Jan 012012
 

The prophet Haggai pours out his heart to show that in the Latter Days God is going to shake all things and bring all nations into judgement.

  • ‘For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will this house with glory, saith the LORD of  hosts’. (Haggai 2:6-7)

The prophet Joel was similarly moved to write about the judgment that is coming upon all the nations who have set themselves against the LORD and His ‘anointed ones’, and have sought to divide up God’s Land.

  • ‘I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land’. (Joel 3:2)

The Lord declares His interest to Zechariah and thereby to us all who pray for Israel,

  • ‘I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with greatjealousy’(Zech. 1:14)

Therefore it comes as no surprise that at last we see Israel pressed into critical spotlight of the world’s arena. Here the scapegoat of all nations is finally being prepared to be sacrificed on the altar of self-interest as the nations seek to heave away the great burden  that Israel and Jerusalem have become to everyone.

This same theme continues into the NT by the writer tot the Hebrews who confirms the judgment which follows a shaking that will affect every people and nation on earth in the Latter Days.

  • ‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.’ (Heb. 12:25-29)

[{This month of September promises to be a historic month. If it goes ahead, there is no doubt there will be consequences as a result of the Palestinian Authority application to the UN for statehood. What course of action will Israel be forced to take? And what will be the reaction of the world to that?}] We need to focus our minds, put our houses in order, marshall our hearts as never before and pray, “Oh Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.”

by: Derek Rous

For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is nearbut on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance … and there shall be holiness‘ (Obadiah 15-17).

This true prophecy given through Obadiah is clear, “… the house of Esau shall be stubble.” Yet in contrast with this is the remarkable promise that Salvation shall come to Israel and in the end, the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. This is no prophecy of doom and gloom but one of coming joyful deliverance, salvation and holiness with justice and righteousness flowing out from Jerusalem like a river.

It contains certain judgement upon the wicked especially upon Edom who had repeatedly sought to bring violence upon his brother Jacob – but ultimately Jacob shall posses his possessions. Together with his brother Joseph, they shall be “… a fire and a flame”, as they posses their full inheritance, not because of their own righteousness but because of the faithfulness and grace of their covenant keeping Heavenly Father.

In a generation the world  has witnessed the suffering and re-gathering of the Jewish people to the Land. Today, Israel lives –  a remarkable people living in a remarkable Land surrounded by the descendants of Esau still plotting to bring down destruction upon their brother Jacob. Syria, LebanonJordan, S-Arabia, Yemen, Egypt – all descendants of Edom.

Obadiah reminds us of Edom’s behaviour in the passage from 12-14. Four times God says, …:

  • You should not – neither should you have…” acted like vultures over Jacob’s plight. Gazing, rejoicing, speaking proudly, cutting down those who escaped, delivering up those who remained in their distress.

How many times in recent history have the nations surrounding Israel sought to “… cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more, Psalm 83:4, only to find that “Am Israel Chai.” How often have Arabs rejoiced in Israel’s misfortune?

Today we see trouble for Israel on every side. Huge tensions exist in all the surrounding countries caused by economic and social breakdown. The Arab Spring is indeed turning into an Islamic Winter to say nothing of the rapidly advancing alliance of Iran, Russia and Turkey, Libya, Ethiopia that will fulfil the Gog-Magog predictions of Ezekiel Chapter 38-39. Here, the major nations are more sons of Ishmael than Esau but their judgment will be no less severe than that meted out to Esau …:

  • “But the house of Esau shall be stubble.” Obadiah 18

In all the confusion and tension that fills people’s hearts, may we be a people who are ready and alert to all the possibilities but also to all the potential for the redemption of Israel as well as our own nation. May this continue to drive us to our knees before the Lord for mercy in times of judgment and may we also be a people who posses sound judgment in all these matters concerning prophetic words. I trust the following articles will help in this matter.

by: Derek Rous

WEIGHING PROPHECY

Although the New Testament says we should be diligent to ‘test the spirits’ (Matth. 24:24-25; 1 Tim. 4:11;  1 Joh. 4:1-6) this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Evangelicals increasingly disagree on the basics: including what is truth or error. So when it comes to a particular prophecy, it is hardly surprising if believers within the same local church or para-church organization differ as to what weight, if any, should be placed on it. It can also be emotionally difficult to give a prophecy a different weight from others, especially if they are the person giving the prophecy, or they are believed to have a prophetic ministry.

