There are basically two categories of biblical prophecy. There are those things which (1) are sovereign decrees and then there is (2) God’s plan or path he intends for us to follow. The first requires no special obedience to be fulfilled – it will happen regardless. God will cause it to come to pass. This type of prophecy needs little explanation to understand. In my experience, the problem is that many think that all prophecy falls into this first category. That misunderstanding often results in unfulfilled prophecy and even anger at God. For that reason I want to focus on dealing with the second type of prophecy.
Walk This Way
The second type of prophecy is sometimes referred to as “personal prophecy”. These represent God’s plan and path for us and also require us to trust and obey in order to see them come to pass. This type of prophecy is by far the most common which is why it is so important to understand that they need our special attention in order to be of any good. God doesn’t make this type of prophecy come to pass automatically despite what we do or don’t do. It is God saying to us “Look, here’s my path and some road signs so that you know which way to go. Walk in that way!” The enemy will work diligently to entice us not to follow or continue following but if we do, then God will cause us to succeed in it and we will be blessed in our obedience. If we don’t deliberately walk or act in a way to follow, then there simply is no assurance of it’s fulfillment for us. Fortunately, God often graciously makes a new way for us once we have wondered too far off or delayed too long. Sometimes that becomes no longer possible and so God makes a new path for us altogether.
There are many who would dismiss this concept as being self-fulfilling prophecy, yet the fact remains that it is completely biblical. Both the old and new testaments prove this to be true. Although there are numerous examples, I will point out only two specifically: the first from Jesus (who embodies wisdom) and another from Solomon. After all, wisdom is justified by her children [Luk 7:35]. That is to say wisdom is proved to be wisdom by those who are a product of it, by those who live it out and demonstrate it by their example.
Example from Jesus
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Mat 13:10-15 ESV
Not only in this instance, but also in many others, Jesus deliberately did things in certain ways specifically in order to fulfill prophecy. In this case he could have very easily explained things to everyone the way he did so clearly to his disciples. However, in doing that he would have contradicted the prophecies. Many times throughout the gospels we read that he said something to the effect of: “in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled”. Each time he deliberately determined to trust and obey in order to walk in the way that the Father had planned for him and purposefully fulfill the prophecies concerning him. Is he not also our perfect, flawless example?
Example from Solomon
Because of the large quantity of scripture references for this old testament example, I have simply summarized relevant facts of the account and referenced them in order. Notice the emphasis I have added to show who was responsible for doing each particular thing. This paints an excellent picture of events that spanned many years.
- God promises to raise up a son to David, promises to establish David’s son’s kingdom and says “he shall build a house for me.” [1Ch 17:1-15 ESV] (these promises also prophetically spoke of Jesus.)
- David decides where the house of the Lord will be located and provides materials, telling Solomon, “you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and rules.” [1Ch 22:1-19 ESV]
- David made Solomon king, even though Solomon was not his oldest son. [1Ch 23:1 ESV]
- David made plans for the temple and told Solomon to be strong and courageous in doing all the work for the service of the house of the Lord. [1Ch 28:1-21 ESV]
- Solomon established himself in his kingdom. [2Ch 1:1 ESV]
- God grants Solomon wisdom at his request. [2Ch 1:7-13 ESV]
- Solomon purposed to build a house for the Lord. [2Ch 2:1 ESV]
- Solomon began to build. [2Ch 3:1 ESV]
- Solomon finished building & then God’s cloud of glory overwhelms the house, so that the priests could not stand to minister. [2Ch 5:1-14 ESV]
- Solomon claims that the Lord fulfilled his own promise. (He DID NOT say “I myself, by my hand, brought fulfillment to the prophecy of the Lord as spoken to my father.”) [2Ch 6:1-21 ESV]
- God once again confirmed his covenant after Solomon’s prayer by consuming the sacrifice with fire from heaven. [2Ch 7:1-3 ESV]
- Solomon further emphasized that “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” [Psa 127:1-2 ESV]
Solomon chose the path to fulfilling the prophecy. He could have very easily rebelled against God’s plan, but he didn’t. Solomon did not attribute credit and honor to the Lord that he was unworthy of. And he did not take for himself the honor that was due the Lord alone. He deliberately acted in an attempt to follow the plan that God had designed for him and succeeded in it.
Be Doers of the Word
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Jas 1:22 ESV
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Jas 2:17 ESV
So it is clear then that we do in fact bear responsibility in surrendering to the Lord and his revealed plan for us. First of all, whether received through others or ourselves, we should judge every word of prophecy as to whether it was from God or not as Paul said [1Co 14:29]. If it is judged to be from the Lord then we should act on that word, and not just hear it, because faith without works is dead. Faith that is not acted upon will eventually die and soon decay into doubt, unbelief and vain speculation. Faith with works is alive and leads to life! So we must add action to what we believe. Being a doer of the word is simply faith and works together.
It is believing combined with acting that appropriates all the promises of God!
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.