Delivering the Word
When God gives a prophetic word, he also gives instructions about how it should be delivered. Prophets must make sure that they get his instructions and act on them. A word that is delivered in an incorrect way is nullified, and effectively becomes a false prophecy.
So a prophet needs to know more than what to say. He needs also to discover how God wants to him to say it (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.90).
Many times the biggest challenge for prophets is not necessarily in hearing the voice of God, but in learning how to minister the word in wisdom. This speaks of the timing, the manner, the place, the wording, the intent, the context, and the attitude of heart when ministering.
A word can be delivered in a variety of ways. We must be open to all the creativity of God in the delivery of his word. These are some of the methods that God uses:
The most common method for delivering a prophecy is for the prophet to speak directly to the recipient(s). God is a god who speaks. He will give instructions about the right time and the right place to speak. Getting the time and place right is really important.
Sometimes a word may be quietly spoken to the person receiving it.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of persons who tell me that God spoke through me, giving them specific directions for their lives of great encouragement in the midst of personal tribulation. When I reflect on our time together, I remember only table conversation, but they recall prophetic truth. I had shared what I felt at the moment but they had heard the voice of God in that communication. Since I was but the channel- not the source- of the communication, I didn’t share their awareness of God’s involvement.
God may get another person to speak out the prophecy. When Jeremiah was in prison he would write the word down and Baruch would read it to the recipient.
A message from God may sometime be given in a sermon. Some of the most prophetic words that I have heard were delivered as sermons.
A word can be written down and delivered to the recipients. Isaiah and Jeremiah were writing prophets. The scriptures promise a blessing for those who read prophecy.
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Rev 1:3).
Nathan told a story to get his message across to King David. He probably would not have received a direct work from Nathan.
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. "Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! (2 Sam 12:1-7).
- Prophetic Action
Sometimes God asks a prophet to take an action that will illustrate the word being brought. The prophet becomes a living parable or visual aid. For example, Ezekiel lay on his side tied up with ropes for many days as a warning of the exile to Babylon (Ezek 4). Jeremiah bought a piece of land to bring home a prophetic message (Jer 32:1-9). Isaiah walked naked in the street to demonstrate the shame of Israel (Is 20).
The key people sometimes become actors in a living parable.
By the word of the Lord one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused. So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him. The prophet found another man and said, "Strike me, please." So the man struck him and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, "Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared." "That is your sentence," the king of Israel said. "You have pronounced it yourself." Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, "This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people' " (1 Kings 20:35-42).
- Sealing the Word
Sometimes a word must be sealed up for delivery at a later time. Daniel was told to seal up some of his words for the future.
He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end (Dan 12:9).
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay (Hab 2:3, 4).
We should not assume that because we have been given a word that we have permission to share it. We must ask what he wants us to do.
Even if we hear right (and I think that most of the time we do hear right) we can still destroy the effect of the word by wrong delivery - wrong wording or wrong timing. If we get the timing and the wording wrong then the prophecy does not have the effect for which it was intended. If it doesn't have the right effect then it is not the word of the Lord. So - a word is only "right" when all three come together.
The seer gathers experience, not like those with ears itching, not like those who never care to draw conclusions and never learn. Prophets are old men, experienced men, men who have taken time and opportunity to unveil and unmask the glittery and sensual moves and modes of the world without and within the Church. The seer has learnt to stay silent until the proper work of defining and labeling is finished. Prophets wait until they have received a word from the Lord, and they keep on waiting for proper timing.
Getting the delivery instructions right is just as important as getting the word right.
It is a good thing not to get locked into one methodology. Try to have a variety of ways to deliver prophetic words; God is full of infinite variety.
How do we discharge the burden of the Lord? After we have received revelation, and made intercession, we will know the best course. Sometimes we will find release through writing, such as Isaiah. On other occasions we may compose a song, as David. Or we may write poems and verse, as Jeremiah. We may act out the word dramatically, as Ezekiel. Or we may thunderously speak the word as Moses, Elijah, or John the Baptist. We may speak in parables as the Lord Jesus. The tools, methods, and ways are different, but the underlying principle is the same. God will give different expression to the proclamation of the Word, and He will be pleased to use the prophets differently in accordance with their unique gifts and personalities (Chip Brogden - The Ministry of the Watchman).