Our main problem (unless we are cessationists) is to know how to weight prophecy. In practice it is often a very subjective exercise. This needn’t be the case, as we are meant to weight prophecies in light of Scripture as a whole. Scripture also provides specific guidelines.

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES

For example, the ways outlined in the Old Testament to test the words of a prophet (Deut. 13:1-5;  Jer. 23:25-40 etc.). This means those who say their preditions don’t have to be 100% accurate, or whose predictions come to pass but are preaching another Jesus / or who are neo-Gnostics (of which there are an increasing number, including on the religious TV cannels), are all ‘false prophets’. But even if the words of a prophet pass this particular maxim, we still have to decide what weight (important, etc.) to give them.

One crucially important maxim is to ensure we don’t give any of today’s prophets, and therefore anything they say, the same weight as an OT prophet.

NEW TESTAMENT INSTRUCTIONS

The Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 14:29ff (“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weight carefully what is said…”) are primarily with respect to those who exercise a prophetic ministry. These instructions, which Paul says are “the Lord’s commands”, infer: . . .

  1. they are prophecies given by those who were already recognized by their own local church as prophets;
  2. that their spiritual character was, consequently known and approved by their own local church (cf. Matth. 7:15-17); and …
  3. that they each submitted to others in their own local church – a characteristic of NT ministry, epitomised by Paul who, despite believing himself to be directly called into divine service by the Lord Jesus in a manner equivalent to the twelve apostles, could not only be sent out (with Barnabas) by his own local church in Antioch (Acts 13:3) but on his return ‘taught and preached the word with many others’ (Acts 15:35).

These instructions are also universal, as in conclusion Paul wrote (vs 36-37) “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.”  

The relatively few references in the NT to the activity of prophets in the early Church also all suggest they fulfilled their ministry alongside others with a recognised prophetic ministry: rather than acting solo, akin to OT prophets.

  • Acts 11:27-30 “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius). The disciples, as each one was able, decide to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.”
  • Acts 13:1-3 “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon …, Lucius …, Manaen … and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

In both instances there was more than one recognised prophet present; and what was said was weighed by the others, who also decided how to practically respond. The general picture in Acts mirrors Paul’s instructions to the believers in Corinth, and vice-versa.

APPLYING THE TEST 

Whilst we don’t know the actual words of the prophecies given to Timothy, apart from them being exhortations to ‘fight the good fight of faith’; there was more than one prophecy given, and others present (including Paul) witnessed to them being from the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 1:18-19). It is therefore possible that those who gave the prophecies to Timothy already had a recognised prophetic ministry, akin to the situation in the church in Jerusalem and in Antioch.

The practical reason why those with a prophetic ministry today shouldn’t be given the same weight as OT prophets, is because under the provisions of the New Covenant all true believers have received an anointing, not just those with a prophetic ministry (1 John 2:20). This is integral to us all being members of the one body, the church (which is a new creation in Christ); and why all of today’s prophets should be subject to the instructions given in 1 Cor. 14:29ff.

The writer to the Hebrews also says God (the Father) doesn’t speak today through prophets in the same way as in the OT (Hebr. 1:1-2). In the prophecies mentioned in Acts 11:27-28 & 13:1-3 and 1 Tim.1:18-19, which are all specifically stated, in hindsight, to be ‘from the Holy Spirit’, there are no ‘Thus says the LORD …’

Whilst one cannot formulate teaching on an omission, it may nevertheless be significant. For – in contradistinction to an OT prophet –  how can a prophecy be uttered on the understanding it needs to be weighed by others, if the person giving the utterance has already weighed it? [When Ananias was given a message for Saul of Tarsus, he said it was ‘from the Lord Jesus’, but this was an integral part of Jesus’ unique commissioning of Paul. Furthermore, Ananias didn’t claim to have a prophetic ministry – the NT designates him as a “disciple” – and he only confirmed what the Lord Jesus had previously told Paul.]

