It’s 2014, and no doubt there will be prophetic words for the year from many sources. But for years now there’s something that’s been bothering me about how prophecy is used in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Now I should say I love the prophetic and love hearing the living word of God. I know 1 Corinthians 14, that prophecy should speak to people “for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort” (v.3). Usually, we eagerly receive a personal word of encouragement from a fellow believer in that way, which we “test” by our own inner witness, knowing that people prophesy in part(v.9). And we remember, “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:20–21). And as we hold fast the good words we receive, we can quote 1 Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.” So far, so good. That’s not what’s bothering me.
Now, there is some of abuse of this in the form of dial-a-prophecy kind of websites, and people seeking out the prophetic individual in church for a word on demand(!). Loren Sandford in his book, Purifying the Prophetic, deals with this issue of self-seeking motivation very well. It’s our tendency to desperately want to be validated in the eyes of the church by one humdinger of a prophecy by a recognised prophet. Or then again, we tend to have our own version of how that prophetic word is going to pan out, and we can end up mightily offended with God, when it turns out that worship ministry was meant only for the audience of One.(sigh!) This seems to be a reflection of the self-aggrandising spirit of our age (because we’re worth it!??) In the book, Sandford describes a conference where a prophet refused to minister because of that impure motivation. Thank God for ministers with integrity. That used to bother me, but that’s not what’s bothering me now.
More recently there has been an emphasis on helping people to hear the voice of the Lord for themselves. Waiting on the Lord, soaking, fixing our eyes on Jesus, getting into spontaneous flow, listening to His voice, and journalling what He shows us or says. Once we understand that we hear and know in part, and that we are in need of input from others to truly discern the full picture, that doesn’t bother me. In fact I think hearing His voice is part of the priesthood of the believer, the anointing within which teaches us to abide in Him. (1 John 2:27) It’s a good way to grow in your relationship with the Lord, and develops our trust in Him by experience, as we learn to lean into His voice. As the prophet Isaiah said, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” Is. 50:4-5. That doesn’t bother me at all.
What’s bothering me is this: the smallness of it all, the vagueness of it all, the absence of verifiable major directional words, and the lack of open judgement about prophetic words that do not seem to come to pass.”The LORD..let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” 1 Samuel 3:19 That means no prophecy of Samuel’s ever went unfulfilled. Not to mention Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. In fact, “missing it” under the Old Covenant had very serious consequences as we see in Deuteronomy 18- 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 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.
Is New Testament prophecy really so completely different to that in the Old Testament? Not many stand in the office of prophet we are told, but with everyone calling themselves a prophet it seems, who knows who does hold that office? And with the rise of the internet prophet, how do we “weigh what is said”? How did the office of prophet work in the New Testament? How is it meant to work now?
That’s what’s bothering me. What do you think?