The prophets of the Old Testament sometimes did weird things like wearing ox yokes (Jer 27, 28), but these were by the command of the Lord to startle the conscience of the people. Old Testament prophets were men of discipline, wisdom and counsel and insight, not of wild ecstasy (Sanfords).
"For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?"(I Corinthians 14:8) When you can produce a distinct sound, the church will hear you (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
We desperately need oracles from God who can say what this hour means, and what we are tending to, and what God is requiring in the light of the things that point to the consummation of the age. We need men who can communicate the word. If a prophet is not distinguished by his speaking, then do not look for his credentials on the basis of his gifting or his miracles or his gift of knowledge (Art Katz – The Prophetic Church).
The prophets always came forward openly and spoke in the name of the Lord. They did not engage in subterfuge, but evidenced a holy boldness. They believed that God had spoken to them, and consequently, they delivered his words fearlessly. Whatever else may be said about the prophets of Israel, they were men of conviction and they boldly expressed their convictions (Edward J Young - My servants the Prophets p.15).
The prophet stood before men as a man who had been to stand before God (J A Motyer-Prophets and Prophecy).
On the other side, while there are occasions when the prophet must rebuke sharply, we are often guilty of shooting canaries with shotguns (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.95).
Jeremiah wept much and yet wished he could weep more, that he might affect a stupid people and rouse them to due sense of the hand of God gone out against them. It becomes us while we are here in this vase of tears (Matthew Henry).
There is no prophecy, which is not linked with tears, for the future is nearly always heavy with nameless terror (Nigg).
Power of the Spirit
A prophetic word must be spoken in the power of the Spirit. A word that is not anointed by the Holy Spirit will fall flat and will be wasted even if it is true.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy (Acts 2:17, 18).
This anointing will come from lives who have endured the test of their calling. And they yet STAND! (Undrai Fizer Substance: The Anointing to Stand and Endure).
A prophet should also speak boldly. He should avoid the temptation to soften God’s word. He must make certain it is heard clearly.
The prophets were men of the market place rather than the study. Indeed prophecy throughout the History of Israel was always oral; it was the declared word of God. The prophets were not men who composed carefully considered theological dissertations. The words that came from them were white hot. They were the words of God into the contemporary situation (Clifford Hill - Prophecy, Past and Present p.24).
The most important impartation you should receive in your journey of destiny is not just an ability to speak or preach. The most powerful thing you will have received is an ability to stand. Anyone can speak, but everyone cannot stand. All of the blows, "spiritual rapids" and mazes you have gone through (because of your purpose and destiny) should have built within your soul a certain, prophetic resilience and foundation, one that will be the imparter of anointing into others.
Anyone can speak, and speak well. But it will take more than speaking well to ignite the life-altering dreams in others. It will take prophetic substance (a God developed foundation of understanding and true settling in the will and purposes of God. It is a foundation that was built by fire, rejection, and pain.) You must have substance. You impart from substance. Some individuals crave an impartation of the "external gifts" or the "obvious flow." But, the anointing is birthed and released from a deep well, dug deeply in the trenches of a soul that has been connected to God's appointed destiny for life. This process transcends a traditional, religious experience.
Prophetic substance brings maturity. You can ask for wisdom, but maturity is something you must arrive at. Substance runs deep, very deep. It is the root of anointing that is embedded within you. It is where the river flows from. It is where the revelation and the power comes from. It is the resting place of the Holy Ghost that resides within you. This anointing keeps you from being "tossed about" in unbelief, faithlessness, and spiritual confusion. It causes you to become "full grown" in the experience of the Spirit.
But the servant of God should never threaten (1 Pet. 2:23). A true prophet must stand mute and meek before the will of another. He must never force another to do his own will (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.77).
The mature prophet is, as we said before, mute and meek before the will of the other person, and he is a silent observer of what God does. It is God who acts. To be a watchman or a witness is to see what God is doing (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task).
Those who have messages from God must not be afraid of the faces of men (Matthew Henry).
- Ask the Lord how he wants the word delivered. If he is able to deliver a prophetic word, he is also able to give instructions about how he wants it delivered.
- The speaker’s only responsibility is to deliver the word in the way that he guides. Prophetic people are not accountable for the success or failure of the word, or the distance it travels.
- The Holy Spirit is responsible for watching over his word and ensuring that it gets to those who need to hear it. He can achieve that in a multitude of ways. If a word is pure and clear, he will get it to those who need to hear it. He is an expert at getting the word of a voice crying in the wilderness into the anterooms of kings.
