Something has never quite sat right with me about the current prophetic movement’s emphasis on positivity. I’m not talking about the screw-ball “Promotion and prosperity are yours if you type AMEN and share” garbage that I see every single day on my news feed. (I’m not going to lie, I chuckle every time I see one of those.) I am talking about an unhealthy emphasis on the positive when we are prophesying over people. I deeply respect a lot of the prophetic voices that have this emphasis, but humbly, I believe the prophetic movement needs to right the ship.
In order to properly understand the prophetic movement’s current positive emphasis, we need to understand that it is a reaction to a previous emphasis on words of judgment. I remember reading prophetic words several years ago that were generally respected that contained nothing but judgment.
“California is going to be split from the United States and fall into the ocean.”
“Prepare for Y2K, it is the beginning of the tribulation.”
“This (fill in the blank with whatever disaster) is God judging America for (fill in the blank with any sin).”
If you’ve been in the prophetic movement for any amount of time, I know you’ve heard prophecies like these. They were hyper negative, condemnatory, void of mercy, and worse; they were wrong.
Y2K didn’t happen, California, for better or worse, is still in tact (relax, I’m just kidding), and while God certainly does bring correction to nations, we don’t always know that any particular disaster is a direct result or punishment for sin, especially if these natural disasters are a rather common occurrence for their areas. You don’t have to be particularly prophetic to predict a hurricane in the gulf coast for instance. It’s even worse if you didn’t predict it, but are laying the blame for it at the feet of people in Washington D.C. or Hollywood. If a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico were a judgment on Washington D.C., God missed. It is certainly understandable that there would be a pretty strong reaction against this particular brand of prophecy.
Swinging the Prophetic Pendulum
In response to a lot of this negativity, prophetic voices began to stand up and pump the breaks. They rightly reminded the prophetic movement of the mercy, kindness, and love of God. Prophetic voices began to champion “calling out the gold” in people, rather than simply calling out their sins and laying the heavy all of the time.
It was like a breath of fresh air when prophets began to remember that their ministry is the ministry of reconciliation—that God was in Christ, not holding humanity’s trespasses against them, but was instead, inviting them to be reconciled to Him. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.) Prophets began to remember that God actually had good plans for the world. They remembered that there is only one ministry—the ministry of reconciliation.
All of this was a good and healthy move which brought the prophetic movement more in-line with the character and voice of God. Nevertheless, as is true in any reactionary movement, things went further than they should. I believe that it is time for a small course correction. Here are some of the errors which I believe the Lord is addressing today.
1. Identifying Any Seemingly Negative Prophecy as “Old Covenant.”
I can almost guarantee this: if you are a prophetic voice who dares to share anything that isn’t overly positive and saccharin, you will be labeled an “Old Covenant prophet that preaches the Law, not grace.” There is this mistaken notion among some in the modern prophetic movement that somehow anything that isn’t 100% nice, is Old Covenant.
“Judgment is in the Old Covenant,” they say. “New Testament prophets, prophesy grace.”
I could almost agree with them. It is true that in the New Covenant, the message is grace and reconciliation, but was that not the case in the Old Covenant? Some of the most beautiful messages of grace, mercy, and love are found in the Old Testament:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Praise the Lord, my soul,Psalm 103:2-12 (NIV)
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
These wonderful promises of grace, mercy, and love are all found in the Old Testament. In addition to this, we find pretty harsh promises of judgment in the pages of the New Testament:
To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.Revelation 2:18-23 (NIV)
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.Jude 1:4-5 (NIV)
The reality is that God doesn’t change. His justice is an outflow of His goodness and God has never stopped being good. He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful. It is these qualities that are on display at the crucifixion of Christ. God’s perfect justice and His perfect mercy collided on Golgotha when Christ bore the weight of punishment that the entire word deserved so that humanity might be reconciled to God.
