“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
We can see clearly from this passage that God does not want us to presume when it comes to prophecy and speak a word in His Name that He did not command to be spoken. In God’s eyes this is viewed as a great sin, worthy of death, since He says that prophet shall die.
I looked up the word in greek for presume – which is pronounced ‘zaw-done’ – and it means more than what we understand by the word ‘presume’ in English. It has something to do with an attitude of heart, not just a mental mistake. It means:
pride, insolence, presumptuousness, arrogance
Wow – so God basically says, if we translate the meaning in the Bible passage:
“2But the prophet who is proud, insolent, arrogant and presumptuous to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak.”
As you can see, having it put this way, it’s sounds like more than just a mistake, it’s a response of pride and rebellion that motivates the giving of the message, maybe with the desire to look good to people, to appear important, to be noticed, to make a name for himself.
Or it might be an attitude of self-confidence, feeling that I am great at hearing God and therefore I can’t get it wrong – which is a very dangerous presumption,! None of us are infallible, we all prophecy in part, none of us has the full picture and the whole message and we need each other to create the full big picture God wants to give.
God, as usual, in His great mercy, gives us a solution to avoid this pitfall. It is found in Psalm 19:13 (NKJV)
“Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.”
The word ‘presumptuous’ here is pronounced ‘zade’ and is from the same root and means exactly the same thing as in the Deutoronomy passage. Therefore, God’s solution is to not presume you are infallible, but to pray and depend on God to keep you. You need to ask Him to keep you from presumptuous sins and to not allow those sins to have control over you.
As you can see, this is the opposite of the attitude of pride and arrogance that comes with presumption, it’s not self-reliant, not self-confident, it does not rely on past performance or anything to do with self. It only relies on God’s grace and mercy to keep you from this sin, it’s totally dependent on God.
As we can see from this Scripture as well, presumptuous sins are equated again with being a great transgression. There can be small transgressions and great transgressions – contrary to what many teach today. Presumption is a great transgression and that’s why God said in Deuteronomy that the prophet who does this shall die.
It says that the prophet who speaks in God’s name when God did not command him to speak or someone who speaks in the name of other gods, they shall both die. Therefore God says it is just as serious to presume to speak in His name when He has not commanded you to speak as it is to speak in the name of another god!
Usually, in the Old Testament, to the great transgressions, God assigned a death penalty to them as punishment. For example: being a soothsayer, adultery, homosexuality, whoever cursed their mother and father, etc, God commanded that they shall be put to death. For other lesser transgressions, He gave less dramatic ways to deal with them: in some cases it would be sacrifices, restitution, bearing smaller consequences, but not death. Yet speaking presumptuously in God’s name was treated so seriously by God that in His mind it deserved death.
Before you jump at me and tell me that we are not under law, let me assure you I understand that, and I am not teaching that we need to put people to death for giving false words from God. But what I am saying is that we can learn from the entire Word of God, including Old and New Testament, principles that we can apply in our living as New Testament believers, just as the Word of God says (in the New Testament):
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
“ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Romans 15:4 (NKJV)
“For whatever things were written BEFORE were written FOR OUR LEARNING, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
The things written in the Old Testament, though the keeping of the ceremonial law was done away with, are still useful to us as New Testament believers for learning about doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. The moral law has not changed, and through Christ it is summed up in one law: the law of love: ‘I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you’ .
Therefore, in conclusion, we are learning that presumption, pride, arrogance and insolence in speaking a word in God’s Name that He did notcommand is a great transgression, and it is only overcome through prayer and an attitude of humility and dependence on God.
If God gives you a great gift, and you become honored by men as a result because of it, it should not make you proud, but rather make you aware of the great responsibility you have been entrusted with to speak words that can affect other people’s lives in major ways.
If you have received more than others from God as a gift, remember that God also requires more from you and your responsibility and therefore your accountability at the last day will be much greater.
It is not something to be proud of, that you have received 5 talents instead of 2, because they are all RECEIVED, not your own achievement. It is something rather to walk in the fear of the Lord, because of the greater weight of responsibility you carry to use those talents and multiply them and use them right, not in pride and presumption.
