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There are many people running around in the Church today who claim to have the gift of prophecy. They then go on to act like this gift gives them the ability to read your personal mind, know your hidden secrets, and see the status of your heart. So can they? Does the gift of prophecy come with psychic abilities or are these people just playing shady games?
Before you start giving prophets admiration that they don’t deserve, you need to understand a few basic principles. Yes, it is quite possible for God to give one of His legitimate prophets inside information about you which can include your current heart attitude towards God, insights into your background, and even glimpses into your personal future. We find examples of God doing such things in the Bible, and He continues to do them today. Let’s look at a biblical example of this.
In 2 Kings 8:7-15, the king of Aram is very sick and he’s afraid he’s going to die. He sends his servant Hazael to go inquire of Elisha. Why? Because the king knows Elisha is a legitimate prophet, and legitimate prophets are sometimes given glimpses of the future by God.
Now before Hazael even reaches the prophet, God downloads into Elisha’s mind several glimpses into the future. First, Elisha sees that the king is in fact going to die of his illness. Second, he sees that the servant Hazael is going to become the next king of Aram and turn into a sadistic monster. Elisha sees that Hazael is going to attack Israel in the future and do horrific things to young men, children, and pregnant women. By the time Hazael actually comes into view, Elisha is deeply disturbed by all that he now knows about this stranger. For us prophets, it’s always a strange feeling to meet someone that God has already told us about—especially when it’s someone that we’ve never personally met. We feel like we know them already, yet the person doesn’t know us at all, and this makes for some very strange vibes in the air. In 2 Kings 8, Hazael notices that Elisha is staring at him intently. Hazael finds this very awkward. After a long moment of intense staring, Elisha suddenly bursts into tears. Well, now things are really awkward.
Hazael asked, “Why does my lord weep?”
Then Elisha answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: you will set their strongholds on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, you will dash their little ones into pieces, and you will rip up their pregnant women.” (2 Ki. 8:12)
Don’t waste your energy envying prophets who receive glimpses into the future. Seeing the future is far more of a burden than a joy. God dwells outside of time and He sees things as they will actually be. Seeing the future through God’s eyes is like skipping ahead in a book and reading a scene that cannot be changed. We humans are fragile beings and future knowledge weighs heavily on us. It takes special equipping from the Holy Spirit for a prophet to learn how to handle future knowledge without getting majorly depressed.
THE PURPOSE OF PROPHETS
Real prophets function as God’s mouthpieces. Now much of what God wants to say through His prophets is very divisive. God’s truth is not readily embraced by a world that hates Him. God’s messages will often counter popular trends in the Church and oppose widely accepted doctrines. As a general rule, God’s people would rather believe in lies than in truth. For example, many Christians want to blame Satan when bad things happen instead of facing the truth about God’s sovereignty. Many Christians want to believe that Satan is the king of Hell instead of facing the fact that God is the One torturing His own creatures.
When you hear the term “prophecy”, you should think “special wisdom and insights from God.” The gift of prophecy is about much more than seeing the future, and not all prophets are called to do future telling. When someone has the gift of prophecy, they receive an extra measure of insight from the Holy Spirit. Now not all prophets are equal. Some only experience a brief sampling of the gift–like a man who experiences God healing someone through him just one time, or a man who only speaks in tongues once in his life. Other prophets become what we might call career prophets–their calling consumes their entire lives. John the Baptist, Elijah and Jeremiah are examples of these kinds of prophets. Some prophets are immature and rebellious, like Jonah. Others are mature and dedicated to God. Some prophets have just a little understanding, while others are remarkably tuned in to the Divine perspective of things.
