Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 3

In my last post, we examined that prophecy can be either telling the future aka fore-telling and revealing God’s Word for a particular issue aka forth-telling. In this post, I want to dig into the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet within the Kehilah in our time.

My go-to source for explaining the Spiritual Gifts listed in the Brit Hadashah is C. Peter Wagner. I highly recommend his “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow.” For purposes of this post, I will limit the listing of Spiritual Gifts to Sha’ul’s proclamation:

“To one, through the Spirit, is given a word of wisdom; to another, a word of knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit; 9 to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of healing, by the one Spirit; 10 to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the ability to judge between spirits; to another, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and to yet another, the ability to interpret tongues.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (CJB)

Wagner defines the gift of prophecy as:

“The supernatural gift that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His people through a divinely anointed utterance.”

Now, some in the Body (cessationists) maintain that the revelatory gifts such as prophecy and tongues ceased sometime between the deaths of the Apostles and the confirmation of the Brit Hadashah canon. Continuationists believe that all gifts of the Spirit continue according to the sovereign Spirit’s purposes until Yeshua returns. As my Pastor would say, these are disputable matters. I align with the continuationists.

Sha’ul has a lot to say about prophecy and tongues in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. When we look carefully at the phenomena he describes and his instructions on their application and evaluation, we find that it aligns more accurately with an understanding of prophecy as Spirit prompted, subordinate revelation that we should expect to be partially or fallibly reported, and therefore intended to be tested against and subject to apostolic and prophetic authoritative revelation contained in the canon of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah.[1]

“Pursue love! However, keep on eagerly seeking the things of the Spirit; and especially seek to be able to prophesy.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1 (CJB) This is not an option; it’s an instruction. It’s not a suggestion it’s an imperative. We need to trust and obey after we have tested the utterance.

All the spiritual gifts are given to the Body and must be under the supervision of the Body. For us, that usually means under the authority of the Pastor and Elders in the local Kehilah.

While fore-telling may be rare in our day, forth-telling should be an everyday occurrence. The Tanakh is replete with examples of the prophets calling Isra’el to repent and return to God. That was the clear message of Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua’s first proclamation (Mark 1:15).

When was the last time you shared the Gospel message (forth-telling)?

In my next post, I will begin an in-depth study of one of my favorite prophets ~ Yesha’yahu (Isaiah).

[1] Jon Bloom, desiringgod.org.

Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began this short mini-series on Prophecy & Prophets be looking at some of the named prophets in the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah. I used the definition of a prophet in the Bible from GotQuestion.org: someone who revealed God’s message through writing or speech. The operative phrase here is God’s message.

Both the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah contain many references to false prophets. Their messages are not from God but HaSatan himself. We are warned to test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~ 1 John 4:1 (CJB)

So, what is prophecy; or is it prophesy? Well, prophecy is the noun form and prophesy the verb form. Taking you back to your English instruction, prophecy is the message; prophesy is the instrument of telling the message.

Prophecy can be either telling the future aka fore-telling and revealing God’s Word for a particular issue aka forth-telling.

One of my favorite passages of fore-telling is:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” ~ Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)

Scripture presents fore-telling as a manifestation of God’s power glorifying His Person, exalting His redemptive work in the Messiah, and setting forth the divine character of His revealed Word. We certainly observed God’s power when studying the ministries of Eliyahu and Elisha.

True prophets also have another responsibility to discharge. It was part of their commission to proclaim [prophesy] to my people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya’akov their sins. ~ Isaiah 58:1 (CJB) (see also Ezekiel 22:2; Ezekiel 43:10; Micah 3:8). They were, therefore, pastors and ministerial monitors of the people of God. It was their duty to admonish and reprove, to denounce prevailing sins, to threaten the people with the terrors of divine judgment, and to call them to repentance. Their function differed from that of the priests, the latter approaching God in behalf of humanity using sacrifices, the former coming to the people as ambassadors from God, beseeching them to turn from their evil ways and live. Gee that sounds an awful lot like our modern-day pastors.