- Communicate clearly and precisely. The first task of the prophet is to listen to the Lord and get the word clear. A confused or impure word will go nowhere.
Receiving a word from the Lord is the easy part of prophetic ministry. The hardest part is learning how to communicate the word once it has been received. The OT prophets communicated in a variety of ways. Many more communication tools are available to us today. You need to learn how and when to use them in obedience to the Lord. The truth is that if you can receive a word from the Lord, you are capable of receiving guidance about how it should be communicated.
With regard to this issue, the prophecy and its application must not be confused. The application of a prophecy can be unclear, especially if it is intended for a different person or a different time, or the listeners have hard hearts. The prophecy itself should be clear and precise.
This principle is evident from the scriptures. The application of many prophecies is unclear. Often the application is not clear until they have been fulfilled. This is also true of Revelation. Much of the application of this book is still not clear.
The prophetic word itself is always very clear and precise. The prophets did not just dictate what they heard the Holy Spirit saying, like automatons. They received a revelation from God and wrote down or spoke what they had received. It is clear that what they wrote is very carefully honed. Much of Jeremiah’s prophecy is presented as poetry. John recorded the revelations he received on Patmos with an amazing economy of words, yet what he saw is vividly and precisely described.
Jesus never rambled. The beatitudes themselves are amazingly precise and clear. The application of them is much more difficult. Jesus could tell a complicated parable in just a few words, because his communication was precise and clear. His listeners understood the story clearly; their problem was with the application.
Isaiah 53 is a good example. The application of this prophecy was totally unclear, until Jesus had died on the cross. However, the prophecy itself was very clear and precise. Reading now, it is clear that every word was important and is exactly where the Holy Spirit wanted it to be.
Many modern prophets are quite different. They often ramble and their messages are often confused and vague. Quantity of words often seems to be more important than quality. When I look at the prophecies on the various prophetic websites, I find that many of them to be ambiguous and imprecise. Vague words benefit the prophet, because it means that no one can prove that they have spoken a word that is not true. With some prophecies that are said to be fulfilled, it is hard to be sure, because the wording is so loose that you could drive a truck through it.
I am sure that many of these people have received a revelation. They have just not taken the trouble to hone the word and ensure that they are communicating what they have received precisely and accurately. If prophecy is going to be taken seriously, prophetic people will need to communicate much more clearly
The biblical prophets were very precise and clear in the way they wrote and spoke their words. They knew they would quite likely be misunderstood by a people with hardened hearts, so they made sure that they did not give them and excuse, by speaking vaguely. The application of a prophecy will often be unclear. People with hardened hearts will just not get it, but that is not an excuse for prophets to be lazy with their presentation. I am not surprised that much modern prophecy is ignored, because the wording is often just too sloppy.
Joseph said to Pharaoh,
Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them (Gen 41:29-30).
Joseph was accepted by Pharaoh, because had received a clear straightforward message from the Holy Spirit.
Daniel said to the King, This is what these words mean:
God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan 5:26-28).
The Spirit gave Daniel words that the King could not understand.
God wants his prophets to speak to political and business leaders. They will only listen, if the prophets bring clear words. If prophets bring confusion and mystery, they will be ignored. Prophets must learn to hear what the Spirit is saying to the political and business leaders.
A prophet should speak simply and clearly. There is no benefit in using King James English.
The best speakers for God are frequently they who are least gifted with human eloquence; for if that be richly present the mighty power of moving men-there is an imminent peril of relying on it, and attributing the results to its magnetic spell. God cannot give his glory to another. He may not share his praise with man (F.B Meyer - Jeremiah p.12).
True prophets leave nothing to speculation, as their speech is precise and sometimes very blunt. Prophets of integrity do not concern themselves with what people think and they are willing to die for what they speak (Kingsley A Fletcher – The True Prophet in the Local Church).
No one likes to be wrong. A fear of being proved wrong can affect the presentation of prophecies. Two common ways are:
- Vague prophecies with precise timing
- Precise prophecies with vague timing.
The problem with these types of words is that no one will know if they have been fulfilled, so God is not honored. On the other hand, they can never be proved wrong.
Giving dates is not necessary, but listeners need to know, if the word is for the next few months (urgent), the next few years (get prepared), or later in the century (hope for long-term victory).
