I don’t find preaching to be an onerous or nerve-wracking task. In high school, I quickly got involved in drama and music, and found even there God preparing me for a life in front of crowds. And while I take the prophetic role of the preacher seriously, I’ve seldom truly been afraid of it.
Early on in my career, I read this passage we just read today. And for the first time, the prophetic role asserted it’s gravity in my life. Prophets bring God’s message to the people, as opposed to the Priest who brings the people’s needs to God. But Moses warns against false prophets, those who speak for God without God’s permission. These prophets are to be killed. Wait, what? Killed? For a bad sermon? Um…..
And how would the people determine whether the message was from God? If it came true, of course. Now, today’s prophetic speakers know if a message comes from God because we have His Word, the bible. True preachers simply lay out God’s word, not adding their own opinion or subtracting anything God has given in it. But in the Old Testament, they didn’t have the Bible, and so these Prophets were their only direct communication from God. So if they speak for God and it doesn’t come true, then they are not speaking for God. And they die.
I, being a speaker, put myself immediately into the shoes of the prophet. Here I am, minding my own business, when suddenly God shows up and says, “Tell my people…” Now I have a decision to make. If I do, I’m literally putting my life in God’s hands. If He changes His mind, or waits too long to fulfill the prophecy, I die. If what I hear is a bad dream, the advice of another person, or even a demonic message disguised as God, I die.
So how do we know when a message comes from God? How do we discern a preacher’s prophecy? Well, we can wait to see if it comes true, or, as Jesus says, we can know the voice of our Shepherd well enough to know when the voice is from someone else. But that takes a long time of listening to His voice, a lot of prayer, and a lot of wisdom.