The Bible says in Obadiah 1:3 (NKJV)
‘The pride of your heart has deceived you’
And there is nothing worse for a prophet that to walk in deception, when he is meant to speak truth.
In order to overcome pride, it is also good to remember, that although you had some victories in the past, you haven’t finished the race yet, and getting into pride now based on ‘your’ achievements, guarantees you will fall soon, because God says in Proverbs that pride comes before a fall (Prov 16:18) So, since you haven’t finished your race, you don’t want to get proud now, even though you had a great run so far, because you still have more of the race to run and you want to finish well.
Imagine if an athlete, in a race, got over-confident and proud because he was ahead, lifted up his head in pride for being ahead of the others, did not watch the road well and then stumbled and fell. The chances are he will be overtaken by others and lose the race. The Bible says: ‘Run as if to win the prize’ (1 Cor 9:24) – as if it is only one prize and you, out of everyone, wants to get it, that’s the attitude of heart and commitment God desires.
It’s not just how you start the race or how well you do on the way, but how you finish that matters the most. There are temptations and pitfalls all along the tracks of life up to the finish line put there by Satan. If your head lifts up in pride anywhere along the way, you won’t be able to see them and avoid them or you will end up deceived that they have no power over you and you will be alright and then stumble and fall.
As a Christian you want to finish well without getting corrupted or falling away completely because of pride, not just do well for a while. Once you fall is harder to recover the race, and there will be some permanent consequences that you will regret for the rest of your life, though, through the grace of God, even our mistakes can be redeemed up to a point.
There are plenty of examples in the book of Kings in the Bible of kings who started well, in the fear of God, but quite a few of them, at the peak of their success, started to get over-confident or corrupt and started sinning against God. No one is exempt from temptation, but preparation of the heart through prayer and knowing that pride comes before a fall, etc will help you to overcome it and stay humble along the way. None of us will do this perfectly, but we want to at least try our best and avoid the many consequences pride can bring in this life and especially for eternity. It is all possible through prayer and dependence on God.
Note: If you are a Christian who is beginning to prophecy, this article is not so much for you as it is for someone who is at least at intermediate to mature level of prophesying. When you begin to prophecy, it is more important to step out in faith and have a go, even if you make mistakes, so you can get started in stepping out on the water and getting practice and exercising the gift. You become better, more exact by practice alone, that’s how the gifts grow and get fine tuned, so don’t let discouragement get you if you got it wrong, humble yourself, acknowledge to God you were wrong and ask Him for grace to become better and better at it. Then leave any condemnation behind that the devil might want to throw at you and go seeking God for the next thing He might have you to speak.
Of course, you can apply the principles listed above anyway, and it can only do you good to pray against pride and presumption. But don’t let the fear of making mistakes stop you from starting and having a go, even if you get it wrong. God is merciful and gentle as you take baby steps.
Just stick with speaking edification, exhortation and comfort, which are the principles of prophecy, and don’t venture out into predictions and direction giving till you have become really good at prophesying and it is proven so in time to you and to others in leadership over you. At the right time, if your calling is to be a prophet, which is not for everyone, God will make a way for you to speak weightier words.
Considering things based on the teaching above, the weight of speaking words from God and for God is indeed great! It’s important though to distinguish between prophecy and being a prophet. From the context, we can see that this is related to the ministry of a prophet, which is about speaking predictions about the future and not merely about prophesying (though I would suggest that the principles would apply to both).
God gives us a way to test if a prediction is from Him – and the test is fulfillment – if the prediction does not result in fulfillment, then the prophet did not speak from God, and basically God says to not listen to that person, to not treat their words with weight. The respect and authority over your life that you are to give a prophet is dependent on the fulfillment of the words he has already spoken. If there is no fulfillment, God says: don’t be afraid of him, in other words, don’t be afraid of his words, of what he will say next, as he has been proven to not speak from Me, don’t take too much into account what he says, don’t let his words affect your life.
Conclusion: the most important work of the prophet is to keep his heart right by being in prayer, dependent on God and not rush in presumption to speak words to people, but allow God to settle a word in his spirit to ensure as much as possible it is a true word from God and then deliver it by faith.
Let’s take heed and prepare our hearts in prayer and humility.