אשׁר ידבר הנביא בשׁם יהוה ולא־יהיה הדבר ולא יבא הוא הדבר אשׁר לא־דברו יהוה
בזדון דברו הנביא לא תגור ממנו׃
When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true -- that is, the word is not fulfilled -- then Adonai did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him. (Deu 18:22 CJB)
A 14 year old girl from a school where I used to teach in Oregon came to me one day. She told me that her Mom wanted to take her on a trip to the other side of the country to listen to this self-proclaimed prophet. The daughter was a bit confused and upset about it and as her Bible teacher, she wanted my advice. I looked online for this self-proclaimed prophet and saw this man covered with tattoos performing healing miracles, and freely using foul language while uttering prophetic and theological proclamations. He was able to gather quite an audience from the four corners of the United States and even abroad.
While looking and listening, I developed my personal opinion concerning this person. This was a bit of a complicated situation for me because whereas I feel a certain sense of responsibility for people's spiritual balance and safety, especially easily manipulated teenagers, I am also dealing in sensitive waters as this concerns a daughter and her Mom at a school where I work.
The best way I thought of dealing with the situation and answering the desperate teenager's question was to use my Bible class time at the school to teach a generic study about prophets and prophecy in the Bible and let her make her own decisions. Here is a synopsis of the study I prepared.
WHAT IS A BIBLICAL PROPHET AND WHAT IS HIS ROLE:
--- The first person ever declared a prophet in the Bible was Abraham. (Gen 20:7)
--- While speaking to Moshe about his brother's Aaron's role, HaShem defined the basic role of prophet as a simple mouthpiece for someone else, (Ex 7:1)
--- A its lowest level, a prophet of God is one who speaks the Words of God to His people for his time. If the Word happens to relate to future events or even involves miracles, signs and wonders, these are mere bi-products of our communication with the Eternal, not necessarily the main goal nor validation of our claims to speak for HaShem.
FALSE PROPHETS IN THE BIBLE.
--- Because he was a Levite priest, Korah declared to be a prophet at the same level as Moshe. This caused a contradiction because in the parasha preceding the Korah episode, HaShem tells Miriam and Aaron that He communicates with Moshe "face to face," which He does not do with any other prophets.
Moshe did not argue with Korah but brought the case before Adonai who consumed Korah along with those who followed his arrogant, proud rebellion. (Numb 16)
---Jeremiah's prophesied impending doom for Jerusalem and told the people to submit to the punishing Babylonian invasion and live.
Hananiah, a prophet from within the congregation of Israel, challenged Jeremiah's message and gave a prophecy of victory and vindication for Jerusalem. It is a very interesting story to read. It is a story where many prophets at the court of the king thought that HaShem was on their side and that they were right. HaShem fully vindicated Jeremiah. (Jer 28)
THE LITMUS TEST:
--- Last week, the Torah portion gives us the litmus test for the authenticity of the prophet of Hashem.
(13:2) "If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, (13:3) and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said, 'Let's follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them,' (13:4) you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For Adonai your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love Adonai your God with all your heart and being. (13:5) You are to follow Adonai your God, fear him, obey his mitzvot, listen to what he says, serve him and cling to him; (13:61) and that prophet or dreamer is to be put to death; because he urged rebellion against Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from a life of slavery; in order to seduce you away from the path Adonai your God ordered you to follow. This is how you are to rid your community of this wickedness. (Deu 13:1-5 CJB)
--- In other words, the litmus test of the authenticity of a true prophet IS NOT PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE (even if they are fulfilled) NOR MIRACLES, but whether THE PROPHECIES PROMOTE ADHERENCE TO HASHEM THROUGH OBEDIENCE TO THE TORAH or not.
The Didache also teaches that the proof of a true prophet or teacher is their lifestyle of truth and integrity towards HaShem and His people.
(NOTE: This is why restoring the Jewishness and the Torah obedience of Yeshua is so critical. As long as the Jewish people see Yeshua as someone who went against the Torah, they consider Him a false prophet and the Torah decrees to kill such people.)
--- This week's parasha teaches us some more about prophets:
" 'But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn't order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.' You may be wondering, 'How are we to know if a word has not been spoken by Adonai?' When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true -- that is, the word is not fulfilled -- then Adonai did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him.
(Deu 18:20-22 CJB)
QUESTION: Many prophecies of the prophets of old have been fulfilled but at a later time. How then, under these conditions, can people define if their prophets are authentic prophets of God or not?
