Defending God: When a Prophet Speaks
Here is the Part Two of the Defending God Series. Be sure to check out PART ONE if you have not.
In the Old Testament, there is the frequently seen introductory phrase, “Thus says the LORD,” which appears hundreds of times. In the world of the Old Testament, this phrase would have been recognized as identical in form to the phrase, “Thus says king…,” which was used to preface the edict of a king to his subjects, an edict that could not be challenged or questioned but that simply had to be obeyed. Thus, when the prophets say, “Thus says the Lord,” they are claiming to be messengers from the sovereign King of Israel, namely, God himself, and they are claiming that their words are the absolutely authoritative words of God. When a prophet spoke in God’s name in this way, every word he spoke had to come from God, or he would be a false prophet.
A prophet is known to be one who “utters” a word on behalf of a deity and that is the basic meaning of the root word “nabi”, to speak forth. Thus, a true prophet of Yahweh is meant to speak nothing but the very word Yahweh puts in his mouth. As “pagan” and selfish as Balaam was, he understood this and thus he said:
“Behold, I have come to you! HAVE I now ANY POWER OF MY OWN to speak anything? The WORD that GOD PUTS IN MY MOUTH, that MUST I SPEAK” (Num 22:38 ESV).
Balaam claimed that he has NO PERSONAL POWER to declare ANYTHING he wishes to. In other words, a genuine prophet does NOT just say ANYTHING simply because he wishes to or based on HIS understanding or HIS worldview! Prophets are NOT men who define God or declare God’s word in a way they desire. They say it AS REVEALED to them by God. Once a prophet deviates, he is NO LONGER a prophet of God! This is what Peter meant by saying that “no prophecy comes from HUMAN WILL but men [prophets] spoke [prophesied] as… [they] were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Let’s go further!
Moses, the prototype of divine prophethood, describes a genuine prophet of Yahweh thus:
“I [God] will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I [God] WILL PUT MY WORDS IN HIS MOUTH, and he shall SPEAK to them ALL THAT I COMMAND HIM” (Deut. 18:18).
Kindly reread the emphasized words in the text! Patiently read this verse again. It tells us that it is God who is RESPONSIBLE for the words His Prophet speaks. This is why God said in Deuteronomy 18:19 that “whoever [any Israelite] will not give heed to my [God’s] words which he [the prophet] shall speak in my [God’s] name, I myself [God Himself] will require it of him [the disobedient Israelite].” Thus, when God’s genuine prophets speak and anyone discards it as NOT from God, God promises to REQUIRE the act of negligence/disobedience from the individual who neglects such words from the prophet. The Hebrew word for require is ’edrosh and it is derived from darash which means “to seek”. ’edrosh is the qal imperfect first person singular of darash and it is followed by מֵעִמּֽוֹ (mē‘imin). When darash is followed by min, as in this verse, it means to exact with the idea of avenging (cf. Ezek. 34:10; and Gen. 9:5 to confirm). Note that the avenging here is justice meted out to offenders as equity for their disobedience.
If a prophet, however, does NOT speak God’s VERY Words, then this prophet is NOT God’s prophet! In fact, God COMMANDS death penalty for any such prophet who CLAIMS TO SPEAK in God’s name but in actual sense DOES NOT speak God’s Word:
“But the prophet who PRESUMES TO SPEAK A WORD IN MY name which I HAVE NOT COMMANDED him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, THAT SAME PROPHET SHALL DIE.’ (Deut. 18:20).
This Death Penalty is also God’s justice for ANY such prophet who misleads God’s people by SPEAKING to them in God’s name when God has NOT sent him.
What does this imply?
- If Moses’ statements in this verse are wrong, then Moses is a false prophet! He told us that God spoke these words through him but he lied against God. Also, we have NO standard by which we can actually judge other prophecies.
- If Moses’ statements in this verse are right, then we need to be cautious of every statement a prophet CLAIMS God tell him to utter or which he UTTERS IN God’s name! We are, therefore, OBLIGED to judge EVERY word that EVERY prophet prefaces with “God says” or “Thus says the Lord” by its coming to pass or coming true (Deut. 18:22).
This is evidenced in Jeremiah’s ministry: “Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9). Two things are involved here:
- Jeremiah said that God said He is “PUTTING” His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. This means that God takes FULL, TOTAL and ABSOLUTE RESPONSIBILITY for words which Jeremiah speaks HENCEFORTH in God’s name.
- Every hearer, and subsequently reader, of words which Jeremiah ascribes to God is hearing (and reading) God’s OWN words. Invariably, no one is to take any such word as from ANY OTHER SOURCE than God.
Thus, such words which the true prophet of Yahweh speaks in Yahweh’s name, for any reason and whatever the circumstance, are NEVER to be ascribed to the prophet or Satan or any other agent. Doing such is DISTORTION of the Scriptures.
– It is a BLATANT disregard of the Scriptures main attributes of inspiration, inerrancy and authority.
– It is an attack on God’s Word and His personality.
– It means the Bible is NOT reliable and trustworthy.
– It means the Bible is deceptive by attributing words which God did NOT speak to God.
– It means the prophets are NOT trustworthy.
– It means God could NOT safely guide the prophets from NOT misrepresenting Him.
ANY PREACHER, I repeat ANY PREACHER, who says that a word which a prophet prefaces with “Thus says the Lord” or its equivalent is NOT from God MUST ADMIT that he has done all of the above to the Bible and to God.
In fact, let me add that such person has equated the Bible with the Qur’an as containing “Satanic Verses”. The concept of “Satanic Verses” is derived from Muhammad’s speaking forth certain words which he claimed were from Allah but which he later confessed were WORDS WHICH SATAN had PUT in his mouth. This means that Muhammad had a better integrity than those prophets whom you accuse of speaking Satan’s words in God’s name! Do you know why? Muhammad admitted he was wrong while the prophets you accuse NEVER admitted they were wrong!
Is there any preacher of the Bible who accuses the Biblical Prophets of speaking Satan’s Words in Yahweh’s name who believes that Muhammad is a better prophet than the Biblical Prophets?
Let me assume NONE!
But this is what any such preacher implies when he or she says that a biblical prophet speaks Satan’s words but uses God’s name as the source. Definitely, such preacher is NOT even supposed to trust the Bible. S/he is NOT supposed to accept any of such prophet’s words as divine. S/he is to discard the Bible. S/he is NOT even supposed to preach from the Bible. Yes! I mean s/he should take both the New Testament and the Old Testament as UNTRUE.
My Prolegomena (Introduction) answered this! Peter and Paul said that ALL the Old Testament WRITINGS and PROPHECIES are from God but you said they lied as it is SOME and NOT ALL!
You have called Peter and Paul liars!
They both are NOT to be trusted!
In light of the foregoing, I implore EVERY reader of my post to take note of the following implications before claiming that a prophetic utterance is from Satan and not the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:
- If there is ANY word from a genuine prophet spoken in God’s name which we describe as UNTRUE or FALSE, then we are NOT to trust EVERY other word from such prophet as coming from God.
- We are to REJECT such prophet and his writing ENTIRELY and TOTALLY. We are NOT to quote ANY of his writings or prophecies as DIVINE and VALID.
- And, we are NOT to TRUST such prophet for guidance on ANY OTHER matter!
- The Bible is NOT reliable because some of its authors were deceptive and false.
I hope, in the next part, to consider certain claims made by some contemporary preachers on some of the Old Testament prophecies in their bid to DEFEND God and how they have RATHER DESTROYED the Bible by subtly, and very probably, innocently ATTACKING it as erroneous.
- Written by Anthony Opeyemi Fawole, who is a theologian and missionary.