A couple of weeks I wrote an article called, K.I.S.S, Keep it Simple Saints: How we complicate hearing God’s voice. In that article, I wrote about something to which God wants me to give more attention. That is the understanding of the various ways that God may choose to manifest His voice. I stated in that article that there are three primary manifestations of God’s voice. They are the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and prophecy. All three of these are distinct ways in which we might experience a word from God. And in this article, I intend to look at each one in detail and show you how you might experience God.
Now, you may be asking yourself why this needs to be addressed and how does it impact me. I am addressing this issue because it is how I have witness saints miss God the most. I have especially seen this in the lives of those who desire to prophesy. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen people miss out on God because they confuse the application of the gift “prophecy” with the overall expression of God speaking called prophesying or a prophetic word. So when God speaks a prophetic word that does not contain an element of foretelling, people somehow think it is not a word from God. But in this article, I am going to help us to look at this subject in detail so that we can see that not all prophetic words are predictive. In fact, I would dare say the opposite is true. I would dare say that most of what God says and most of what we see Him saying in the scriptures is not predictive. That means that we need to learn how to recognize God’s voice to be able to respond to it or in the case of prophesying, release it. Therefore, we are going to look at the idea of a word of knowledge and wisdom given as a prophetic word. Traditionally, we think of these gift as “revelation” gifts or gifts whereby we “receive information. But you’ll soon discover that they are also expressions of God whereby we “give” information.
The Backdrop to a Broader Understanding
Before I launch into redefining the application of these gifts, I think it is important to understand the historical and contextual value of these gifts. That means we have to look at them the way the were first used in the early church. I think it is easy to forget that the early church members did not have a New Testament, nor did they have multiple denominations and choices regarding which church to attend. That being the case, we have to look at these gifts as communication gifts whereby the church was built. Doing so makes a lot of confusing things make sense.
In the early church, these gifts, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, and even tongues and interpretation of tongues were used to provide doctrine and direction. Again, keeping things in context, Paul speaks of learning from these gifts. In 1 Corinthians 14:1 Pauls speaking of how tongues should be used in the church says,
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for[a] he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
Notice that Paul says that we should seek prophecy and tells us that this gift has an impact on the people who hear the prophecy. This is where we get stuck. He also says, and I bolded it to add emphasis, that the same effect can be achieved if we interpret the tongue. That means that when we interpret a tongue it is equal to prophesying. Now, why is that true? What is Paul talking about?
Look at 1 Corinthians 14:6, it reads:
6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?
Notice that Pauls tells us that if we speak in tongues that it is fruitless…unless…we do so by revelation, knowledge, or prophecy or teaching. That means that the use of this gift went way beyond how we see it used today! It was way more than a vague message about God loving us or a new revival. Paul says we can learn from and teach from what we get from a tongue.
How it this possible you may be asking? Again, keeping the times in mind, the tongue was not some mysterious language. It was a known language. We know this because in Acts 2 we see that the Jews who all came together said, “We hear each of us in our own language…” These same people (Jews who had been scattered around the word according to the word of the Lord through the prophets) had lost their language, but not their customs. That is why they were making the yearly trips to Jerusalem for the Passover. So the miracle was that God used the languages of the world, where they were scattered, to speak to them directly. These same people, who claimed fluency in another language, and were now believers, were now in “one” church together. So imagine a church with multiple languages. When someone spoke a message from God they spoke it in their “native” tongue. Therefore, the gift of interpretation was used to assist in the facilitation of communication. So when Paul is speaking of not having an interpreter of the tongue, he is not referring to the gift of interpretation alone. He is speaking in general of not having someone in the Church that can interpret God’s message either naturally or supernaturally.
That all deals with prophecy and speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. But what about word of knowledge and wisdom. Again, keeping things in context. There was no New Testament. There was only the Old Testament or Torah and the books of the Prophets, affectionately called “the scriptures.” But how were they to get the doctrine of grace, salvation by faith, spiritual warfare, and other New Testament concepts? If it did not come by natural learning then it had to come by revelation. Hence words of knowledge and wisdom, or intuitive knowledge and understanding. Today we call it “revelation knowledge.” This is the gift that most people ascribe to me, but revelation knowledge is not a gift. It actually falls into one of the categories of gifts I am writing about. Likewise, Paul speaks of having more revelations, not the only revelation, but more revelations than the other apostles. This is also why Peter makes mention of the church being built upon the holy prophets and apostles. He is not saying that they are the “rock” of the church. Neither is he implying that they are the most important gift in every church. He is speaking of them as the ones to whom God was giving fresh intuitive knowledge and wisdom in the establishing of the church. Does that mean we don’t need these gifts anymore? No! Does it mean that there is an important principle to draw from that we should give consideration to? Yes! These gifts are very much alive today and very much important. I am proof of that!
