So You Want to be a Prophet: Here’s How

prophet

The most basic definition of a prophet is someone who acts as an emissary for their god. Note the small g. Every religion has their prophets, spokesmen for their deities. Christians are no exception, of course, but there is one significant difference between the false and the true prophet. I will get to it in a moment.

The first time I was made aware of the nature of a true prophet in a way that hit me viscerally was in Israel. Of course, it was in Israel. And it was an orthodox Jewish professor at Hebrew University who really defined the term. The Christian rules for propheticprophet ministry that I was aware of at the time centered around 100% accuracy.

Shalom Paul, (read his list of publications here: http://jewishhistory.huji.ac.il/Profs/HU/bible/paul.htm) was Chair of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University and Chairperson of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, among other honors. If anyone understands the nature of an Old Testament prophet, it has got to be him. His lecture on the topic began with the perception of the 100% accuracy model, of which he was fully cognizant as the Christian plumb line.

And he said it was not true. That accuracy was not the most important hallmark of the prophet.  It was something else entirely. More than that, the Old Testament prophets weren’t even 100% accurate. His lecture was on false prophets, a term that does not exist in the Old Testament. There is no Hebrew terminology for a false prophet in the OT.

Of course, the litmus tests that I had been made aware of came from Deuteronomy 13: 1-2 where God says if a prophet urges you to follow another God, then he is not from Me. Ok, check. Got that one down.

The second litmus test is from Deuteronomy 18: 18-21. The verse says, ““when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” Ok, check. So how could Dr. Paul claim that 100% accuracy was not the key? After all, if you think Christians take the Word seriously, you should really make the acquaintance of some Orthodox Jews.

The problem with that interpretation is that some of the tried and true OT prophets would be disqualified as prophets. Moses hit the rock, spoiling a prophetic metaphor about Jesus. In Ezekiel 26:7, the prophet declares that Tyre will be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.  Not even just destroyed but leveled to the ground.  Sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar set up siege works against Tyre. For thirteen years he fought Tyre and Tyre held on doggedly. Nebuchadnezzar left. Tyre went on.

So here are some other, perhaps better qualifications to be a prophet. Turns out they read like instructions for every Christian.

  1. A true prophet prays for unbelievers. Abraham, arguably the first prophet in the OT, begs God to save Sodom and Gomorrah. When I hear Christians prophesying disaster in the world but neglecting to beg God for mercy for humanity, I doubt their hearts. In fact, most of the dire prophecy in the Old Testament is optional. God usually said things like, “If you don’t stop sacrificing your kids and worshiping idols, these will be the consequences.” Israel was usually given a choice.

 

  1. A true prophet intercedes for believers. Moses begs God several times to spare the people. First, there was the golden calf. Next, there were the ten cowardly spies who tell Moses the Promised Land is unconquerable. Each time, God seems ready to wash His hands of the pesky Hebrews. Each time, Moses reminds Him that He is merciful and tolerant. In each case, God relents. He doesn’t wipe out the calf worshipping Hebrews and He decides to let the children into the Promised land.

In fact, God tells Jeremiah not to talk to Him about Israel in the 11th chapter. Why? God doesn’t want Jeremiah to plead becauseprophet God doesn’t want to change His mind!

When I hear people prosing on constantly about how this and that is wrong with the church without a heart for the church, I dismiss them. A true prophet would be on his or her knees pleading for God to move in His church out of mercy and love. Everyone can be a critic. Few choose to be intercessors.

 

  1. A prophet is willing to be utterly rejected by others, even his or her own community. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others were rejected and murdered by their own communities. Jesus Himself, the fulfillment of all prophecy and the law, was crucified. Over 100 million Christians have been martyred in the last hundred years. This is far more than all the martyrdoms in the previous 1900 years.

 

So what did Shalom Paul say to end his lecture? He said this, “The true prophet is the one who is willing to take on God against God.” In Ezekial 1:5, the prophet accuses the other prophets of failing to enter the breaches and repair the walls. They did not intercede.

