Just before our forefathers, the children of Israel, entered the Promised Land Moses died on Mt. Nebo. The leadership of the nation was passed on to Joshua.
God used Joshua to lead the Jewish people through the Jordan River in a miraculous way by drying up the river, just as He did when they passed through the Red Sea 40 years earlier. Joshua and the Israelites circled Jericho and God caused its walls to come down. The Israelites spread through the Promised Land and prospered.
When Joshua and the other leaders passed away a void was left. It was hundreds of years before Israel had its first king. This time period is recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures in the book of Judges. It is in this book that the term “a Mother in Israel” originated. Let’s open our hearts and minds, and see what God wants to teach us today!
1. Who are some of the better known judges that God raised up to help Israel?
Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel..., the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us..., Samson judged Israel twenty years. Judges 4:4; 8:22; 16:31
Deborah, Gideon, and Samson are only three of the more than twenty judges that led Israel during this time period of about 400 years.
2. What did the children of Israel do during the time of Deborah, when Israel was being ruthlessly oppressed by King Jabin of Canaan and his army commander Sisera?
The Israelites cried out to the LORD. Judges 4:3
3. What did Deborah, their prophetess and judge, prophesy at that time?
She summoned Barak... and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded: Go, march up to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men...And I will draw Sisera, Jabin’s army commander, with his chariots and his troops, toward you... and I will deliver him into your hands.”Judges 4:6 & 7
4. How did Barak react, and what second prophecy did God give to the brave prophetess Deborah?
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; if not, I will not go.” “Very well, I will go with you,” she answered. “However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Judges 4:8, 9
Barak, the leader of Israel’s army, did not manifest a full faith in the Word of God and was only willing to go into the battle if Deborah would go with him. For his lack of faith God took the glory and the honor for the victory away from him and gave it to a woman who was not even trained for battle.
5. What happened when Barak and his small army came at Sisera and the army of the Canaanites?
Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! This is the day on which the LORD will deliver Sisera into your hands: the LORD is marching before you.” Barak charged down... All of Sisera’s soldiers fell by the sword; not a man was left. Judges 4:14, 16
6. Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, jumped out of his chariot and ran for his life. He hid himself in the tent of a man named Heber. What did Heber’s wife, Jael, do to Sisera while he was hiding in her tent, fulfilling the prophecy God gave to Deborah?
When he was fast asleep from exhaustion, she approached him stealthily and drove the pin through his temple till it went down to the ground. Thus he died. On that day God subdued King Jabin of Hazor before the Israelites. And the land was tranquil forty years. Judges 4:21, 23; 5:31
You might say, “he was pinned down.” God fulfilled the prophecy and gave the victory into the hand of Jael instead of Barak.
7. What was sung after the war was won honoring the faith and courage of Deborah?
Deliverance ceased, Ceased in Israel, till you arose, O Deborah, arose, O mother, in Israel! Judges 5:7
Thus, we have the first time the term “mother in Israel” is used. Deborah judged Israel for 40 years and God gave us rest under her leadership and direction. Deborah is not the only woman mentioned in the Bible to whom God gave the gift of prophecy.
8. What was the purpose of prophets and prophetesses like Deborah?
Indeed, my Lord GOD does nothing without having revealed His purpose to His servants the prophets. The spirit of the LORD has spoken through me, His message is on my tongue. When the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt, it was through a prophet; through a prophet they were guarded. Amos 3:7; 2 Samuel 23:2; Hosea 12:14
God has given us His prophets and prophetesses to guard us and to reveal His purpose for us. How comforting to know that God does nothing without first revealing it to His prophets. There are many who profess to hear from God, who claim to be able to tell the future, but God’s Word gives us a high standard to test whether the message is actually from God or not. We will look at several tests of a prophet of God.
9. How can we know today if a prophet is a true prophet of God or not?
“To the Law and to the prophets if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them. The prophets are subject to the prophets.” Isaiah 8:20
A. They must speak according to the Law and not against or in contradiction to the Law of God.
B. They must agree with and be in harmony with all the prophets of God who have come before them.
Thus, if it appears that the writings of a prophet are contradicting a previous prophet either that person is not a true prophet of God or we are misinterpreting their writings. (An example of this is if anyone says that Rabbi Paul taught that God’s laws are done away with it is because they are misinterpreting the writings of Rabbi Paul.)