A prophecy must be delivered in the right attitude. We must speak the truth in love. An incorrect attitude nullifies the truth of the word. Many true prophecies have been made false, because they have been spoken in a harsh or critical attitude.
We can be absolutely correct in the heart of a word and still release it at the wrong time or in a form that the receiver can not accept. I know of several prophets who found themselves in very hot water - not because the word was wrong but because the delivery broke the rules
A man can present truth so arrogantly that men will not listen. That man’s truth has failed to find expression in our Lords way; therefore, however factually true it may have been, it has failed to become truth to his fellow men (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task).
When you can produce a distinct sound, the church will hear you (Rick Joyner - The Ministry of a Watchman).
God is showing me that we are missing out on a lot of Truth because we become offended in the messenger or the method of delivery. If something is true, let us weigh it, test it, and discern it on its own merit (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
All prophets should note God’s response, when he saw the sins of the people who lived during the time of Noah.
The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain (Gen 6:6).
God’s heart was "filled with pain". A prophet cannot represent God during a time of judgment unless his heart is filled with pain. A person who enjoys speaking judgment cannot speak for God. Only a prophet speaking with a broken heart can speak for God.
Publishing Dreams and Visions
When publishing a dream and a vision, it is important to separate the dream or vision from the interpretation. If the Lord gave some interpretation during the dream, then that should be spelled out clearly too.
The person who had the dream or vision knows what they saw, so there cannot be any debate about the content. They should know what they saw.
However, there can be debate about whether the dream came from God, or the forces of evil, or was just the working of the dreamers mind. Dreams and vision should be tested by the body of Christ to establish that they have come from God.
Unless the Holy Spirit gives a specific interpretation and application during the dream or vision, the interpretation of a dream or vision can be open to debate. Sometimes the person who receives the dream or vision may not be the best person to provide interpretation. Joseph and Daniel were prophetic people who were skilled in interpreting the dreams of other people.
With many dreams and visions on prophetic websites, the person has received a valid revelation, but seems to have got the interpretation wrong. In these situations, someone else in the body of the Christ may have the interpretation. If the interpretation is mixed up with published account of the dream, it becomes difficult to suggest an alternative interpretation, without questioning the inspiration of what has been published.
I believe that the best practice is to record accurately the dream and vision as received, and then give the interpretation separately. This was Daniels approach in Daniel 7 and 8. In the first part of the chapter he describes what he saw. He then gives the interpretation that was given to him by the angel. Not only did he keep the description and the interpretation separate, he did not give his own interpretation or application at all.
The book of Revelation is similar. John recorded all that he saw very carefully and precisely. He rarely gives any interpretation (except for stars are angels, lamp stands are churches, waters are people, heads are kings, hills are kings). I presume that the Holy Spirit did not give John the interpretation, so he did not give it.
Most Christians who have a dream or vision to share seem to feel bound to give the interpretation and application at the same time. Moreover, the content and the interpretation are often mixed up together, which makes it hard to assess the source of the dream. It also makes it hard to assess the interpretation. Likewise if the dream or vision is not described clearly without interpretation, it is very difficult for a person who is gifted in interpreting dreams and visions to give an alternative vision, because they do not have all the material that they need.
If a prophecy is for a church, the prophet should find out who God wants it delivered to. Delivering the word to the congregation is wrong, if God intends it to be delivered to the elders and Pastor. Prophets should be courteous and abide by the protocols that prevail in a particular church.
If you are a Christian first you will remember that you should walk softly, with meekness and humility, while esteeming others as better than yourself. Then the prophetic word, when and if it comes, will be seasoned with the appropriate amounts of mercy and grace. Remember that without love you will inevitably become as sounding brass – all judgment. If we cannot or will not stay in love, God will set out to humble us shamefully before our brothers and sisters that we may know the depths of our hypocrisy and self-righteousness. That is evidence of his great love for all of us (Chip Brogden - Letter to a Reluctant Prophet).
