Week One- Introduction to the Book of Ezekiel Part 3
From priest to prophet, Ezekiel received a call from the Lord that would drastically change his life. If he had to pick, I think Ezekiel would have chosen to become a priest. Sure, it was a bloody job but it had a steady pay, respect and admiration from the people and best of all, front row seat to the manifest presence of God.
No one wants to be a prophet in Israel. God only raised up prophets when things were bad or when things were going bad. We don’t need prophets if things are hunky dory. In Luke 13:34, Jesus lamented over a Jerusalem “that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” If the people of God hate you, you may be a prophet. A prophet is not received in his home town (Luke 4:24). In Jeremiah 26, we see the priests and prophets (obviously the false ones) get a hold of Jeremiah to kill him because of the Lord’s prophesies. It’s not an enviable job.
Many know that a prophet is someone who foretells the future but it’s a lot more than that. A prophet is a person who speaks for God. Throughout the Old Testament we can see that prophets spoke on behalf of God with a message of warning, rebuke and a plea to turn back to God. Take Nathan the prophet for example. In 2 Samuel 12, he not only gives King David prophecies of the death of his son and the calamities to befall his house but Nathan is also used by God to bring conviction of sin. David had committed some grave sins but had not repented. Nathan had to stand in the face of the king and speak for God. Defiance in the face of evil is necessary if we are to be faithful to God. When a person with the truth keeps silent, they condemn those around them and will have to answer to God for not speaking out (Ezekiel 3:18).
Prophets will always preserve the truth. Isaiah 8:19-20 says, “And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter’, should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to the word, it is because they have no dawn.” To have no dawn is to have no light. Those who walk in darkness have no fellowship with God. 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”. A person, who walks in the light, fights to preserve the testimony of God’s Word.
A prophet must breakdown false belief in the minds of the people for backslidden people love the lies. They defect as their love for God grows cold and their love for worldly ease and riches increase. As a result their propensity to sin escalates. They distort and interpret the bible in light of their growing affection for the wrong things. It is possible for the church to backslide corporately and individually. The prophet of God will be bold in speaking out against defection from the Word of God.
A prophet is one who sees things in the present that others are blind to. They can warn us of what will happen in the future if we don’t mend our present ways. A prophet can see the stumbling blocks ahead. They can perceive the direction of the church and the people as individuals.
The prophet of God believes that exposure of sin is the first step in restoration. Restoration is the only motive of a prophet when uncovering sin. Why? Because it is so with God! The books of prophecy are testimonies of the desire of God to be reconciled with His people. Peace with God is available to all who repent and turn from their sins.
A prophet is undeniably false when he denies Christ- His Divinity, His Authority, and His Exclusivity. The best way to know if a person is a true prophet is to listen to their message. What are they preaching/teaching? Do they exalt Christ? Do they talk much of themselves? Or is the gospel at the center of their message? Prophets who will only prophecy smooth messages need to be evaluated. To prophesy smooth things in a sinful world is to be false to God. Even Jesus would often denounce sin and proclaim the wrath of God over sinners. (Matthew 11:20-24)
False prophets will abandon moral teaching and instead preach a message that charms the crowds. Remember, popularity is never a measure of God’s pleasure with a leader! They also love to issue prophecies that make no requirement of them. These prophecies are so vague that they cannot be tested. False prophets are not concerned with turning people from their evil ways; they are merely concerned with making people happy.
Satan has power. He is just a created being but he has power and he has other powerful beings at his beck and call. The enemy is able to send emissaries to mislead the people of God. His work is not just without the church but also within. We also see in 1 Kings 22:22 that God allows lying spirits to work in the midst of his people. He will allow a demonic force to do what comes natural to it- deceive believers.
In fulfillment of Joel 2:28, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit have been given to the church. The Greek word most frequently used in the bible for spiritual gifts is charismata (Romans 11:29). This word relates to grace, the gift of God. It is not a gift given to a person; a person receives the grace of God to operate under the gift but the gift belongs to the church (Romans 12:6). This is an important point because we never want to use a gift of the Spirit for our aggrandizement. The gifts of the Spirit are for the edification and building up of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:26) The gifts are given so that we may strengthen one another in the faith (Romans 1:11). All the gifts are for service to the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:10) It is important that we allow God to develop in us a desire to encourage and strengthen the faith of other believers so that the spiritual gifts will function properly within the body of Christ.
We must not gullibly embrace every person who claims to speak for God. While we hope the words spoken through a person operating under the gift of prophecy is Spirit enabled, their words are not divine revelation as with the Old Testament prophets that can be added to scripture. We must test the spirit and validity of the message and the messenger. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” We’ve been fully warned that there are false prophets in the ranks. Jesus is also telling us that we are responsible if we are deceived. After all, the bible is filled with warnings and criteria for spotting false prophets. This is why it is vital that all Christians grow in biblical knowledge and develop spiritual discernment.
The danger with the gifts especially with the gift of prophecy is that people will seek it merely to build up self-importance and make themselves feel good rather than to bring glory to Christ and encourage believers. I can understand the feeling. It feels good to hear from God about your present and future status but this can easily lead to pride and error. Let me point out that people who dabble in the occult usually seek it out for the same reasons. They want to know the future for vain ambitions. They want to know they serve a purpose in the universe.
Here is my final advice to you: If you want to know what Jesus is saying, begin with what he has already said. Open your bibles! It drives me nuts when I see people chasing the next prophetic word but their bibles are on a shelf covered in dust. The best way to hear God speak to you is through his Word. Men are fallible but his Word is infallible. For every true prophet, there just may be 400 false prophets. Just read the story of King Ahab and the Prophet Micaiah in 2 Kings 22. Beware!
- Can you name any other prophets that were in the lineage of Levi (for priesthood)?
- Jesus the greatest prophet of all experienced a prophet’s rejection. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” John 6:66. Why do you think true prophets face rejection?
- There are many who say that a prophet does not have to be correct 100% of the time to be a prophet. What do you think? Does the bible give evidence to this belief?
- Many Christians believe that the office of the Prophet (along with that of the Apostle) is no longer in operation in the church. Since the bible has been completed and no new revelation can be added to it, there is no need for prophets. What do you think of this idea? Could this be substantiated with Scripture?