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Mar 26 2013

How did the Israelites determine if a prophet was from God?

A prophet was a person who was speaking for God, in other words, “thus says the LORD.” Prophets were raised up by God (Deuteronomy 16:15) and empowered by God to communicate His purposes to the people. Prophets did not just speak of future events, it also included instructions, rebuking the leaders of the people as well as well as instructing the people how they should act such as whether or not to go to war. For instance, God spoke to Moses (a prophet) commanding him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus, Chapter 3). Moses spoke to the people for God (Exodus 20:19). As a prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10), Moses was giving the people God’s Commandments and was not foretelling future events.

All of God’s prophets were not only raised up by Him but were anointed (Psalms 89:20, Psalm 105:15). People recognized the person as a prophet from God. Therefore, a prophet was already established to the people. For instance, all of Israel recognized that Samuel “was established as a prophet of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:20). It was God that “let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). God has always used people to speak to the people both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A false prophet gave messages that were positive. For instance in 1 Kings, chapter 22, the king of Israel told Jehoshaphat that there is a man (Micaiah) who they could inquire of the LORD. The king hated him for he “never prophesies good” concerning him but only evil. Even though Micaiah was recognized as a prophet and that he could be relied on who could “inquire of the LORD,” the king only wanted to hear favorable messages and in fact, rejected Micaiah’s prophecy and relied on the prophecy of is (false) prophets who told him a favorable message. Since Micaiah’s message was from God, it came to pass.

The fulfillment of a future-event prophecy, obviously, was a determining factor in the validity of a prophecy (Ezekiel 2:1-5). In fact, that was how God instructed the Israelites to determine if a prophet was speaking falsely. A false prophet could be recognized because the future event came about in a way that was different than prophesized as in 1 Kings. A false prophet could also be determined if he led them to go after other gods even if the sign or wonder comes to pass (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

Because a prophecy that has not yet come to pass in no way means that it is a false prophecy. For instance, In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah foretold the birth of the Messiah which obviously did not take place until after many generations had lived and died. Yet no one disputed that this prophecy was from God for all of Israel was waiting for their Messiah. Yet, Isaiah was and is recognized being God’s prophet, relaying messages to the people. He is recognized as a prophet because it is God who called him out and established him as a prophet. Again, it is God that “let none of his words fall to the ground.

The instructions God gave to the Israelites on how to recognize false prophets was not because they would mistake prophets that He raised up as false prophets but so they would not be deceived by false prophets.

Photo credit:  Commons Wikimedia.org

This post is adapted from an answer written for GotQuestions.org

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  1. Ed

    Very good post Tishrei.

    It made me think of the huge modern-day cults that have made numerous false prophecies, yet they continue to grow larger as people continue to join them.


  2. amberdover

    My friend and I were talking about that today…the gift of prophecy. I am torn. There are so many self proclaimed prophets (even within Christian movements) and most are false. So many “prophets” act like fortune tellers and flocks of believers run to them to find out answers to the future instead of relying on their personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. I believe sometimes the Lord doesn’t tell us the future because it would be too much for us to bear. It seems the gift of prophecy would be very different this side of the cross considering only certain people had the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. A lot to ponder…

    1. Ed

      Hi amberdover!

      As far as general prophecy regarding the body of Christ, since the Bible is complete and tells us
      everything we need to know, I believe that anyone calling themselves a “prophet of God” after the
      Book of Revelation was written is a false prophet because they would be adding something to God’s
      Word, which God tells us very clearly not to do.

      As far as people giving others personal prophesies or “a word from God”, I would just be very cautious and test everything against

      God bless!

      1. amberdover

        Thanks Ed :) . Amen. It can be hard when the people trying to give “words” are good friends but they are clearly off. God bless you too!

    2. Tishrei

      HI Amber, I was reading your blog yesterday and saw that you were interested in getting a chicken. I’ll head over to your blog and post there (I have chickens).

      Anyway regarding prophecy, Canon is closed so unless God is going to add to His Word, it’s hard to even justify what’s going on today. I wish people would be satisfied with what He’s given us. After all, we know the beginning to the end. Not only that, God takes a very harsh view of people speaking in His name when when they are not. We know they are not because their predictions fail to come to pass.

      1. amberdover

        Thank you :) We can only have one chicken probably because of where we live. I asked my hubby about it last year but he said no. He may be warming up to the idea this year (or that’s wishful thinking lol).

        I used to be in the charismatic movement and Hebrew Roots. I met many self proclaimed prophets and apostles. We have since left both movements but still have friends from them. I don’t really talk to them much anymore because I don’t know what I’d say if one of the guys prophesied over me….maybe “that’s nice. I’ll check with the Holy Spirit on that.”

        The thing I find in many Christian circles of all sort are people trying to figure out the Antichrist/ end time events etc…I could easily go there…conspiracies and all. I’ve been there but I’ve stepped away at trying to figure those things out because honestly I get very anxious and depressed when I do. Also politics and boycotting….I know there is a time and place for certain things but I just don’t see it changing hearts. Maybe I could handle certain topics better if I wasn’t so OCD. I just want to live a simple life and rest in/ share God’s grace. Hugs and prayers to you!

        1. Tishrei

          Hi Amber,

          I’ll come to your blog and reply about chickens but just want to say that one chicken is not a good idea at all.

          I too used to be in the charismatic movement. Boy can I tell you some stories, LOL. Anyway, I am so very thankful that the Lord led me out of that.

          I’ll be over to your blog in a bit and share with you what I have learned about chickens. I have a few chores to take care of first :)

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