Prophetic offence is when you say what God tells you to say and people get around it by finding fault with either the message or the one bringing the message. Acting like a jerk or coming to people with the attitude that you’re going to "rattle their cage" is not prophetic offence; it’s just plain being offensive. Such "shock prophets" are high on boldness but typically low on content, which is why they have to resort to such crude methods to get attention (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
I have observed that when Truth arrives on the scene, people either embrace it, run from it, or attack it (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
Perceptions about the one who brings the word inevitably has a bearing on the attitude to the word. Prophetic people resent this - but it is the truth. We are told to judge people by their fruits - and the church takes that very seriously. They are excellent fruit inspectors - and in their eyes those that can't produce what they are looking for don't have to be listened to.
Are you a prophet in their eyes? You may have prophetic anointing - you could (in God's processes) become absolutely anything - but do they see you as being there now? If not there are very distinct limits to what they will accept from you - and you need to observe those limits carefully.
Churches have criteria for prophets - and they are very high! They look for stunning revelations that have come to pass and really changed the course of events; they expect signs, wonders, miracles or healings that endorse your spiritual authority.
Because this is so, we all need to build relationship and credibility that will be the foundation for the acceptance of the word of the Lord when we speak on His behalf. That takes time. It takes risk. It costs. It takes effort. Many prophetic people are so caught up with introspection that they don't take time to serve others and develop good relationships - sometimes not even in their own homes! As a result their word is most unlikely to be accepted in their local church. If it is not accepted there it is highly unlikely that it will be accepted anywhere for long.
Building relationships does not guarantee that your word will be respected. It only gives it a chance of being accepted. But without relationships there is no chance it will be accepted.
Truth without love is no truth.
The Word belongs to God
Once the word is delivered, the prophet’s task is finished; apart from prayer. Prophets must leave the results to God. A prophet, who nags in support of a word, quickly loses credibility and detracts from the Word. God does not nag. Deliver the word in the right way in the right attitude and God will do the rest.
God is looking for messengers. It is not our job to make people listen it is just our job to deliver the message, with a right spirit. The prophetic should be a practical part of your everyday lives. It should be used to effect and strengthen the Kingdom
Brethren, if we will do God’s work in God’s way at God’s time with God’s power, we shall have God’s blessing and the devil’s curses (Leonard Ravenhill - Why Revival Tarries).
A prophet must be careful to keep the word pure. They must avoid the temptation to add to or improve God’s words.
Frequently people who prophesy will mix their own thoughts in with the word of the Lord in such a way that God’s word is altered or distorted. This happens especially when people are just beginning to exercise the prophetic gift. In one sense, something of our own thought always appears in the prophecies we give, because prophecy operates through us. But when our thoughts add to the word of the Lord, or take something away from it, or distort it’s meaning, the value of our prophecy is greatly diminished. We cannot rely upon impure prophecy as the Lord’s word (Bruce Yocum - Prophecy).
We must also be careful about speaking too much.
Frankly, we talk too much. As long as we are talking, we cannot hear. We cannot both hear and talk at the same time. There needs to be more hearing, and less talking if the prophetic babel is to come into order out of chaos. …Yes, we must speak. But when and how we speak is of great importance. Churning out "red hot" revelations and splatting them on the web is not the way to go. We must speak targetly and in season. We must speak only as we can do so without losing our internal anchor in the One Who leads us beside still waters. And once we speak, we must immediately return to our place of waiting and abiding in Him. …..James said it well, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak," remembering that, as John reported, the Lord "spoke" only as He "heard." So it should be with us (Anderson C: But I Would Have You Undistracted).
God’s Word is Powerful and Effective
The word that comes from God will be effective.
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil? (Num 23:19). How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? (Num 23:8).
God will sometimes confirm his word with signs and wonders. Both Elijah and Elisha had their authority confirmed by signs and wonders.
Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, "Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men." One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said. "How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked. But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord (2 Kings 4:38-44).
Some Christians say, “A prophet's job is to say what God says”. This is true, but it is only part of the truth. I would say, “A prophet's job is to say what God says in the right spirit”.
I have observed many occasions when a prophetic person has spoken a true word, but it was not heard. Sometimes the true word was not received because the listener’s heart was hard, but more often it was not heard, because the spirit of the prophet was not right.
I remember a woman who was really upset, because her pastor had not received a word that she and a friend had given to him. She could not understand why this had happened, because the word was true. Her word rung true to me too, but I could tell from the tone of her voice why she was not heard. She oozed frustration, hurt and bitterness.
The hard truth for prophets to understand is that being correct is not enough. A true word from God can be nullified by a wrong spirit. In the spiritual dimension, a true word spoken in the wrong spirit is exactly the same as a false word.