Many real prophets sound harsh and negative in their messages. God hates rebellion, and His kids are up to their necks in it. While Christians go around telling everyone to “speak the truth in love”, devoted prophets don’t have time for pussyfooting around. God opens their eyes to see how He feels about something, and then He commands them to communicate those feelings in verbal ways. When a real prophet receives a message from God, he or she can’t hold it in. Jeremiah describes the crisis well:
But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His Name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jer. 20:9)
Real prophets who are called to operate in very public ways often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place: they receive caustic messages from a furious God which they really don’t want to say because who wants to be the guy everyone hates? But at the same time, if they don’t speak for God, they find themselves in Jeremiah’s bind: so intensely tormented on a soul level that they finally must speak just so they can breathe again. Don’t envy prophets who God has called to publicly broadcast His messages. The real prophetic experience isn’t anything like these morons you see beaming in spotlights and soaking up the applause of men while they cast out ego-pleasing predictions in the Name of Jesus. Real prophecy doesn’t make you feel like someone just gave your flesh a nice massage. Real prophecy hits you on a soul level and the truths it uncovers often seem shocking and disturbing at first. Eventually you respond by either hungering for more of God or fuming with hate.
The Holy Spirit is like a sword which pierces into the hearts of men and drags their hidden motivations to light. The Holy Spirit is the One speaking through real prophets. If you’re not already on good terms with Him, you aren’t going to like His messengers. Even if you are on good terms with God, you might get pretty ticked at His prophets, because they have a way of making you feel exposed and embarrassed. The prophet Nathan wasn’t David’s favorite person when he marched in and called the king out on his shenanigans with Bathsheba. Once you figure out that a prophet has a very real pipeline to God, it’s tempting to try and suck up to them in order to stay on God’s good side. But this plan doesn’t work with the real guys, because as soon as God has a beef with you, His loyal prophets aren’t going to let friendship stand in the way of them giving you a hard slap in the face. The prophet Samuel really liked King Saul, yet when Saul treated Yahweh like dirt, Samuel sided with God, publicly cursed Saul, and severed the relationship. Samuel then mourned privately in his heart for Saul for a long time afterwards because he really did care about him. But then Yahweh told Samuel to knock it off and he had to move on (1 Sam. 16:1). Real prophets have to side with God, and they will choose Him over you every time when push comes to shove. So if you want to keep a prophet for a friend, you need to keep treating God right in your own heart. If you don’t, God may very well tell on you and His prophets will call you out on your rebellion.
REVELATIONS ABOUT YOU
Is it possible that God will tell a real prophet secrets about you—such as what you’re currently thinking or what your core attitude is towards Him? Yes, it is. Again, we find examples of this in the Bible. When the prophet Isaiah was talking to King Ahaz of Judah in the middle of a crisis situation, he told the king a prophecy of the future, and then he said that Yahweh would give Ahaz a sign as an extra confirmation that everything Isaiah had foretold would come true.
“Ask for a sign from Yahweh your God to prove to yourself that these things are true. It may be a sign from as deep as the place of the dead or as high as the heavens.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put Yahweh to the test.” (Isa. 7:10-12)
To us, Ahaz’s answer sounds pretty reverent. But Yahweh then gives Isaiah a glimpse into the king’s heart and Isaiah can see that Ahaz is not being reverent at all. Ahaz is a rebellious punk who doesn’t really care about Yahweh, nor does he put much stock in His words. Reacting to this special revelation from the Holy Spirit, Isaiah’s cordial mood suddenly turns to anger.
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans?! Will you try the patience of my God also?!” (Isa. 7:13)
Notice how Isaiah immediately sides with God against Ahaz as soon as God reveals that Ahaz’s heart attitude is rotten. Devoted prophets are loyal to God first.
Let’s look at another example. In 2 Kings 6 we read about a time when the king of Aram was warring against Israel. Now when you’re trying to win a war, surprise attacks can really give you an advantage. The king of Aram spends a lot of time scheming with his men in their secret strategy tent. But every time he sets up a clever trap, the king of Israel never falls into it. Somehow the king of Israel always knows exactly what the king of Aram is planning to do.