ENCOURAGEMENT TO CLARITY

If someone believes they have a prophetic ministry, they should be encouraged to follow (as much as is practically possible) the Apostle Paul’s instructions. If nothing else, it would help counter the increasing tendency of some to trust in their own ‘unique hotline to God’, rather than allowing others (with whom they are in partnership etc) to weight their words, and genuinely accept their assessment.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t automatically dismiss the utterances of those who fail to follow Paul’s instructions. The Holy Spirit can (if he chooses) speak through the mouth of a donkey, and (on one occasion) the ungodly Caiaphas prophesied accurately. Even so, we still need to ensure we don’t give anywhere near the same weight to a supposed ‘word from the Lord’ compared to the weight we must always give to the prophetic utterances that constitute the OT & NT (the Canon of which is complete). There are also a number of additional biblical maxims to help us weigh prophecies more objectively.

by: Paul Skaife

HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD

Testing the Spirits

Our Lord Jesus in Matthew 24 admonishes us about this matter in connection with the impending destruction of Jerusalem, his return and the end of the age. When the disciples asked him about when these events will take place his responce was not to answer their question directly, but to warn against deception which will come to his followers.

The first one will be people claiming to be the Christ (the Messiah) (Matthew 24:5). May be the first would have been more dangerous before AD 70, when some believers may have been expecting that the Messiah might come imminently.

The second source is false prophets (24:11). Once it became clear that Christ did not return when Jerusalem was destroyed, general false prophecy became the danger. Examples would be those who were saying that the resurrection is past already and were overthrowing the faith of some, and those who said that the return of Christ was imminent, whereas Paul said that the man of sin had to come first.

The apostle Peter in his second epistle gives the same warning as Jesus does (2 Peter 2:1), where he makes false prophets under the Old Covenant equivalent to false teachers in the church. You cannot really separate false prophecy from false doctrine.

False prophecy leads to our being deceived. It can bring about several possible reactions.

If the prophet’s predictions do not happen we may try to defend him by reinterpreting him, i.e. ‘he didn’t really mean that’. We can have a vested interest in defending false prophets, to save face and avoid the humiliation of admitting we were taken in. In fact we may really like and respect a personality and be reluctant to expose his words and teaching to scrutiny in the light of Scripture. Even if his prophecy was wrong and seen to be wrong some teachers say that ‘we don’t get it right all the time’ and therefore we just have to wait for the next prophecy, which may be right!!!

If the false prophet’s predictions do turn out actually to happen we may give credence to other things he says and come to accept false doctrine, which could endanger our souls.

OLD TESTAMENT REALITY 

We have two rules of thumb given us by Moses concerning false prophets.

In Deuteronomy 13 he speaks of a false prophet, whose prediction comes to pass, and on top of that he entices Israel to follow false gods. Such a prophet is to be rejected out of hand despite the apparent truth of his predictions. This is the kind of false prophet, whom we should be able to detect with ease.

In Deuteronomy 18 Moses speaks of a special Prophet whom God will raise up, whom they should pay attention to. No doubt such men as Elijah, Isaiah and so on were a partial fulfilment of this, but ultimately it means the Messiah himself. However Moses also warns of the kind of prophet ‘who shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak’, and he says we shall know him by the fact that his word does not come to pass.

When you look at the true prophets of the Old Covenant, they were not all that thick on the ground, were they? In fact the number of false prophets, who claimed to be speaking in the name of Jehovah, was legion. You have only to look at the 400 men who prophesied lies in the name of the LORD, and the solitary true prophet, Micaiah, who spoke the truth, to see this (1 Kings 22).

NEW TESTAMENT REALITY

In the church today we have some very obvious examples of false prophets and teachers, who are misleading God’s people. I understand there is something called ‘the God Channel’ on Christian TV, which perhaps has more than its fair share of these people. Are Christians, who just don’t get good teaching in their churches turning to these dried up wells instead of themselves searching the Scriptures daily as the Jews of Berea did (Acts 17:10-12)?

But the really difficult area where we need discernment is where we have people, who in other respects are sound in doctrine, but make predictions which they expect others to believe. The disturbing thing is that some Christians seem to regard the words of such men (and women) as if they were as unquestionable as the Bible itself.

How do we judge or weigh the prophecies and/or teachings which are served up to us today? Paul encourages us to ‘judge’ prophecy (1 Corinthians. 14:29). Part of judging is to measure what is said against the plumb line of the teachings of Christ and his apostles. When Paul was writing to the Corinthians the NT was in the process of being written, and therefore believers did not have the advantage that we now have of being able to compare scripture with scripture and so hammer out what the truth really is.