I think the dividing line between Old Covenant prophecy and New Covenant prophecy has been greatly exaggerated in today’s prophetic movement. God’s fundamental nature did not change because of the cross; ours has. Those who are in Christ, God treats as His own children, and God chastises His children in order that we might grow up more fully into the image of Christ. (See Hebrews 12:6-7.) Chastisement is unpleasant, and if someone today were to prophesy chastisement for the sake of reconciliation, they would certainly be accused of preaching the law and condemnation. They would be told that God doesn’t do that anymore. This is simply false. This brings me to the second error I see the Lord correcting:
2. Judging Words Superficially
I was visiting my friend’s church last year when I saw the word “betrayal” written over his forehead. I was a little shocked. This particular friend is a man I hold in the highest esteem. His church is exploding with revival. There is no way this is God,” I thought. “If I share this it probably won’t be well received. That is such a negative word. Aren’t I only supposed to share the positive stuff?”
I stayed quiet, and really wished that I hadn’t. That night, my friend received a call that would mark one of the darkest moments of his life. Without sharing personal details, he discovered that one of the people with whom he was closest had effectively betrayed him.
I was kicking myself. Why didn’t I share it? Why did I wimp out? I could have actually encouraged my friend had I shared that “negative” word.
A month went by, and the Lord spoke to me again about this particular friend. It was a particularly negative word that people would rise up and accuse him falsely, but he was not to open his mouth in his own defense. I saw several things that were going on in the moment, and several things that would happen within a week or so of the word. All of it came to pass, and the word actually sustained him through the most difficult season of his life.
If I had judged that word superficially, thinking “this is negative. I should prophesy the opposite,” I would have completely missed it. The purpose of the word was to warn my friend. It was actually a positive and encouraging word, thought it wouldn’t have seemed so on the surface.
These warning words are not fashionable in today’s prophetic culture. There is a sense that we are to only see the good stuff and prophesy that. If we see bad stuff, we are supposed to prophesy the opposite. That’s simply unbiblical.
3. Refusing to Warn
This is what the Lord Almighty says:Jeremiah 23:16-22 (NIV)
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?
See, the storm of the Lord
will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
on the heads of the wicked.
The anger of the Lord will not turn back
until he fully accomplishes
the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
you will understand it clearly.
I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
and from their evil deeds.
I have to confess, I read this scripture a month ago and it stopped me in my tracks. I knew that this word was a word for our modern prophetic movement. Many have been prophesying words from their own imagination. They have failed to stand in the council of the Lord and listen to His decrees. They assume they know the word of the Lord and recklessly prophesy false things.
Read that last verse again. “But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil was and from their evil deeds.”
The purpose of the word of warning and judgment was actually for the purpose of reconciling God’s people to Himself. We see the same dynamic in Jonah’s prophetic ministry in Nineveh. God gave the warning precisely because He did not want to judge them.
What the modern prophetic movement gets right is the idea of intercession. Not everything God says He plans to do, does He actually want to do. God came to Abraham in order that Abraham might intercede with the Lord concerning the judgment of Sodom and Gomorra. (See Genesis 18:16-33.) When the Lord came to Moses telling him He would wipe out the nation of Israel and start over, Moses interceded with God and the Lord relented. (See Deuteronomy 9:13-10:11.)
Sometimes, the Lord gives warning so that His people will intercede. It is because of God’s mercy, not His anger, that He gives warning of disaster or judgment. He warns because God does not want to judge His people, He desires to be reconciled to them.
The problem in the modern movement is that we are not willing to warn people of the consequences of their actions. We have become like the false prophets in Jeremiah 23, saying to those who despise the Lord, “You will have peace”. We say to those who stubbornly follow their own heart, “no harm will befall you.”
Imagine Jonah, freshly spit up on the shores of Nineveh, prophesying to the whole city, “God loves you so much! You are special to Him! He want’s to be part of your life.” All of which is true. Imagine if Jonah were to say all kinds of positive things about Nineveh and God’s heart toward the people of Nineveh. Everything he said would have been true, but God sent Jonah to warn, not deliver heavenly warm fuzzies.
You see, it would have been true if Jonah had simply talked about God’s love. God really did love the people of Nineveh in spite of their sins. It was this deep love and compassion which compelled Jonah to warn them of disaster. I fear that the modern prophetic movement could become useless and irrelevant because of our unwillingness to sound an alarm.
My hope is that we will return to a biblical balance. That in all our prophesying we get a hold of the love of the Lord for people that are far away from Him. I pray that we partner with Jesus in His mission to “seek and to save those who are lost” in our prophetic utterances. May the fear of the Lord will return to the prophetic movement. I hope that we remember that sin has consequences and it is unmerciful not to warn people of the consequences of their sins.