I will admit that sometimes the word prophesy makes me feel a little uncomfortable. If you were to ask me if I have ever prophesied, I would probably say “no”; this is not something I have done. When I think of prophesy, I picture someone foretelling the future in a direct message from God. Prophesy to me is an individual hearing a direct and clear word from God and then relaying it to his people. However, in looking at what it means to prophesy, both from Old and New Testament perspectives, we can see that prophecy is something much broader than just talking about something that will happen in the future. Throughout Scripture, we can find many examples of prophecy that just involve someone relaying God’s message to His people.
In Numbers 11, we read about Moses and the elders relaying a word from the Lord as they experienced the descending of the Spirit of the Lord and they began to prophesy. As Moses and the elders went both inside and around the tent prophesying, two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, remained in the camp. Even though they were not present at the tent, the Spirit of the Lord still fell on them and they were also prophesying. This did not sit well with some of the people and they ran to tell Moses about it. As I read this, I picture one of my children “tattling” on another about some wrong-doing—hoping to get the other in trouble. Even Joshua, who was standing with Moses in the tent, pleaded with Moses to shut down these two rogue prophets, assuming they were doing something wrong, but Moses’ response is quite different than what Joshua and the others probably expected. He says, “I wish that all people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses is obviously encouraged that God’s gift of prophecy has spread beyond just those gathered around the tent.
Fast forward to the New Testament and similarly, in Mark 9, we read the story of the disciple John telling Jesus about someone who is driving out demons. The person is not one of Jesus’ disciples, so John assumes that the person should not be performing this miracle, assuming this is meant to be the work of Jesus or his disciples. Jesus, in response to John’s concerns, says, “Do not stop him. No one who performs a miracle in my name can turn around and speak evil of me” (Mark 9: 39). In both the Old and New Testaments, we have examples of God using unexpected people to speak and do his will.
Both Moses and Jesus welcome the involvement of “others” in doing God’s work. They seem confident that these “others” have also received power from the Holy Spirit to both prophesy and perform miracles. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on all of the disciples, and this began the work of the church. Today, each Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, each of us is called to do the work of the Lord, whatever that might be, and each of us can be a prophet. This is both empowering and intimidating. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to share a message from the Lord with those around us, but we may struggle to discern that message from the crowd of voices we hear every day. With no clearly identified prophets, we may wonder to whom we are to listen. We are flooded with information from all directions and sources and this makes the Holy Spirit’s power even more important in helping us sift through the messages we receive as we try to make sense of what is from the Lord. The Spirit gives us the power to be prophets, but it also gives us the opportunity to be discerning hearers and listeners to the prophetic messages of our age. Our daily prayer should be like the lyrics of the song I have chosen for the title of this devotional, asking the Holy Spirit to do its work in us and then moving us to do our work in the world,
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on me. (Iverson, 1926).