Yesterday, I spoke to the congregation from Daniel about Living Prophetically. One can’t speak from Daniel without recognizing and providing an explanation about the large amount of material of a prophetic nature. Daniel interprets dreams in Daniel 2 and 4, interprets the hand-writing on the wall in chapter 5, has a dream of four beasts coming out of the sea in chapter 7 (including a vision of God and the interpretation of the dream), has a vision of a ram and a goat along with its interpretation in chapter 8, has an angelic visit to tell him about the seventy sevens of years in chapter 9, and has a vision of God and the time of the end in chapter 10 – 12.
Much attention has been devoted over the years to trying to understand the meaning of Daniel’s dreams, visions, and revelations in their relationship to history and the things that are yet to unfold. Though much of it is mysterious, I think it is a valuable exercise to try and discern, in the context of other Scriptures, what God intends us to know about the the culmination of world history in order to prepare accordingly. I didn’t take a lot of time for that yesterday, because many people in the church have studied these matters quite thoroughly and because people seem to have an inordinate amount of interest in speculating about these things.
Instead of focusing on the meaning of Daniel’s visions, I decided to use the occasion to speak about the nature of prophecy itself and God’s call for all of us, as His people, to live prophetically. My hope was that I could help to demystify this subject by demonstrating through various illustrations and biblical exhortations how God desires us, in some small measure, to live prophetic lives too. I wanted people to understand that there is an important sense in which we (as Christ-followers) have been given grace from God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, to be instruments of His revelation to the world around us (both in small ways and sometimes large ways).
In Numbers 11:29, Moses expresses the thought that all God’s people should be prophets. This is the same idea expressed by Paul in writing about the value of prophetic ministry in 1 Corinthians 14 where he speaks of his desire that all would speak in tongues, but especially that they might prophesy (Vs 1, 5). In the same chapter he speaks of prophesy as an intelligible kind of communication that builds up the church (Vs 3, 31). In the end, it seems to me that any exhortation prompted by the Holy Spirit and based on the truth of the Scriptures, that is given to build another’s faith, could well be considered prophetic. This means that many ministries that we don’t ordinarily think of as such, are actually prophetic — leading worship, preaching, giving someone a word of encouragement from God in a particular circumstance, sharing the truth of the Gospel with someone, and even being a silent witness (Philippians 2:14, 15), are all essentially instances of prophecy. Perhaps this is what Paul is implying in 1 Corinthians 14:26.
Many Christians testify to how the Lord speaks to them by His Spirit through His Word, or sometimes in dreams and visions in accord with His Word. Since the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10), any spoken ministry that bears testimony to the Person of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture, it seems to me, may be considered prophetic. There is a sense in which followers of Jesus, by their very nature, fulfill a prophetic role because, like John the Baptist, they too are the “…voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’ (Matthew 3:3).
Thank God for those who have lived their lives as prophets in the spirit of John the Baptist, listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit to speak His Word in season to a particular group of people for their spiritual edification. Christians need to be alert to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in these ways, even when it may be feel uncomfortable to share the truths that God reveals by His Spirit. On the other hand, Christians need to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1-3) to be sure what they hear testifies to the truth concerning Jesus.