Here are a few questions we ought to ask whenever we are faced with claimed prophecies:

  1. Do we know the prophet/teacher, and does he come out of a background that can we trust?
  2. Has he made any statements in the past that we can check for reliability? Moses says that if his word does not come to pass, we need not worry about that prophet. This principle would enable us to rule out a lot of false claimants, and save us unnecessary work!
  3. Are we giving credence to his words just because we like and trust him? This is a very subjective way of going on. It is possible to be a nice guy and still be wrong!
  4. Are his words in line with scripture? Come to think of it, we don’t need an awful lot outside of the Bible, do we? Anything extra we need is in the nature of encouragement and up-building.
  5. Do they add to what the inspired apostles of Christs have taught us? Look at what John says in his second epistle, verses 9-10, where he tells us to ‘abide in the doctrine of Christ’, that is not to expect additions which will in some way improve what we already have.
  6. Do they tickle our ears? Really this is a question which challenges us as to whether we are always desirous to hear some ‘inspired’ utterance.
  7. Are they couched in such a way that they demand our credence? Do they make us feel that to question them is to question God?
  8. Do they encourage us to trust and hope in the Lord and in his revealed word in the Bible?

In the light of all this may I suggest two healthy attitudes? The first is to have a firm Christian scepticism about human claims to inspiration, and not accept them easily. The second is to be much in the Word of God.

I understand that the way people are trained to spot forged banknotes is to study diligently genuine currency. Spending too much time studying false teachings has its dangers: because we are just human it is possible for us to be drawn in by the falsehoods we are trying to oppose, but if we are soaked in the truth of Scripture we are more likely to spot the bogus.

by: Keith Parker (www.prayer4i.org)

PROPHECY, WHAT IS IT?

‘A prediction of some contingent circumstance or event in the future received by immediate and direct revelation’ (Vitringa).

‘A declaration made by a creature under the inspiration or commission of the Omniscient God relating to an event or a series of events, which have not taken place at the time the prophecy is uttered, which could not have been certainly foreknown by any science or wisdom of man’ (Dr. Pye Smith).

The form of prophecy which is envisaged in these definitions is the predictive, but there is another form of prophecy which must not be omitted, that is the normal and didactic or teaching phase. The words uttered by the prophet had a meaning or a lesson for his immediate hearers as well as a forecast of ‘things to come‘. It is with the predictive phase of prophecy, however, that we have to do in this Volume. We may ask, what is a prophet? and find at least the elements of an answer in the words of Numbers 12: . . .

  • ‘Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold’ (Num. 12:6-8).

The word here translated ‘prophet’ is the Hebrew nabi. Gesenius says that naba, the verb, comes from a root meaning ‘to bubble up’. Dr. Young, in his concordance, says it means ‘flow forth’ which amounts to much the same thing. If this etymology be true, it looks to the inspiration of the prophet. This Divine enduement, which appears to be an essential equipment of a prophet, can be illustrated by the case of Saul.

Samuel said to Saul: ‘The spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man’ (1 Sam.10:6). This came to pass so that it was said: ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ (1 Sam.10:11).

When, as a consequence of Saul’s disobedience, the Lord withdrew his favour from him we read, ‘the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house’ (1 Sam.18:10). In these two cases prophecy, whether true or false, was the direct outcome of the ‘coming upon Saul’ of a spirit, a spirit that was either good or evil. From this same book of Samuel, we learn that: . . .

  • ‘Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer’ (1 Sam.9:9).

Seer, Hebrew roeh. This word, as the English indicates, is derived from the verb ‘to see’, raah, and Isaiah played upon this fact when he said, ‘which say to the seers, see not’ (Isa. 30:10).

Another word which is also translated ‘seer’ is derived from the Hebrew chazah which means ‘to see’ as in a vision. Again 1 Samuel will provide an illustration:

  • And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision‘ (1 Sam. 3:1).

So the prophecy of Isaiah opens with ‘The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw‘ (1:1).

According to Numbers 12:6 the usual mode of imparting the prophetic message to a prophet was by a ‘vision’ or ‘dream’. Let us note a few references that show the relation of ‘vision’ and ‘dream’ to prophecy.

