G O D ' S S P O K E S M E N
A Survey of the Prophetic Ministry in the Bible
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2019 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission of the author. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
1 - Genesis: God Speaks to His People
2 - Genesis: God Speaks Through His People
3 – Exodus: Moses, God's Spokesman
4 - The Law and Prophecy
5 - Joshua, Judges, and Ruth: The Word of the Lord was Rare
6 - Samuel
7 - Prophecy Under the Reigns of David and Solomon
8 - The Prophets of the Divided Kingdom
9 - Elijah
10 - Elisha
11 - Jonah
12 - Amos
13 - Hosea
14 - Isaiah
15 - Micah
16 - Nahum
17 - Jeremiah
18 - Zephaniah
19 - Habakkuk
20 - Ezekiel
21 - Daniel
22 - Obadiah
23 - Haggai
24 - Zechariah
25 - Joel
26 - Malachi
27 - New Testament Prophecy in the Early Days of Jesus
28 - Old Testament Prophecy in the Life and Ministry of Christ
29 - Jesus as Prophet
30 - Prophecy in the Book of Acts
31 - Paul's Teaching on Prophecy
32 - The Apostle John
33 - False Prophecy
34 - Biblical Arguments Used Against the Prophetic Ministry Today
35 - Prophecy in the Church Today
About The Author
A
1 - GENESIS: GOD SPEAKS
TO HIS PEOPLE
s we begin this study on the role of Biblical prophecy, it is
important that I set some parameters. Prophecy, in its essence, is
a revelation from God to His creation about His purpose. This
may include the unveiling of future events, but prophecy is just as likely to
reveal the will of God for His people in the present time.
All of Scripture fits this description as it unfolds the purpose of God for us
today and our hope for the future. In this study, however, I want to focus on
how God revealed His heart to individuals and the men and women He used
to share that purpose. My goal, in these opening words, is not to define
prophecy but to give direction to the study. I hope that as the study unfolds,
the definition, purpose, and means of prophecy will become quite evident.
We begin in the first book of the Bible just after the creation of Adam and
Eve. There in that Garden, the Lord spoke to the first man and his wife,
revealing His purpose to them:
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may
surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that
you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2)
Notice two details in the words of the Lord, spoken to Adam and Eve.
First, God reveals His present plan for Adam and Eve. He told them that
they were to eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. God made His purpose clear in these words. He showed
Adam and his wife what they could eat and what they could not eat. Were it
not for this direct revelation of God, Adam and Eve would never have
understood this purpose.
Second, God not only speaks about His present plan for Adam and Eve, but
He also tells them what would happen in the future if they did not follow
this plan. If they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they
would die. The words of this prophecy are conditional upon the actions of
Adam and Eve. In other words, the truth God was revealing to this couple
did not have to come to pass if they chose to walk in obedience. If,
however, they rebelled against the purpose of God, then death would
follow.
We have, in these words, what I call a conditional prophecy. If certain
conditions are met, then the words would come true. In this case, if Adam
or Eve at from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil then they would
die. If they chose not to eat from the tree, then they would continue to live.
This would not be the only time God would speak directly to this first
couple. In Genesis 3 we read how Satan sought to discredit the prophetic
words of the Lord by tempting Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. Eve
yielded to this temptation and gave the fruit of the tree to her husband.
Together they committed the first sin. Listen to the response of the Lord
God to this act of disobedience:
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3)
That day, the Lord God revealed to Adam and Eve the results of their sin.
Pain and suffering were introduced for the first time –Eve would bear
children in pain. God also showed Eve that there would be brokenness in
her relationship with Adam “Your desire shall be contrary to your
husband, but he shall rule over you.” The earth would be cursed “cursed
is the ground because of you.” Finally, death would come to both the man
and the woman “to dust you shall return.” We see the fulfilment of these
prophetic words in our world today.
In Genesis 4 we read how Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, would kill his
brother Abel. The Lord appeared to Cain after this murder and spoke to him
directly about what he had done:
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the
field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He
said, “I do not know; am I my brothers keeper?” 10 And the
Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brothers
blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are
cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive
your brothers blood from your hand. 12 When you work the
ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be
a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4)
The Lord revealed to Cain that the ground he worked to gain a livelihood
would be cursed for him. He would become a wanderer on the earth making
a living wherever he could. The prophetic words God spoke to Cain that
day were words of rebuke and judgement. They pronounced his sentence.
So far, we have seen from these prophetic statements of God that prophecy
reveals the purpose of God for His people. It also issues warnings of danger
when they wander from the path God has laid out for them. Now we see
from His words to Cain that prophecy also pronounced the judgement of
God on those who wandered from Him and His plan.
As we move on in the book of Genesis, we see that prophecy also gave
direction and announced blessings. In Genesis 12, for example, God
declared to Abraham that He would form his descendants into a great
nation:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and
your kindred and your fathers house to the land that I will
show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will
bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a
blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who
dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12)
God told Abram to leave his country to go to a land that He would show
him. God spoke directly to Abram revealing the purpose He had for him–
“go… to the land that I will show you.”