The test of a prophet in the Tanakh, whether true or false, was not whether the predictions came true, for even the predictions of false prophets could come true. The test was rather whether the people were led in the ways of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Jerimiah 23:21-22,29-32). Nevertheless, if a prophet made a bold assertion that the prediction would come true and it did not, it was a false prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:22). If prophets were truly God’s messengers, their chief concern was not with foretelling events, but with leading people to repentance and obedience (Micah 3:8; 7:18; Zephaniah 2:1-3). Those tests are still true today.

Many of you may have been reading through The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan recently and read in the final chapter His warning: “I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.” ~ Revelation 22:18-19 (CJB) Like so many passages of Scripture, that can be a tough one to interpret.

In my next post, I want to dig into the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet within the Kehilah in our time.

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Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 1 

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the life of Elisha as we learned of Elisha’s Death. As I stated then, after studying the lives of Eliyahu and Elisha, I wanted to look at this whole concept of what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today. I had been intrigued with Eliyahu and Elisha because they were prominent figures in the Tanakh but had not written one of the canonical prophetic books.

Despite my verse-by-verse exploration of Revelation in the End Times Series during 2017, I don’t consider myself a “prophesy nut or expert.” I am quite satisfied that God is still on the throne and only He knows when He will return to vanquish the wicked and begin His millennial rule.

A reliable source tells me that at least two more years will be needed to reach the last known people groups on planet earth that have not heard the Gospel message, don’t have the Bible in their language and have not formed a local Kehilah. That said, why am I interested in exploring further what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today?

I started the research for this series not in my extensive library, but on Google. My query for a list of prophets in the Bible led me to GotQuestions. Their definition for who was a prophet is “someone in the Bible who revealed God’s message to others.” Note the past tense in that definition. Some heard directly from God and passed on the words through writing or speech. Some interpreted dreams or visions of others. The messages could be prophecies of the future, messages for the listener, or warnings for others.

Interestingly, Noach was the first name on the list. I recalled that God talked to him several times as recorded in Genesis 6-9, but I didn’t recall Noach talking to his neighbors about what God had told him. Messianic Jews 11:7 has been interpreted by some to mean that God told Noach to preach against his evil neighbors, but I don’t see that. By trusting, Noach, after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, was filled with holy fear and built an ark to save his household. Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation and received the righteousness that comes from trusting.” ~ Hebrews 11:7 (CJB) OK, so his righteous living in trusting God to build the ark was a witness to his faith.

The list goes on with some notable patriarchs and others, including Avraham, Ya’akov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, Miriam and the seventy elders of Israel (see Numbers 11:25). The list goes on to identify twenty others by name and multitude unnamed prophets before Eliyahu and Elisha arrive on the scene.

The last prophet to prophecy in Israel was Mal’akhi until the angel visited Z’kharyah, the father of Yochanan the Immerser. Mal’akhi’s message was a call to obedience and a promise of the coming Messiah. Following his oracle, there was a divine silence for 400 years.  Sometime down the road, I may do another character study on one of the other prophets in the Tanakh.

The list of named prophets in the Brit Hadashah is much shorter. As mentioned above, Z’kharyah is first on their list followed by Miryam, Elisheva, Shim’on, and Hannah all surrounding the birth of Yeshua. So much for the end of divine silence. Yochanan the Immerser spent his life exhorting people to confess their sins, turn to God and follow Yeshua. There is a multitude of others in the Brit Hadashah mentioned in the list which we look at in future posts.

In my next post, I want to dig into the references in my library to see if we can pin down a definition of prophecy and what makes someone a prophet. Not yet sure when I will get to the spiritual gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet within the Kehilah, but we will cover that as well.

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Elisha ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 2:22-25 to see what can happen when you tease a prophet of God. In this post, we pick up the ministry of Elisha in 3 Kings 3:11-20 where we learn of another Divine Intervention.

We don’t know what Elisha was doing between 3 Kings 2:25 and 3:11, but a little background is essential.

