There is much teaching and seeking and speaking of prophecy, the prophetic, and prophets these days. There is no lack of “prophecies” or “prophets” for those who seek them. Many travel quite some distance to hear these “prophets” prophesy and will pay sums of money for the privilege. The emphasis is primarily upon the words being spoken… but we suggest that the focus needs to shift from the speaker, to the hearer. As Amos prophesied: “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine for HEARING the words of the Lord. And the people shall wander (TRAVEL) from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.” Amos 8:11,12
Prophecy and the prophetic are about individuals having ears to hear and eyes to see how God speaks in these last days: by His Son! That has surprisingly little to do with any messenger or prophet. AND because this is about Him and not us, the messenger can take no glory or pride in having ‘succeeded’ or ‘failed’ in the delivery of any message because it had little to do with them in the first place.
Words ARE very important, they are death or life and we are personally responsible before God for every word we speak. But, we are ALSO personally responsible before God for every word which we accept and receive, and for every word which we reject. That is a personal, individual thing which no one else can be held accountable for. This puts rather a different light on the prophetic; it is not so much about what is spoken, but about what is HEARD by us! The hallmark of the Good Shepherd’s sheep is not that they go around making a lot of noise bleating, but that they HEAR and KNOW and FOLLOW the voice of their Shepherd! (John 10:27).
We tend to place much emphasis on the prophetic voice. BUT the voice itself is actually not that important. Our Creator constantly desires to communicate with us and will often use anything or anyone to speak through (even the occasional donkey!) or even unbelievers and secular films and songs! He can speak through ROCKS if His living stones are silent! So what or who He chooses to speak through is not as important as what He says.
Ears to Hear
We, in our pride, tend to think that of course we would recognise His voice and listen to Him, and yet history proves that this is not usually the case. Even if God spoke through someone raised from the dead, people would still not believe (Luke 16:31). Often when a person doesn’t want to accept a message, the messenger immediately becomes the focus. If the messenger is made the object of controversy, we can deceive ourselves into thinking we do not need to listen to their message by telling ourselves that the person was too intense, or they weren’t serious enough, or they were too serious, or God doesn’t give negative messages like that or… fill in the blank; the list goes on and on ad infinitum! We can always find a reason in any human to reject them and what they say because we are all fallible and imperfect creatures. The real issue is one of discernment.
When a living stone is being used to speak on God’s behalf, it will not always be obvious, recognised or heralded and if we are not careful the stone may become a rock of stumbling to us… It seems to be God’s way to use the weak and foolish to confound the wise – His ways are not our ways! When we do speak things on our Father’s behalf, He will often have spent much time working those words into our lives first; either through experience or prayer. They will become internal and personal before they are external; it will be something which God has dealt personally with us on. We hear, see and receive, and then we communicate that which we have heard and seen and assimilated in the hope that others will also see, hear and receive. We are usually very good at hearing and seeing for others and not always so good at hearing and seeing for ourselves and allowing God to deal with US before delivering a message to a brother or sister.
The prophet IS the message as much as being a messenger of a message. God told a number of prophets to ‘eat the scroll’ or eat the words He gave them. The words (and the Word Who is Christ) became an integral part of the prophet before they even spoke. No longer could you separate the two. Their speaking then flowed naturally as part of who Christ was in them and the hearing was up to the individual.
Why does God do it this way? Simply so we’re totally reliant on Him both for ourselves, AND for others. We rely on and trust Him not only for our own personal hearing, but also for those to whom He may give a message through us. We are not responsible for someone else hearing or not hearing, that is between them and God. What we ARE responsible for is our own personal hearing and speaking. Jesus frequently said “He who has ears, let him HEAR!” Jesus spoke truth because He WAS Truth and yet many, in spite of their ears, still did not hear! “If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God listens to God. Those who belong to God hear the words of God. This is the reason that you do not listen to Me; because you do not belong to God and are not in harmony with Him.” John 8:46,47.
