Requirements for Prophesying
Bible Study with Jairus – Numbers 24
The verses that inspired us after reading Numbers 24 were verses 15-16. What particularly caught our attention is the description of the prophet Balaam. We realized the need for the Church and Christians to be people who replicate these verses: “whose eye is opened, who hears the words of God, knows the knowledge of the Most High, and who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered” (ESV, Numbers 24:15-16). If we become such people, we will also prophesy and help others to hear and see God. We would see Christ in everything and everyone, preach the gospel confidently, and bring people from the kingdom of darkness into God’s Kingdom of light.
Meant To Be A Blessing
Numbers 24 is about the king of Moab, Balak. The king of Moab invited the Gentile prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. After Balaam’s two failed attempts to curse them, he went into the wilderness. There, the Spirit of God came upon him and he blessed the Israelites (Numbers 24:3-9). After this blessing, Balak became angry with Balaam and would not honor (pay) Balaam. Balaam responded by stating that even if Balak were to give him his palace full of silver and gold, he still would only say what the Lord asked him to say.
Balak is a Moabite, and Moabites are descendants of Lot. Deuteronomy 2 records that God told Moses not to contend with the Moabites in battle because God gave the land of Ar to Lot’s descendants, and not to the Israelites. We recall from Numbers 23 that God wanted to bless the Moabites. The purpose of God leading the Israelites to pass through Moab and pay for their food and water was so that the Israelites and Moabites could reconcile. God was hoping to use Israel’s passage through their land as an opportunity to bless Moab.
Why? Because Abraham’s and Lot’s servants had fought, which led Lot to move to Sodom, and Abraham to go to the Promised Land. Later, God would judge Sodom. Since Sodom did not have 10 righteous people, the city was destroyed. Abraham interceded so that God would save at least Lot. Although Lot was saved, his wife became a pillar of salt because she looked back at Sodom in disobedience to the angels’ command. Afterward, Lot’s daughters plotted to have incestuous relations with Lot which resulted in the people groups of the Moabites and Ammonites. People and races who commit incest will inevitably be discriminated against. There must have been a lot of humiliation in the environment where the Moabites grew up. We can even see and feel that this existed when we read about the Moabites in the Book of Ruth. Naomi’s husband and sons were even judged and died in Moab.
It is not difficult to understand why the Moabites regarded the Israelites with so much hatred and prejudice. God told the Moabites over and over through the Gentile prophet Balaam that He had blessed Israel. Yet, God wanted Israel to reconcile with Moab so that blessings could come to Moab. Even the birth of Christ through the Israelites was intended to be a blessing to the Moabites. This was God’s plan. However, because of the Moabites’ distorted mindset and fear, they were taken advantage of by the enemy to believe that God would not bless them. The Moabites even became Satan’s tool to attack God’s chosen people. After repeated refusal to repent, God’s curse came upon Moab. God really wanted to bless Moab, but because the Moabites were obstinate and refused to forgive and accept the Israelites, they were tricked by Satan into engaging in sexual immorality and a plague followed. The plague was punishment aimed at dealing with the sinful activity they engaged in; the Moabites suffered for this sin.
Beware of Spiritual Fornication
Today, the spiritual situation of many people in churches is the same as those in Moab. We commit errors of spiritual fornication by harboring unforgiveness and entertaining ungodly thoughts and prejudices. We give the enemy and evil spirits the opportunity to build strongholds in us, even to the point of us being used to oppose God and His anointed people. For example, I read a true story about a woman who was harassed by her father and other men. Afterward, she became full of hatred toward men. This hatred turned into a stronghold reinforced by evil spirits and she became possessed by demons. In the case of this woman’s deliverance, the first step to her freedom was leading her to forgive the men who hurt her. When she released forgiveness, she dispossessed the evil spirits. She removed their authority to possess her and abide in her. On the contrary, if she had refused to forgive, the deliverance ministers would have been limited as to what they could do since she would still be granting the demons a home. No matter the conflict, if we do not learn to forgive, we will be opening doors to the enemy to set up strongholds in our lives. Everyone must learn to forgive and accept people according to God’s perspective so as not to commit the same mistakes as the Moabites.