  • NATHAN. ‘According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David’ (1 Chron. 17:15).
  • ISAIAH. ‘Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz’ (2 Chron. 32:32).
  • DANIEL. ‘I Daniel, had seen the vision’; ‘To seal up the vision and prophecy’ (Dan. 8:15; 9:24).
  • PAUL. ‘A vision appeared to Paul in the night’ (Acts 16:9). ‘I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 12:1).

‘A prophet, or a dreamer of dreams’ (Deut. 13:1). ‘God … answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams’ (1 Sam. 28:15). These and kindred passages show the close link that the Scriptures establish between the gift of prophecy and the dream. It will be observed, however, that the first reference (Deut. 13:1-3), like several not quoted here, refers to the false prophet, even as false prophets and their misleading visions are referred to by Jeremiah (14:14; 23:16).

Ecclesiastes says: ‘A dream cometh through the multitude of business … in the multitude of dreams … are also divers vanities’ (Eccles. 5:3,7). So that dreams by themselves are suspect and must not be confused with Divine illumination. On the other hand, the Lord spoke to Abimelech, to Joseph, to Solomon and to Daniel by dreams, and when the prophet Joel refers to the prophetic gift associated with the day of Pentecost, he said, . . .

  • ‘Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions’ (Joel 2:28).

Neither visions nor dreams of themselves were a sufficient warrant for unquestioning acceptance. Neither the prophet nor his hearers were treated as automatons. Just as in New Testament times, the believer is enjoined to ‘try the spirits‘, for some were not of God, so, in Old Testament times, even though a prophet or dreamer of dreams gave a sign or a wonder, and even though that sign or wonder came to pass, even then all such prophecy should be tested by the known will and Word of God (Deut. 13:1-5).

Perhaps no gift so overwhelmed the individual mind of the human instrument as the gift of prophecy, for it is written, ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost‘, (2 Pet. 1:21), and that word ‘moved’ means ‘driven’ as by a tempest (Acts 27:15,17), and so much so that Balaam, even against his inclinations, admitted that, when the moment came, he would not be able to speak anything but what the Lord put into his mouth (Num. 22:38; 23:5-10). Nevertheless , in spite of all this pressure on the one hand, the believer was expected to exercise his responsibility before the Lord, and to distinguish ‘the chaff from the wheat’ (Jer. 23:28).

A series of statements is made in Jeremiah 23 concerning the false prophets which illuminate this use of what we might call ‘the moral yardstick’: . . .

  • ‘I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings’ (Jer. 23:21,22).

The moral issue, not a prodigy, was the test. These false prophets caused Israel ‘to forget’ the name of the Lord, and turned their hearts after ‘Baal’. They are accused of ‘stealing‘ God’s words, and using their tongues to say ‘He saith’. ‘I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause My people to err by there lies, and by their lightness’ (23:32). Here are two test words that may be applied to the whole of Prophetic Scripture. If the result of any prophetic utterance be to ‘make you vain’ then we can be sure that such prophets ‘speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord’ (Jer. 23:16).

The Hebrew word that is translated ‘lie’ is sheqer. The primary idea of the word, according to Gesenius, is ‘colouring’ with the implied idea of falsehood. So ‘wanton eyes’ are translated by Bishop Lowth, ‘falsely setting off their eyes with paint’ (Isa. 3:16). Keeping to the prophecy of Jeremiah we find this word sheqer translated ‘feignedly’, ‘in vain’, ‘falsely’, ‘lying’, ‘lies’ and ‘falsehood’. Jeremiah 8:8 reads in the Authorized Version margin, ‘the false pen of the scribes worketh for falsehood’, or again, ‘They bend their tongues like their bow for lies; but they are not valiant for the truth’ (Jer. 9:3). Over and over again Jeremiah warns the people against the teacher of lies, and finally was himself put into prison because the words he uttered were unacceptable in the ears of the rulers of the people.

‘Lies and lightness’. The Hebrew word translated lightness is pachazuth, which means instability. ‘Unstable as water’ (Gen. 49:4) uses the word in the masculine form. Zephaniah said, ‘her prophets are light (pachaz) and treacherous persons’ (3:4).

‘Truth’, emeth (the parent of our word Amen) is the very opposite both of ‘lies’ and ‘lightness’, for the basic meaning of emeth is ‘steadfastness’, ‘establisment’ (2 Chron. 32:1). ‘Lies and lightness’ here, are the tests for all prophetic utterances – if they ‘make you vain’ they are not of God.