Also, in these words of God to Abram was a great promise. God told him
that He would bless him and all nations through him. These prophetic
words of God announce great blessing to Abram and his descendants.
God would remind Abram of this prophecy several times in his life (see
Genesis 12:1-2; 15:1-6; 17:1-8). The promise is repeated to Abram’s son
Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5), and his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:10-15). It was
essential to God that this family understand that they were chosen to be His
instruments of blessing to the nations. This was revealed to them directly
from God. In the case of Jacob, as recorded in Genesis 28, we see that this
revelation from God came in the form of a dream.
The revelation of this will of God for Abraham and his family would have
placed them under obligation to God. Knowing that God had a purpose for
them as a family, would help them to have a clear focus in life. They would
be God’s people, and as such, they would live for Him and worship Him
alone.
When the time approached for Sarah to conceive, God spoke to
her and her husband about this.
10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and
Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door
behind him (Genesis 18)
Notice how the Lord God announced the time in which Sarah, as an old
woman would give birth. When it took place as the Lord told them, they
would have the assurance that this was indeed from Him. There was no
obligation on the Lord’s part to tell Abraham and Sarah when this child
would be born. He did so, however, to encourage them and assure them that
this was from Him.
When the child Isaac was born, great jealousy arose between Sarah and her
servant Hagar, who had given birth to Abraham’s son Ishmael. The
intensity of this jealousy and bitterness between the two women was such
that Abraham sent Hagar and his son Ishmael away. This was a tough
decision for Abraham. The Lord, however, spoke directly to him about this
matter:
10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with
her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with
my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to
Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham,
“Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your
slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you,
for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will
make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is
your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and
took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it
on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And
she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
(Genesis 21)
Through these words spoken to Abraham, God promised a future for his son
Ishmael and reaffirmed to Abraham that he was right to send him away.
God gave encouragement and direction to Abraham through this prophetic
word. Abraham was able to send Hagar and her son away, knowing that
God would look after them and provide a good future for them.
As Isaac grew up and took a wife, he too would become a father. His wife
Rebekah experienced many problems with her pregnancy. This worried
Rebekah so much that Isaac asked the Lord about it:
21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was
barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife
conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and
she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she
went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25)
The Lord told the couple that twins were in Rebekah’s womb. These twins
represented two nations who would be a war with each other. Through this
prophecy, the Lord brought clarity and comfort to Rebekah by revealing
what was happening.
The examples of prophecy we have examined so far in the book of Genesis
have all been related to God speaking directly to His people. In these
examples, we learn some valuable lessons about prophecy and its purpose.
We see first that God spoke directly to Adam and Eve to reveal to them how
He wanted them to live. Prophecy in this sense is a revelation of God’s
purpose and teaches us what God expects of us. There is a teaching element
in prophecy.
Second, God warned His people of dangers through prophetic words. He
told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed His commands, they would die.
God warned Cain before he killed his brother that “sin was crouching at his
door. Its desire is for you” (Genesis 4:7). God revealed these things to
Adam, Eve and Cain to keep them from falling into sin and death.
Third, when God’s people turn from Him and rebel against His purpose,
God spoke prophetically to pronounce His judgement. This was the case for
Adam and Eve when God told them that the result of this sin would be
suffering, broken relationships, cursed ground, and death. It was also the
case for Cain when God told him that the land he tilled would be cursed and
that he would become a wander on the earth.
Fourth, in the passages, we have considered we see that God spoke
prophetically to announce His blessing. He announced to Abram that He
would make him into a great nation. He repeated this promise to Isaac and
Jacob.
Fifth, God spoke prophetically in the book of Genesis to give direction to
His people. He called Abram out of Ur to travel to an unknown land. He
told Abraham that he was to let Ishmael and his mother Hagar go.
Finally, God’s prophetic words were used to bring His people assurance
under challenging times. When Abraham was troubled about letting Hagar
and Ishmael leave, God promised that He would make Ishmael into a great
nation. When Rebekah struggled to understand what was going on in her
womb, God reassured her that He had a purpose.
So far, we have examined how God spoke directly to various individuals in
the book of Genesis. God also spoke indirectly to individuals by giving His
message to one person to share with another. In the next chapter, we will
see what the book of Genesis has to teach us about how God used people to
speak on His behalf.
For Consideration:
What evidence do we have in the book of Genesis that God spoke directly
to His people?
What is a conditional prophecy? Give an example of a conditional
prophecy.
How does prophecy in the book of Genesis warn God’s people of coming
danger? Give an example.
How does prophecy in Genesis give direction and comfort to the people of
God? Give an example.
What was the purpose for God to speak directly to His people in the book of
Genesis?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to give thanks to the Lord for the times He has very
specifically lead you in the path He had for your life.
Have you ever felt the Lord speaking encouragement and comfort to your
soul? Thank the Lord that He knows what you need and brings the blessing
you need at the right time.
Ask God to help you to be more open to how He wants to lead and direct
you today. Ask Him to forgive you for a time when you did not listen to the
warnings He gave or the direction He wanted you to take.