The prophets in the Bible often spoke with a ‘thus saith the Lord’ and hopefully without much of their flesh coming forth, and yet their messages were often still not received. Why were they rejected and stoned regardless? Because of hard, stubborn hearts and deaf ears that refused to hear… surely there is nothing new under the sun! And often those hard stubborn hearts and deaf ears are much closer to home than we would like to think!
A Mouth to Speak
Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah were called to speak to a stubborn, rebellious people who did not have eyes to see or ears to hear, they would not hear because they had hard hearts, but the prophets still had to speak regardless. It is the nature of God’s justice and mercy that He will still speak even when hearts and ears will not hear and receive because then a choice has been made by the individual. Paul quoted Isaiah: The Holy Spirit was right in saying through Isaiah the prophet to your forefathers: Go to this people and say to them, You will indeed hear and hear with your ears but will not understand, and you will indeed look and look with your eyes but will not see or perceive what you look at. For the heart of this people has grown dull, hardened and calloused, and their ears are heavy and hard of hearing and they have shut tight their eyes, so that they may not perceive and have knowledge and become acquainted with their eyes and hear with their ears and turn to Me that I may heal them. Acts 28:25-27.
Why would God bother speaking to people who refuse to listen? Because He is a just God. It would be unjust to hold someone responsible for something that they had not had the opportunity of hearing and responding to. One reason for having to be personally accountable for what we receive and reject as God’s words to us is because God will sometimes test us to see if we will listen to and obey man, instead of God.
Often we do not hear Him through each other because of our preconceived ideas of Who God is and what He will and won’t say to us through another; but, our God cannot be put in a box and often will offend us in order to reveal something about ourselves that we’d rather not see… Many these days think that a word from God must be only positive, only encouraging. Even the false prophets in the Old Testament thought that and yet God, through Jeremiah, addressed this: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They teach you vanity and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord. They are continually saying to those who despise Me and the word of the Lord, The Lord has said: You shall have peace and they say to everyone who walks after the stubbornness of his own mind and heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and HEAR His word? Who has marked His word and has actually heard it? The anger of the Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind and heart. IN THE LATTER DAYS you shall consider and understand it perfectly. I did not send these false prophets and yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. Jeremiah 23:16-21.
A Heart to Know
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” (Heb. 1: 1,2. This reduces the true prophetic to just One Thing: Christ. In knowing Him, we will know what He IS saying, and what He is NOT saying…
A New Testament example of discerning for yourself what the Spirit is saying, is with Paul in Acts 20 & 21. He tells of how the Holy Spirit had told him to go to Jerusalem. Then chapter 21:4b says “Prompted by the Spirit they (the disciples) kept telling Paul not to set foot in Jerusalem.” The Holy Spirit told Paul one thing and then apparently prompted the disciples to say the opposite! Obviously God will sometimes test us through our own brothers and sisters to see how firm we will remain to what He has Himself revealed to us or called us to do or say. Further on in the same story Agabus, a prophet, had confirmed what was in Paul’s heart, but then another group of disciples still tried to dissuade him from going ahead! We need to be humble enough to admit that we do not always know what is right for an individual, even when we are sure we have heard from God. Who knows what is best for a child, their Father or a brother or sister? We must always give each other the freedom to hear and follow what our Father tells each of us personally. If we allow someone to persuade us not to do something that He Himself has asked us to do, God will hold us personally responsible for heeding human voices and human wisdom instead of His voice and His wisdom.
A living relationship of communion and communication with Christ through the Holy Spirit is vital; HE is our Light and Life, He is the Word that is a lamp to our feet, He is the One who directs us! If we do not ourselves have ears to hear Him Who IS the Spirit of prophecy, if we do not recognise His witness and testimony within us personally, then how can we possibly expect to hear Him or recognise Him through another? Jesus deliberately made things difficult to understand so that HE would be sought for the answers. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” (Heb. 1:1,2).
Discerning the prophetic is as simple as discerning Christ, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Does the “prophetic” message you heard point you to Christ? Does it testify of Christ? Is He the focus? If not, you may want to reconsider the source/spirit of it.
