A dear childhood friend while appreciating my last article, told me of how she had stopped going to church for 18 months due to the negative impact of failed prophecies on her faith and of course that of many others. Some dear brothers did not see the rationale in dealing with this subject matter last week but they are unaware of how disillusioned and confused many Christians had become apart from the degree of mockery we had made of ourselves. When highly respected men of God are nicknamed derogatorily in corridors of power, revered names are dragged on YouTube and not for the sake of the gospel nor for righteousness, it calls for soul searching. I will like to offer some insights to believers who have been affected by the failed prophecies and advise some young prophets who may be open to correction and direction. Looking into the Word for guidance remains our safety net and we have sufficient guard rails in it for us.
The ministry of the prophet definitely exists today. All of the five fold ministry gifts are to exist till the body of Christ comes to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:14). However, unlike the theocratic governments of Israel under the old covenant, where God ruled and guided the Jewish nation through His prophets, God is not running the governments of the nations in the same way and is therefore not using prophets as national guides on the same level. The New Testament prophet is firstly a preacher and or a teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is not defined by His ability to predict things but to preach and teach the Word by divine revelation. The revelation gifts of the Word of knowledge, Word of Wisdom and Discerning of Spirits given to him to one degree or the other determine the scope and emphasis of his ministry. By this revelatory gifts, the New Testament prophet gets to be more aware of God’s mind and of the future than the average believer but is not necessarily assigned to declare them to the world except God so instructs. Prophets should not feel compelled to predict except where so instructed. The arena of politics and government is also not one where Christians are limited to choosing Christians because God uses unbelievers as much as believers in the governments of the world. He clearly raised Pharaoh for a purpose (Romans 9:17) and Cyrus for another (Isaiah 45:4).
The subjective nature of receiving revelation must however be acknowledged. Divine inspiration is perfect but not its interpretation or manifestation. Yes, God speaks accurately but passing through our minds, revelation can be interpreted through imperfect prisms like ethnic prejudices, personal ambitions, limited understanding, grammatical inadequacies, intellectual deficiencies, doctrinal imbalances and other imperfections. Because of these imperfections, revelations when received ought to be confirmed. I learnt long time ago through a mini book ‘Maintaining the Spirit Filled Life’ by the late Buddy ‘Doyle’ Harrison (who was the son-in-law of Kenneth E. Hagin) that it is the nature of God to reassure us, hence His patience with Gideon when in spite the fact that he was seeing an angel vividly demanded the angel to confirm it was God speaking to him through a fleece two times. Such human imperfections are the reasons why with scientific and technological breakthroughs, we are able to interpret some of Daniel’s prophecies better than 19th and 20th century scholars.
As accurate as the prophecies of Samuel were (1 Samuel 3:19), he almost missed it prophetically in the house of Jesse when he was swayed by Eliab’s appearance. The same way we can be swayed by opinion polls, candidates’ eloquence, similar faith and other prejudices during electioneering campaigns. To admit our fallibility is to employ biblical guard rails and avoid an open display of our weaknesses to the world. The more our prophecies fail, the more the world will mock us and the gospel we preach.
No wonder Paul admonished only 2 or 3 prophets should speak in a gathering while others ‘judge’.
Only prophecies confirmed by enough prophets were to be established as a ‘word from the Lord’ apparently. We Pentecostals brandish phrases like ‘The Lord told me’, or even ‘The Lord told me clearly’ very quickly. Yes, the Lord speaks, but confirm it’s the Lord before jumping into action. Human fallibility was taken into consideration when the council at Jerusalem ended their deliberations with a letter to the gentile church that included the statement ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ (Acts 15:28). Rather than say the Lord spoke to us, these Apostles acknowledged that they did not enjoy spectacular guidance on this occasion and had to engage their sanctified reasoning as they searched their hearts for the witness of the Spirit about the mind of God on this instance. At other times, revelation was more vivid and Paul would said ‘The Spirit speaks expressly’ (1 Timothy 3:1) but Luke expressed how Paul the apostle and his itinerant companions kept an open attitude to God’s guidance all the time and took time to test the will of God while on their missionary journeys(Acts 16:6-10). The truth is that there are times when we are very certain God is speaking and at other times we make deductions from our spiritual experiences. Bottom line is that we should seek confirmations from God and others before going public where we feel led to do so. With these guard rails, we will minimize our failures and be better prophets to our generation.