Summary: All of us have the desire to know the future in order to be prepared for it. We want to be in control of as much of our destiny as possible, and not be at the mercy of events.
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)
Old Testament Prophets
Deut.13:1-5 ;Deut 18: 14-22; Jer. 23:23-32
All of us have the desire to know the future in order to be prepared for it. We want to be in control of as much of our destiny as possible, and not be at the mercy of events.
Deuteronomy 18, along with Deuteronomy 13, is a warning to such people. Those seeking to know the future are often being misguided, putting themselves at the mercy of lying demons, or at the very least, of manipulative men and women. While there are genuine prophets of God who speak out “Thus says the Lord!” there are many false ones whose main objective is to lead God’s people astray.
When it comes to a prophet of God we need to know who they are and what is their function.
In the Bible, God reveals himself to humanity in a variety of ways, one major way being through the prophets. The ancient prophets were said to possess an intimate association with God and spoke on behalf of God as divine messengers. Revealing his divine will as “mouthpieces,” the prophets did not claim to possess special powers in being divine messengers in
(a) forthtelling of current events and God-given truth e.g. Samuel, Nathan and Jonah and or
(b) foretelling of future events : they simply relayed a message from the omnipotent, omniscient Being. e.g. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel
In the Hebrew portions of the Bible there were three words used for a prophet, all which are used in 1 Chonicles 29:29: in the book of Samuel the seer (Hebrew: ro’eh), and in the book of Nathan the prophet (nabi’), and in the book of Gad the seer (hozeh). A fourth term (kosem) “to divine” is used in Numbers 22:5,7 “Balaam also the son of Beor, is used only of a false prophet.
Even though all the writings of the prophets, were the Word of God for the time, only such portions as the Spirit of God determined became part of Scripture. There were sixteen of the OT prophets, whose prophecies formed part of the inspired Bible. These are divided into four groups:
1. The prophets of the northern kingdom (Israel): Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah.
2. The prophets of southern kingdom (Judah): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.
3. The prophets of the Captivity: Ezekiel and Daniel.
4. The prophets of the Restoration: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The story of Israelite prophecy begins with Moses and Miriam and takes different forms at different points in Israel’s history. The Biblical narrative tells us about prophets like Deborah, Samuel, Nathan and Elijah. The canon also contains written prophecy attributed to prophets like Isaiah, Amos, Ezekiel and Malachi.
A close look at the canonical prophets quickly reveals that they each had their own concerns, their own ways of expressing themselves and their own ways of relating to their target audiences. Still, the canon asserts that despite their differences from each other, each spoke unconditionally and authoritatively for God.
A prophet’s primary function in the Old Testament was to serve as God’s representative or ambassador by communicating God’s word to his people. True prophets never spoke on their own authority or shared their personal opinions, but rather delivered the message God himself gave them.
Several texts make this explicit. God promised Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exod. 4:12). God assured Moses, “I will raise up for [my people] a prophet like you . . . and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him” (Deut. 18:18). The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer 1:9). God commissioned Ezekiel by saying, “You must speak my words to them” (Ezek. 2:7). And many of the OT prophetic books begin with the words, “The word of the LORD that came to . . .” (Hos. 1:2; Joel 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zeph. 1:1; cf. Jonah 1:1). Amos claimed, “This is what the LORD says” (Amos 1:3).
“I will put my words in his mouth “(Deuteronomy 18:18) God says of the prophet. “Thus says the Lord,” says the prophet in a phrase that appears over 400 times in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophet is simply repeating the very words of God.
The primary task of the OT prophet was not only to predict the future, but “to tell forth the will of God which He had communicated to them by revelation.”
This all goes to demonstrate that though predictive prophecy was an important element in an OT prophet’s ministry and message, it was not the primary role or function of the prophetic office. The man or woman whom God called to the prophetic office was called