When we think of what a prophet does, most of us have an understanding that a prophet speaks accurately about what will happen in the future. We read the Old Testament prophets who talked about a coming Messiah that would bring “healing in his wings,” and we see that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus.
But prophets don’t just speak of future things, they speak for God in the present reality. They are both “foretelling” and “forth-telling.” Neither job is easy. Everyone has an opinion. When a forth-telling prophet speaks an unpopular opinion, the arrows fly and the doors of understanding shut tight. “If I want your opinion I would have asked for it” is often what prophets hear.
Way back in Deuteronomy, a prophet was promised. This is interesting, as we usually associate Deuteronomy with the giving of the Law. This little nugget stands out as a shining promise to people who had lost the ability to hear God. Moses is reassuring them that God still listens. God still cares. God still speaks.
Deuteronomy 18 (The Message)
15-16 God, your God, is going to raise up a prophet for you. God will raise him up from among your kinsmen, a prophet like me. Listen obediently to him. This is what you asked God, your God, for at Horeb on the day you were all gathered at the mountain and said, “We can’t hear any more from God, our God; we can’t stand seeing any more fire. We’ll die!”
It is fascinating to see this early hint at the incarnation. God will raise up the prophet from “among your kinsmen, a prophet like me [Moses.]” This prophet will come from one of the tribes of Israel, and will act as an intercessor-reconciler between the people and the fiery presence of God.
17-19 And God said to me, “They’re right; they’ve spoken the truth. I’ll raise up for them a prophet like you from their kinsmen. I’ll tell him what to say and he will pass on to them everything I command him. And anyone who won’t listen to my words spoken by him, I will personally hold responsible.
Here we clearly see a foretelling of Jesus. This prophet will be an Israelite, a kinsman-redeemer, and a vessel for the word of God….because he is the Word of God.
20 “But any prophet who fakes it, who claims to speak in my name something I haven’t commanded him to say, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.
God isn’t messing around. Fake prophets, anyone who says things that are NOT from God, and those who speak in the name of other gods (such as the modern trend of attributing power to “The Universe”) will be dealt with severely.
When prophets rise up who both foretell and tell forth the message of God, we would do well to listen obediently. God still speaks to us today.