Prophets are usually characterized as fortune tellers. In all actuality, they are truth tellers. We struggle with the notion of prophecy today. This is usually because we think that prophets aren’t needed (because we have the Bible), or because we’ve watched the loonies who claim to be prophets.
There’s an easy solution to the loonies: No one person has a corner on God’s truth or revelation. No one person can alter God’s Word, or add anything to it. For just a moment, let’s set aside the loonies as an anomaly and discuss the real point of a prophet.
A prophet is meant to reveal truth. They’re not meant to add to it, or make it up—they’re meant to make it known. The gift of prophecy really has to do with opening a can of worms.
The can of worms is God’s Word. In the ancient world, this meant having insights on God’s Law or having a direct interaction with Him. As time went on, this also involved insights into the Psalms and other wisdom literature, like Proverbs. The later prophets even had insights into the words of previous prophets (e.g., there are allusions in Jeremiah and Lamentations to things Isaiah said). During the New Testament period, one of Jesus' first prophesies is based on Isaiah (Luke 4:16), and the apostles prophesy based on nearly all the Old Testament books. Today, prophecy should be rooted in the same place—the same can of worms, the Bible.
Sometimes opening a can of worms means laying the smack down. Check out Elijah on Mt. Carmel, or Paul in Galatians 2. Prophets are bold, daring and aggressive. They’re not afraid to call it like it is. And sometimes this means coming off the top ropes.
The prophet motto: Open a can of worms, and lay the smack down when necessary.
What do you think it means to be a prophet? Drop me a line, and let’s talk about it.
Resource: For more on prophecy, check out The Message of the Prophets. (The Message of the Prophets is an affiliate link.)