Q. I’ve been doing some thinking about the prophets from the Old Testament scriptures. What kind of men were they? Why did God choose them in particular? What about the nature of prophecy itself? Some people today claim to be prophets and sound very convincing, so what are some guidelines we can use when trying to determine if a person is truly gifted in prophecy, or just seeking attention?
A. First of all, we have to understand that the Office of Prophet is currently occupied by the Lord Jesus (Hebr. 1:1-2). That means that 1) No one else can officially speak for God to His people today, and 2) everything that is said by those who claim to be prophets has to conform to what the Lord has already said.
In the Church today, there are those to whom God has given the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:10). This gift is meant to help provide detail in local or personal situations consistent with the revealed plan of God. For example, someone with this gift may tell another person what God has in store for them in terms of ministry. In these cases, it’s always good to seek independent confirmation before acting. If two believers who don’t know each other independently tell you the same thing, then it’s probably legitimate (Matt. 18:16).
I know of no one alive today who is able to speak specific prophecies about the things of God in our time with the unfailing accuracy required of Old Testament prophets.
As to the kinds of men God chose, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. Isaiah was well to do and influential, Amos was an unknown, a poor farmer. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were priests, Daniel was a prince, David was a King, but several others were of unknown backgrounds.
They were from all over Israel and from every walk of life. Very few were popular in their time and some were horribly mistreated. But they all had an unflinching resolve to carry out the assignment the Lord had given them. Perhaps God saw that quality and chose them accordingly, or perhaps He instilled it in them. It seems in most cases at least, that God wanted us to remember the message, not the messenger.