When God’s heart is “filled with pain” (Gen 6:6), he cannot be represented by just the truth. His truth must be spoken with a broken heart. Jeremiah was a powerful prophet, because he has lived the pain on God’s heart.
Most prophets put a lot of effort into hearing what God is saying, but few put the same degree of effort into keeping their spirit right, although the latter is actually the harder task.
A prophet can never just say, ”I spoke God’s truth, I have done my bit”. Every prophet should be asking, “Did I speak God’s word in God’s way.”
A prophet to the nation has several functions. Their main role is to provide guidance to rulers. Prophets will be experts on the law, so they will teach political authorities how to obey it.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees (Deut 17:18,19).
The prophet to the nation will teach the rulers of the nation how to implement God’s law. As prophets love the law more than others, they will have better understanding of its principles. Their wisdom will assist those who are struggling to interpret the law. Prophets will understand the principles of good government, so they will be able to provide good guidance those in authority.
Ruling a nation can be a frightening task. Many decisions have to be made and most of them are hard, so rulers have always attempted to surround themselves with wise people. The king of Israel knew the benefit of having a prophet close by to help him make decisions.
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, "I will set up my camp in such and such a place. The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: "Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there." So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, "Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?" "None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom." (2 Kings 6:8-12).
Prophets will give supernatural guidance to the political ruler. Because their wisdom is from God, it will be effective.
God establishes a prophet to the nation in his position by giving him the wisdom that the ruler needs. The King of Israel knew that Elisha was a prophet, because his words were correct. The King of Babylon trusted Daniel, because he correctly interpreted a dream that none or the Babylonian wise men understood.
This is a very important principle. Many people, including prophets, are willing to criticism their government. Prophets to the nation are different. They start their career by assisting their government in tricky situations. Ahab trusted Miciah’s words, because he provided correct advice in the past (1 Kings 22:7,8). Rulers will be glad to have prophets in their court, even if they hate God, because they need their advice.
Prophets will give warning to the rulers of nation when they are taking the wrong direction or taking authority that God has not given them. The Old Testament prophets spent much of their time warning kings who had rejected God's way and were following the way of the world. Strong prophets are the best protection against the power of the state.
Good rulers will welcome correction. The prophet Nathan challenged David when he committed adultery and murder, but remained his friend. Nathan had established his credibility with David much earlier, when the King was planning the temple (1Sam 7). Every ruler needs a prophet like Nathan who can hear the voice of God and challenge his sin. Rulers are usually surrounded by people trying to "grease up" to them. In this environment a prophetic friend is the best protection against the occupation hazard of hubris. All rulers need a friend to speak God’s word to them.
The prophet to the nation will pray for their government. Samuel prayed all night when his friend King Saul fell from grace (1 Sam 15:11). Every political leader needs a friend of God who will intercede for him in this way.
Times of Transformation
A Prophet to the Nation releases God’s hand of power. We are living in a time of transformation, when God’s purposes will be accomplished through "shaking" and judgment. The ministry of the prophet is very important at these times, because God cannot act, without first giving a warning through his prophets.
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
God cannot shake a nation until he has announced it through his prophets. There are two reasons for this.
- God is merciful and always gives people an opportunity to repent, before he sends judgment on a nation. God would be happier if he did not have to shake the nation, he gives a warning, hoping that his people will put things right. But if the warning is not heeded, God has no alternative but to act himself.
- Any shaking event must be recognized as coming from the hand of God. If a judgment is seen as just a normal event, it can be ignored. An event that has been announced beforehand by God’s servants is obviously a work of God and its meaning will be clear. The fact that it has been announced beforehand by God’s servant will be proof that it is a work of God.
Prophetic activists and national apostasy are often associated (Milton Smith).
The prophet knows what time it is, knows what kind of time it is. He holds prophetic understanding of the mentality and mood of this present time. He identifies and knows the trends of a society by looking at its roots. He is able to analyze trends and upcoming events by judging foundations. His words are a force against the mentality of the day (Lars Widerburg - The Forth tellers).
Sin inevitably brings divine judgment. Jerusalem the Holy City collapses, not because the enemy was stronger but because God decreed it. The fall of Jerusalem is represented as a divine judgment against sin. Human rebellion against God, not weakness caused the collapse of the Holy City (Milton Smith).