Blessings in Disguise
In many cases, things that come to us are brought by God to bless us, but these blessings are often blessings in disguise. They may not look like blessings on the surface, but God’s hand is actually behind them. I have had many experiences like this. For example, for a period of time in both my work and family life, I repeatedly had to deal with people who were strict and stern with me. At the beginning, I complained to God asking Him why He allowed such things to happen to me. I later understood. God used those people to become a blessing to me by allowing me to examine my shortcomings, repent and confess, and learn to become a more mature and humbler follower of Jesus. In the end, I was helped and blessed. As Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) says: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
The first reaction of the Moabites when they saw the Israelites was fear. They did not expect that God wanted to bless them through Israel. If the Israelites had been given water and food and were warmly received and cared for by the Moabites when they passed through Moab, God would have greatly blessed the Moabites. We know this because God established a principle when He made a covenant with Abraham that whosoever blesses Israel will be blessed and whoever curses Israel will be cursed. God’s purpose of allowing the Israelites to pass through Moab was to give the Moabites a chance to treat the Israelites kindly and receive a blessing. Deuteronomy 2 records that God even commanded Moses to buy water from the Moabites instead of freely consuming it from their land. God hoped that the Moabites would respond by treating the Israelites with generosity and respect.
Elements of Prophecy
Let’s continue with Numbers 24:17-19 (ESV). It says: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”
A man in our group asked, “To whom are these words directed to?” and “Who is ‘the one from Jacob who shall exercise dominion’ in verse 19?” I pointed out what Balaam said to Moab. Verse 14 (ESV) says: “Now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.” Balaam left and returned to his hometown, but before he left, he prophesied again telling Moab how the Israelites would treat the Moabites and other nations in the future. This prophecy includes salvation and punishment. Salvation in the sense that Christ, as a star, will rise from Jacob, and Christ will become a blessing given by God to all nations through Abraham. Christ will bear all the sins of the world as well as the sins of Lot and Moab. The punishment part is referring to God’s judgment which would also rise through Israel to other nations. Discipline will come to nations such as Moab and Edom. In verses 18-24, Balaam’s prophecy also mentions the judgement of other nations, including Edom, Amalek, Kenite, and Asshur. Then, it is recorded in verse 25 that Balaam went back to his place, and Balak also went his way.
Prophecy often has two aspects to it. One aspect to prophecy is like a close-up camera shot. It’s the part of prophecy that addresses the here and now, or soon-coming state-of-things. Balaam’s close-up prophetic word addresses the history of Israel and includes God’s impending judgement on Moab and Edom through Israel. Verses in the book of Numbers support that God specifically ordered Moses to punish the Moabites for inciting fornication. God punished Moab through Moses and later Moab (Edom) would become subject to King David. The other view of prophecy is like a far-off camera shot. In the case of Balaam’s prophecy, this would be the reference to Christ coming in the future. Moses even also said that one day God would raise up a prophet like him, and the Israelites must listen to him. Those who do not listen to Him will be cut off (Deuteronomy 18:18). This is talking about Jesus Christ. Jesus even affirms this himself when he says, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he (Moses) wrote about me” (John 5:46).
Prerequisites to Prophesy
Verses 15-16 tell us three things: the kind of person who may prophesy for God; the kind of person that we need to be to become the channel of God’s prophetic words and blessings to others; and the kind of person that we need to be to better understand God’s prophetic words.
Verses 15-16 (ESV): “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered…”
Many prophetic words of the Bible appear in the form of hymns. The Holy Spirit uses hymnal form to prophesy, and these hymns often have a special meter or rhythm. We can learn how to distinguish which prophetic words are God’s true prophecies by checking whether these prophecies have a meter. Do these meters exceed what the person who prophesies can do? Balaam’s prophecy is a hymn. I have highlighted all the meters in bold and I share my thoughts on each.
