Prophecy is not just about predicting the future - the role of a prophet as found in the Bible shows us that there was a lot more to it than this.  A prophet spoke the words of God:
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

The key thing to note here is that they did not speak their own words but God's words. In some cases they found they were unable to not speak:

Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. (Jeremiah 20:9)

The prophet was usually used by God as a means of communicating with His chosen people, the Children of Israel.  Throughout the history of Israel, God sent many prophets to warn them that their way of living was not in keeping with His commandments.  Sometimes God would send prophets to other nations, usually for the same reason:

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. (Jonah 1:1,2)

It is interesting to note just how many times the phrases "the word of the LORD" or "thus saith the LORD" appear in the Bible - again further proof of how God spoke through the prophets.  The message of a prophet was not always well received and the prophet would often suffer as a result of the message he had to deliver:

Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. (Jeremiah 38:6)

The people obviously felt uncomfortable as a result of the words that the prophets spoke.  It is sad that they preferred to listen to their own ideas and do things their own way, rather than following God's ways.  They even went as far as asking the prophets to say things to them that would not prick their consciences:

That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:  Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: (Isaiah 30:9,10)

This is a sad reflection on the state of God's people at this time - but we too must be careful not to fall into a similar trap and to read only the sections of the Bible that we like.  The whole Bible is relevant to us today.

But how were the Israelites to know the difference between a real prophet, sent by God, and a false prophet?  The Bible itself explains:

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20,21)

The Bible contains many, many prophecies of which some are easier to understand than others. Sometimes the Bible will explain the meaning of a prophecy, which gives us clues as to how to understand the prophecies that are not explained.  With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to look back and see how a great many of the things prophesied in the Bible have of course come true.
Let us consider a few examples of prophecy.  The first is the prophecy that Jesus would one day be born.  There are many prophecies relating to this event but we will look at the time when Nathan the prophet spoke to David, king of Israel:

12  And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after  thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14  I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: (2 Samuel 7)

God is saying here that He would be this person's Father (v14), that he would be of the seed of David (v12) and that his Kingdom will be established for ever (v12,13).  This prophecy was partly fulfilled over 1000 years later when Jesus was born - the establishment of the kingdom which will last for ever has yet to take place, but more about that later.

Another example to consider is that of God's people.  If they chose to worship Him then He would bless them and make them prosperous; if they did the opposite, then life would become very difficult for them for they would be cursed. In other words they had a choice, they could serve God and do well, or disobey Him and suffer the consequences. History itself bears witness to the path they chose.  The following is a brief summary of what has happened to the Jews in recent history:

They have been scattered among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there they have served other gods, which their fathers had not known.  Amongst these nations they found no ease, neither has the sole of their foot had rest: they have had a trembling heart, a failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: their lives have hung in doubt.  They feared day and night, and had no assurance of their lives.  In the morning they said: "Would God it were even!" and at even they said, "Would God it were morning!" because of the fear in their hearts wherewith they have feared, and for the sight of their eyes, the things they have seen.

Yet these words, whilst an accurate summary, were actually written in their original form thousands of years ago:

64  And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
65  And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the
LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:
66  And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none
assurance of thy life:
67  In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (Deuteronomy 28)

From this it can be seen just how accurate God's word is.  In light of the fact that all prophecy spoken by God is true, we should take heed of the fact that there is a very important prophecy still waiting to be fulfilled - and that is the prophecy of Christ's second coming when he will establish the kingdom of God:

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10,11)

As you read the Bible it becomes apparent that God has a plan and purpose with this earth and the people that are on it.  If we read the Bible and try to lead our lives in a way that is pleasing to God by doing what He has commanded then we can have the hope of being part of His plan. 

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