Summary: While "prophecy" so-called is popular among a segment of the faithful, the test of prophets is seldom applied. The test of accuracy and adherence to the Word of God must be applied to verify a prophecy.
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 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,’ 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. 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. 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.
“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.”
onsiderable confusion concerning the issue of prophecy reigns among professed followers of the Master. Among some communions, people self-identifying as “prophets” are honoured, adulated, and exalted in the eyes of adherents. Almost inevitably when people speak of prophecy, they are thinking in terms of foretelling future events. This is especially true in those communions that boast of prophets among their number. The reason for this idealisation of prophecy results from a dearth of teaching from the pulpit concerning biblical themes. Thus, untaught people readily confuse prophets with seers. There is a difference, and the difference is significant.
It is popular among some groups for people to claim to prophesy. When we speak of prophesying, almost inevitably we are speaking of telling future events. In fairness, most of the prophesies are rather puerile, rather plebeian, rather pedestrian. This is not a new phenomenon; since earliest days, there are people who think they can predict the future. False prophets were a problem even as Moses led the people out of Egypt and toward the land God had promised to give them. Moses was compelled to deal with the problem of prophesies. That is to our benefit, because God, through Moses, has provided us with a fair test for those who think they can prophesy. Let’s study the matter together.
FALSE PROPHETS SOMETIMES GIVE SIGNS AND PERFORM MIRACULOUS DEEDS — Unquestionably, false prophets can sometimes appear to be connected to the Holy One. They can perform signs and wonders. Moses admits this when he writes, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass…” [DEUTERONOMY 13:1-2]. However, such supposed evidences of intimacy with the Holy One are superficial.
Consider one stunning example from the days when God delivered His people from slavery. When Moses first approached Pharaoh, demanding that he release the Israelites, Pharaoh refused to listen to him. God directed Moses to have Aaron throw his staff on the ground, and it became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians each cast down their staff and they became serpents. They appeared to match what Aaron had done until the serpent that had been Aaron’s staff swallowed up the serpents that had been their staffs [see EXODUS 7:8-13].
Likewise, when Moses directed Aaron to strike the water of the Nile, turning it into blood, the magicians of Egypt performed a similar miracle [see EXODUS 7:19-24]. Again, at God’s direction, Moses commanded Aaron to call up frogs to fill the land. However, the magicians of Egypt were able to perform a similar miracle, calling up frogs [see EXODUS 8:1-7]. It was not until God sent the plague of gnats that the magicians were compelled to confess, “This is the finger of God” [EXODUS 8:19b].