10. What is another test of a true prophet of God?
And should you ask yourselves, “How can we know that the oracle was not spoken by the LORD?”—if the prophet speaks in the name of the LORD and the oracle does not come true, that oracle was not spoken by the LORD; the prophet has uttered it presumptuously: do not stand in dread of him. Deuteronomy 18:21, 22
C. Their prophecies must come true.
This is not to say that the prophet is infallible. King David told Nathan the prophet that he wanted to build a temple to the Lord. Nathan said “Go and do it, the Lord is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3). But that night God spoke to Nathan and told him to go back to David and tell him that he would not be the one to build the Temple of God. At first Nathan was not prophesying, he was just giving his personal opinion.
Also, God’s prophecies are conditional upon our reaction to the prophecy. God told Jonah to tell the city of Nineveh that God was going to destroy the city. But the people repented and thus God refrained from doing what He said He would do. God’s prophecies are conditional both ways. If God prophesies blessings and we turn from the conditions of faith, love for Him, and obedience to Him, the prophecy will not come to pass. He will not force His prophesied blessings upon those who truly do not want Him.
10. What if their prophecy does come true but they do not love God?
Even if the sign or portent that he named to you comes true, do not heed the words of that prophet or that dream-diviner. For the LORD your God is testing you to see whether you really love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. Deuteronomy 13:3, 4
D. A prophet or prophetess of God should be a godly person.
Their lives should be in harmony with the Word of God. Again, this is not to say they are infallible, but they should have a heart after God, they should be striving by God’s power to be keeping God’s commandments, and they should believe in the prophesied Messiah.
False prophets might be able to guess or predict with some accuracy. And, as you remember from lesson 9, Satan is the master deceiver. He is very good at being able to foresee what will probably happen. Just as he spoke through a serpent to Eve to deceive her, he can speak through humans to try to deceive us as well.
11. What will the message of a true prophet of God contain?
The LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet [and] every seer, saying: “Turn back from your wicked ways, and observe My commandments and My laws, according to all the Teaching that I commanded your fathers and that I transmitted to you through My servants the prophets.” 2 Kings 17:13
E. True prophets will call us to turn from sin and lead us to obedience.
Notice that the text says that “every prophet” called the people to turn from their wicked ways and to observe God’s commandments and laws. This is a very important test of a prophet in an age when many people are professing to hear messages from God only to tell us who will be the next president, or what direction I should go in my life, or how many kids I am going to have. Yet, the Bible does not say that the gift of prophecy was for predictions, but for leading us to see our sins, which will lead us to the Saviour, which will lead us to obedience to God’s laws. Many professed “voices for God” are doing just the opposite. Some are even going so far as to say God’s laws have been done away. Yet God’s Word remains the same – true prophets lead us away from sin and to obedience through the Messiah.
12. What are some of the different ways God speaks to and through His prophets?
The LORD came down in a pillar of cloud...and He said, “Hear these My words: When a prophet of the LORD arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.” “The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: Herewith I put My words into your mouth.” Numbers 12:6, Jeremiah 1:9
The difference between a dream and a vision is that a vision is like a dream that takes place while the person is still awake. We read in an earlier lesson about Joseph, to whom God spoke in dreams. We will see in an upcoming lesson that God spoke to Daniel in both dreams and visions.
13. What type of person does God use as a prophet and until what time will He continue to have prophets?
I will pour out My spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. I will even pour out My spirit upon male and female slaves in those days. Before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes... Joel 3:1-3
God is no respecter of persons. He can work through young or old, men or women. Upon “all flesh” the text says. God can work through Jewish people and non-Jewish people. The text also says that God will give the Spirit of Prophecy before the second coming of the Messiah. God’s gifts were not just for “Bible times,” but for today as well.