The story of Abimelech contrasts three different methods of bringing political change (Judges 9). The first two methods bring bad results.
- Abimelech was elected by a democratic process, but he did great harm to the people of Shechem. This incident is a timely reminder that democracy gives power to the wrong people. The skills needed to get ahead in politics are pragmatism, arrogance and a light hand on the truth. These are very different from the skills needed by a good judge.
- Rebelling against an evil leader will usually fail, because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator.
Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him…. Then Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, 'Call out your whole army!' (Jud 9:26, 28, 29).
Gaal led a rebellion, but the and those who followed him were destroyed (Jud 9:38-41)
- Prophetic proclamation is the best way to remove a bad government. When a prophet voice speaks God’s judgment against an evil ruler, God will honour that word and bring sanctions against the wicked person. Jothan, the youngest brother escaped and prophesied against Abimelech and the people of Shechem.
If then you have acted honorably and in good faith … may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!" (Jud 9:19, 20).
God honoured this prophetic word.
After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech (Jud 9:22, 23).
Abimelech was removed by prophecy.
Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done…. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham… came on them (Jud 9:56, 57).
Modern Christians place a lot of faith in democracy, even though it does not produce godly government. Others have tried rebellion, but this has failed too.
Prophetic proclamation is the best way to get rid of an evil government. Unfortunately, belief that God can bring governments down is rare. The missing element is a strong prophetic voice to release God’s power to bring political change.
Prophets and Tyranny
One reason that tyranny has been so serious in the twentieth century is the lack of prophets in the nations. There have been no prophets challenging political rulers to obey the law of God. Many rulers do not even know that they are required to serve God, or that he has put limits on their jurisdiction. God can only act against evil rulers, if he has a prophet to speak out his challenge and warn of his judgments.
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:10).
God will not bring sanctions against wicked rulers unless their sins are clearly understood.
God does not like to send judgment against the leaders of a nation, unless his prophets have announced it. If prophets have not announced the judgment in advance, the rulers will not understand that it was sent by God. They will not realize that the calamity is the consequence of their sins. They will assume that it is just another tragic event. Some rulers may even use the trouble to expand their powers. If judgment is not announced in advance by the prophets, its purpose is diffused or lost.
Isaiah 16 describes a number of kings and tyrants, who were brought down from the place of pride and power by the shaking of God. He gave relief from suffering and cruel bondage by destroying the aggressive and oppressive rulers. God was able to stretch forth his hand and accomplish his purpose, because prophets like Isaiah had prophesied against them (Isaiah 12-23)
The worst thing that can happen to a nation is the have no prophets. Psalm 74 is the cry of a people suffering under tyranny.
We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! (Psalm 74:9-11).
The Psalmist feels like his nation is in a hopeless situation. It is being ruled by tyrants and God’s hand of judgment against this injustice is being held back. The Psalmist knows that God has power to destroy the wicked ruler, but while there are no prophets this is unlikely to happen.
This lack of prophets is a still a problem in the modern world. Prophets to the nation will have to emerge in the church first, but the modern church has been unwilling to release this gift in the church. The prophetic ministry has been stifled in the church, so prophets to the nation have been unable to develop. The absence of the prophetic ministry has impoverished the church, but it has had even more serious consequences for the world. Tyrants have been able to rule with impunity, as God’s hand of judgment has been held back, hidden his garment, the church.
Restraining the Sword
The sword is dangerous and the political sphere will always tend to expand. People with political power will always see new problems to solve and their people will often expect them to solve them. Rulers will always face the temptation to expand their power. Pressure to do more good is dangerous, because the state can use force to expand its role. This is a great dilemma for political theory. The state needs force to punish criminals and protect society. However, this monopoly of force makes it almost impossible for citizens to prevent their government from expanding its power. We cannot resist the state, because it is stronger than we are.
History suggests that this is a serious problem. Throughout the twentieth century, the power of the state, whether dictator or democracy, has increased immensely. Even where political powers start out with modest intentions, they seem to end up with more power and control. Democracy does not prevent this from happening, but tends to make the situation worse. It tends to produce leaders who pander to the desires of the people by expanding political power. The United States constitution was carefully designed to limit political power, but the United States government has now amassed incredible power over its citizens.
The only antidote to the expanding state is Christian prophets proclaiming the law in partnership with God. When the church is functionally correctly, the Kingdom of God is advanced.