True and False Prophets

Posted: November 3, 2013 in Theology

“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.”  (Jeremiah 23:21-22 ESV)

1.) True prophecy begins with God speaking. God speaks, then we speak. So many times we read in Jeremiah “the word of the Lord came to me saying…” The false prophets ran without a call, and spoke without first hearing God.

2.) True prophecy turns people from evil toward God’s will. God’s will is the purpose behind God’s Word.

Surprisingly, Jeremiah 23 implies that these false prophets could have repented and brought forth a pure word of the Lord “if they had stood in my council,” or to say it plain English, if they had been sincere and surrendered in the secret place of communion with the Almighty. Their “secret place” was their own desires. This passage contains a beautiful truth about intimacy with God. The place where we learn God’s heart is the secret place where we pray to our Father who sees in secret (Matt 6:6). If in public you proclaim what was whispered in your ear in secret, that’s a recipe for bringing the word of the Lord (Matt 10:24).

False Prophets: The picture we get in Scripture of the false prophets is that they only ever say lovely things that leave people on their own path of self-destruction instead of moving people onto the path of doing God’s will. False prophets “dress the wound of God’s people lightly, saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace (Jeremiah 8:11).” They do it in order to be liked. They speak to get the applause. They “prophesy” for the amen. They don’t really love people. They need people to feel validated. They harbor an unhealthy need to be viewed as important, so they tickle itching ears. Not so the Lord’s prophets!

True Prophets: True prophets don’t care whether or not they are liked…or at least, they don’t care enough to back down from the word of the Lord. They care about what the Lord is saying, and what the Lord is feeling. Prophets have to be this way, or they would never last. Hard-headedness and stubbornness are job essentials in order to be faithful to the prophetic calling. Truth does not always receive a warm welcome in a world that loves darkness because it’s deeds are evil (John 3:19). It doesn’t even always receive a warm welcome in the church, otherwise Paul wouldn’t have to remind the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit and not to treat prophecies with contempt.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”  (Luke 6:22, 23, 26 ESV)

False prophets are the useless cheerleaders of the establishment, and they don’t turn people away from evil. True prophets are often hated because they speak the truth without the self-serving motives of favoritism.

John the Baptist was ultimately beheaded because he had the courage to rebuke Herod for adultery.


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