How were prophets different from fortune tellers?

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In Matthew's gospel, in chapter 1 and 2, we have an opportunity to kind of see the difference between biblical prophecy and how it functions and fortune-telling. What we have in chapter 2 is the story of the magi. And the magi see these wonders in the heavens. And they also probably were scholars who studied ancient texts of different civilizations, and they would compare what would happen in the heavens and what the texts foretold. And that was really about predicting the future, predicting the future greatness of a king, or the importance of the birth of someone because of this phenomenon in the heavens. What we see is that King Herod asks for his advisors to search the Scriptures and tell him where the Messiah was to be born, and the quotation is taken from Micah 5 that the Messiah would be born in the city of Bethlehem. And what's interesting there is that we can see the difference between prediction and promise. Biblical prophecy is really nested in the promises of God. Yes, there are some predictions about what will happen in the future, but they're really based on these commitments that God has made to a particular covenant people. Bethlehem is the City of David, and Micah 5, yes, it's about a future event where the Messiah will come, but it's really rooted in this bigger promise that God has made to David's family and that out of the City of David the Messiah will be born.

Answer by Dr. Gregory R. Perry

Dr. Gregory R. Perry is President of Thirdmill Seminary and Vice President for Strategic Projects at Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Associate Professor of New Testament and the Director of City Ministry Initiative at Covenant Theological Seminary 2003-2017.