First, we must be someone whose eye is opened. When the prophet Elisha and his servant Gehazi were under attack by the enemies of Israel, the servant became afraid. Elisha told him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi’s eyes. Afterward, Gehazi saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (ESV, 2 Kings 6:15-17). We too have to look with spiritual eyes. We need to see God’s work amidst our complicated world. We cannot be like Moab who failed to see or recognize the hand of God or His work through the Israelites. We cannot be blind. Society is full of chaos, and social media is full of rumors. As Christians and churches, are our eyes open? Are we people who can see what God is doing in the Spirit? Or are we people who just simply follow the crowd and become panic-stricken when there’s a straw blowing in the wind?
God has given me prophetic dreams about a major upheaval that will come to the world, and the purpose of it is to shake all the nations that can be shaken so that people will repent and seek God. In one prophetic dream, I saw an angel stretching out a huge stick from heaven straight into the ocean, and he began to stir. After which, I saw surging waves rise from the ocean and many houses were destroyed. I understand that God will raise up upheavals to break humanity from the status quo. To those who live according to God’s will, God will guard them. We should take advantage of these upheavals to preach the gospel and bring many people into God’s Kingdom.
We must see through appearances to perceive the essence of things as they are in the unseen realm. We should perceive God’s hands in the things happening in this world and see God working through people and things. We need to see God’s perfect plan amidst the imperfect exteriors. We have to be able to see past the sinful surface to find God’s beautiful and good nature. We need to see the beauty of God in the ugliness of people. We need to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh to become spiritually capable of fathoming things in the Spirit. We need to be people whose eyes are opened in the Spirit. Are you such a person?
If you are, you will be a blessing to many people around you. If the Church becomes like this, it will also become a great blessing to the world. Let’s not be blind with covered eyes, unable to receive and fathom spiritual things. We don’t want to be the blind trying to lead the blind. Naturally, both will fall into a pit (Matthew 15:14). One of the main reasons why society remains sinful, blind, and unaware of God and His salvation is because the Church has yet to mature and embrace their calling of giving light and reconciliation to the world.
Second, we must be a person who hears the words of God. Do you often hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? Do you treasure hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit? If you have not heard it recently, when was the last time you heard his voice? If you have never heard it, have you ever fasted and prayed to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? Are there any obstacles between you and God? Do you have any hidden sins that prevent you from approaching God and listening to His voice? Have you repented of and confessed your sins? As Christians we should always hear God speaking to us. The Bible is “logos,” the sure Word of God. We must consistently meditate on the Scriptures and eat God’s Word so that it turns into rhema (timely words of God). We can do this by reading and praying (pray reading). Do you pray read and meditate on God’s Word every day?
At the same time, churches must admit the existence of prophets nowadays. They must humble themselves and listen to God’s words through the prophets. Many people think that there are no more prophets today. This is a false teaching. God has recovered a lot through the prophetic movement today. Although the prophetic movement is still immature, and many prophets have flaws, God is still speaking through them. The Lord Jesus said, “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (ESV, Matthew 10:41). The Lord did not say that this sentence only applies to the Old Testament. Perhaps one of the rewards of the prophets we can receive today is to hear God’s words for this age. We know that “where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint” (ESV, Proverbs 29:18). When the church neglects the gift of prophecy or the office of prophets, it often loses its prophetic vision. The New Testament also teaches us that we should not despise prophecies, but test everything and hold fast to what is good (ESV, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). Let’s continue to strive to be people that hear God’s words, especially through the prophets He has given.
Third, we must be someone who knows the knowledge of the Most High. In the Local Church Movement, we use a term called “God’s economy,” which means “God’s plan.” What is God’s plan? What was God’s plan for people throughout history until now? God’s plan was and is to redeem us in and through Christ—to become His chosen people, prepare Christ’s bride, and in the end, become Christ’s army and reign with Him.
What is God’s plan for this age? Are we facing the last days? Is the Lord Jesus coming soon? Many people believe the end of the world is near. The darkness we are facing is unprecedented, so the end of the world must really be getting closer. Rumors of the coronavirus, vaccines, and various wars are all portrayed as scenes of the last days. However, I personally don’t think that we have reached the end of the world yet. An American prophet, Katt Kerr, believes that the heavenly Father told her that the last days are still far away. The enemy hopes that the last days come in advance, but God has a beautiful plan for this age—for a great revival to come to the world.
