“For thus the Lord said to me, ‘Go, get a watchman; let him announce what he sees'” (Isaiah 21.6 ESV).
A watchman stood on the highest tower built onto the fortified wall surrounding the city. Day and night, he would stay attentive to his surroundings, looking for the coming presence of friend or foe. When he saw movement in the distance, he would report it to the city’s authorities, warning the town of what was to come. Today, we call a spiritual watchman, a prophet. A prophet is a woman or man who attentively waits at the foot of God’s throne, looking and listening for the movement of God and proclaiming His words. Although everyone is gifted with prophecy in some capacity in their lives, God does anoint a portion of His people with the gift of prophecy. Like any spiritual gift (teaching, edifying, shepherding, helps, etc.), this gift can be used incorrectly and actually lead people away from God instead of toward Him. First, a prophet must only speak the words of God, so his/her words should never contradict the Bible (Jeremiah 23.30 & 2 Peter 1.21). Second, the prophet must use his/her gift for the edifying of the local and global church in love, which means the prophet needs to be under authority at a Christ-centered church (Romans 13.1 & 1 Corinthians 13.2). Third, the prophet usually does not translate the information into action for the people–he/she merely reports what has been heard from God. God uses the other spiritual gifted people to use the information in decisive plans: Ezra, the prophet and Nehemiah, the leader, worked together building the wall. God gives each of us a portion of His divine revelation that works in relation to the portion given to others in the Body of Christ (Corinthians 12).
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4.1 NIV).