"Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying."
(1 Corinthians 14:5)
It appears that a season of prophecy is returning to the people of God. What are we to do with it? What is prophecy, and how should we handle it? How should we treat a prophet? And who are the prophets?
The office of prophet is not something to be sought. God used Old Testament prophets to scold, to rebuke and to announce judgment on His people. Everyone shuddered when they saw a prophet walk into their midst. New Testament prophets seem to be used for the purpose of restoration. Still, New Testament prophets are not very popular either. In the early church they were whipped, crucified and exiled.
Today, we tend to put our prophets on a pedestal. This is because we don't understand prophecy. Prophecy doesn't make things happen. Prophecy is a foretelling of something that is going to happen.
When someone prophesies, it means he has made contact with the eternal realm in which time is transcended. God has revealed to him a view of a future event. The prophet describes what he has seen or heard from God. If it is really from God, it will happen. If it is not from God, it will not happen. But the prophet does not make it happen.
Prophecy is good in that it makes us aware of the ever-presence of a living God who has an interest in us. When someone lays hands on us and prophesies it gives us hope that we can step beyond our pitiful limitations with God at our side. We become more aware of His love, acceptance and forgiveness.
It is important to understand that when the word of God is spoken into our lives, it has the power to fulfill itself. It doesn't return to God void of accomplishment (Isaiah 55:11). From the eternal vantage point, it has already happened.
It is also important to understand we don't have to be called to the office of prophet in order to prophesy. Prophecy is a spiritual gift. God is always speaking. Occasionally someone hears Him and tells the believers.
Since prophecy is uttered through human beings, we know that God uses imperfect vessels. When the prophet Balaam became so spiritually blind and deaf he could not receive God's direction, God spoke through Balaam's donkey to get his attention. This should encourage us all.
One who prophesies should be respected but not revered. No prophet knows the entire plan of God in any given situation. "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." (1 Corinthians 13:9) For this reason, we cannot take the word of any man and use it to alter our lives. Most often, when someone gives us a word from God, it comes as confirmation of something God has already been telling us in our prayer closet.
If someone prophesies over us with sympathy, or with well-wishing, or with advice-giving, we can be fairly certain it is false prophecy, inspired by a natural, humanistic desire to please us.
There are five ways to test whether something is from God or from the opposition. This is true concerning prophecy or from preaching or from any form of media:
True prophecy is never off the wall. It contains wisdom, rather than human reasoning. When we receive a prophetic word, God usually gives us discernment to interpret what that word really says to us in our present circumstance.
This takes us beyond our intellectual reasoning. Understand that intellectualism and wisdom are not synonymous. In this case, we need the wisdom of God, and the only way we can get that information is by listening to the Holy Spirit.
Remember, when prophecy comes our way, it is Jesus speaking to us. We shouldn't make the mistake of asking the opinion of another person about the prophecy. God didn't speak to the other person, He spoke to us.
We must trust Him to make it clear and to bring it to pass. After all, He went to the trouble to give us a glimpse of our future! We should treasure the words in our hearts until God fulfills them. That's what Mary did (Luke 2:19).
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: What would I do if someone prophesied over me?