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Sabbath School Lessons on The Prophetic Gift
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 9: The Integrity of the Prophetic Gift *
Introduction: After last week's study ended with one prophet being
eaten by a lion because the other prophet lied, you may wonder why we
are studying the integrity of the prophetic gift. Can true prophets
lie, cheat and steal? What do you remember about the Old Testament
patriarchs: did they lie, cheat and steal? Obviously, the patriarchs
were not perfect. Are prophets to do better? If the prophets don't do
better, should we strike them off our "true prophet" list? Let's
jump into our study and see what the Bible says about the integrity
of the prophets!
- Another Source?
- Read Jeremiah 42:1-3. What are the people asking of
Jeremiah? (The survivors of the war with Babylon want
Jeremiah to go to God and find out what they should do and
where they should go.)
- Read Jeremiah 42:4-5. What does Jeremiah promise to do and
what do the people promise in return? (Jeremiah promises
to tell them everything God tells him (the whole truth)
and they promise to obey what God says.)
- Read Jeremiah 42:7-11. What instruction does God give to
Jeremiah? (The people should stay where they are and God
will protect them from the Babylonians.)
- Read Jeremiah 42:19-21. How did the people make a "fatal
mistake" when they asked Jeremiah to inquire of God? Isn't
this a life or death situation? (Jeremiah believes the
people did not really want to hear what God had to say.
Apparently, their hearts were set on fleeing to Egypt.)
- Read Jeremiah 43:1-3. What did the "arrogant men" accuse
Jeremiah of doing? (Not telling the truth.)
- Who is this Baruch, and why should they think
Jeremiah would be inclined to lie about his source of
information? (Read Jeremiah 36:4-6. Baruch was
Jeremiah's young helper. He wrote down what Jeremiah
dictated and he sometimes publicly read the messages
- Our lesson is about the integrity of the
prophetic gift, but should we be just as
concerned about the integrity of the consumers
of the prophet gift?
- Is there any sense to the charges made against
Jeremiah? (The people who do not want to follow God's
instructions are charging that the young man is
influencing Jeremiah and the words are not really
- Read Jeremiah 23:30-32. According to these verses, is it
wrong for a prophet to copy the words of someone else?
- Is the problem taking the words from other people or
is it attributing the words of someone else to God?
(If you look at the entire statement, the problem is
not so much the source (did the prophet steal?) as
the false attribution (this came from God, not
somewhere else). This is the problem Jeremiah faced
when the people accused him of being influenced by
- Assume in modern days someone claims to be a prophet and
you find that prophet has copied from the writings of
others. Would that be a problem?
- We read this a couple of weeks ago, but let's look
again at Luke 1:1-3. Luke tells us that he is using
other human sources. Is that a problem? (No. He
discloses his source.)
- The United States has had copyright laws since 1790,
and England had them (the Statue of Anne) before
that. Assume Luke were limited by one of these
copyright laws, could he do what he did?
- Does the question I just asked miss the real
issue? (Yes. The readers of Luke and Jeremiah's
listeners were not worried about property
rights, they were worried about truth. Is all-knowing God speaking? Or, is that Babylonian-loving Baruch speaking?)
- Last week, did the young prophet care whether
the old prophet made up his lies or got them
from his own sons? (No! The issue that got him
killed was whether they were from God.)
- In Jeremiah 23:30, did God care if the false
prophets stole each others words, or did He care
whether they attributed false words to Him?
(Again, the attribution is the problem.)
- Let's get back to the original question: What should you
do if a prophet copied extensively from other sources, or
you thought the prophet might have copied extensively from
other sources? (Although it is not helpful to think your
prophet is a thief (for example, 2 Samuel 12:1-9) the real
issue is the constant issue we face with prophets - is
this message from God? That gets us back to the old test:
does this person accept Jesus as God and lead followers to
a life in accord with the Bible?)
- Let's go back to Jeremiah, the arrogant men and Baruch. If
you could be transported back in time to hear this debate,
and you did not know any of the parties, would you have
any clue as to who was giving God's message? (Yes. The
message of Jeremiah was to trust in God for protection.
The message of the arrogant men was to trust in Egypt for
- Did the young prophet of last week have any clues
about the old prophet lying? (Yes. He was being asked
to trust the integrity of the old prophet as opposed
to what he knew personally from God.)
- Oops, Wrong Message!
- Read 2 Samuel 7:1-3. What do you think King David has in
- Why didn't he have that in mind before he built his
- How would you understand the words of Nathan? (God is
leading David, so David should do what he thinks best
about improving the ark's circumstances.)
- Read 2 Samuel 7:4-7. What tone of voice do you think God
is using? God makes this personal, as if He were
personally living in a tent. Is God unhappy about His
- What does this tell us about David building his
palace before he built a temple?
- Read 2 Samuel 7:12-13. What does this teach us about
trusting the word of Nathan? What does it teach us about
prophetic integrity? (Nathan changes his opinion about who
should build the temple. Not everything a prophet says is
inspired by God. Unless the prophet says the message is
from God, we should not assume it is from God.)
- Oops, Wrong Impulse!
- Read 1 Samuel 16:1. What mission has been given to Samuel?
(To anoint the next king of Israel. The next king would
be one of Jesse's sons.)
- Read 1 Samuel 16:5-6. Who did Samuel think would be the
next king? (Jesse's oldest son, Eliab.)
- Read 1 Samuel 16:7. What does this teach us about the
natural impulses of a prophet? (That they are like those
of other people.)
- What lesson do we learn about the integrity of
prophets from this story? (We need to be sure that
the prophet does not confuse his impulses with God's
message. The natural inclination of a prophet may be
just as "human" as the next person.)
- Oops, Look Again
- Read Daniel 8:27. What do we do when a prophet does
not understand the vision? (If the prophet is not
certain what the message from God means, the prophet
should, like Daniel, declare that.)
- Read 1 Peter 1:10-12. What does this suggest about
the clarity of God's messages to His prophets? (God
does not explain all spiritual matters to a prophet.
The prophet is to give God's message, but there may
be things beyond God's message that the prophet has
to research from the Bible.)
- We have seen that prophets can give wrong advice, have the
wrong impulses, not understand God's message, or be
unclear about spiritual matters surrounding the message.
The question for us is whether the prophet's message is
from God. How should we react if a prophet says, "This is
what God declares" and then says something that is wrong?
(Read again Jeremiah 23:31. If a prophet says a statement
is from God, and the statement really reflects the
prophet's own views or impulses, then God is "against"
that person. If the prophet is not clear on the source of
the message, the prophet should say that.)
- Friend, prophets are like other followers of God, they do
not always have the right impulses, and they do not always
have the best advice. However, when they say they are
speaking for God, they had better be leading people
towards God and be right. To be safe, test for this
- Next week: The Messages of the Prophets.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.