Why should ‘false prophets’ ever be permitted? Apart from the fact that such form part of the problem of evil that is ever discussed in the Scriptures, we are definitely told that the prophet or a dreamer of dreams that says, ‘Let us go after other gods‘ is permitted by the Lord, ‘For the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ (Deut. 13:1-3).

In our own generation we have had a number of ‘prophets’ who, by one form of computation or another, have ‘proved’ that the Second Coming of the Lord would take place on some specified date. One after another they have been proved false, but still they arise and still there will be found men and women foolish and blind enough to follow them: . . .

  • ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’ (or ‘surely there is no morning for them’, Revised Version), (Isa. 8:20).

Thy Spokesman . . . instead of a mouth

The first person to be named ‘a prophet’ is Abraham (Gen. 20:7), which shows that the title is not to be limited to ‘predition’ but rather to the wider meaning of a spokesman for God: . . .

  • ‘He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live’.
  • ‘So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech’ (Gen. 20:7, 17).

While Abraham utters no prophecy of future events, he ‘prayed’ and the things he prayed for came to pass, so,  even though the predictive element is inconspicuous, it is there nevertheless.

The next man to be named a ‘prophet’ is Aaron. When the time came for Moses to go into the presence of Pharaoh, the Lord said to him: . . .

  • ‘See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land’ (Exod. 7:1,2).

This related appointment looks back to Exodus 3 and 4, where Moses was originally called by God and commanded to go back to Egypt and to Pharaoh. Moses had seen the sign of the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-5), had heard the Lord speak in the name of the God of his fathers; had been assured of the Lord’s presence; had received the unfolding of the great name I AM (Exod. 3:6-14) and had received confirmation by the working of two especially typical miracles (4:1-8), yet even after all this Moses is seen to be diffident: . . .

  • ‘And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue’ (Exod. 4:10).

Humility is a lovely grace, but a false humility takes on itself an ugly look whether assumed out of fear, pride or any other reaction to the Divine challenge. Paul served the Lord with ALL humility, and could nevertheless say, ‘I can do all things‘, but only ‘through Christ which stengtheneth me’.

The Lord remonstrated gently with Moses, saying: . . .

  • ‘Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say’ (Exod. 4:11,12).

This is surely enough – but no! Moses replied: . . .

  • ‘O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send’.

These words do not mean loving and loyal acquiescence but rather suggest, ‘send by someone else, rather than send me’. The Students’ Commentary remarks here:  . . .

  • The hesitating and timid Moses of Mount Horeb was the same couragous and self-reliant Moses who smote the Egyptian dead! His strenght then unfitted him as a Divine instrument, and now his weakness unfitted him. God can use neither one nor the other, if the strength is trusted, or if the weakness is sheltered behind as an excus’.

So it was that Aaron came to be appointed: . . .

  • ‘And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God’ (Exod. 4:14-16).

It would take us too far afield to pursue the personal history of both Moses and Aaron and mark their interrelated service whether for good or ill. One thing only must be said before we pass on, and that is, quite apart from any personal failure on the part of Moses, he was ever a type. As representing the law he could not take Israel across Jordan, only Joshua, ‘The Salvation of the Lord‘, could do that. So here. Moses, a ‘king’ (Deut. 33:5) and a ‘lawgiver’, was early associated with a ‘Sceptre’ (Gen. 49:10). Moses had access within the veil beyond the right granted to any high priest (Num. 7:89; Lev. 16:2) and so was in some ways ‘a priest’; we have already learned that he was something more than a ‘prophet’, but these three offices can be truly borne by One and One only. He Who is in truth Prophet, Priest and King is the Saviour Himself, and Moses’ failure but sets forth the total failure of all mankind and of all types and shadows.

  • Aaron was to be ‘spokesman’ for Moses.
  • Aaron was to be ‘instead of a mouth’ to Moses.
  • Aaron was to be a ‘prophet’ to Moses.
  • Moses ‘took the place’ of God to Aaron.

Troughout the narrative, it is Moses who is commissioned, but it is Aaron who actually speaks, whether Aaron be mentioned by name or not. ‘And the LORD spake unto Moses’ (Exod. 8:1). ‘And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron’ (8:5). ‘And de LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharao . . . and Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharao’ (10:1,3). What is true of Moses and Aaron is true of the Lord and His prophets. When the prophet speaks, it is understood that he speaks ‘intead of a mouth’, he is ‘spokesman‘ for the Lord.