Truth, integrity and honesty are at the core of the prophetic, it is about truth being lovingly expressed in all things: speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly. It is not ever about man’s titles, testimonials or advertisements! God now wants to speak to EACH ONE! If each one is listening to Him primarily and others secondarily, then it is not difficult to hear Him. There is much wisdom in this because it deals immediately with our natural tendency to depend on man instead of God. It means we are personally responsible for what we discern and hear and accept. It also means that there is no place for posturing, self-appointed ‘prophets’ who need to announce their ‘gifting’ with testimonials before they speak, and then make threats about ‘touching God’s anointed’. This can easily be seen as being manipulative and intimidating.
We must allow God to put His authority on our words; not our own self-imposed authority! If God is speaking through us, we will not need to advertise the fact or defend what we have said. The responsibility for His words being heard and received is not ours, but His and no amount of convincing talk on our part will ever cause them to be heard. The recipient will either have ears to hear and eyes to see, or they will not! We must reject what is false and deceitful and each express and embrace the truth. (Ephesians 4:25, 5:8-11).
Jesus was THE Prophet above all prophets and yet He didn’t need to tell people when He was speaking as a prophet because those who had ears to hear knew because of the authority that was on His words; those who did NOT have ears to hear…. crucified Him. He said: “If any man desires to do God’s will, he will know and have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honor for himself.” John 7:17,18.
Jesus had the right to be called a prophet more than anyone, so did He want to be known as a Prophet? “When the people saw the sign that Jesus had performed, they began saying, Surely and beyond a doubt this is the Prophet Who is to come into the world! Then Jesus, knowing that they meant to come and seize Him that they might make Him king, withdrew again to the hillside by Himself alone.” John 6:14,15. Many are so ready to proclaim someone a prophet and set them up as a king that they can look up to with great respect and awe… but Jesus WAS the great Prophet and He, more than anybody, had the right to be recognised as a king, and yet He didn’t accept or allow it. Jesus didn’t want any titles, He simply wanted to be known as the SON of God: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they answered, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Matthew 16:13-16
Why should we be any different? Being a spokesperson, messenger or prophet is not as personal or as special as being the CHILD of the One we speak for! Being a daughter or son of God is an amazing privilege and we DO speak on behalf of our Father at times. Christ continually directed people back to His Father and stressed that we are simply brothers and sisters. As such, most brothers and sisters listen to their Father for themselves unless for some reason a sibling is not listening or is too far away to hear for themselves…
The Heart of the Prophetic
At the very heart of the prophetic is the heart of God. If we have hearts ready to receive and obey God, we will both hear and see what God desires us to. True prophecy comes straight from the heart of God. When we KNOW His heart, then we can speak on His behalf and from His heart of love and those who KNOW His heart will not be fooled by a prophecy that comes from the heart of man.
When God reveals something of His heart to you, it hurts to sense something of His longing and deep desire and passion for His people and to see how we so often let Him down… It is a huge privilege to share a small portion of the pain that He feels, He wants us to feel and to know His heart. The prophetic is more about sensing and sharing the heart of God (HEARING Him and SEEING from His perspective) than simply speaking. He will show and tell us many things that are never to be spoken, but are simply shared in that place of intimacy and relationship with Him as He shares His heart with us. Sometimes we will simply identify with Him in His suffering, pain, or joy; other times we will pray through what He has given us, and sometimes we will be required to speak out that which we have seen and heard. Sometimes that speaking will be with much agonising, gentleness, pleading and love, and sometimes the speaking will be hard and with no emotion at all. God knows who to speak to gently, and who to speak to like a hammer! “Is not My word like fire that consumes all that cannot endure the test? says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks in pieces the rock of most stubborn resistance?” Jeremiah 23:29.
Speaking on behalf of God is usually a thankless task and there is always a price to be paid. The risk of misunderstanding and rejection is great no matter how much care and love is behind the words that are given. Ezekiel was told to expect rejection and misunderstanding: “The house of Israel will not listen to you and obey you since they will not listen to Me and obey Me, for all the house of Israel are impudent and stubborn of heart.” Ezekiel 3:7. God SPEAKS but the people do not always HEAR! God is trying to communicate with us all the time. But do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive and a will to obey? Without Him showing us and teaching us; we are thick, dumb, deaf and blind!