W
2 - GENESIS: GOD SPEAKS
THROUGH HIS PEOPLE
e have seen how God spoke openly and directly to His people
in the book of Genesis. As we continue in Genesis, we see
another aspect of the prophetic ministry. Not only did God
speak directly to individuals but He also communicated His message
through these individuals to others.
In Genesis 27 we read how Isaac blessed his sons Jacob and Esau.
Blessings were taken seriously because of their prophetic nature. Disguised
as Esau, Jacob approached his father to receive a blessing.
26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me,
my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac
smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,
“See, the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mothers sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” (Genesis 27)
In these words, Isaac told Jacob that the Lord would bless him with the
“fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.” He prophesied that
people would serve him, and whole nations would bow down to him. Even
his brother Esau would bow to him. These truths were revealed to Isaac
from God about his son.
When Esau came to receive his blessing from the Lord and discovered that
his brother had taken it, he begged his father to bless him also. Isaac gave
this blessing to him:
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:
“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling
be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you grow restless
you shall break his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 27)
Isaac prophesied that Esau would struggle in life. He would live away from
the “fatness of the earth.” He would fight enemies and serve his brother.
The day would come, however, when he would break the burden of his
brothers control over him.
As we examine the stories of Jacob and Esau, we see how these prophecies
came true. The words of Isaac were not just blessings but prophetic
statements about the lives of his sons. God gave him these words to show
his sons what was going to happen in their lives. God would confirm these
words to Jacob when He spoke to him personally in Genesis 28:10-15.
Not all who spoke prophetically were aware that they were doing so. In
Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to take his son and offer him as a
burnt offering. Obedient to the Lord, Abraham took Isaac and brought him
to the mountain where he laid him on the altar and prepared to offer him to
the Lord as a sacrifice. Before he could do so, however, the Lord stopped
him and showed him a ram stuck in a thicket by his horns. In the place of
his son, Abraham offered this ram as a burnt offering.
What we need to understand about this incident is that God was not only
testing His servant Abraham but also conveying a vital message through
him to those who would read this story. It is generally understood that the
mountain on which Abraham offered his son was where the Heavenly
Father would sacrifice His Son, the Lord Jesus on the cross. Just as God
substituted the ram for Abraham’s son Isaac, the Lord Jesus would sacrifice
His life on our behalf on that mountain. It is unlikely that Abraham and
Isaac understood the details of this prophetic act, but by their obedience,
they were declaring what would happen in the years to come and how God
would provide for the salvation of His people.
As we move toward the end of the book of Genesis, we meet a man by the
name of Joseph. God used Joseph as a spokesman on many occasions. As a
young boy, Joseph had dreams revealing what would happen in the days to
come. In Genesis 37 we have two examples of this kind of dream. We have
a record of the first dream in Genesis 37:5-8:
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers
they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream
that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the
field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And
behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my
sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign
over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him
even more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37)
In this dream, Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves of wheat in the
field. As he watched, his brothers sheaves gathered around him and bowed
down to him. Joseph’s brothers mocked him saying: “Are you indeed to
reign over us?”
The second dream was quite similar:
9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers
and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the
sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10
But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father
rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have
dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed
come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his
brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in
mind. (Genesis 37)
In this second dream, the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to
Joseph. His father understood this to mean that he and his eleven other sons
would bow down to Joseph. Joseph’s brothers became angry with him, but
his father kept the memory of this dream in his mind.
The day would come when each of his brothers would bow down to Joseph
as the ruler of Egypt. None of them had any way of knowing how this
would be fulfilled in their lives. When Joseph explained these dreams, his
brothers dismissed them as foolishness. God, however, was using Joseph’s
dreams to show him and his family what was to come.
This was not the only time dreams were used in the life of Joseph to convey
the purpose of God. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers
and brought to Egypt where he would remain for the rest of his life. There
in Egypt he was falsely accused of sexual abuse by his boss’ wife and
thrown into prison. There in prison, he met the king’s cupbearer and baker.
One day the king’s cupbearer had a dream that affected him deeply. Joseph
noticed that something was troubling him and asked what was wrong. The
cupbearer told Joseph his dream.
9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to
him, “In my dream, there was a vine before me, 10 and on the
vine, there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its
blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11
Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and
pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in
Pharaoh’s hand.” (Genesis 40)
Hearing the dream, Joseph explained its prophetic meaning to the
cupbearer. He told him that in three days the king would release him from
jail and restore him to his position.
The chief baker also has a dream. When he heard that Joseph had revealed
the meaning of the cupbearers dream, he too wanted to know what his
dream meant. He also shared his dream with Joseph:
16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was
favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were
three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket
there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds
were eating it out of the basket on my head.” (Genesis 40)
Joseph again interpreted the meaning of the dream, telling the baker that in
three days the king would cut off his head and hang him on a tree where the
birds would eat his flesh.
In time, the Pharaoh of Egypt had two dreams that troubled him. In the first
of these dreams, he saw seven fat cows come up out of the Nile to feed on
the reed grass. Behind them came seven thin cows. These thin cows
attacked and ate the fat cows.