I took away a number of conclusions that day. The first was a deeper understanding of the personhood of God. He is a God with whom I can engage in argument and persuasion. He listens.

My other takeaway was that God values devotion. The OT prophets laid down their lives for Him, but not because He demanded it of them. In fact, I believe that God’s revenge on the slaughter of His people will be pretty fierce. At least according to John’s revelation. The interesting thing about that? John is the disciple who writes the most about love.

So can it be that God is calling every Christian to be a prophet? We know what the consequences of unbelief are. We know who He is and what He did on the cross. So you want to be a prophet? Intercede, stand in the breach, rebuild the broken places. Surrender your lives to God.

Come to think of it, I think I might be called to be a prophet. What a wonderful and terrifying prospect it is. But then all love requires courage, does it not? All love requires sacrifice, does it not? If our goal is to become like Christ, then our path is clear. Stand up and prophesy to this world that God made and loves, even with His own life.

 

These are some of the best out there plus one by Shalom Paul that will increase your understanding of the Bible dramatically.


Relational Faith: Building Trust With God

11 Replies to “So You Want to be a Prophet: Here’s How”

  1. Very interesting. I like that you include that prophets pray for others – that is a key! I learned about prophecy as a motivational gift, here is an article talking about it: https://iblp.org/questions/what-spiritual-gift-prophecy. It says that prophets are generally people who are motivated to apply the Word of God to situations to expose sin, which is one of the ways they intercede with others. I also like that you point out we have to be willing to face rejection – very few people like having their sin exposed or pointed out, but in this dark world we are called to shine God’s light. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love this line, “A true prophet would be on his or her knees pleading for God to move in His church out of mercy and love.” Amen. Another great post!

  3. keisharussell84 says: Reply

    So much truth in your post today! I loved number 3..”A prophet is willing to be utterly rejected by others, even his or her own community.” If you claim to be a prophet, you better believe that you will face rejection, hatred, mockery and discontent all around you. But you have to stay the course! Great job!

  4. “He is a God with whom I can engage in argument and persuasion.” YES!!! I have been wrestling with this for awhile. Shaking off that I shouldn’t be bold with God because it’s disrespectful. I love reading how Moses prayed. He absolutely argued with God!!

  5. God’s love is life changing, isn’t it? Amen and Amen. Your three points are so spot on. It’s not about being important, it’s about being a vessel for our loving God.

  6. This is such a great post! All three points are true. Thank you for the insight and knowledge!

  7. Your points are so true and insightful. I especially love the point praying for non-believers

  8. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    I love this! I have had many cessationists tell me that a person with the gift of prophecy had to be 100% accurate before he or she could start using this spiritual gift. John Piper said that no other spiritual gift is held to the standard of perfection because we are flawed and we grow in out spiritual gifts. Sometimes God Himself “changed His mind” and did not bring catastrophe that HE said would happen because people actually humbled themselves and repented. I love your blog, by the way. You talk about real issues that I have grappled with myself, and in refreshing new ways!

  9. i loved this …Each time, Moses reminds Him that He is merciful and tolerant. The goodness of Gods heart is reflected. I am thankful for His mercy and tolerance in my life =)

  10. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Alice, you never fail to challenge me! I love how committed to truth and understanding your stuff is, in sort of an intellectual way, without being all knowledge – no action. You always push me to consider the application of Scripture on a deeper level. What a gift!
    Loved this line, “He is a God with whom I can engage in argument and persuasion.” It’s so true, and I have seen it evidenced in my own prayer life. I decided several years ago to start praying that way, like Moses and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and so many others. As a result I’ve seen so many prayers answered that I never would have had the audacity to pray before then.
    But to me the most challenging part of this was your call to prayer for the church. It is so easy to see our flaws, but I definitely LOVE the body of Christ and want to see us flourishing. The best place to start in order to see that accomplished is on my knees. Thanks for the reminder! Keep up the good work!

  11. This is great! God’s prophets were never all about them but like you said were often alone in calling people to come back to God while pleading with God on their behalf all at the same time.

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