It is important to remember that we are always learning. We have never arrived.

We may get a word wrong for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes a word does not seem to bear fruit. I won’t get into all the reasons why this is so.

We’re not perfect. The emphasis in the Old Testament was to make sure the word came about. How else would they know whether the person was a true prophet?

In the New Testament we all have the Holy Spirit. We also have discernment to judge whether a word resonates. Everyone prophesies, or at least, is encouraged to do so by Paul.

When we think we no longer have something to learn, we become arrogant. We might be more seasoned than someone who is just beginning, but by no means does that indicate that we’re experts.

Even in the Bible we see that there wasn’t perfect agreement on a prophetic word. Agabus prophesied by means of a prophetic act that Paul would be bound by the Jews and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. The people present interpreted this as a warning and urged Paul not to go. Paul disagreed with the application of the word and was determined to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14)

Prophetic words can be confusing in many ways. We hear or see one thing. The interpretation and application need further guidance from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit gives it explicitly. At other times we are left to our own devices.

Motivation, desires, unmet needs, hidden agendas, and a multitude of other factors can influence our interpretation and application.

The people present with Paul cared for his well-being and thus saw the prophetic word from Agabus as a God-given sign to prevent him from going to Jerusalem and being imprisoned. Their love and concern clouded what God had intended for Paul, at least in Paul’s opinion.

A word that takes years to come about might seem wrong in the short term. We might apologize for it only to find out later that we got it right after all.

More often we find that God has a different way of bringing the word about than we had imagined. The Jews wanted to make Jesus an earthly king because their expectation of a Messiah was a return of Israel to the greatness of the kingdom under king David. “Let’s get rid of these Roman rulers and have another king like David,” was their thinking.

How then do we maintain our humility? By holding things loosely. We prophesy what we know:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 1 Corinthians 13:10.

By Ralph Veenstra