1 Y’horam the son of Ach’av began his reign over Isra’el in Shomron during the eighteenth year of Y’hoshafat king of Y’hudah, and he ruled for twelve years. 2 He did what was evil from Adonai’s perspective; but he was not as bad as his father and mother, because he got rid of Ba’al’s standing-stone which his father had made.” ~ 2 Kings 3:1-2 (CJB) 5 But after Ach’av died, the king of Mo’av rebelled against the king of Isra’el. 6 Y’horam left Shomron and mustered all Isra’el. 7 He also went and sent this word to Y’hoshafat king of Y’hudah: “The king of Mo’av has rebelled against me. Will you join me in attacking Mo’av?” He answered, “I will join in the attack — I’m with you all the way; think of my people and horses as yours…” 2 Kings 3:5-7a (CJB) 9 So the king of Isra’el set out, along with the king of Y’hudah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout journey of seven days, there was no water for either the army or the animals following them.” 2 Kings 3:9 (CJB)


Map by Crossway Bibles

A Divine Intervention

11 But Y’hoshafat said, “Isn’t there a prophet of Adonai here through whom we can consult Adonai?” One of the servants of the king of Isra’el answered, “Elisha the son of Shafat is here, the one who used to pour water on Eliyahu’s hands.” 12 Y’hoshafat said, “The word of Adonai is with him.” So, the king of Isra’el, Y’hoshafat and the king of Edom went down to consult him.

13 Elisha said to the king of Isra’el, “What do you and I have in common? Go, consult your father’s prophets and your mother’s prophets!” But the king of Isra’el answered him, “No, because Adonai has called these three kings together to hand them over to Mo’av.” 14 Elisha said, “As Adonai-Tzva’ot lives, before whom I stand if I didn’t respect the fact that Y’hoshafat the king of Y’hudah is here, I wouldn’t even look in your direction or take notice of you. 15 But now, bring me a musician.” As the musician played, the hand of Adonai fell on Elisha; 16 and he said, “Adonai says to dig until this valley is full of trenches. 17 For here is what Adonai says: ‘You won’t see wind, and you won’t see rain. Nevertheless, the valley will be filled with water; and you will drink — you, your cattle and your other animals. 18 That’s an easy thing to do, from Adonai’s perspective. He will also hand Mo’av over to you. 19 You will conquer every fortified city and every choice town; you will chop down every good tree, stop up every well and ruin every good field with stones.” 20 The next morning, around the time for making the offering, water came from the direction of Edom, and the countryside was filled with water.” ~ 2 Kings 3:11-20 (CJB)

Elisha made it clear that he wasn’t helping Y’horam, son of Ach’av, but Y’hoshafat, son of David. Once again, it is God’s covenant with David that introduces the grace of God and brings about God’s rescue of His people.

The musician brought quietness to the prophet’s mind and heart and helped to facilitate his communion with the Lord. That can help us as well. After quieting his soul, Elisha revealed God’s plan. The kings were to command their soldiers to dig trenches in the dry valley. God would send rain in the distant mountains, but the army of Moav wouldn’t know it because there would be no sound of wind or storm. The rain would create a flood that would move down from the mountains and cover the arid plain. Some of the water would collect in the trenches and be available for the men and beasts to drink. But God would also use those pools to deceive and defeat the army of Moav.

Then Elisha added that God would enable the three armies to defeat the army of Moav, but it must be a complete victory. They were to tear down, stone by stone, all the fortified cities in Moav and throw the stones in the fields. They must also cut down the trees and stop up the wells. In other words, the three armies should so destroy Moav’s resources that they would not be able to regroup and start fighting back. And we learn in the rest of Chapter 3 they accomplished their mission.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn that Grace Pays the Debt in 2 Kings 4:1-7.

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Elisha ~ Part 1

In my last post, we completed our series on Eliyahu from the Tanakh and Brit Hadasah. In this post, we will begin a new series on Elisha. We were briefly introduced to Elisha as we studied Eliyahu, but he was left holding Eliyahu’s mantle (cloak)as he saw him taken up to heaven in the fiery chariot. We begin our study of Elisha by returning to 2 Kings 2:13-18 where Elisha picks up the mantle of Eliyahu and Parts the Yarden River.

