, my son, lie down again.'" (1 Samuel 3:6)

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (Isaiah 6:8)
In these and many other instances, the prophets of God encountered the tangible presence of God and heard His audible voice. In other cases, prophecy was given through dreams and visions where the word of the Lord was clearly understood by the prophet. However, it appears to me that in the New Covenant prophesy is much more subjective than in the Old Covenant. While there are still some who have visitations from Jesus and actually hear His voice, it seems to me that the more common means of conveying a prophetic word is spirit to spirit; God's spirit speaking directly to our spirit, bypassing our physical and natural senses and speaking directly to our heart. Because this communication is spirit to spirit, it is a bit more subjective than actually hearing a voice speaking to us. Consider the following verses.
"For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away... For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part , but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12)

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith." (Romans 12:6)

"For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted." (1 Corinthians 14:31)
The first verse tells us that we know and prophesy in part. While we may see prophetically, it is still like looking into a mirror dimly. As we grow in Christ and grow in our prophetic gift, the mirror may become clearer, but it will never be crystal clear until Jesus returns. The second verse tells us that, when we prophesy, we prophesy according to the measure of our faith. What this means is that one is never one hundred percent certain of the prophetic word. There is always a measure of faith when someone speaks prophetically. When we speak from the unction in our spirits, we are speaking what we believe the Holy Spirit is trying to communicate to us and through us. Faith is involved because we are often speaking what we have seen in a mirror dimly. Finally, while there are some today that do receive direct revelation via a visitation or audible voice, Paul reminds us that we can all prophesy. It is my experience and belief that not every christian will receive a visitation from Jesus or hear His audible voice, yet they can still prophesy of those things that have been communicated to them spirit-to-spirit.

More to come... David Robison

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