So when we start defining how these gifts manifest the voice of God we must keep such knowledge in context. Is God still releasing revelation? Yes! Does it add to the canonized scriptures? No! But God is still gathering from what He told the early church planters and building in us new understandings. And for the record, He did the same thing with the early Church fathers. Paul’s revelations are always backed up by scriptures…always! So as we move forward in learning about these gifts I want you to keep in mind what purposes they served in the early church because they still serve the same purpose.
Some of you reading this may be thinking, “Tell my again why do I need to know all of this?” God wants me to broaden your understanding of these gifts so that they can be utilized the way the early church used them. I think it is fair to say this dispensation of the Church can’t hold a candle up to the early Church. They were fewer in number but the Bible says that just two of them, Paul and Silas, turned the world upside down. Most of us can’t turn our family upside down! So when you know how they were used then you will yield to a greater dimension. You will see as you keep reading and I show you some example of the broader application of these gifts. In fact, my wide range of revelatory abilities comes from these understanding given to me by God—through revelation!
Let’s start with prophecy. What is “prophecy”? Prophecy in the (New Testament) original greek means is the word “profiteia”. It means to predict. But the word “prophesy” in the Hebrew (Old Testament) is the word “nabi” and it means to bubble up or bubble forth. And it carried with it the connotation of “inspired utterance.” This means that the person speaking this word was not involved in the creation of it. It is the difference between a sermon or a prophecy. In sermon creation, the preacher finds a subject that he or she feels inspired to preach and matches it to a scripture. Or as with expository preaching, he or she preaches from a select passage of scriptures and interprets that scripture in light of the subject. It is more of a commentary on a passage. Prophecy, however, is different. 2 Peters 1:20-21 says, “…knowing this first that no prophecy of scripture is by private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were “moved” or “inspired” by the Holy Spirit.” This means that they did nothing to come up with this word. It was not done by the force of the will.
We see an example of this in 2 Kings 3:14-15. Elijah is getting ready to prophesy and though he makes the decision to speak for God, he does not do so until he stirs that gift. That means that even though he could partner with God to prophesy anytime he chose, he was still subject to the direction of the Holy Spirit. He could only start when God started and say what God said. Balaam, though a false prophet, is subject to the same spiritual laws. In consulting God to curse Israel he declares to the nation that hired him, “I can only say what He says. He has blessed, I cannot curse.” (see Num. 23:8) What I want you to take from this is the fact that he had to be inspired and what he heard did not come by his own conjuring nor was it under his control. That by definition is what inspired means. It means to be carried about by the wind.
So what does this have to do with our discussion? Prophecy, as defined by the greek translation is predictive but it is not limited to prediction. It is simply an inspired message. That is important to note for those of you who desire to learn how to prophesy. This means that your word to another person may simply be a simple one. The same is true in moments when God speaks to you.
Here is an example of the latter. When I finished my first book, You Can Hear the Voice of God Clearly, I was so excited. But I was even more excited when I got my first great review. I cannot tell you how relieving it is, to know that a person like me who has had issues with reading, to see such positive feedback. And my custom is to share every moment with God…every single one! So I was sharing it with Him and at the time I needed to purchase hard copies of the books. The problem was I didn’t have the money. But that didn’t matter to me at the time. I was just happy about my review. Then all of a sudden I heard God singing, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” It was not just a random thought, but it was an inspired song in my spirit that kept going on and on. I was not in control of this song. Later, that day I received a phone call from a family member out of nowhere. He had called to offer me money to purchase 150 books! He had no knowledge of what I needed. I had only discussed this matter with God earlier that day.
What I want you to see is the unprovoked nature of the thoughts I received. This was a prophetic word that was not predictive, but still, it came to pass. In fact, the predictive element was more inferred. So a prophetic word can be loaded with truth. Prophesying is nothing more than expressing the thoughts and heart of God to others. What results from that is what we call a “prophetic” word (piece of information). So a prophetic word is a piece of inspired information from God.
I’ll give you another example of a simple inspired word. In 2015, I started doing video teaching on my Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/sillyfathead1/playlists). When God initially told me to do this I said, “Lord, I don’t want to be a social media preacher. I’ll be a joke.” But I obeyed Him and the reception to the idea went exceptionally well. So I posted more teachings and sermons as God directed. But I notice that I was not having the same impact as the initial video. So I became discouraged and went to God for encouragement and instructions on how to proceed. Then I heard the Dory song from the movie Finding Nemo. It said, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, that’s what you do…dute-dute-do du.” I took that simple inspired prophetic word from God and kept plugging along. A week later I started running into coworkers who were watching that I never wound have imagined watching me. I also discovered, that my audience was growing and they just were not clicking the like button, but they assured me that they enjoyed my teaching. Again, there was nothing predictive about the word. It was just a simple expression of God’s heart and mind to me.