14. To what extent does God hold us accountable to read and obey His prophets?
“Say to them: Thus said the LORD: If you do not obey Me, abiding by the Teaching that I have set before you, heeding the words of My servants the prophets whom I have been sending to you persistently... I will make this city a curse for all the nations of earth.” Jeremiah 26:4, 6
What solemn words for us to consider. If we do not choose to obey, by God’s power, and do not heed the words of the Bible we will fall under the curse of God. This is not a popular message; it is not soothing to our ears at first, but a warning against upcoming danger is more valuable than smooth talk on the road to destruction.
15. To what extent does God hold His prophets accountable?
...the word of the LORD came to me: “O mortal, I appoint you watchman for the House of Israel; andwhen you hear a word from My mouth, you must warn them for Me. If I say to a wicked man, ‘You shall die,’ and you do not warn him—you do not speak to warn the wicked man of his wicked course in order to save his life—he, the wicked man, shall die for his iniquity, but I will require a reckoning for his blood from you. But if you do warn the wicked man, and he does not turn back from his wickedness and his wicked course, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your own life. Ezekiel 3:16-19
Down through the ages prophets and prophetesses have not always been well received or appreciated. Being a spokesperson for God is not always an easy or pleasant position. Yet, if we do not warn others of their need for God then, according to the prophet, their blood will be upon us. Most people do not want to be the bearer of bad news. Who would want to give news of cancer, or of a crime, or of death? How much worse is it to be the one to warn someone of their sins. But God has called us to warn in love, with kindness, and with a true concern for the other person’s best interest. We are not ready to warn others until we truly love them and like Moses are willing to say “if You will forgive their sin (well and good); but if not erase me from the record which You have written!” Exodus 32:11,32
16. What does God think of the false prophets of today who claim to be mediums, diviners, sorcerers, people who cast spells, or who consult ghosts or familiar spirits, or who inquire of the dead, or read crystal balls, palms, cards, horoscopes, and tea leaves, etc.?
Now, should people say to you, “Inquire of the ghosts and familiar spirits that chirp and moan; ...of the dead on behalf of the living—for instruction and message,” surely, for one who speaks thus there shall be no dawn... Distress and darkness, with no daybreak; Straitness and gloom, with no dawn. Isaiah 8:19-22
Let no one be found among you... who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or one who inquires of the dead. For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to the LORD... You must be wholehearted with the LORD your God. You shall not tolerate a sorceress. Deuteronomy 18:10-13; Exodus 22:17
Palm readers, card readers, crystal ball readers, horoscopes, etc. are not from God. They are false prophets.
The three prophets of God, who wrote these above texts, strongly warn us not to listen to instructions or messages from the dead, from ghosts, or even something that would come as a spirit of someone who is familiar to us. This is because “the dead know nothing,” they are at rest, sleeping until the second coming of the Messiah. Any appearance or apparition of a deceased person is a fallen angel impersonating the person. Remember “the dead know nothing... they have no more share till the end of time in all that goes on under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:10, 5, 6
17. How did God describe the Greatest Prophet, the Messiah, to Moses?
I will raise up a prophet for them from among their own people, like yourself: I will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him; and if anybody fails to heed the words he speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account. Deuteronomy 18:18, 19
God raised up for us a Prophet like Moses, and He was even more than a prophet. God put His words in His mouth. He is the Messiah, Immanuel – God with us. We will be held to account if we fail to heed the words of love that He has for us.
18. What do we need to do to escape death and be saved in heaven as a survivor?
But everyone who invokes the name of the LORD shall escape; for there shall be a remnant on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the LORD promised. Anyone who invokes the LORD will be among the survivors. Joel 3:1-4
The door is open to all; the invitation says, “everyone who invokes the name of the Lord shall escape.” Call upon the name of the Lord and He will save you from your sins and mistakes.
By giving us His prophets God continued to show His love for you and me as well as His desire to help us live a life in accordance with His good plan. Many of the prophets risked their lives in writing the Scriptures for us. With these studies we are just scratching the surface of the deep, beautiful treasures of wisdom, hope, and promises of God. Read the entire Word of God and your life will be richly blessed in the process.
A very large portion of the Scriptures are devoted to the life and writings of King David. He is the topic of your next interesting lesson, "King David."
This lesson is adapted from "Jewish Discoveries," by Jeff Zaremsky, to buy the printed book, click here.