The prophetic office has many functions, including calling for repentance, offering guidance, correcting and rebuking, and warning of impending judgment, to name just a few. But in today’s prophetic milieu one of the few functions used consistently is personal prophecy, which is the least of all prophetic functions. Why has God not granted a more varied array? There are too many reasons to enumerate in this short article. I will elaborate on just two.
First, with weightier prophetic words comes weightier responsibility - and weightier personal consequences for the one who prophesies. He who gives warnings or corrections risks danger to his own soul. Look at the weight that God laid on the prophet Ezekiel. In Chapter 3, verse 18, God said to him: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” Think of it; Ezekiel would be held accountable for that man’s spiritual death! As if that’s not heavy enough, imagine that the Lord commissions you to speak to a nation, and you are held accountable for that nation’s downfall for neglecting to speak out!
God goes on to say, “But if you do warn a wicked man and he doesn’t turn from his wicked ways, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself” (v. 19). “Saved yourself” - how impacting are those words! They imply a load few are mature enough to bear. Today, so many prophetically gifted people are yearning for God to increase their gift. But have they truly counted the cost?
Second, Just as people expect us to be confidential about their secrets, so does God. Verses 26-27 say: “I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth.” We need to know when to share and when not to share what God has confided in us.
Genesis 9 reveals just how important to God is this issue of confidentiality. After the great flood, Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. Ham saw his father’s nakedness and went and told his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who laid a garment across their shoulders, walked into the tent backward, and covered their father. When Noah awakened and found out what Ham had done, he said: “Cursed be Canaan. The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (v. 25).
Why such a severe penalty? Wasn’t Ham just being helpful? He alerted his brothers, who covered their father. Did he really deserve this terrible curse that went on to afflict so many future generations? The fact is, Ham was not being helpful at all. His brothers dared not look on their father’ nakedness, but Ham dared to expose him to others. Essentially, what he did was gossip. He could have covered his father. Instead, he made sure his brothers knew all about his father’s shortcomings.
In God’s eyes gossip was a sign of a heart so hard that it could be softened only by lowering Ham to a place of servitude. Apparently, even that hard of a lesson was lost on Ham’s descendants, including the Canaanites who sacrificed their children to the gods Baal and Molech and were subjugated to Israel, and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 10:19) who were destroyed for their sin. Noah’s curse may sound cruel, but it was actually a severe kindness - indeed, a blessing - for it was meant to give Ham and his descendants a chance to avoid the crueler fate of spiritual death.
No one is immune to needing such a “blessing.” I have been around Elijah House since its inception. Over the years I have seen it lose some prominence in the inner healing and prophetic movements. There are several reasons for this, and I won’t expound upon them all here. But I will confess that one of them was gossip. (Rest assured; what clients shared in confidence was never gossiped about; that was always kept sacred.) For a season God had to lower us and let other ministries become more prominent, to teach us the kind of humility that would provide a cure for our illness. Blessedly, the gossip was stopped years ago, and with God’s grace we continue to develop a culture of honor. I believe that this is one of the reasons we have sensed that God is going to renew our place of prominence.
I share this confession for three reasons. First, only radical humility will enable us to sustain the cure we have found for one of the most malignant of all spiritual illnesses. Second, we want you all to hold us accountable. Let it never again be said that Elijah House is a source of anything but the most loving of words. Third, I want to stress - for your sake as well as ours - how urgent is the issue of confidentiality with God, especially for this time in history. If He is going to increase our prophetic gift and bring us into more functions of the prophetic office, He must be able to trust us with people’s darkest secrets. How can God trust us with His confidences if we have not been confidential with our neighbors?
This burden of confidentiality is especially hard to carry when we feel the repulsion of others’ sins, as did righteous Lot whose heart was vexed over the depravity of his day (2 Peter 2:7). When God confides in us that someone is having an adulterous affair and we feel oppressed by the nauseous weight of that evil, how tempting it will be to unload that burden on our chatty friends! Through prophetic empathy we will feel the sting of the adulterer’s shame as if it is our own. How tempting it will be to process those overwhelming feelings with friends who care about us but have little compunction about exposing the adulterous one to yet more shame through the grapevine of public disgrace.
We will have to be attuned to God’s timing for delivering heavy words, and we must be willing to keep God’s confidences until then. There will be times when, like Ezekiel, God will make our tongues cleave to the roof of our mouths, and for seasons we may have to carry certain burdens alone. At no other time will it be more tempting to break a confidence and “process our feelings” with friends, at the expense of those whose burdens God has given us to carry in prayer. We must learn to wait until God informs us that prayer has prepared their hearts to hear the hard word, and He bids us to speak it to them.
St. Paul urged us to “eagerly desire the higher gifts.” But may God grant us such a level of humility that our hearts are free from any need to aggrandize ourselves through those gifts. For without that virtue, we will not withstand the trials of confidentiality that are to come.
Lord, grant us the humility to desire such gifts only as an expression of Your love, and for no other fleshly purpose. And grant us the grace to wait on You for the timing of sharing the difficult but loving Words you so graciously give.
...Until then, our lips are sealed!
For more information about Elijah House USA and International Elijah Houses visit their website: elijahhouse.org