In 2016, I sought God’s healing due to my wife’s infertility and I went to a prophetic conference. After I got home, the Holy Spirit asked me a question about China’s great revival that was mentioned in the conference. In my conversation with the Holy Spirit, I understood that God is planning to bring a great revival to China, and perhaps more than 100 million people or more will be saved. A Korean prophet also told me that the 21st century is the time that God will evangelize China. There are about 100 million Christians in China. If 100 million more are saved, that’s 200 million people in total. If more people are saved in this great revival, China will still only be 80% Christian like the United States once was before. Evangelization in China will take several generations. God is not in a hurry to bring the end of the world. He will give us enough time to evangelize. The Church is far from being spiritually mature enough, and the glory of God has not yet filled the whole earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). But this day will come. Before the glory of the Lord fills the earth, the end of the world will not come.
Fourth, we must become someone who can see the vision of the Almighty. “Almighty” in Hebrew is elyon, meaning the Most High God. We must see God. Many people know God in terms of knowledge and doctrine, but they lack personal experience from encountering Him. This is a big shortcoming. In particular, many traditional churches devote more attention on gaining biblical knowledge than on believers having personal encounters with the Lord through pursuing the gift of prophecy or other supernatural gifts. Traditional churches even discourage the use or pursuit of the gifts and the supernatural. The result of this is a withering Body of Christ.
On the other hand, I’ve observed many people having personal encounters with the Lord in Pentecostal churches. As a result of these encounters, a new culture was created—one that focuses on encountering God. Many people now term this culture “Encounter Culture.” The emergence of this kind of culture is based on many people’s lack of personal encounters with the Lord in traditional churches. I have seen that this kind of experience blesses the people who engage in it. Many people in the Toronto Revival experienced God personally too. My own personal encounter with God when I was in the Local Church Movement changed me a lot. My experiences with the Lord in tangible and supernatural ways have only increased as I have sought to pursue the gifts of the Holy Spirit and engage more in a Pentecostal church. This includes experiences of being taken to heaven and talking with Jesus. These experiences have become great blessings to me.
But the pursuit of personal encounters with the Lord cannot replace our study of Bible. These two are interconnected and they need to complement each other. Pursuing only personal, subjective experiences will result in a weak foundation of biblical truth and will leave us gullible to deception by evil spirits. Pursuing only knowledge and biblical principles while denying and neglecting subjective experiences will cause us to wither and lack in zeal and prophetic vision from the Lord. Let us be willing to pursue both.
Fifth, we must be someone who falls down with our eyes uncovered before God. In another prophetic dream, I was taken to heaven to see the Lord Jesus. While waiting in line, I was given a robe to put on. Before I could even enter the door, I fell to the ground by a tremendous force, and it left me unable to stand. Then I heard the powerful voice of the Lord say, “Get up.” I immediately gained strength. Upon entering, I saw the Lord sitting inside and He called me by my English name, Sean. This was a very shocking experience for me; it is an indescribable feeling when you hear the Lord Jesus personally calling your name. I have an idea of what it means to fall down before the Lord. Do you?
A person who can prophesy for the Lord or understand God’s prophetic words more deeply will be someone who satisfies the above conditions. It’s only when we become such a person can we speak or understand God’s prophetic words. And it’s only when we become this person that God will entrust prophecies to us. Otherwise, our understanding of the Bible will likely only scratch the surface of things we could know. Our knowledge of the Word will help us have more subjective experiences of Him and our subjective experiences and personal encounters will bring us to a higher spiritual level in the Spirit to better understand His Word. These two coexist in a complementary relationship. Valuing only one and neglecting the other will cause us to become biased in understanding God’s Word. However, if we combine these two, we can prophesy better and understand the prophecies in the Bible better as well. Concluding, we should avoid being like Balaam who had a heart of greed while being gifted in prophecy. Likewise, we do not want to be the Moabites who could not hear the words of God because they maintained a veil of hatred and prejudice over their heart. How wonderful it is to have a pure heart in service to God and be followers who are willing to listen to Him!