1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was
standing by the Nile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the
Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed
grass. 3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up
out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the
bank of the Nile. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven
attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. (Genesis 41)
When Pharaoh went to sleep again, he dreamed a second dream. The dream
was very similar but related this time to seven good ears of grain that were
eaten up by seven thin and blighted ears.
5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold,
seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one
stalk. 6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and
blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the
seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold; it was
a dream. (Genesis 41)
Pharaoh believed that these dreams had a prophetic meaning but could not
find anyone to interpret them until the cupbearer told him how Joseph had
interpreted his dream. The king released Joseph from prison to hear his
dreams.
When asked by Pharaoh to interpret his dream, Joseph is quick to remind
him that the interpretation was not from him but God:
15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there
is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that
when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph
answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a
favorable answer.”
In speaking these words, Joseph was telling the king that the words he
would speak to him were not of his own origin. He would only speak what
God gave him to say. God revealed to Joseph that the dream foretold seven
years of plenty in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of intense
drought. Joseph challenged Pharaoh to prepare for these years of drought by
selecting a man to oversee the gathering of produce in preparation for the
years of famine that were to come. Through these dreams, God was
revealing to Pharaoh that trials were ahead for the nation.
While the dreams of the cupbearer, baker, and Pharaoh were revealed
directly to them in their sleep, they had no way of understanding them.
These prophetic dreams revealed the future but needed someone to explain
what God was saying through them. Joseph spoke prophetically to the
people of his day through the interpretation of dreams. God would give a
dream to an individual and then give Joseph the meaning of that dream. It
was by this means that God revealed His purpose to these individuals.
Just before he died, Joseph gave final instructions to his bothers:
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God
will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that
he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph
made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit
you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” (Genesis 50)
These last words of Joseph were prophetic. In these words, Joseph told his
brothers that God was going to bring them out of Egypt and give them their
own land. When they left Egypt, they were to take his body with them so
that he could returned to his homeland. The words were not just meant to
give instructions about his death but also to encourage them and reveal the
purpose of God for them as a nation.
We see from these passages that God not only spoke directly to individuals
but also through His servants to others. Jacob told his sons Isaac and Esau
what God had planned for their lives. Joseph explained to his family the
purpose God had for them in the days to come. He also communicated the
will of God for the cupbearer, baker, and Pharaoh.
We see also in this book of Genesis the means God uses to communicate
His purpose. Sometimes God spoke directly to His people. He also spoke
prophetically through the blessing a father gave to his son. He illustrated
His plan in Christ through Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice his son
on the mountain. God spoke to Joseph in dreams and used him as a
prophetic interpreter of dreams.
In the book of Genesis, we learn several things about prophecy. First, we
see that God was interested in communicating with His people. Second,
God used His people as instruments to convey His message. Third, God
was not limited to any one means to deliver this message. He spoke in
different ways either directly to individuals or through His servants in
whatever way He deemed best.
For Consideration:
How does Isaac speak prophetically to his sons when he blessed them?
What message did he convey to them?
How did God convey a message about the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice
through Abraham and his son Isaac?
Did the person who communicated prophetically always understand what
they were saying or doing?
List how God communicated His purpose as discussed in this chapter.
What does prophecy look like? Can we limit God to using only one method
of speaking to us?
Has God ever used anyone to reveal His purpose for your life or to
encourage you in His purpose? How did He do this? What method did He
use to bring this encouragement or direction?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord for the way He wants to communicate with us and reveal
His purpose.
Ask the Lord to give you ears to hear what He wants to say to you and how
He wants to direct your life.
Thank the Lord for the way He has used others to speak to you in times of
need.
Ask God to make you willing to be an instrument in His hands to encourage
or bless His people with the words He gives you to share.
A
3 – EXODUS: MOSES,
GOD'S SPOKESMAN
s we move to the book of Exodus the people of God were in
Egypt. Their Egyptian slave masters harshly treated them. At that
time, a young mother gave birth to a son by the name of Moses.
He would become a powerful leader in the movement to set the nation of
Israel free from Egyptian bondage.
Moses, as an Israelite, grew up in the home of Pharaoh’s daughter and had
all the privileges afforded to him as her adopted son. As he grew up,
however, the Lord placed a burden on his heart for the Israelites and their
plight. His efforts on their behalf failed, however, when he attempted to win
their favour by killing an Egyptian taskmaster. The death of this Egyptian,
at the hands of Moses, brought the wrath of Pharaoh on him and he was
forced to flee the nation and live in exile in the land of Midian.
After forty years, the Lord spoke to Moses and called him back to Egypt to
set his people free. Moses’ call came when he saw a burning bush in the
desert. The voice of God spoke out of that bush commanding him to return
to Egypt. Listen to the words of God to Moses that day as recorded in
Exodus 3:10-12:
10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my
people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said
to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the
children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with
you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you:
when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve
God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3)
In those words, God not only gave Moses the direction He wanted him to
take but also a promise of success. God promised to be with Moses and
assured him that the day would come when he and his people would
worship him at the mountain at which he was grazing his sheep. When that
happened, Moses would know that God was faithful to His promises.
