Presumptuous prophets prophesy because they can, but should they? Does a prophet need permission to prophesy? If one prophesies by faith alone is he or she in danger of tapping into a spirit of divination? If a prophet that has not been granted permission to prophesy and yet does, is he guilty of sin?
Let’s review Jeremiah’s prophetic operations as he dealt with the erring prophets in his territory.
“I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them to me as Sodom and the inhabitants as Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 23:14)
This verse describes the pitiful condition of God’s prophets who were:
- Committing adultery
- Strengthening the hands of evildoers
How do prophets strengthen the hands of evildoers? They fortify them by prophesying all is well to a person who is living in sin. God describes this same strengthening of evildoers when he declares, “they have seduced my people, saying, peace and there was no peace…” (Ezekiel 13:10).
Because these prophets refused to repent of their smooth sayings, God allowed them to drink the water of their own rebellion. But notice what else God said, “From the prophets is profaneness gone forth into all the land.” Profaneness is a lack of reverence and respect toward God. It is this profaneness that all prophets must guard themselves from because it is the fruit of prophetic error. Could it be possible the profaneness was the result of presumptuous prophets ministering without permission?
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.” (Jeremiah 23:15)
Prophets must be careful to receive permission to prophesy. Satan wants to stop true prophetic ministry. To do this he has to interpose a counterfeit spirit. Prophets need to be careful and wise, understand the ways of the Holy Spirit, the word of God and discern the difference between:
- The holy and the profane.
- The true from the false.
- The clean from the unclean.
Prophets should avoid low-level prophetic utterance and seek the safer high levels of spiritual accuracy. Mature prophets recognize when the prophetic anointing is weak or strong. Some prophets violate holy living and open themselves up to idolatry, merchandising, and prophetic error. Because of the truths you are learning in this essay, your hunger for God and love for Christ, you won’t.
Have you ever wondered if prophets should function differently around sincere believers, hypocrites, and idolaters? What happens if a person approaches a prophet for a prophetic word who has idolatry in his heart? Does this affect the prophet’s ministry to this person? It should. Let’s look to Ezekiel’s ministry for some insight to this question.
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:2-3)
Let’s understand the scene. People with idols in their heart want to receive a prophetic word. They have “the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face” meaning they want their idolatry blessed. God asked Ezekiel, “Should I be inquired at all by them?” Good question. Let’s look for the answers. Again, if someone comes to the prophet with “idols in their heart,” and seeks the Lord for a prophetic word, God asked, “Should I answer them?” Let’s see what God told Ezekiel.
“Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.” (Ezekiel 14:4)
Let’s make sure we understand what idols in the heart are. Idols are not just physical objects of worship. There are also idols of:
An idol could be anything one esteems more important than their relationship with Christ. It could be music, sports, personal relationships, even their ministries. If a person like this approaches the prophet for a word of blessing on his idol, “the stumbling block of his iniquity” that is a sin. How will God respond prophetically to such a person?
Jehovah says, “I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.” What does God mean by this? It means that God will tell him what he wants to hear. This is profound and teaches that prophetic ministry is no game.
A pastor told me they had prophetic presbytery at times. A prophetic presbytery is a team of prophets that prophesy to each person that comes for prayer. He told me, however, that he did not want any more prophets speaking at his church. I asked him why. His response was revealing, “Because every time these prophets prophesy over my people, they tell them exactly what they want to hear. I know the people well and these prophets only feed their rebellion and idolatry.” That’s it. Could it be that God was answering some according to the idolatry in their hearts? Was God just telling them what they wanted to hear? Have you observed any of these things?
“For everyone of the house of Israel or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 14:7-8)
From this verse we learn four important truths:
- Idolatry separates you from God.
- Idolatry is a stumbling block.
- God opposes idolatry.
- God will cut off the idolater.
Today some approach prophets seeking personal prophecy with idols of self in their hearts. They are not submissive to God or plugged into any local church. Some do not even go to church because of rebellion and a refusal to submit to any spiritual accountability. I meet people like this at apostolic and prophetic conferences. The prayer lines are sometimes full of them approaching for a prophetic word. You ask them, “Where do you go to church?” They say, “I don’t go to church. I worship God in my own way.” True prophets see through idolatry and won't bless it. They say things like, “You need to repent, get that idolatry out of your heart, and plug into a good local church.”
So what happens if a prophet prophesies to a person with idolatry in their hearts without God’s permission? Is that prophet in sin? God answers that question directly.
“The prophet has not been granted permission to give an answer to the hypocritical inquirer but if the prophet does give the man the answer he desires [thus allowing himself to be a party to the inquirer’s sin]. I the Lord will see to it that the prophet is deceived in his answer, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9 AMP)
Prophets, did you hear what Jehovah just said? The prophet who prophesies without permission will be deceived in his answer. What does this mean? It means the prophet who gives the inquirer a personal prophecy that feeds idolatry, allows himself to be a party to the hypocritical inquirer’s sin. From this, we learn why it is important to have permission to speak from the Holy Spirit before prophesying. If the prophet does not have permission then God will stretch out his hand against the prophet and will destroy him too. So we learn the prophet who has not been granted permission to prophesy and yet does is guilty of sin. As already said prophetic ministry is no game.
Notice this scripture associates the prophet who prophesies without permission as presumptuous. A presumptuous prophet is one who thinks that God wants to speak to people according to his faith alone and not according to the will of the Lord.
“And they both shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the iniquity of the [presumptuous] prophet shall be the same as the iniquity of the [hypocritical] inquirer.” (Ezekiel 14:10 AMP)
False prophecies, false prophetic operations, smooth sayings, people who prophesy out of their own spirit or imaginations, and those who prophesy by the spirit of divination release defilement on themselves and on the people they prophesy to. If we are to be prophetic people we need to guard ourselves against defilement, idolatry, and taking part in another’s sin. Prophets must protect themselves by being sure they have permission from the Lord to prophesy. If they have permission to prophesy, the unction of the Holy Ghost, then the burden falls on the inquirer, not on the prophet. If they do not have permission to prophesy then they become partakers of the hypocritical inquirer’s sin.
(c) Jonas Clark
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