A Prophet Among You


Chapter 1—What The Bible Says About Its Origin

What does the Bible have to say about its origin? Interestingly enough, the authors of the sixty-six books that make up the Holy Scriptures do not attempt to prove their divine inspiration. They state simply that their messages are from God, and then pass on to deal with the messages rather than attempt to prove their assertions regarding the source of their information. APAY 1.1

In our present investigation of the gift of prophecy, the divine inspiration of the Bible will be taken for granted, and no attempt will be made to prove it. It is the purpose of a study in Evidences of Christianity or in Bible Doctrines to gather the proofs for the inspiration of the Scriptures and study them in a systematic manner. This study is devoted to the operation of the prophetic gift through the ages, and presupposes a confidence in the Bible and its divinely inspired authorship. APAY 1.2

“Thus Saith the Lord.”—A careful reading of the Bible reveals a remarkable unity, even uniformity, in the expressions of its authors regarding their understanding of the source of their messages. In some instances no comment is made indicating the writer’s convictions, but the messages themselves make clear that they are of the same origin as the books claiming inspiration. The regularity with which the writers claim their messages to be from God may appear repetitious, and yet every repetition is with a purpose that is not hard to discover. APAY 1.3

These men did not want to take credit to themselves for what they wrote. Though their writings bore the impress of their own personality, education, background, and environment, the messages are from God, and the writers wanted no one to mistake that fact. They were honest men, spiritual, keen-minded, having through experience considerable insight into the needs of their people. They were men capable of bearing responsibility and serving as leaders. But these personal qualifications were insufficient to make them safe guides for their nation, and the men themselves recognized that fact. Consequently, when God had spoken to them, they wanted the people to know of a certainty that the message was of divine rather than human origin. APAY 1.4

Again, the way of the prophet was seldom easy. In most instances the very nature of the messages borne tended to turn the people against the messengers. None enjoy, and few are willing, to receive rebuke; in fact, the denunciations of numerous Old Testament prophets have become proverbial. The words of Amos pronouncing judgment on Judah are typical: “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: but I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.” Amos 2:4, 5. Who would have cared to preach such a message without attaching a “thus saith the Lord”? APAY 2.1

On the other hand, human promises pertaining to the future are notably unreliable. A man may pledge in good faith, and tomorrow lose the means on which he had counted to fulfill his vow. The prophetic speakers and writers wanted their audiences to recognize and acknowledge that reproof, assurance, and prediction came from a source above and beyond themselves—the only Source on which they could always depend. Who but God could look into the future so much as forty-two literal months, to say nothing of forty-two prophetic months, in such a prediction as this: “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Revelation 13:5. John, in the first few verses of the Revelation, traces his messages back to God Himself. APAY 2.2

It is likely also that the circumstances existing at the time a prophet gave his message to the people had some influence on the use of a variety of expressions by which the prophet made plain that the message he brought was not his own, but God’s. Ezekiel was called to the prophetic office while he was with the captive people of Judah in Babylonia. Daniel and his companions of the royal family had been taken to Babylon in the first captivity of 605 B.C. A few years later, in the second captivity of 597 B.C., Ezekiel of the priestly family was among those uprooted from home and taken to the pagan capital. Despite the prediction of Jeremiah that the captivity would last for seventy years, false prophets and leaders had encouraged the people to look forward to a speedy return from Babylon. They could hardly imagine God’s allowing His people to remain subject to a foreign nation for so long a time. APAY 3.1

To counter false hopes and provide spiritual leadership for the exiles, God called young Ezekiel to the prophetic office. The people were unwilling to believe that Jerusalem would be completely destroyed, that they would have to remain in Babylon the full span of Jeremiah’s prediction, or that God was with them in their exile. What they needed was a vision of the glory of God, an assurance that all was under His watchful eye. They needed to be reminded of the surety of God’s word. What He had said about the future of Jerusalem and of the exiles would surely come to pass. APAY 3.2

Under these circumstances it is not difficult to see why Ezekiel repeatedly declared that his message was from the Lord. Three hundred or more times he used expressions like these: “The word of the Lord came,” “Thus saith the Lord,” “He said unto me,” “Thou shalt speak My words,” “I the Lord have spoken it,” “I am the Lord,” “Hear the word of the Lord.” If ever a people needed assurance that God was speaking to them, the children of Israel in Babylonian captivity did. And God needed a representative among them. At the close of the prophetic period, He intended to take them back to Palestine and there re-establish them as a nation. In the meantime they had to be prepared for the return so that they would not lapse into the idolatry that had been largely responsible for their exile. Ezekiel’s repeated assurance that the voice of God was speaking to them served as a major factor in leading many to recognize the hand of God in their captivity and in the plans for restoration. APAY 3.3

“Given by Inspiration.”—“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is God-breathed,” is the way Paul expressed it originally. It is not the thought that God breathed His message only into man, but that He breathed it out, or spoke it, through man as His agent. Peter’s words should be put along with Paul’s. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21. God’s word, spoken at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, was the message of the prophets. They could recognize no other source. They confidently believed they were voicing the will of God for His people. Peter, preaching to the people in Solomon’s porch, told of things “which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets.” Acts 3:18. The men were God’s, the messages were His—God-breathed. APAY 4.1

It “Shall Come to Pass.”—Prediction is cited by the prophets as a major indication of the divine source of their messages, and is the nearest approach to the presentation of evidences of inspiration. Isaiah issued God’s challenge to the false gods so highly regarded by Israel as well as the heathen nations. “Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.” Isaiah 41:22, 23. It is apparent from the language of the writers that they frequently recognized that the events they recorded were to take place in the far distant future. Neither men nor false gods could see into the future. Therefore, they said, you may have confidence our messages are from God, for He alone can predict things to come. APAY 4.2

Daniel’s reply to Nebuchadnezzar’s request for an interpretation of his dream shows clearly the general attitude of the prophets. “The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.... And He that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living.” Daniel 2:27-30. Disclaiming any credit for himself, and pointing out the inability of the king’s counselors, Daniel gave full recognition to God’s insight into the future. Before his specific interpretation of the dreams of the chief butler and chief baker, Joseph asked the men, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Genesis 40:8. A little later, while talking to Pharaoh concerning his dream, Joseph acknowledged, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Genesis 41:16. Throughout the Bible there are many similar indications. The last book of the New Testament opens in the same vein. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” Revelation 1:1, 2. APAY 5.1

Never did a prophet claim for himself any supernatural power to penetrate the future and predict coming events. Whenever prediction was involved in the messages of the prophets, they made it clear that they believed their enlightenment to be from God. APAY 5.2