By Philip Cottraux
Miriam and Aaron were jealous of God speaking through Moses. And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it (Numbers 12:2). The Lord had to deal with grumbling from most of the children of Israel, but this was coming from Moses’ own family, and He had had enough. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth (verse 5-6). Moses had the right spirit; he was meek and humble, yet a strong leader, and faithful in never complaining. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches (verse 8); God reminded Miriam and Aaron that a true prophet can speak His words openly to others, not behind their backs. Verse 9: And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed.
As soon as the Spirit left, judgment fell. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: (verse 10). Notice that she never repented; only Aaron did, and he was spared. Verse 11: And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. Even though Moses had been wronged by his siblings, he had such a forgiving spirit that he cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee (verse 13). But God was done playing around with sin. In verses 14-15 the Lord declared let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.
This story plainly illustrates the characteristics of what makes a prophet and what doesn’t. To conclude this series on prophecy, the Lord has given me the Biblical qualifications, with scripture to back up ever claim.
A prophet must have the Holy Ghost Baptism with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This is true for all nine gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; how could one have any gift of the Spirit without, well…the Spirit? In Isaiah 6, the prophet had a vision of the throne of God, but only felt unrighteous before Him. Verse 5: Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Isaiah was in no shape to tell anyone what he’d seen, until an angel came with a coal from the altar. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged (verses 6-7). That coal foreshadows the fire of the Holy Ghost, fulfilled in Acts 2:4. It transformed Isaiah into the prophet God wanted him to be. Verse 8: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
A prophet must fast; just like the Holy Ghost, this is a requirement for any of nine gifts. While salvation is freely given, a price must be paid for prophecies. When the disciples asked why they weren’t able to cast out devils, Jesus answered Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). Even Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before He could start His ministry; who are we to claim we don’t have to? Study the Old Testament prophets and you will find fasting played a crucial role in their lives; if anyone claims to be a prophet of God but does not fast, I would be highly skeptical of them.
A prophet must not be willing to hold back any Word from God, for any reason. Of course, my personal motto in teaching and writing is Ezekiel 3:18: When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. I must give people the unfiltered truth from the Lord, and then it’s up to them what they do with it; no one’s blood will be on my hands on the Day of Judgment. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:19). This principle, however, also includes adding to the Words of the Lord. One of the great problems plaguing Christianity is men adding to the Law of God, making holiness impossible through legalism and fanaticism. Every word of God is pure: Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6).
A prophet must be willing to intercede on behalf of the people he’s trying to reach. Ezekiel 22:30: And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Even when the people stubbornly refuse to accept the message, the prophet must stand between them and the Lord’s judgment. It’s why Moses cried out for his sister who had betrayed him, and stood between God’s judgment and the Israelites several times. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people (Exodus 32:11, 14).
A prophet must be called and appointed by God. As the Lord was so swift in reminding Miriam and Aaron, He alone decides who is a prophet. He often has that person marked from their mother’s womb; he told Jeremiah Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).
A prophet must be willing to obey God without question. In his first encounter, Moses questioned God before the burning bush, and the Lord became angry with him over it (Exodus 4:14). Ezekiel was given a strange commandment by God; he had to lay on his left side for 390 days, then his right side for 40 (Ezekiel 4:4-6). Even worse, he was forced to eat cake cooked from burning his own feces during this time, so God could show him firsthand how repulsive and vile sin is (verses 12-13).
A prophet must not run from his calling. Jonah despised the Assyrians and wanted God to destroy them, so when the Lord sent him to preach to them in their capital city of Nineveh, he fled. Jonah 1:3: But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
A prophet must have compassion on the people he is trying to reach. Even after being swallowed by a fish for three days, he still stood before the Ninevites and hoped that God would destroy them. His message had no love, only judgment. Jonah 3:4: And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. When the people repented and fasted, the Lord spared them, and the prophet was angry. Verse 10: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. Jonah 4:1: But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. Imagine how displeased God was with him!
A prophet must be willing to leave his family behind. When Abraham was instructed to leave everything behind and journey to the Promised Land, he simply obeyed (Genesis 12:1-4). In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah was called from his home to speak out against the wealthy and powerful people of Jerusalem and their mistreatment of the poor. All of the New Testament disciples had to leave their families behind to follow Jesus.
A prophet must be willing to praise God even when He doesn’t answer prayers. Habakkuk realized that it wasn’t God’s will for a devastating famine to end: Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: (Habbakuk 3:17). Yet even though he personally didn’t understand this, He rejoiced that the way of the Lord is perfect. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation (verse 18).
As well as pronouncing judgment, a prophet must be willing to encourage people. This is a central theme to Zechariah’s ministry. For over 12 years, the rebuilding of the temple had been neglected. People had concentrated on their own homes but forgotten about God’s house. Rather than excoriate them, the prophet has a message of mostly encouragement, reminding the people of their sacred history.
A prophet must recognize the voice of God. It took three times for Samuel as a child to answer the call of God with Speak; for thy servant heareth (1 Samuel 3:10). Elijah heard a still small voice over the crashing earthquakes and storms: And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12). On the other hand, John had mostly only known Jesus as the lowly carpenter’s Son, but when he heard a thunderous voice as the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15), he immediately knew it was his Savior.
Likewise, a prophet must not listen to man over God. An unnamed prophet spoke a word of judgment to King Jeroboam’s dynasty; but then the king invited him to dinner as a peace offering. 1 Kings 13:8-9: And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. Jeroboam was determined to get his revenge, and word soon reached another so-called “prophet” who set a trap for this man. The old man found the young prophet and extended an invitation to him, and when the prophet told him God’s instructions, the liar said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him (verse 18). Not recognizing the voice of deceit, the young man went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water (verse 19). God killed him as soon as he left the house; a lion met him by the way, and slew him: (verse 24). The devil has set many traps for prophets in this world, and if we are not able to identify the voice of God over the lies of the enemy, we too will suffer the same fate!
The good news is that despite all this lengthy criteria I’ve just described, anyone can be a prophet, as long they are called by the Lord. Some were highly educated men, like Isaiah. Others were simple farmers, like Amos. Some were shepherds and some were kings. Most of the disciples were fishermen. But God is able to take people from all backgrounds of life and use them to proclaim His Word to the world. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: (John 15:16).