Messangers of God (part 1): What a Prophet Is and Is Not

Deuteronomy 18:9-22 paints a powerful picture of what a prophet of God is and is not. Let us first see what a prophet is not and should not be. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 reads:

“When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ 13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.”

So what is a prophet not to be? Simply put, a true prophet does not seek to hear a message from or speak a message for anyone other than God. A true prophet does not look to a generic “divine”,” “nature,” “the spirit world,” “the dead,” or anywhere else other than God for the truth to be revealed to him.

We find that those who listen to such sources not only will be in error and disobedient to God, but will bring harm on themselves – “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering.” How do you get to such a heinous place that you murder you own child by fire? All it takes is listening to those who say that the stars, or the dead, or the spirits, or the future world, or their inner self, or a tree told them it was a good idea.

So what is a prophet? Deuteronomy 18:15-22 says:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers- it is to him you shall listen- 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’- 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Verse 18 has nice, simple summary of what a prophet was. A prophet was one whom:

  1. God gave a message to – “I will put my words in his mouth”
  2. Spoke God’s message to the people – “he will speak to the all that I command him”

So a prophet received a message from God and spoke it accurately to the people. Throughout the Old Testament we see this modeled by the prophets as they say over and over “Thus says the Lord…” Sometimes this included a predication of the future, but at other times it was a call to repentance, a pronouncement of woe, or simply commands to be obeyed. A prophet forth-told God’s message, more than he fore-told the future.

In one sense, a prophet was nothing more than megaphone. They were not at liberty to change the message, only to accurately pass it along to others.

So in summary: A prophet was one who was given a message by God (and Him alone), and who accurately relayed the message to the people. A prophet sought a message only from God and not from any other sources.