So, after finishing my actual paper on Numbers, as I was reading on Joshua (part of this week’s assignments – we have 4 chapters to read in textbook and 5 books in the Bible), my mind is contemplating this paragraph from my paper:
In Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad formulated a complaint about the law of inheritance “as a legitimate constructive question, not as a slanderous declaration.” (Hendel, Russell Jay. “Numbers: the lawbook on speech morality.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 2 (April 2011): 74-82, p. 80-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2016).) Their respect for the law and request for clarification brought favor from God and resulted in a change of the law, as well as providing instruction to the Israelites on speaking without slandering, maligning or gossiping. (Ibid.)
There are so many things here, and because my mind is jumping all over the place, I’m just going to write and this is going to be jumbled. Fair warning. 🙂
First, the matter of prophets. The daughters of Zelophehad went to the prophet (Moses), who took their case to the Lord, and returned with the modified inheritance laws, granting the petition of the girls. There are prophets throughout the OT. We have a minimum of two prophets in the NT, John the Baptist and John the Seer (different from John the Apostle, son of Zebedee). According to the OT, seers and prophets were the same thing.
In Numbers 12, when Miriam and Aaron were jealous that God spoke to Moses but not to them, although they were also considered prophets, God called them up and spoke directly to them stating:
6 And He said, “Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house. 8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold. Why then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”
So, at that point, God did speak directly to Aaron and Miriam, as an attitude adjustment it seems. Prior that, God spoke directly to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Noah. There’s one instance stating that He spoke to various people in the OT, including David and Elijah. But for the most part, “speaking” was done either through intermediaries (angels) or dreams and visions. So I would assume that each of the OT prophets would pray about whatever a particular problem was – if asked, i.e., Micaiah, and then dream about or receive a vision of the answer, not actually conversing directly with the Lord.
In the NT, we “hear” God speaking through Christ, and also God spoke where three of the apostles could hear (at the Transfiguration). And through baptism:
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit thereby: 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But all of these that one and the selfsame Spirit worketh, apportioning to every man individually as He will. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
So through baptism, some people still receive the gift of prophecy. And there are also times when individuals speak with the voice of the Holy Spirit, or inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We’ve seen examples in history of people who were considered prophets or seers (Hildegard von Bingen comes to mind immediately – she actually advised 4 popes). We’ve seen examples of people who had dreams or heard the voices of angels telling them things that needed to be done (Joan of Arc comes to mind). So still up through the 15th century, we had people actually listening to prophecy.
These days, though, and part of this I would guess to be because of false prophets, if you hear voices, they’re going to put you on medications and/or lock you up. If you tell a prophecy, you’re either considered clairvoyant or nuts. I’m not sure the vocation of psychology has necessarily done a whole lot of good for the prophetic word.
But let’s go back to the daughters of Zelophehad. They wanted to petition the Lord regarding existing laws. So, the Pope’s word is considered infallible only when it’s concerning an issue of doctrine regarding faith or morals and is with regard to the entirety of the church (not individuals). That’s considered an apostolic authority, but it’s not a matter of God speaking to the Pope directly or through visions. It’s not considered a prophetic ability, but rather an authoritative one. However, Popes can consult with prophets or seers (i.e., Hildegard). So, there would be an indirect line to God.
Hildegard, however was back in the 12th century (she was also a renowned herbalist – hence, why I know about her). I don’t know of any modern-day consultations going on. How many people receive visions or dreams, or hear what they believe to be an extra-sensory source, and don’t say anything, for fear of being considered insane?
I guess all this boils down to – where are today’s prophets? Is prophecy and the Holy Spirit speaking through you two different things? Is there a way to speak with God, to respectfully ask for clarification on any of His laws, and get an answer that’s clear and not tainted with the individual’s opinions and beliefs? And are people humble enough to listen anymore – particularly if the answer is not what they want to hear?