This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “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 Ki. 6:11-12)
God is the One telling Elisha everything that the king of Aram is planning so that Elisha can then go and warn the king of Israel. To the king of Aram, it feels like this prophet of God can read his mind from miles away. It’s creepy.
Now as we said earlier, prophecy is really about receiving special wisdom and insights from God. God uses prophets not just to tell the future, but also to counsel souls who sincerely want to please Him. When God is using a prophet in this capacity and you ask that person something, God may very well give His prophet extra information about you as part of instructing them on how to answer you. A question can be interpreted in many ways, and often there’s a lot more to the issue than what you are actually asking. A mature prophet has no interest in reading your mind or finding out secrets about you—they are only concerned with what God’s current priorities for you are so that they can instruct you correctly. Only God sees the whole picture—the most a prophet ever receives are glimpses. To instruct you properly, a prophet must first get clear leading from God. Maybe two people ask a prophet what God would have them do in the same sort of dilemma. The prophet might give two very different answers because he receives two very different responses from God. Each soul is on their own journey with God.
Now once people figure out that a prophet is receiving special insights from God, word spreads and soon people are trying to figure out a way to turn this person into some kind of Divine fortune teller. This is why we find the king of Aram sending his servant Hazael into enemy territory just to seek out the prophet Elisha. People love to get quick and easy answers, and what’s easier than hearing God speak clearly through some human’s lips? But here is where we run into problems, for God is very jealous and He’s not a fan of you relying on some human messenger more than Him. You might ask a prophet three questions and each time you receive a helpful answer. But the fourth time, the prophet tells you that he has nothing to say. Mature prophets know better than to put words in God’s mouth, and they also know that God is going to discourage souls from relying on people instead of Him. It is vital for your own spiritual health that you learn how to be confident in the fact that God is leading you in your own life. You might find His current style of leading extremely frustrating and unclear, yet He is still leading you and you need practice trusting in this. If God has a prophet give you some quick answer every time you’re in a bind, when are you going to learn to wait on Him and trust Him through the dry spells? If God connects you with one of His prophets, there’s nothing wrong with asking them for help. But realize that a real prophet is only going to speak to you if God first speaks to them about you. If He doesn’t, they cannot help you, and the key here is to not interpret their silence as a sign that God is personally rejecting you. Just because God won’t answer you through one of His prophets doesn’t mean He is ignoring your situation or that He doesn’t care about what you’re going through. God is intimately involved in your life. Don’t think that prophets have more Holy Spirit than you do just because they’re receiving so much extra insight. Remember that God uses prophets to instruct His people and drive rebels back to Him. Prophets aren’t given insight just so they can sit on it—they are given it for the benefit of others. God uses prophets to shine a light on the path of maturity and obedience so that you can then choose to go down that path hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. It is God Himself who guides you in life—the prophets He speaks to are just His instruments.
RESPONDING TO PROPHETS
Okay, so now let’s talk about how you should respond when a prophet comes up to you in public and lays some word from God on you. The first thing you need to remember is that the population of false prophets in the Church today is much larger than the population of legitimate prophets. False prophets are ego driven, so they tend to call a lot of attention to themselves. They love to flash their titles and they love to brag about how humble they are because…well, they’re idiots. But they’re loud idiots, and this makes it harder to spot the real guys, who are working hard to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Mature prophets are not going to walk up to you and say, “Hi, I’m Prophet So-and-so.” Real prophets don’t need to flash their titles around because they know that when God speaks through them, souls will know that He is the One speaking. God’s Voice has a powerful ring of authority to it which does not need to be advertised. When God is speaking to someone, souls will be drawn to the sound of His Voice, so there is no need to try and market and schmooze.