Moses heard the direction and promise of the Lord but struggled with what
he was being asked to do:
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not
eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your
servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4)
Moses did not feel that he could do what God had asked him to do. He told
the Lord that he was not an eloquent man and could not speak. Moses
understood that if he were to set the people free, he would have to convince
Pharaoh to let them go. He did not feel that he had the skills necessary for
this task. Moses looked to himself for the skills necessary. He is not looking
to God. He had not yet come to understand that God did not need human
ability and skill. God responded to Moses’ argument in verses 11 and 12:
11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?
Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I,
the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth
and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4)
Notice what God told Moses in these verses. He would be with Moses’
mouth and teach him what he was to speak. When God is with our mouth,
our words are empowered. When God teaches us what to speak, all we need
to do is share what God has given us. God was showing Moses that He did
not have to figure out what to say to Pharaoh. God would give him the
words. He did not have to spend hours trying to prepare his logical
arguments for Pharaoh. He just had to say what God gave him to say. God
was simply asking Moses to be His human mouth to communicate to
Pharaoh.
When Moses continued to object, God became angry with him. Despite His
anger, however, God proposed a solution for Moses that he found easier to
accept:
14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and
he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know
that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you,
and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall
speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with
your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to
do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be
your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. (Exodus 4)
God proposed that Moses’ brother Aaron do the speaking. God would tell
Moses what He wanted to speak to Pharaoh. Moses would share those
words with Aaron and Aaron would pass them on to the people. Notice
what God told Moses in verse 16: “he will be your mouth, and you shall be
as God to him.”
This discussion between God and Moses reveals to us the nature of
prophecy. God shows us what we are to say, and we share what He gives us
with those to whom He sends us. Prophecy is not sharing our wisdom and
insights. It is sharing what God has been giving us.
Speaking God’s words did not guarantee success for Moses. He went with
the words God gave him to Pharaoh. Pharaoh rejected those words:
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his
voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I
will not let Israel go. (Exodus 5)
The Lord was with Moses’ mouth, and He taught him what to say, but those
words were rejected. Being God’s spokesman did not mean that Moses or
his words would be received by those to whom he spoke. This was a hard
lesson for Moses to learn. When Pharaoh responded to the words of Moses
by making Israel’s burden greater, Moses cried out to God:
22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have
you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has
done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people
at all.” (Exodus 5)
Speaking God’s word was, on the one hand, an exciting ministry. Seeing
how people responded to those words, was another matter. Moses had to
learn that as a prophet, he would not always be accepted. His words, though
they were from God, would often be rejected. This would be a painful
lesson for many prophets in Scripture.
Over the course of months that followed, God would direct Moses through
the unfolding of a series of ten plagues on the nation of Egypt. Ten times,
Moses returned to Pharaoh with the word of the Lord and a warning of a
plague if he rejected that word. As Pharaoh resisted the prophetic word of
the Lord, the nation was left suffering and starving for food.
The prophetic ministry of Moses was not only directed toward Pharaoh. A
good portion of the book of Exodus is devoted to the Lord’s words through
Moses for the nation of Israel. In Exodus 12, for example, God instructed
Moses on how to prepare for the final plague that would kill the firstborn of
every home in the nation of Egypt. In these instructions God instituted the
celebration of the Passover –a yearly event celebrated by the Jewish
community. God’s directions for this celebration were quite precise. God
shared with Moses, the kind of lamb that he was to slaughter, what he was
to do with the blood of the lamb, what God’s people were to eat and how
they were to eat the evening meal. Moses, as God’s mouthpiece, shared
every detail with the people.
God called Moses up to the mountain in Exodus 19 and spoke with him
about the requirements He had for His people. There on the mountaintop,
God summarized His moral requirements in ten commandments (Exodus
20:1-17). He taught him how to offer sacrifices (Exodus 20:22-26), how to
treat slaves (Exodus 21:1-11) and the obligation of every citizen toward
each other (Exodus 21:12-35). God told Moses what He expected when a
man was caught stealing from his neighbour (Exodus 22:1-4) and what He
expected of those who loaned money to a friend (Exodus 22:14-15. He told
Moses about the various festivals He wanted his people to practice each
year and the types of offerings they were to bring to Him on those occasions
(Exodus 23:10-19). Finally, God promised that He would bring His people
to their own land and bless them as a nation if they walked with Him
(Exodus 23:20-33).
What is significant for us to note is what Moses did with all the words the
Lord spoke to him on that mountain:
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and
all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and
said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4
And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early
in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain,
and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
(Exodus 24)
As the prophetic mouthpiece of God, Moses gathered all the people and
shared with them “all the words of the Lord and all the rules.” To be sure
that they would be remembered, Moses took this a step further and wrote
the words of the Lord down on a scroll. This is the first record of prophecy
put into writing. The words of God through Moses were intended not just
for that generation but for generations to come.