13 Then he picked up Eliyahu’s cloak, which had fallen off him. Standing on the bank of the Yarden, 14 he took the cloak that had fallen off Eliyahu, struck the water and said, ‘Where is Adonai, the God of Eliyahu?’ But when he actually did strike the water, it divided itself to the left and to the right; then Elisha crossed over. 15 When the guild prophets of Yericho saw him in the distance, they said, ‘The spirit of Eliyahu does rest on Elisha.’ Advancing to meet him, they prostrated themselves on the ground before him 16 and said to him, ‘Here now, your servants include fifty strong men. Please let them go and look for your master, in the event that the Spirit of Adonai has taken him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.’ He answered, ‘Don’t send them.’ 17 But they kept pressing him until finally, embarrassed, he said to send them. So they sent fifty men. For three days they searched, but they didn’t find him. 18 On returning to him where he was waiting in Yericho, he said to them, ‘I told you not to go, didn’t I?’” ~ 2 Kings 2:13-18 (CJB)

Background [1]

The work of Eliyahu and Elisha formed two parts of one whole, the one supplementing the other, and though there are obvious parallels between them, there are also marked contrasts. Both of them were prophets; both dwelt in Samaria, both were confronted with much the same situation. The falling of Eliyahu’s mantle upon Elisha intimated that the latter was the successor of the former and that he was called upon to continue his mission. The first miracle performed by Elisha was identical with the last one wrought by his master: the parting of the waters of the Yarden with the mantle.

Striking as the points of agreement are between the two prophets, the contrasts in their careers and work are just as vivid. The one appeared suddenly and dramatically on the stage of public action, without a word being told us concerning his origin or how he had been previously engaged; but of the other, the name of his father is recorded, and an account is given of his occupation at the time he received his call into God’s service. The first miracle of Eliyahu was the shutting up of the heavens, so that for the space of three and a half years there was no rain according to his word; whereas the first public act of Elisha was to heal the springs of water (2 Kings 2:21, 22) and to provide abundance of water for the people (3:20).

The principal difference between them is seen in the character of the miracles wrought by and connected with them: the majority of those performed by the former were associated with death and destruction, but the vast majority of those attributed to Elisha were works of healing and restoration: the one was more the prophet of judgment, the other of grace. The former was marked by loneliness, dwelling apart from the apostate masses; the latter seems to have spent most of his time in the company of the prophets, presiding over their schools. The one was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, the other fell sick in old age and died a natural death (2 Kings 13:20).

Eliyahu was gone, and Elisha couldn’t turn to him for help, but the God of Israel was still on the throne. From now on, Elisha’s faith would put him in touch with the power of God and enable him to accomplish God’s work in Israel. Three miracles are recorded in the remainder of 2 Kings 2, each with spiritual messages that we need to understand today. We will examine the first in this post.

Crossing the River

Why did Eliyahu leave the Promised Land and go to the other side of the Yarden? Was he abandoning his own country and people? Indeed, God’s whirlwind could have lifted him just as easily from Beit-el or Yericho. Technically, Eliyahu was still in Israelite territory when he crossed the river since Reuven and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had their inheritance east of the Yarden. But there was more involved. By taking Elisha west of the Yarden, Eliyahu forced him to trust God to get him across the river and back into the land! Eliyahu’s successor was now like Y’hoshua ~ he had to believe that God could and would open the river for him.

In taking up Eliyahu’s mantle, Elisha was making it clear that he accepted the responsibilities involved as he succeeded the great prophet and continued his work. By using the mantle to open the waters of the Yarden, he was declaring that his faith was not in the departed prophet but the ever-present living God. Indeed, we ought to honor the memories and accomplishments of departed leaders. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life and imitate their trust.” ~ Hebrews 13:7 (CJB) Elisha called on the God of Eliyahu to assist him, and the Lord honored his faith. Elisha wasn’t a clone of Eliyahu, but the two men had this in common: they both had faith in the true and living God.

Elisha’s miraculous crossing of the Yarden River not only demonstrated the power of God and the faith of His servant, but it also announced to the guild prophets that Elisha was their new leader. When God opened the Yarden, so the tribes Israel could cross into the Promised Land, He used that miracle to magnify Y’hoshua’s name and declare that His hand was upon the new leader. No matter how they were trained or chosen, true spiritual leaders assure their followers of their divine calling by demonstrating the power of God in their lives. So you will recognize them by their fruit.” ~ Matthew 7:20 (CJB)

The fifty guild prophets who saw Elisha cross the river on the dry ground had no problem submitting to him and accepting his leadership because God’s power was evident in his ministry.