ANSWER: When the prophecy is to be fulfilled at a later time, there may be a partial fulfillment at the time of the prophet, or he is supposed to give a supernatural sign in order to vindicate his prophecy.
1Ki 13:1 Just then, as Yarov`am was standing by the altar to burn incense, a man of God came out of Y'hudah, directed to Beit-El by a word from Adonai. 1Ki 13:2 And by the word from Adonai he cried out against the altar: "Altar, altar, here is what Adonai says: 'A son will be born to the house of David; his name will be Yoshiyahu; and on you he will sacrifice the cohanim of the high places who burn incense on you! They will burn human bones on you!'
The prophecy in question was not to be fulfilled for about 250 years by King Josiah. (2 Kings 22), so the prophet gave a sign of authentication in:
1Ki 13:3 That same day he also gave a sign: "Here is the sign which Adonai has decreed: " 'The altar will be split apart; the ashes on it will be scattered about.' " 1Ki 13:4 When the king heard what the man of God said, how he denounced the altar in Beit-El, Yarov`am took his hand away from the altar and said, "Seize him!" But his hand, the one he had stretched out against him, shriveled up; so that he could not draw it back to himself. 1Ki 13:5 Also the altar was split apart, and the ashes scattered from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Adonai.
Yeshua also prophesied and when he was asked for a sign to vindicate His prophecy He replied,
"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign? No! None will be given to it but the sign of the prophet Yonah. (Mat 12:39 CJB)
(NOTE) It was not the asking for the sign that made them wicked. That was normal. The 'wicked' attribute is not connected to the asking for a sign. It is a right thing to test would-be prophets; even Paul says to do it (1 Thes 5:19-22; 1 Co 14:29-33) and it is good practice. The generation was wicked because it was wicked. As a vindication of His prophecies, Yeshua then gave the people of Israel the sign of His resurrection which did happen. After the resurrection, the Jewish Messianic movement in Israel boasted of a surge unparalleled till this day. We discover the beginning of it in the Book of Acts.
Both Yeshua, His disciples and all the apostles told us that in the time of the end we will see many would-be prophets. We should test them with the litmus test the Word gives us.
Each year, as the Fall feasts approach, many would-be prophets prophecy impending doom. If they were wrong last year, why do we listen to them again this year? Ancient Jewish prophets do suggest that the last battle of the world, the battle of God and Magog and the return of Yeshua will happen with the backdrop of the Fall Feasts, so if they say it every year one day they will eventually be right, but that's not proof of a prophetic gift.
The early communities of believers also had many problems with would-be prophets, that's why Paul helped establish rules on the use of prophecy.
He was all for people using the gift but he said,
Don't quench the Spirit, don't despise inspired messages. But do test everything -- hold onto what is good, but keep away from every form of evil. (1Th 5:19-22 CJB)
--- He also advised set rules for would-be congregational prophets in:
Let two or three prophets speak, while the others weigh what is said. And if something is revealed to a prophet who is sitting down, let the first one be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, with the result that all will learn something and all will be encouraged. Also, the prophets' spirits are under the prophets' control; for God is not a God of unruliness but of shalom. As in all the congregations of God's people, (1Co 14:29-33 CJB)
In other words, while Paul promoted the use of prophecy, he did not promote it a s a free-for-all "freedom of speech" type of thing. A would-be prophet would need to have his prophecy weighed or vetted by the leadership of the congregation before being given approval.
False prophets within the congregation of Messiah is a sign of the approaching end. Yeshua warned that,
At that time many will be trapped into betraying and hating each other, many false prophets will appear and fool many people; and many people's love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah. (Mat 24:10-12 CJB)
Thanks to HaShem, Yeshua is the true Prophet like unto Moshe whose Word we can trust and must obey. The parasha this week gives us a direct command to obey Yeshua. It says,
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him. Whoever doesn't listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me. (Deu 18:18-19 CJB)
--- Though today there are rabbis who deny it, in the Second Temple era, this prophecy was understood as being about Messiah. The Sadducees who came to Yochnanan the Immerser knew it (John 1:21); the Samaritan woman knew it (John 4:19, 25), Peter knew it (Acts 3:22), and Steven also did (Acts 7:37). If people do not believe it is about Messiah, who do they say it is about? They say it is about Joshua and all the other prophets, but how can it be when the Torah itself says,
Since that time there has not arisen in Isra'el a prophet like Moshe, whom Adonai knew face to face. (Deu 34:10 CJB)