The ministry of Moses, as a prophet, was to communicate the purpose of
God for the people. In this sense, the prophetic ministry of Moses was also
a teaching ministry. Through this gift, God instructed His people in what He
expected from them. These words were written down so that they could be
passed on from generation to generation. Teachers would later instruct
God’s people in these prophetic words and help them to understand and
apply these principles. What would become Israel’s laws and regulations
were given prophetically to Moses from God.
Not only did the laws and regulations of Israel come through a prophet who
spoke directly with God, but we see from Exodus 25 that God instructed
Moses in how to build the tabernacle and each article used in its service.
God’s instructions about the items used in worship were precise. He told
Moses how much gold or silver to use for each item. He gave him exact
measurements for the ark of the covenant and the table used to hold the
bread. From the decorations on the candlesticks to the colour and designs
that were embroidered on the curtains, all these details were carefully laid
out by God for Moses. Moses, in turn, would share the words of God with
the people and oversee the production of each article to be sure that it was
in line with the instructions God gave him. Every detail of the tabernacle
came to Israel through prophecy, spoken directly to Moses from God.
Moses’ prophetic calling was not only used for teaching the people the
requirements of God but also to guide them through the wilderness. As the
people left the land of Egypt, God spoke to Moses to tell him the direction
the people were to take:
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to
turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol
and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing
it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel,
‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them
in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue
them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and
the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
(Exodus 14)
When Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel with his army, everything
looked hopeless. God, however, instructed Moses in what to do:
15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the
people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff and stretch
out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of
Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14)
No human wisdom would lead the people to expect that waters of the sea
would open to them and set them free from the pursuing army. This was a
word from the Lord to Moses.
When the people were without food, the Lord told Moses that he would rain
down bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4). When the people grumbled
because they had no water, God told Moses to take his staff and strike a
rock, and it would provide water for the nation (Exodus 17:5-7). When the
water in Marah was so bitter the people could not drink it. It was a word
from the Lord to Moses that brought the solution (Exodus 15:22-26).
While Moses seems to be the one who heard from God and conveyed His
truth to the people, it is important to note a reference to Moses’ sister
Miriam in Exodus 15:
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a
tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her
with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
Miriam is called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20. This appears to be the only
place in Scripture that indicates that Miriam was a prophetess. We know
very little about how she exercised her prophetic ministry. The context of
Exodus 15:20-21 may, however, give an example of how she used her gift
through music.
As we continue our study of prophecy and the prophetic ministry, we will
see other connections between music and prophecy. Suffice it to say here
that this is the first connection that is made between a prophetess and
music. It is not without coincidence that many of the prophetic passages of
Scripture come in the form of poetry. God inspired people to communicate
His word in a variety of ways. Moses wrote down the words God gave him
so that they would be preserved for generations to come. Sometimes God
will speak to His people through the music He has inspired, to remind them
of His promises or His purpose for their lives. Like the words of Moses
written down on a tablet, these prophetic words put to music are passed on
for generations and sung repeatedly by God’s people.
What does Exodus teach us about prophecy and the prophetic ministry? We
learn that God sometimes directed His people into His purpose by speaking
directly to them. This was the case for Moses and his call at the burning
bush to return to Egypt.
Secondly, prophecy is not about sharing personal ideas or thoughts, but
speaking what God has given. God told Moses that He would give him the
words to speak to Pharaoh. Moses did not have to study and organize these
thoughts before he went to Pharaoh. He merely conveyed to Pharaoh what
God had put on his lips.
Thirdly, the prophetic ministry, though it is from God, was not always
accepted or appreciated. Moses learned this the hard way. Though he spoke
what God gave him, Pharaoh rejected what Moses said. The lives of the
Israelite slaves became more difficult before they were released. Moses had
to share what God gave him to say even when it proved difficult.
Fourthly, God used the prophetic ministry of Moses to teach His people
about His requirements for them as a people. He instructed Moses in the
sacrifices and lifestyle He expected, and Moses taught these truths to the
people just as God had shown him.
Fifthly, God used the prophetic ministry of Moses to provide solutions for
His people in difficult times. When the people did not know what to do,
God spoke to Moses and showed him the answer. It was the advice of the
Lord that provided water from the Rock. It was the counsel of the Lord that
showed the people that they were to cross the Red Sea.
Finally, we see how prophetic words were sometimes written down or
memorized to preserve them for future generations. This was the case for
the Law of God given to Moses. It may also have been the case for
prophetic words set to music and sung by God’s people in worship.
For Consideration:
What is the connection between the Law of Israel and the prophetic
ministry of Moses?
What is the difference between human logic and prophecy?
How did Moses use his prophetic calling to lead the people of God through
the desert?
Can there be a connection between prophecy and music? How could music
preserve the prophetic message?
Why is it essential that we understand that the Bible comes from God
through His prophets and is not of human origin?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that the truth of Scripture has been given to us as God’s
servants faithfully wrote what He told them. Thank Him that it is reliable
and trustworthy because it is from Him.
Thank the Lord that He is still willing to direct and guide you personally in
times of struggle and confusion.
How has God spoken to you? Have you ever been encouraged by the Lord?