One of the reasons why prophetic words are rejected is because the nature of the prophetic is Light; it is revealing. The Light of Christ reveals what was previously hidden; both good and bad and separates the two. When anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall SHINE upon you and give you light. Ephesians 5:13,14.
When something bad (darkness) is challenged by the Light, some people will reason that the words were not from God because they brought condemnation and judgment rather than conviction and redemption or restoration. Sometimes the reason for this perception is because those who do reject the true words of God HAVE in fact, just brought judgment upon themselves by rejecting His words, and they rightly feel convicted for that! Jesus clearly said: I have come as a Light into the world so that whoever believes in Me, whoever cleaves to and relies on Me may not continue to live in darkness. If anyone HEARS My teachings but fails to observe them and does not keep them but disregards them, it is not I who judges him. For I have not come to judge and to condemn and to pass sentence on the world but to save the world. Anyone who rejects Me, refusing to accept My teachings, HAS HIS JUDGE; for the very message that I spoke (and that was rejected) will itself judge and convict him at the last day. John 12:46-48.
Like a Lightning Bolt
Prophetic revelation can be likened to lightning. It often comes as a flash of inspiration which energises and enables us to see very clearly what is illuminated by the Light. Sometimes it not only reveals, but destroys. Put simply, prophecy is revealed truth. Who is Truth? JESUS, Who IS the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). He IS Light, Life and Truth; all of which are elements of prophecy – it reveals Him Who is Truth. Lightning is very powerful, five times hotter than the surface of the sun, it is the result of negative and positive charges. Lightning is full of energy. One of the Greek words for God’s working power is ‘energeia’ – energy; another is ‘dunamis’ – dynamite; both of which can be applied to lightning.
Much about lightning is still a mystery to us, but we do know that it is essential for sustaining life on the earth; it produces ozone and nitrates which are essential for plant life, but it can also be destructive; it can bring life or death. It also plays havoc with our power/energy systems on earth. Ninety percent of all lightning never touches the ground, it remains in the thunder cloud or travels from cloud to cloud; it usually remains in the heavenlies, but occasionally zaps earthly stuff! The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord splits and flashes forth forked lightning. The voice of the Lord makes the wilderness tremble; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. Ps 29:4,8,9
Even those who are blind and do not have eyes to see the lightning will know something has been said because they will hear the accompanying thunder. In John 12:28 John heard God speak, he heard the words of God, but others said that it had simply thundered because they did not have ears to hear His words and the same was true of Saul/Paul when he encountered Christ (Acts 22:9)! If people are deaf and blind it leaves ONE thing; they can still feel the effect of the thunder through the ground shaking! A prophetic word will sometimes shake a person to their very core; even if they have rejected the words and are deaf and blind, their spirit will still KNOW and react accordingly.
So see to it that you do not reject Him or refuse to listen to and heed Him Who is speaking. For if they (the Israelites) did not escape when they refused to listen and heed Him Who warned and divinely instructed them here on earth, how much less shall we escape if we reject and turn our backs on Him Who cautions and admonishes us from heaven? Then (at Mount Sinai) His voice SHOOK THE EARTH, but now He has given a promise: Yet once more I will shake and make tremble not only the earth (physical) but also the heavens (spiritual). Now this expression, Yet once more, indicates the final removal and transformation of all that can be shaken – that is, of that which has been created (physical, fleshly) in order that what cannot be shaken (spiritual reality) may remain and continue. Let us therefore, receiving a kingdom that is firm and cannot be shaken, offer to God acceptable worship with modesty and godly fear and awe; for our God is indeed a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:26-29.
Like a Diamond Chisel
A prophetic message is also like a diamond chisel in the Jeweller’s hand which is used to shape His jewels (people). Diamonds have four aspects which are important; colour (the whiter the better), carat (the weight), clarity (the clearer the better) and cut. The cut of the diamond is the only thing that man is used for; all the other characteristics are natural and inherent in the diamond. The cut is very important as it determines how much Light will be reflected in the jewel. The only stone that can cut a diamond, is another diamond and so God will also use other jewels to cut and shape us into what He desires.