But the fifty servants didn’t believe that their former leader had gone to heaven; they asked for on-site verification. God had openly demonstrated that Elisha was their new leader, so why search for Eliyahu? And why would the Lord catch His servant up in the whirlwind only to abandon him in some forsaken part of the country? Is that the kind of God they served? The entire enterprise was ridiculous, and Elisha permitted the search only because he was annoyed by their repeated requests. When the search parties returned to Elisha at Jericho, he at least had the privilege of telling them, ‘I told you not to go, didn’t I?’

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. We will examine Elisha’s second miracle in 2 Kings 2:19-22 ~ Healing of Bad Water.

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[1] Material in this section has been gleaned from “Interpretation of Scripture” by A.W. Pink and “Biblical Exposition Commentary -Old Testament” by Warren Weirsbe.

Eliyahu (Elijah) ~ Part 1

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the Letter to the Messianic Jews. In this post, I am starting a new series with a new format. I have never done a character study before, but I want to do one on the prophet Eliyahu (Eliyahu).

Introduction

Eliyahu ~ Who is this guy and what gives him the right to confront the King of Israel? Once you meet him, you’ll never forget him. He is best known for his confrontational leadership style and incredible spiritual victories, Eliyahu was characterized by an unwavering tenacity. Despite experiencing periods of fearfulness, hopelessness, and depression, Eliyahu remained steadfast. The result? God used him to tear down Israel’s alters and idols and change the moral and political landscape of his day. Eliyahu is one of the most unforgettable men of the Bible. On the one hand, he dared great exploits for God. On the other hand, he experienced fear, loneliness, and dark depression. Despite Eliyahu’s flaws, God used him mightily and took him to heaven before he died.

Background

We first meet Eliyahu (“I AM is my God”) in 1 Kings. Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil’ad, said to Ach’av (Ahab), ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB). Other than being identified as a Tishbe from Gil’ad (Gilead), his parentage and early history are unknown. Gilead was located east of the Jordan River and settled by the tribes of Manasseh and/or Gad. Tishbe is situated near the Wadi Chorath.


Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia

Eliyahu shows up on the scene during the reign of King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel, we meet her in 1 Kings 19) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in approximately 918-908 BCE.

My fascination with Eliyahu is best summoned up by this description by Henry H. Halley:

Elijah’s rare, sudden, and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration make him one of the grandest characters Israel ever produced. [1]

That doesn’t include my belief that Eliyahu is one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.

Before we get into an in-depth look at Eliyahu’s ministry, I want to lay a brief background of who he was dealing with in King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel). Six chapters are given to Ach’av’s reign, while most of the kings of Israel are covered in only part of one chapter. The reason is that the story of Ach’av is mostly the story of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was God’s answer to Ach’av and Izevel. God sent Eliyahu to eradicate Baalism, a cruel religion.

Ach’av

Ach’av is a good mystery, combining in himself qualities both good and evil, but, primarily evil. His life and reign include: his marriage to Izevel, a heathen princess; his alliance with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, by the marriage of his daughter Athaliah to Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, by which union the two kingdoms were brought into peaceful relations with one another for nearly eighty years; his building enterprises; his prowess and success in warfare; his attitude in the matter of Naboth and his vineyard; and his contacts with Eliyahu.

Izevels character was uniformly and consistently wicked, but Ahab’s was not. That he never abandoned the worship of God is seen in the names of some of his children: Ahaziah, ‘God supports’; Jehoram, ‘God is exalted’; Athaliah, ‘God is strong’; and in the fact that his attendant, Obadiah, was, both by name (‘worshipper of God’), and confession a servant of God. His sin was not that he forsook God for Baal, but that he tried to serve them both.

Like a football at training camp, he was tossed about between Izevel and Eliyahu, between what was wrong and what was right.

Izevel


Photo borrowed from Patrick Hawthorne from SGM.

Izevel must be reckoned among the wickedest of women; in a class with Potiphar’s wife and Lady Macbeth, and with all who have used their femininity to seduce, and to oppose and persecute truth and those who proclaim it. She was reckless, fierce, and licentious, fanatical and subtle; a proud heathen Canaanite, who, when she came into the stream of Israel’s history, cursed it beyond recovery. Her arrogance, her thirst for power and her heartless cruelty, have given her a unique place in history. So obsessed in her attempt at killing Eliyahu or other prophets, Eliyahu thought he was the only one left.

With this background information, in my next post, we will begin to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu.

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[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe Edition.