Now let’s say you are pushing your grocery cart through the market one day and some random person comes up and says to you, “This is a message from the Lord: ‘Your deep longing will soon be fulfilled. Have faith in My Son.” How should you respond to such a person? Well, first you remember that false prophets abound in the Church. Then you need to remember that the idea of God speaking to you personally is very attractive. We all struggle to keep a grip on how much God really loves us. When you’re feeling one down to other Christians and some prophet comes out of the woodwork with a special “word” just for you, it’s very tempting to accept it as legitimate, because then you’d have hardcore proof that God is really thinking about you. Many Christians go down this road of wanting to believe anything a prophet says to them. This becomes quite problematic, for false prophets now just have to keep their messages as vague as horoscopes and they can easily suck you in. Consider this message you’ve received in the grocery store—who doesn’t have a deep longing for something? Who doesn’t have some secret they’re ashamed of, or some future event that they’re worried about? Satan is very crafty, and he knows all about your past and your current secrets. He can easily maneuver one of his posers in to hand you some load of baloney in the Name of Jesus. This is why you can’t just accept something some so-called prophet tells you. As soon as someone drops the p-word or starts swinging around the Authority of God, you need to turn your focus to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to confirm or deny the message. Remember that the rules of conviction and condemnation apply to prophetic words as well: any message which makes you feel despaired and hopeless in your walk with God is a lie. Any criticism of you which is vague and lacking in clear instruction for how to get back in the right place with God is rot from demons. Any message which downplays the seriousness of rebellion and promises sweeping blessings on those who are living in opposition to God is also garbage.
False prophets are famous for declaring God’s favor over His enemies, and by doing this, they become enormously popular in the Church. Who doesn’t like the idea of getting away with defying God? Realize that false prophets are inwardly aligning themselves with Satan, which is why their messages are so effective at encouraging rebellion and burdening those who are sincerely seeking God. How many sincere souls end up traumatized by some false prophet’s declaration that they could end up in Hell if they don’t tithe enough or if they don’t have enough good works? As abused as it is, God’s Name is still a powerful tag to put on the end of any message. As soon as someone starts a speech with “God gave me a word,” people listen closer and a lot of souls immediately decide that whatever comes next is going to be rock solid truth. But not you, because you are going to refuse to be an easy target for these vipers. You are going to stick close to the Holy Spirit and remember that anything He says to you will be something that draws you closer to Him, not something that makes you feel beat down and discouraged. Refuse to believe anything you’re told until you have time to think it over with God. Remember that you have just as much Holy Spirit as God’s real prophets, and God’s real prophets are never going to try to make you feel like some lesser member of His flock or encourage you to think that they are spiritually superior to you.
So, is it weird to have some stranger get a glimpse into your soul? Yes, but remember that God’s real prophets share His love for you and, like Him, they want your soul to thrive in His care. Your secrets are safe with mature prophets—they aren’t treating information about you like the juicy headlines on a sleazy gossip magazine. Real prophets use the insights God gives them about you to get aligned with His view of you so that they can match their tone with His. Often the things God shares about you with prophets ends up supernaturally expanding their depth of love and compassion for you. Now your personal relationship with God is just that—personal. He isn’t going to show His prophets your whole life story—if He shows them anything at all, it is often some brief insight that is specific to your current situation. Real prophets don’t sit around bragging about how many insights they receive. A real prophet might receive a very specific revelation about you and never say anything about it to you, because God doesn’t want that information broadcasted. It’s the blowhards and braggarts that are always going on and on about the dream they had last night or the vision they had this morning. It’s the fakers who need to keep reminding you how dialed in they are. The real guys can know all kinds of things and never say word one about it. All wisdom comes from God, and it must be used in accordance with His instructions. So then, can God’s prophets read your mind? No. They are only human. By themselves, they are totally powerless. They only know what they have been told by God, and nothing they know about you can change your personal relationship with God. You and God have your own thing going on, so don’t worry about prophets. Just follow the sound of His Voice, and don’t get hung up on who He happens to be using to speak to you at any given moment. Prophets play an important role in God’s Kingdom—but then again, so do you.