I was recently listening to an audio book that talked about all the ways we deceive ourselves without realizing it. One of the chapters was about a type of self-fulfilling prophecy where if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inaction.
For example, a radio station announces that a natural disaster is coming, and tells its listeners that there will be a shortage of toilet paper at the local supermarkets. Upon hearing this, the entire town flocks to the local super-market, buys all the toilet paper that’s stocked on the shelves, and as a result, the store runs out. It may not have actually happened if the radio announcer hadn’t warned listeners to stockpile on TP, but may have in fact caused the very prediction they were expecting. But nevertheless, what he claimed would happen, happened.
I have sincere friends who believe that if a prophet gets a prophecy wrong, even if they have a track record of 99% accuracy, they are a false prophet if they fail to have a 100% track record. And some will even cite Old Testament laws saying a false prophet should be stoned. That’s not the scope of today’s post, but maybe in the near future I’ll post more about the key passages, as I’m fairly certain I discussed the topic at length with NorthWest Prophetic on the podcast once.
Anyway, this rigid view of prophets and prophecy often times overlooks the power in the Word from the Lord to bring about its fulfillment.
Let me attempt to explain.
Isaiah 55:8-11 says
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,? neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,? so are my ways higher than your ways? and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven? and do not return there but water the earth,?making it bring forth and sprout,? giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;? it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,? and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (English Standard Version)
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Even though 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us now, under the new covenant after Christ’s work on the cross, we’ve all been given His mind. God’s Spirit lives in us. We are able to do and speak as though God spoke through us, healed through us, demonstrated his thoughts through us. For illustrative purposes, I like to liken this to more like having all the information downloaded to the hard drives of our heart or mind, and we’re able to access anything at any time, but it doesn’t mean, say, we’ve all of a sudden read every file that’s been downloaded. We go obtain the particular Word of Knowledge or Word of Wisdom as the moment may dictate or the need arises, but I digress.
I want to emphasize verses 10 and 11 which describe the Word of the Lord as rain or snow which come down to the earth, and cause something to happen, like fruit produced and plants grow. There’s a direct result from the spoken or declared word, and because God’s ways are not our ways, the result may differ than what we were expecting when we obeyed and repeated that rhema or prophetic word God may have spoken to our spirits to give to someone or share in a public setting.
Take a look at some thoughts I shared on chapter 38 of Isaiah from a blog post titled Was Isaiah a False Prophet.
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”
Isaiah went to the king, and told him a “Thus says the Lord.” We charismatics use that as slang a lot to indicate someone is telling us something that will happen in our lives. Isaiah told Hezekiah something WILL happen. Period. And Scripture doesn’t record more detail, so anything more about that conversation or encounter is pure speculation. But notice what was NOT included here: options. Plan B. Contingency plans.
Isaiah didn’t tell him he “might die IF…” but told him “you shall die, you shall not recover.” At least as far was what we have recorded here in Scripture.
Hezekiah goes on to live another 15 years as a result of the Lord’s mercy and hearing his tears. However, does this second prophetic statement from Isaiah nullify his first? If Isaiah prophesied one thing, and then something different, does that mean he’s contradicting himself? Does that mean he’s a false prophet because the first thing didn’t come to pass? Of course not, but I’ve heard time and time again that there is no room for change—or dare I say even human error—when someone is speaking prophetically.
To add some thoughts that other prophetic-type people will be think “duh” to some more seasoned prophetic people, but it only recently dawned on me; what if in God’s wisdom, in His ‘higher ways’ that Isaiah didn’t or couldn’t see (we don’t know, not much detail is given) he obeyed and gave the particular Word God had given him for Hezekiah, and it was in God’s wisdom that that piece of rain or snow would water the king’s heart, and fulfill its purpose and cause him to repent and receive a new lease on life?
Or what if prophetic words are not so rigid, and it was God’s intention for Hezekiah to die, but changed his mind in his mercy when he saw the king pray and seek Him out in His mercy?
What about with Jonah, where we see almost identically the same pattern, but in different circumstances?
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,?“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2, ESV)
- Fact: The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh
- Fact: The Lord told Jonah to call out against the city because of their evil.
- Not so clear: whether Jonah knew they’d repent or not.
Most of us know the rest of the story, and that Jonah went the other way and tried to avoid doing this, got swallowed up by a big fish and spit up on a beach a few days later.
Just like with Isaiah, nothing is said here whatsoever about this word from God being conditional and that if they repent, that judgment would be averted. All Jonah was told was to deliver a message, which as we know from the story, he initially avoided doing. There are schools of thought that Jonah resisted going to Nineveh because he knew they would repent and God would forgive them and he didn’t want to see that happen. There are other schools of thought that he may not have expected them to repent, but that he was scared to go because this would be a suicide mission for him much like heading into an ISIS stronghold today and proclaiming judgment against Islamic extremists. Either way, I think Jonah gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes.
When the Lord puts it on our hearts to share something with someone else, it might not be our job to interpret its meaning, or provide the receiver conditions upon which the word of the Lord to them through you can be changed or averted. It could be that we’re just to provide the rain or that snow which will cause then something to happen. As I said in a post titled, Was Jonah a False Prophet?
Clearly one is not a false prophet necessarily if the things he speaks don’t come about. A prophet is not one exclusively because he predicts future events accurately, although it’s necessary he predicts them accurately if he does predict future things, but if he accurately speaks forth from the Lord’s heart, which surely Jonah did.
Maybe the Lord in His higher wisdom had a plan for Nineveh to repent, and he knew all He had to do was give Jonah the instructions he gave him, and that when that word was delivered, His purpose would be fulfilled and that was the very thing that needed to touch their heart to cause the outcome God had intended, even if in the natural realm, it looked like Jonah missed it. Same thing for Isaiah. Maybe God wanted to see the king live longer, and knew that he could only give the piece of the puzzle to Isaiah that he gave him, and that was what was going to be the catalyst for the change in Hezekiah’s life to see him live longer instead of be cut down at that point in history.
What About You?
Are there any prophetic words in your life that need watering?