How Shall We Know the Word?

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the Word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22 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.

The question is; “How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?” The answer given is: “If the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken.” So if what a prophet (pastor, evangelist, etc.) speaks does not come to pass, he did not speak a word from God. However, the test is not quite that simple. The majority of the prophecies spoken by the prophets did not come to pass during their lifetime, or during the lifetime of those who heard. Many of the prophecies still haven’t come to pass. Very few of the words spoken were to have an immediate fulfillment. Most of them centered around a future manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

We must understand that the most important fulfillments of the Word take place spiritually within us, not in circumstances on the natural plane. For example, Isaiah 11:6 says, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” Generally speaking, Christians are only looking for that Word to come to pass on the natural realm, so they are expecting it to take place in the future during the Millennium. And we have to admit it would be great to have such peace on the earth that even the inborn enmity between animals, such as the wolf and the lamb, is completely eliminated – no more of one preying upon another.

It would be more important, though, for that Word to come to pass within us on a spiritual plane. Human nature has a wolf-likeness. At the same time the Spirit of God is working to bring forth the Lamb-nature of the Lord within us. The wolf-nature is the lust of the flesh Paul speaks of in his epistle to the Galatians. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh (wolf) lusteth against the Spirit (Lamb), and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Galatians 5:16-17. Now to have the wolf of your old nature conquered by the Lord Jesus Christ, so that you could walk with God without that inner enmity would be greater than a natural fulfillment. And you don’t have to wait for the Millennium. This doesn’t negate a literal fulfillment for the future. It just means that we can experience a spiritual fulfillment now. And those who only see a literal fulfillment miss a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

There is a difference in a thing coming to pass and a Word coming to pass. The terminology “a thing” indicates a fulfillment of an event on a natural plane, something that is visible. A Word, on the other hand, has a fulfillment on a spiritual plane. And a spiritual manifestation is usually not perceived by the natural senses, but it is spiritually discerned. An example would be the wolf-lamb experience in the previous paragraph.

It is interesting to note that the words “Word” in verse 21 and “thing” in verse 22 of Deuteronomy 18 are the same in the original. Both are translated from the Hebrew word dabar. So verse 22 should read “…if the Word follow not, nor come to pass, that is the Word which the Lord hath not spoken…” The correct translation of the word dabar leans more toward a spiritual interpretation of the text.

We also recognize that in the Old Testament the natural realm was predominant. David’s foe Goliath was a real giant. When Israel went into the land of Canaan they literally fought the Canaanites. But when we get to the New Testament we read: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The spiritual is of much more concern to us than the natural.

While every Word, promise, or prophecy may have a literal fulfillment in the future, there is also a spiritual fulfillment in the present. God is eternal, and His Word is eternal. So there must always be a present, spiritual fulfillment of His Word. This means that if we are going to know whether a Word is spoken by the Lord or not, we must be able to tune-in and discern the spiritual fulfillment. If a Word is coming to pass on the spiritual realm, it is a Word from God. If there is no spiritual fulfillment, then it is not from God. It was spoken presumptuously.

Jesus said: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). His words are life, Divine life. They are spirit. That means they contain much more than concepts conveyed by the language used. It also means that we will need spiritual discernment to understand what God is saying. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:14.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1. What God speaks is Himself. He is the Word! Language is only the conveyance. The words used are the carriers of the divine nature. Like a freight train they are loaded with cargo, and the cargo is God. The Word, then, is God’s way of transferring Himself to us. But if we are interpreting the Word intellectually, we are missing God.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature. II Peter 1:4. Most preachers don’t teach this, but it is true. The main purpose of the Word is not to formulate doctrines. The main purpose of the Word is to transfer God to us, making us partakers of His divine nature. If we are hearing a Word from God (a living Word), then His nature is being transferred to us. We are changing. If it is not from God, then spiritual growth does not take place.

Our text says that “when a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing (Word) follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing (word) which the Lord hath not spoken…” So the test of a true Word from God is not necessarily whether there is a literal fulfillment or not, but is there an impartation of God in it. And that can only be determined by Christians who are spiritual enough to discern the presence of the Lord, or the absence of His presence, in the Word spoken.

Copyright © 1995 by Henry DuBose

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