Can You Learn to Prophesy?
So what is prophecy and who is a prophet? Prophecy in religious circles is a foretelling, but in many cases it is a word given to the prophet by God. A prophet can give a word in anyone’s name, because he is sent by that person to speak on his behalf. Like Aaron was Moses’ prophet even though Moses himself was a prophet (Exodus 7:1). We want to take a closer look into this and see if you can learn how to prophesy and be a prophet.
We see that Samuel was the first to start a School of the Prophets, as we read in 1 Samuel 19:18-24: “When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: ‘David is in Naioth at Ramah’; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, ‘Where are Samuel and David?’ ‘Over in Naioth at Ramah,’ they said. So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’”
We read in 1 Samuel 10:1-7 that when Saul was anointed king that at that time he also prophesied. “Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over His inheritance? When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, “The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’” Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipesand harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.’”
So, was Saul among the prophets? We want to take a closer look into all of this and find the answer to this question, “Can you learn to prophesy?”
Let’s start with Moses in the wilderness. We see in Numbers elders prophesying as Numbers 11:16-17 tells us: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.’”
And as it continues in Numbers 11:24-30, “So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.”
We see here that God took some of the power off of Moses and put it on the seventy elders and they prophesied, but did not do so again. We see the same thing with Saul. In fact, we see in 1 Samuel 28:5-6 that Saul became so rebellious and unrepentant that he no longer heard from God: “When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.”
So far, we see that prophecy can be for just a specific purpose. God can use you for a short time or even just once, but God is the one who determines it .We see Yeshua (Jesus) in John 20:21-22 tell His disciples, “So Yeshua said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” We see here that even though the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they did not begin to prophesy. Also on the day of Pentecost we see in Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Again we see that though the Holy Spirit came upon them with tongues of fire that they did not prophesy but only spoke in tongues, in the languages of those who heard them.
What does the Scripture say in Ephesians 4:11-16? “It was He who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Messiah, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—as a mature person, attaining to the measure of Messiah’s full stature. So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Messiah, who is the head. From Him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.”
We see that prophecy is just one gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, “Now you are Messiah’s body, and each of you is a member of it. And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues. Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they?” So prophets were only a part of God’s purpose and the Body of Messiah.
We have to ask ourselves then, why were so many people prophesying back in the day and how was it that Samuel had a School of the Prophets? First, we know that a prophet was ordained by God as we see in Jeremiah’s calling as just one example. Jeremiah 1:4-5, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”
Also in Luke 1:13-17 we see again that John the Baptist was called before he was born: “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’”
This is what Yeshua spoke about John as recorded in Matthew 11:9: “Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” So this takes us to the question, if you are called by God and you have the Holy Spirit in you, then can you learn to be a prophet? I tell you, beware of prophetic ministries and churches and Facebook pages, for prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and only God can determine if you will have the gift of prophecy. The Bible warns against false prophets in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Yeshua tells us in Matthew 24:24, “For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 God tells us this, “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death. You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.”
But what if what he says does come true? Deuteronomy 13:1-5 tells us, “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—’and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”
One more thing. Matthew 7:15-20 tells us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
We have learned over the years that just because someone uses the name Jesus in a song does not mean that He has a true relationship with Him. So too with the prophet. If he is not leading you to have a closer relationship with God or causing you to lead a godly life, if he is not speaking to you about sin and repentance, if what he says does not line up with scripture, beware.
What is his track record? What is his lifestyle? Giving a message is not the only part of the prophet, it is only the beginning. We see so often Christians sending things like this: “If you pass this on to five people you will receive a blessing”; “If you recite this prayer God will send you a blessing or you will be healed.” A prophet is accountable to God, to the people he gives the message to, and to the message. It is not like giving a weather forecast, if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. Remember what the Bible tells us in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Even the Bereans checked out Paul’s teaching as Acts 17:11 tells us, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” And so we too must do this with anyone who says they come in the name of the Lord.
Before the day of Pentecost, people were not filled with the Holy Spirit, and they received from God differently than those who were filled with the Holy Spirit. They drew lots or they had the Urim and Thurim, and yes, they did also hear from God like a prophet hears from God today. I’m sure Samuel’s School for the Prophets emphasized a godly and holy lifestyle, a lifestyle where one draws close to God to hear His voice. They drew from the Scriptures and from prayer and fasting. These same things are important today, but again, prophecy and being a prophet is a gift of God and cannot be learned.