This will be my last personal example then we will look at some examples in the scriptures. A few weeks ago I watched a movie called “Trolls” with my daughter. In the movie, the characters sang the song, “True Colors”. It goes:
“I see your true colors shining through, I see your true colors and that’s why I love you. So don’t be afraid to let them show. I see your true colors, true colors are beautiful”
A few days later, I started waking up to that song, and it played all day. So I sang it, I listened to it, I just enjoyed it. But with the inspired nature of the song, I also realized that God was using it to say something. That, however, didn’t become apparent until I was sitting in traffic and all of a sudden I started hearing it again. At that point, I listened for the interpretation. This is what I heard.
(paraphrased) Joseph had a coat of many colors and I have put a coat of many colors on you. I have given you many ways to display the prophetic and I am going to cause you to use them and to train others. And now, I am bringing forth another color…prophetic music. And I want you to use it not hide it. I have invested a lot of value into your future.
Later that day, I thought about what He said. I then realized that I did have many ways of expressing the prophetic. I can prophesy by speaking. I can move in prophetic preaching and teaching. I can move in prophetic writing and allow God to give me fresh revelation on the spot. I can express a prophetic word through art. And now, I can freely sing forth a new song just by opening my mouth. It would be approximately 5 days later when it came to pass. I woke up one morning hearing a faint song. I did not know it so I just opened my mouth and sang it. From that, I got the lyrics to the song. Then I started hearing the bassline and where the hits should go. So I grabbed my phone and recorded it all.
Now, if you read my article last week, Unexpected Spiritual Gifting from God, then you know why this is unique. What makes this such a unique word and experience from God is the fact that I could not play nor hear any songs before my conversion. So not only is this new gifting but now God is adding purpose to it and speaking about it. And while this was a more complicated message. It was still, one, inspired and not something I conjured up. It was like walking along when you suddenly get caught in a wind gust and pushed in a certain direction. And two, though received in a more complex way, it was, in the end, a simple message. “I have given you many gifts. And I want you to use them.” Simple!
I think one of the biggest issues is that we feel like we haven’t done anything if we give a short word. I have been guilty of this as well. And some of the training today, though helpful, does not alleviate this kind of stress. They want you to give a word that says, “God said, He love you and wants to give you His best. You feel like you are a loser, but in reality, you are a winner and you need to draw up God for that power.” He says, “Don’t despise small beginning. You are a small beginning but I will make you big.” And this can go on and on and on. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. The books of the prophets give many such examples of lengthy prophetic words. I, also, have given such words. But the scriptures are also full of short and simple prophetic words. My point is this, let God give you what the person needs. They may need many words to be encouraged. On the other hand, they may only need a simple message such as God said, “I love you. And I want you to love you too!”
So how do you know how much to give and when to stop? Remember this principle, “No prophecy came by private interpretation of men. But holy men of God spoke as they were moved.” To put it simply, say what you feel moved to say. If you feel moved to speak for five minutes, then speak for five minutes. If you feel moved to speak just three words then speak just three words. The question to answer is, how do you feel moved to speak. I use the principle of pouring out. I generally stop when I feel I have nothing left to pour. For me, that means I have no more thoughts from God on the issue. And that works for me whether prophesying to a person, writing a book or blog, singing a new song, playing a new song, preaching and teaching, or creating art. I just go with the flow. Again, it really is like being caught in a wind gust for a second. Now imagine that happening with every person receiving ministry. Again, I just go with the flow. I will feel compelled to speak to a person and I do so until I no longer feel compelled, then I move on to the next person and do the same.
I have shown you how this works in my personal life and ministry, now I want to look at the simplicity of speaking a simple inspired message from the Bible. Here is a classic example of simple prophecy. This one will shock you. One of the most legendary prophets of all time was Moses. He gave such serious prophetic words that many of them still carry weight today. Nonetheless, his most famous prophetic word was simple. Remember when God sent him into Pharoah. God told Moses I want you to go into Pharoh and tell him to…watch this…LET MY PEOPLE GO! I can imagine him saying, “What else do you want me to tell him?” That’s the way most of us would have handled that moment. Some of us, including myself, would have assumed this was the starter word and the rest would flow once I released the first one. But nope! All he got from God was, “Let My people go!” See. Simple. But I will say that with each opportunity, God trusted Moses with more weighty prophetic words…words that were predictive. But his first and most significant word from God was, “Let my people go.” I could go on and on with many examples of this idea, but this is a blog, not a book so I going to stop with this example and move on to the next way we might experience God’s voice.
In part two of this article, we will look at the gifts of word of knowledge and word of wisdom. We will look at them as they are used as a revelation from God to a person about someone or something. And we will look as them as gifts whereby the information received in meant to inform the recipient.