Has he ever directed you in the way you should go? Take a moment to
thank Him for how He guides and strengthens His people.
A
4 - THE LAW AND
PROPHECY
s the people of God left Egypt and set out into the desert, it was
Moses who led them. Moses had a powerful prophetic calling
from the Lord. He was God’s national spokesman for the people.
God would often speak to Moses and tell him what to say the nation.
In Leviticus 24 we have the story of a son of an Israelite mother and
Egyptian father. This young man fought with a man in the Israelite camp.
During the fight, it appears that this young man blasphemed the name of the
Lord. He was brought to Moses and put in custody until Moses could ask
the Lord what to do about him.
10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an
Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the
Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,
11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and
cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mothers name
was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12
And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be
clear to them. (Leviticus 24)
Moses went to the Lord to inquire about this man. The Lord told Moses in
Leviticus 24:13-16:
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the
camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their
hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15
And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his
God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the
Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall
stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he
blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24)
The Lord made it clear to Moses that day what he was to tell the people.
This young man was to be stoned to death and a warning given to the entire
Israelite camp that whoever blasphemed the name of the Lord would be put
to death. The word that Moses heard that day came directly from God and
was to guide the people in what they were to do.
We sometimes get the idea that prophecy is about future events. This is not
always the case. Prophecy relates to God’s revelation of His purpose, will,
and heart. Some prophecy refers to the future purpose of God, but a good
part of prophecy speaks to the here and now.
A quick search for the phrase “the Lord spoke to Moses” in Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy show us that the phrase is repeated
about 79 times in these books. This is significant. It shows us that Moses
had a significant role to play in revealing the purpose of God to his people.
That purpose was not only explained in specific details, as in the case of the
young man who cursed the Lord but also through the various laws God
gave Moses as recorded in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. All these
requirements came directly from God through His servant Moses.
We see the significance of this prophetic role of Moses when his brother
and sister complained that he had married a Cushite woman (Numbers
12:1). Their complaint did not stop there, however. They went on to
grumble about the prophetic ministry of Moses:
2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through
Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord
heard it. (Numbers 12)
Miriam was described as a prophetess in Exodus 15:20. When Moses told
God that he could not speak, God told him that He would make his brother
Aaron his prophet (see Exodus 4:14-16). Both Miriam and Aaron felt they
had a prophetic gift and calling. What they were seeing, however, is that the
Lord was speaking much more through Moses. The people were looking to
him to seek that Lord on their behalf. There may have been an element of
jealousy here in these siblings. What is crucial for us to see, however, is that
the gift of prophecy was not limited to Moses.
When the Lord heard Aaron and Miriam grumbling about Moses and his
prophetic calling, He demanded that they approach Him at the tabernacle.
That day Moses, Miriam and Aaron all stood before God to hear from Him.
As they stood before Him, a pillar of cloud came and remained at the
entrance to the tabernacle.
There in the presence of that cloudy pillar, the Lord spoke these words to
Miriam and Aaron:
6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among
you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak
with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is
faithful in all my house. 8 With him, I speak mouth to mouth,
clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant
Moses?” 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them,
and he departed. (Numbers 12)
God told Miriam and Aaron that the usual way He spoke through a prophet
was through dreams visions and riddles that needed interpretation. God
chose, however, to talk to Moses face to face. He even revealed His form to
Moses. God had a special relationship with Moses. He had called him to a
very particular prophetic ministry. When God gave instructions to Moses
about His law, He was very clear. There were no riddles or any chance of
misunderstanding. The words of the law God gave to Moses were too
important to commit to the interpretation of any human being. What God
taught Moses was direct, clear and precise. This is what Moses wrote down
for the people to follow.
That day God was angry with Miriam and Aaron because they were jealous
and spoke harshly about the role He had given Moses. Miriam seemed
particularly jealous and angry with Moses. When the cloud departed from
the tabernacle, she became leprous and was separated from the people of
God until was again restored to health. God protected His servant Moses
from the grumbling of his brother and sister and reminded them that God
chooses the people He pleases to be His representatives. This appears to be
the first conflict we see in Scripture between fellow prophets. It would not,
however, be the last.
In Numbers 22 we meet another prophet by the name of Balaam. He is a
very different type of prophet. Balaam was not even an Israelite. From
Deuteronomy 23:4 we discover that Balaam, the son of Beor was from
Pethor in Mesopotamia. He was known as a prophet or diviner. Israel was
not the only nation to have prophets. Many of the foreign countries of the
day consulted prophets and diviners to understand the will of the gods. God
warned His people about these prophets and diviners in Deuteronomy 18:
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his
son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices
divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11
or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who
inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an
abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations
the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall
be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations,
which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and
to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed
you to do this. (Deuteronomy 18)
The difference between these diviners and the prophets of God was, in part,
the fact that the prophets of God sought the God of Israel and His guidance.
Diviners often did not know God, and they consulted other gods or spirits
for direction.