BUT, the tool does not know what to cut, it is the Jeweller Who decides what and when He will cut on each individual jewel. It is clear that many of the prophets did not always fully know or understand what God was saying through them or why (eg Daniel). God simply requires our availability and obedience. Should we feel the cutting of His tool/words upon our hearts, we must not blame the tool that is being used, but accept and submit to our Father’s shaping and purifying work in our lives and die to self. That which is already dead, cannot be hurt.
Many believe that prophecy must only build up. Yet there are two sides to the prophetic, the encouraging and the discouraging, the positive and the negative. In the same way, there are two types of tools that are used to shape jewels these days, one is the diamond point chisel, the other is a laser. A laser is concentrated Light and is far easier, quicker, efficient, more accurate and powerful than the chisel. A love for the Truth and the Light is fundamental to any prophetic person. “He who practices truth comes out into the Light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are – done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him.” John 3:21. The Light instantly reveals what was hidden, both good (more light) and bad (darkness).
The laser, will bring revelation like a flash of lightning. The chisel, on the other hand, cuts slowly and painstakingly and appears to be very hard or harsh in it’s working. It is entirely the Jeweller’s decision which tool He will choose to use for each living stone. Not all have hearts of flesh, many have uncircumcised hearts of stone. While one tool may bring revelation and encouragement to a heart of flesh, the other may bring revelation of the things that are hindering God’s work in a person’s life.
Here is an example of New Testament prophecy which revealed hard hearts: You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart AND ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers were, so you are! Now upon hearing these things, they were CUT TO THE HEART and infuriated and they ground their teeth against Stephen. Acts 7:51,54. Stephen said that their hearts and ears were uncircumcised. Circumcision is symbolic of dealing with the flesh, having it CUT or chiseled away from our hearts and ears. We don’t usually mind receiving encouraging messages, but we don’t like receiving correction and we sure don’t like circumcision! Yet Jesus said “Those whom I dearly and tenderly love, I tell their faults and convict, convince, reprove and chasten, I discipline and instruct them. So be enthusiastic and burning with zeal and repent, changing your mind and attitude.” Revelation 3:19.
The Burden of the Prophetic
Another example of New Testament prophecy is Peter knowing by the Spirit that Ananias had lied about the sale of his land. Peter then prophesied to the wife saying, “LISTEN! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also. And instantly she fell down at his feet and died.” Acts 5:9,10. Peter’s words to Ananias revealed something that had been already done in secret, his words to Sapphira revealed what was about to happen and they could not be interpreted as encouraging, uplifting, confirming, or edifying words of prophecy either…
The prophets in the Bible often described the prophetic as being ‘the burden of the word of the Lord’ and it was something that they felt and that weighed upon them. It was sometimes a message that was heavy and discouraging both for the one giving it, and for the one receiving it. There is great cost associated with it. Not only the message but the messenger themselves may well be an oracle (or burden) to the ones they are sent to. Jesus was something of a burden to those NOT wanting to hear Him… and still is. The typical response is still “Crucify the one that burdens us” in an attempt to silence the message. Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love Me and welcome Me gladly, for I came forth from God, I did not even come on My own authority or of My own accord as self appointed but He sent Me. WHY do you misunderstand what I say? It is because you are unable to hear what I am saying. You cannot bear to listen to My message; your ears are shut to My teaching. John 8:42,43.
If this was the response to Christ then, we shouldn’t be surprised if the reaction is the same when He speaks today, in these last days God is still speaking through His Son. While it is very painful to see something which others cannot see, and to hear Someone others cannot hear, we cannot open anyone’s ears or eyes so we shouldn’t be discouraged when others don’t hear or see, but simply need to keep our own eyes and ears firmly focused and fixed on God and to speak out what He says and when He says.
Then while it is still called Today, if you would HEAR His voice and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion in the desert when the people embittered God against them. Hebrews 3:13-15