We live in a time in which a blizzard of prophetic words and books flood the market to excite and alarm God's people. While many, however, have called me "prophet," "reliable" or "grounded," I cannot identify myself with the prophetic movement.
I have seen too little of contemporary prophetic ministry conform to the heart of what biblical prophetic ministry actually does. Prophecies over the nation and the world spoken by recognized voices have too often fallen to the ground while the vast majority of prophetic words spoken over my own life and ministry by recognized prophetic people have failed to materialize.
Any alert observer knows that the vast majority of extreme doom and gloom prophecies released over the last 20 or more years have failed in fulfillment, no matter by whom they were spoken. The same has so far been true of prophetic words regarding the coming of a sweeping, culture-changing revival. Lighthouses churches and ministries are rising in various places in the midst of gathering darkness as I believe the Lord told me they would. The pilot light has been lit and fires are burning, but the chances of something revolutionizing the culture as a whole remain remote at best. Too many predicted timelines and dates have passed without real incident.
Are accurate prophetic voices out there? Yes! But they're not much listened to. Elijah stood alone. Isaiah stood mostly alone. Jeremiah and a handful of others likewise stood pretty much alone and even persecuted.
Part of this lack of accurate prophecy stems from failure to accurately interpret and apply the Scriptures. This leaves us vulnerable to assertions taken out of context and therefore made to mean what they were never intended to mean. In some cases it's simply that those speaking prophetically missed the heart of the Father and therefore spoke from their flesh and from hardness of heart or personal desire. In any case, we've seen too little accurate and penetrating prophetic ministry at a time when we need it most, while we have remained vulnerable to sensational claims and off base scriptural teaching.
The same situation existed in Isaiah's day. In the midst of a flood of inaccurate prophetic words, Isaiah stood out from the crowd and had this to say: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn" (Isaiah 8:20). Where Scripture is mishandled, bypassed or ignored, there can be no light, no accurate revelation.
As Israel faced a time similar to our own—a time of national apostasy and deterioration—Isaiah spoke the following word to the faithful. I find it perfectly applicable to today. "You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' in regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary" (Isaiah 8:12-14).
Come away from the fear-mongering and the prophecies of doom and gloom. Stop feeding on fears of government conspiracies and unholy hidden alliances. In Christian circles, talk of blood moon tetrads and shemitahs generate excitement and fear, but shouldn't our focus rather be on simple fear of the Lord? And shouldn't we question whether the predictions connected with those things truly rest on solid scriptural or historical ground?
Shemitahs, for instance, have to do with agriculture and caring for the poor, with letting the ground replenish itself every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11), not fixed economic cycles. Shouldn't that at least cause us to raise questions? Do naturally occurring signs in the heavens really determine the course of our lives and what God must do on earth? Doesn't such a belief border on astrology, forbidden to believers? Remember that the Star of Bethlehem was NOT naturally occurring. Doesn't God rather choose to act based upon the relationship we have with Him? Holiness? Repentance? Obedience? Disobedience?
Hard times are coming. This is certain. But are these timelines fixed? Or is it possible that the prayers of the saints have extended a season of mercy while set our hearts right with God and prepare our churches?
Whether or not you resonate with the questions I raise, shouldn't we rather be consumed with a hunger to be holy, conformed to the image of the Son? For those who choose this focus, the promise spoken by Isaiah is that, regardless of events around us, the Lord will become our sanctuary. He will cover us in times of turmoil and need. Isn't it time we adjusted our focus and trusted in the Lord alone?
R. Loren Sandford is the senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelor's degree in music and a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including "Understanding Prophetic People: Blessings and Problems with the Prophetic Gift", "Visions of the Coming Days: What to Look for and How to Prepare " and his most recent, "Yes There's More: A Return to Childlike Faith and a Deeper Experience of God."
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