Paul said something earth-shifting in 1 Corinthians 14. But let’s back up a bit first.
For the entire history of the Bible, prophesying was a very special thing. Very few people did it (that we know of), and when they did, it seemed that most often people refused to listen. Prophecy was something reserved for the “apostles” of the Old Testament, if you will. They were often scorned, abused and martyred for speaking what God had told them. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 that this is the case for the apostles in his day.
Will The Prophets Stand Up
Prophets were a unique breed, for sure. We have occasions where people not recognized as prophets would prophesy, and when that happened it always turned heads. Saul prophesied, for instance, in 1 Samuel 19:24, and it was a story that followed him for a long time. When Moses dedicated the elders of Israel, they all prophesied, even two that weren’t at the dedication ceremony.
That brings us to some very critical words of Moses. When Joshua found out about the two elders outside the camp who had been prophesying, he went to Moses to beg him to make them stop. I imagine Moses’ response coming with a slow, deep belly laugh.
But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”
Moses said something to Joshua here that begs our attention. When Moses, the prophet of the Old Testament who foreshadowed the coming Christ, speaks like this, we should pay careful attention. Moses said he wished everyone prophesied and had the Holy Spirit. When I read that, I see more than a wish. I see a little bit of prophecy in itself. But that may also be because I have quite a bit of hindsight.
When the prophet Joel spoke, he said that God would one day raise up young and old, male and female, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit and a day where all God’s people would prophesy (Joel 2:28-29). So Moses’ wish became a prophecy, albeit a thousand years later.
Fast forward another several hundred years and we arrive at Peter on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-29 and tells everyone that what they are seeing is the (beginning) of the fulfillment of that prophecy. All of God’s people may now prophesy. Not just the prophets. Not just the kings. Not just the priests.
All God’s people.
That brings us back to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
1 Corinthians 14:1
In Moses’ day, he “wished” that all would prophesy. Paul now commands us to seek it. Why the change?
On the day of Pentecost, there was a fundamental shift in how God deals with His people. His love didn’t change. His covenant didn’t change, as it was already given through Jesus days earlier. God’s operation change in regards to His people. What Peter told us on the day of Pentecost was that now it was no longer up to the “special elite” to relate to God and tell the rest of us what to do and how to live. No, now we have direct access to the Father through our mediator, Jesus, and their emissary the Holy Spirit.
Believing AND Seeking
What Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, then, is very rational. If God told us that the wealth of His kingdom, in times of old reserved for only a select few, is now available to us, why wouldn’t we ask for it? Wouldn’t we be utterly foolish to believe it is available but continue to languish in the poverty of our own flesh?
Today is the day that we must advance the prophetic ministry forward. We must be like Paul and make that clarion call for believers to eagerly desire the gift of prophecy. There is a wealth of eternal wisdom at our disposal today, and it would be foolish for us to not chase after it.
Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 14, in my paraphrase, that saints should eagerly desire prophesy because there is no gift so helpful to the life of the church than that. Prophesy encourages. Prophesy refines. Prophecy steers. Prophecy corrects. God speaks to His children to keep them moving in the right direction, if we choose to listen. If we ask.
Have you considered the wealth of heaven available to you today? Have you asked God to speak to you? Have you prayed and asked God for dreams, visions, impressions and whispers?
If you’re afraid you might get it wrong; well, you will. There’s no getting around it. At first you’ll mess it up. So don’t be a jerk about it. Don’t go around telling people “thus saith the Lord.” Don’t tell people what to do because God said so. That’s not prophecy, that’s just old-fashioned bossiness.
Be humble. You’ll get it wrong. You’ll get it right. You’ll learn from both, so be humble in the process. It takes time to learn how to clearly discern God’s voice, but His voice is the wisdom of eternity. Don’t wait until you’re there before you start listening to it.