Ministry of Love

The intention of this blog is to share Biblical messages at least on a weekly basis. Any response is appreciated. I do not expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of Biblical passages. I will try to respond with love and thoughtfulness.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Biblical Prophets by John

Everyone in the U.S.A. beyond childhood is familiar with the word “prophet.” Not too many adults are very familiar with the word itself, it’s origin, and really to what it refers. I believe the only true prophets are those called by God to deliver His message to the people He created. Most anyone would surmise that the job of a prophet would be to prophesy, but that adds nothing to our understanding of the word, or to the office of prophet. Since I used the word office, I must also immediately add that men do not choose to prophesy, but prophets are called by God and gifted by His Spirit.
The word “prophecy” is transliterated from the Greek language with very little change. In Greek, the word is phonetically pronounced, “pro-FAY-tase.” It is used to translate three Old Testament words, “ro-EH,” “na-BVI” and “cho-SEH.” Roeh comes from a verb which means “to see” or “vision.” It refers to seeing what others may not have the spiritual ability to see, and therefore, to a trancelike state in which God’s message is revealed. Nabvi is probably the most used word for prophet. It comes from a word which means to speak or sing by inspiration, or to speak God’s message simply.
Abraham, Aaron, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and all of the prophets of the Old Testament were called Nabvi.
Choseh was used less frequently. It also is derived from a word meaning “to see.” It deals with a person seeing and speaking out against the sinful actions of society in general, or an individual in particular. It is used in Isaiah 30:10. Isaiah gives the Lord’s message to the people telling them that they are rebellious and will not listen to God’s Law. The people told the prophets (choseh) not to prophesy, but to prophesy lies. I can’t think of another place that it is used.
According to 1 Samuel 9:9 Prophets (nabvi) were called seers (roeh) prior to that time, so it is natural that most of the usages in the Old Testament are nabvi.
Now let’s move to the New Testament for greater understanding. Some form of the word “prophet” is used 212 times in the New Testament, so it is a very important word to know well, and we should know some important truths about the person of a prophet. We have already said a generally accepted definition of a prophet is a person called by God to deliver a message to someone. Is that a good definition? Let’s examine it according to Scripture.
I see the end cycle of the Old Testament and the beginning cycle of the New Testament happens at the crucifixion of Jesus. Considered that way, most men and women called prophets and prophetesses in the Gospels were Old Testament prophets. They had either never seen Jesus, or they were seeing Him for the first time. In Matthew 1:20-23, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. (Angel is “angelos” in Greek and simply means “messenger.” There is little reason for us to attach wings, haloes, etc. to them). He reminded Joseph of God’s message from Isaiah 7:14, which says that a young woman would conceive and bear a child and his name would be Immanuel (God with us).
The Hebrew word used in Isaiah could mean either “virgin” or “young woman.” The angel specified that Joseph name that child “Jesus.” Jesus means “Savior.” The angel also assured Joseph that Jesus was a child of the Holy Spirit. The Isaiah prophecy originally referred to any naturally born child after Isaiah prophesied. The message that went with the prophecy originally concerned two kings who were enemies of Israel. They would be dead before any child could be born and weaned! That would be approximately three years. In that prophecy, the mothers were married. In the application by the angel to Joseph, Mary, a virgin, fit Isaiah’s prophecy precisely.
That Scripture tells us something important about God’s prophecies. The people to whom it was given understood it exactly as it applied to them. This prophecy was fulfilled a second time when Jesus was born, and those Jews of Isaiah’s day probably had no inkling that it would be. We must conclude that any of God’s prophecies may be fulfilled more than once! Beginning in Luke 2:25, Simeon and Anna meet the newborn baby Jesus. Simeon prophesied perhaps for the first time in his life, and it may have been a first time for Anna. Both of them are in the New Testament, but they were prophets under the Law before the crucifixion of Jesus. On the other hand, Philip’s four daughters in Acts 21:9 are stated to be prophetesses. Some believe this is a fulfillment of Joel 2:28, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.”
Paul deals with Spiritual Gifts in several of his epistles. Let’s consider I Corinthians 12 first. In verse 4, he tells us that the Holy Spirit is in charge of spiritual gifts, and in the next verses that God administers them! There may be some prophets who are not under God’s control, but they are not Christian, and they are not godly!
A good example of a lying prophet is in Jeremiah 28. Hananiah’s prophecies were lies. When the Lord gave Jeremiah a message with a wooden yoke on his neck as an object lesson, Hananiah took the yoke and broke it. He then prophesied victory over Nebuchadnezzar. That was opposite to God’s message, and God sent Jeremiah back to Hananiah with a message to him. He promised him that he would die before the year was finished. He died in the seventh month of that year.
A good example of a greedy prophet is Balaam in Numbers chapters 22-31. Balak followed the counsel of Balaam and caused the children of Israel to sin. The help he gave Balak caused him to be slain in 31:8.
2 Peter 2:1says, “But there were also false prophets among the people just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves.” It is a dangerous thing to be a false prophet!
In verse 7, he tells us that the purpose of all of the Spirit’s gifts is the good of God’s people. Christian prophets cannot, and do not try, to call down curses on people. Nor do they judge people. Romans 2:1 applies to prophets just as much as it does to other people. When we judge, we are wrong because we are sinners ourselves.
Beginning in verse 8, the Spirit’s gifts are listed. In the order given, they are: Wisdom, Knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, different sorts of tongues and the interpretation of those tongues.
Hebrew writers and speakers always listed the most important things first and the others followed in their rank of importance. Tongues and interpretation of tongues comes last! Wisdom, knowledge and faith come first! Prophecy is fifth in the list! It is a wonderful thing to be a prophet, but wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing and miraculous powers rank higher as gifts of the Spirit. You will note that the order varies from this in the other lists as the importance of the gift changes according to the need.
Beginning in verse 12, Paul tells us that another important part of our knowledge about spiritual gifts, including prophecy, is that we are all part of the body of Christ, and spiritually we are just as closely connected as physical body parts are. Prophets do not stand alone! They are part of the body!
Since prophets are directed by God’s Spirit as they prophesy, prophets naturally have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Galatians 5:22-26 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Prophet’s characters will show these fruits in their lives.
Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” When God calls a person to be a prophet, that person will always be a prophet! As a servant of God, Romans 12:1,2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In Romans 12:6, a person’s use as a prophet is in direct proportion to his faith, and prophesying is first in this list. I believe that it is first here because a pastor of a church spends a lot of time preaching, and most of his preaching is prophetic according to the Old Testament words for prophecy. He sees what is wrong. He looks into the needs of the future, and his messages are filled with the Good News of Jesus, the need for confession, contrition, and forgiveness, and the need for preparation to serve the Lord both now and in the future. Whatever he does should show forth the love of Christ for His people!
Ephesians 4:11-13 gives another listing of God’s gifts. Apostles heads the list, then prophets, then evangelists, and then pastors and teachers. The sentence construction indicates that the last two may be one person, and I believe that is usually the case. Verses 12,13 tell us that all of these are to prepare God’s people for the work of Christ, to take them from spiritual infants to spiritual adults. There is a second list in I Corinthians 12:28. It is very similar to the one in Ephesians.
Taken altogether, I think we can safely conclude that a prophet is: 1) Called of God. 2) Has Christian character showing the fruit of the Spirit. 3) Looking out for the good of God’s people. 4) Humble. 5) Ready to deliver God’s message to the people to whom God wants to speak! The calling to be an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher is irrevocable. God does not change His mind even though we sometimes may. Everything a prophet does must surely be done in the contagious love of Jesus.

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