May 7, 2014.
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
(2 Peter 1:19-21)
I have had a few discussions about prophecy lately with different people and different ideas of what prophecy is and who can prophesy, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss what biblical prophecy looked like. As with any subject, I think a biblical look is necessary as opposed to basing our theology completely off of the way we feel. I have to say I love prophecy, especially Old Testament prophecy. There is just something about reading the word of God in prophetic/poetic form that feels empowering.
The first point that I want to make has to do with the verse listed above. Prophecy is a direct revelation from God and is not given to any private interpretation. There was no ambiguity when a prophet received the word from God. I’ve been reading through Ezekiel over the past few days and something I’ve noticed is how specific and detailed the prophet is about his visions. He seems to know exactly what he was talking about. Now that’s not to say that prophecies cannot be misinterpreted, for we see that the leading Jews in Jesus’ time period misunderstood the Messianic prophecies. But notice when this ambiguity came- many years after the prophecy was made. When man had time to sit around and think about it to try and determine what it meant. This confusion did not come from the prophet. Listen to Ezekiel’s first vision and notice the detail he gives:
“As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.”
Now, can I tell you exactly what this prophecy means? No. I haven’t done enough study on it. Even when I do, I’m not sure I will fully understand it. I am just highlighting the attention to detail Ezekiel gives. But here’s me second point. Even when confusion comes, the verse in Peter’s epistle above states that there is a specific meaning to prophecy, whether we decide on the true meaning or not. When God speaks, it is not by accident. This concept to me is like the concept of truth. It exists whether or not we understand it or believe it. When God gives us a message, it is truth. In fact, the Old Testament sets up a way to judge prophets:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
And on the other side:
“As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
There you go. If the prophet prophesies about something (not vague) and it comes to pass, then the evidence is for them. If they prophesy about something and it doesn’t happen, then they are not a prophet. Now, I don’t think getting lucky makes you a prophet, and I think this is why the prophets in the bible are usually very specific in their words. God’s word will always ring true. He does not need to be vague to protect himself. He knows the future, and he knows it perfectly. When I hear of claims of prophecy today, it is usually very general and very vague, much like fortune tellers. I don’t think this is the word of God. The prophets in the Old and New Testaments were confident in their message and spoke boldly. If you don’t believe me, just read about the life of Elijah.
Finally, prophecy is not a think that just overwhelms the prophet and sends them into a stupor whenever they are speaking the word of The Lord. This is a concept that I believe came from our dramatic nature and the movie industry. God is not God of confusion, but of peace, as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians.
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the .first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
(1 Corinthians 14:26-33a)
In closing, I will restate what I said at the beginning. When looking at spiritual things, we should judge them through the word of God. I believe many people get caught up in emotions and forget about the truth. This post is in no way a comprehensive look at biblical prophecy, but perhaps it is a starting place for any who are interested. As I have said before, I love biblical prophecy. I encourage you to take some time to look into it. I believe it can bless your spiritual walk.
Suggested Daily Reading: 1 Kings 18, Ezekiel 1, 20, I Corinthians 14.
The Lord bless your walk.