At this time, Israel’s army was marching toward the Promised Land. God
was giving them great military victories in this region. The king of Moab
was fearful of what would happen to him and his people if the Israelites
were not stopped. He did not want to fight them, however, because God was
with them. King Balak of Moab consulted with the Midianites to see what
they could do to defeat Israel. Together they sent for Balaam the diviner and
asked him to curse the Israelites. It appears that Balaam had a reputation as
a powerful diviner:
4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now
lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the
field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at
that time, 5 sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at
Pethor, which is near the Rivera in the land of the people of
Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of
Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling
opposite me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they
are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them
and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you
bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” 7 So the
elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees
for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave
him Balak’s message. (Numbers 22)
When these Moabite and Midianite messengers arrived with an invitation,
Balaam told them that he would first consult with the God of Israel before
he gave them an answer. We have a record of the conversation between the
Lord God of Israel and this pagan diviner in Numbers 22:
9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with
you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor,
king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has
come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now
come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight
against them and drive them out.’” 12 God said to Balaam,
“You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for
they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said
to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has
refused to let me go with you.” (Numbers 22)
God made it clear to Balaam that He did not want him to go with the
servants of King Balak, so Balaam sent them home.
When the king sent his servants back to Balaam, the Lord agreed to let him
return with them to King Balak but told Balaam that he was only to say
what He gave him to say (Numbers 22:20). When King Balak asked
Balaam to curse the Israelites, instead of cursing the people of Israel,
Balaam blessed them. On two other occasions King Balak asked Balaam to
curse Israel, but on each occurrence, Balaam received the words from the
Lord and blessed them instead (see Numbers 23:18-24; 24:3-9).
What is significant for us to see is what happened to the Israelites after this
incident:
1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with
the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the
sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to
their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the
anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. (Numbers 25)
6 And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a
Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the
sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while
they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7
When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw
it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his
hand 8 and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and
pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through
her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped.
(Numbers 25)
The Moabite and Midianite women tempted the Israelite men into corrupt
religious practices. The Lord sent a curse upon the land in those days.
According to Numbers 25:9 the plague that resulted from this immorality
took the lives of twenty-four thousand people.
In Numbers 31 the Lord commanded the Israelite army to take vengeance
on the Midianites. The military went out in obedience to the Lord’s
command and killed every male in the region (Numbers 31:7). They
captured the woman and children, however, and did not put them to death
(Numbers 31:9). When Moses heard that they did not kill the women, he
was angry with them and spoke these words:
15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16
Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel
to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor,
and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
(Numbers 31)
What is striking is that it was these pagan women who led the men of Israel
to sin and brought the plague on the nation. The men, however, refused to
kill those who had drawn them away from God. Moses reminded the men
that it was on Balaam’s advice that the women began to tempt them to sin.
The apostle John repeats this in Revelation 2 when he said:
14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there
who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a
stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat
food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
(Revelation 2)
According to Revelation 2:14, Balaam taught King Balak how to put a
stumbling block before the men of Israel so that they would bow down to
idols and practice sexual immorality.
What is quite clear is that Balaam was not a true prophet of God. He heard
from God and spoke the words God gave him—possibly because he feared
for his life. While he appeared to be speaking the words of God, Balaam
taught Israel’s enemies how to tempt them and weaken their faith. His
ungodly advice was responsible for the death of twenty-four thousand
Israelites at the hand of God. Not all who speak for God truly belong to
him. Balaam is one of the first false prophets we meet in the Bible. He,
however, would not be the last.
In Deuteronomy 13 the Lord God warned His people about prophets who
would lead them astray:
1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and
gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he
tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other
gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you
shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of
dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether
you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear
him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you
shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that
dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught
rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of
the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery,
to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God
commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your
midst. (Deuteronomy 13)
Notice what Deuteronomy 13 tells us about the false prophet. The prophet
described in this passage was able to perform signs and wonders. These
signs and wonders were supernatural occurrences designed to prove the
authenticity of the prophet and his or her message. People would see these
unexplainable signs and believe that they were from God.
Notice also in Deuteronomy 13 that the words the prophet spoke came to
pass. Again, there is no greater confirmation of the validity of a prophet
then the fact that what they say comes to pass.
There is one more detail about the prophet in this passage, however. Verse 2
tells us that this prophet encouraged the people to seek other gods. This
detail alone was enough to turn from this prophet and reject what he or she
said “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet” (Deuteronomy
13:3). In fact, verse 5 tells us that this prophet was to be put to death. He or
she was not to be allowed to spread a message of rebellion against the one
true God.
What we need to understand here is that a false prophet could predict the
future and perform great signs and wonders. This would deceive many. The
true prophet, however, was not judged by his signs and accurate predictions,
but by the message he or she spoke. Did the word spoken lead people to
God? No true prophet of God would lead people to worship other gods. No
true prophet of God would lead them to do what God forbade in His law.
The prophet was subject to the Law of God.
This same truth is repeated in Deuteronomy 18 where Moses tells the
people that God would raise up another prophet like him in the days to
come. Notice, however, what the passage tells us about discerning whether
this prophet was a true prophet from God:
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their
brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall
speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not
listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will
require it of him. 20 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.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the
word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 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. (Deuteronomy 18)