Let us, having gone so far, pursue this aspect of the subject further. ‘The LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth’ (Num. 23:5). The context of this statement is illuminating. Balak, the king of the Moabites, seeing what Israel had done to the Amorites, was moved with fear, and sent messengers to Balaam, calling him to come and ‘curse me this people’, promising him great reward. After several vacillations Balaam consented, and when Balak heard that Balaam had come, went out to meet him saying, ‘Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?’ but Balaam replied: . . .

  • ‘Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say anything? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak’ (Num. 22:38).

And so it was, in spite of the ‘seven altars’ with the ‘seven oxen’ and the ‘seven rams’, all was unavailing to alter the word of the Lord, Balaam spake only that which the Lord put into his mouth. Now if a reluctant and greedy self-seeker like Balaam could not help but speak words of truth when God chose, how much more may we expect and believe that the true prophet whose heart was in harmony with his Lord and the message he was called upon to give, would speak by inspiration.

On several ocassions Isaiah concluded a prophetic utterance with the words, ‘The mouth of the LORD hath spoken it‘, but Jeremiah and his ordination sets forth very vividly this aspect of the prophetic gift. After Jeremiah learned that he had been ordained ‘a prophet unto the nations‘ he said: . . .

  • ‘Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shall go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak … then the LORD put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, “Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth”‘ (Jer. 1:5-9).

Then follows, in verse 10, a summery of the prophecies that Jeremiah was to utter, and this in turn was followed by a test. How far could Jeremiah enter into the message he was bound to deliver?

The Lord said to Jeremiah, ‘what seest thou?’ and Jeremiah replied, ‘I see a rod of an almond tree’. To this the Lord replied, ‘Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten My word to perform it‘ (1:11.12).

To the English reader, the Lord’s commendation does not seem to follow. There seems no obvious connection between an ‘almond tree’ and ‘hastening’ the Word. An almond tree is in the Hebrew shaqed, ‘a watcher‘; the almond was a harbinger of spring, being among the first to flower in January. The word ‘hasten‘ is the translation of the Hebrew shaqad, but why the Authorized Version translators should have so translated it is not evident. The word means ‘to watch‘ as can be seen in Jeremiah 5:6 and 44:27. The matter is placed beyond dispute by a reference in Jeremiah 31:28. Jeremiah’s prophecies were related to ‘rooting out‘, ‘pulling down‘, and subsequently ‘building‘ and ‘plantingthe nations (1:10) and in chapter 31 this is referred to: . . .

  • ‘And it shall come to pass, that like as I have WATCHED over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I WATCH overthem, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD’ (Jer. 31:28).

What therefore the Lord said to Jeremiah at the beginning was, ‘I will WATCH (over) My Word to perform it‘ and according to Jeremiah 31:31 this promise of restoration will be accomplished under the terms of the New Covenant, a covenant that has no place in the dispensation of the Mystery.

The prophet Hosea uses a very bold figure of speech when he says:

  • ‘Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth’ (Hos. 6:5).

It may possibly come into the mind of anyone not too well-grounded in the truth that, after all, this reference to the words of God being put into ‘the mouth’ of a prophet is very primitive and belongs only to a primitive age. We therefore turn to the New Testament, where both before and after Pentecost the figure is employed.

Referring to the forty-first Psalm, Peter says: . . .

  • ‘This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth David spake before concerning Judas’ (Acts 1:16).

After Pentecost with its spiritual endowment and illumination, Peter still employs the same figure: . . .

  • ‘But those things, which God before had shewed . . . by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began’ (3:18,21).

And yet once again just before a second miniature Pentecost, Peter  said: . . .

  • ‘Lord, Thou art God, Which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage?’ (4:24,25).

We have seen that a prophet was one who received his message either by a vision or a dream, and had the matter ended there we might have reasonably supposed that, having seen the vision or dreamed the dream, he was left to explain and expound the revelation in his own way. This we see is not so and once again we thank God for the wondrous care and provision He has made to preserve intact and uncorrupted the Word which He sent to the children of men.

by: Charles H. Welch (www.bereanonline.org)

Gerard J.C. Plas

 

 

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