You know, a lot of today’s prophets seem to behave a lot more like the false prophets of old than like the prophets of the Lord…
In olden times, the prophets of the Lord told of famine (Acts 11:27-28), bondage (Acts 21:10-11), coming judgment (Ezekiel 3:17-21), /not/ succeeding in battle (1 Kings 22:14-28), punishing fire (Amos 1:1-2:8), etc.
But today some of the latest prophets teach others that if they want to prophesy they should only speak ‘positive’ and ‘encouraging’ words.
Yet, if we take a brief moment to look at the false prophets of old, this was exactly their practice!
The false prophets of old spoke of victory in battle (unanimously, I might add; all 400 of them in 1 Kings 22:6), peace (when there was none; Jeremiah 6:13-14), /safety/ from sword and famine (Jeremiah 14:13-16), etc.
With all of these positive words from the false prophets, Jesus told us that these false prophets were very well-liked people:
“Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 2:26).
The true prophets of the Lord, however, were very un-liked (read, “hated”) people (1 Kings 22:8), being thrown in prison (Mark 6:17-18) and threatened with death (Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-2).
Yet not only are the topics different between the true prophets of old and many modern prophets, but so is the prophetic “success rate.”
Today’s prophets are encouraged to make mistakes while they are learning to prophesy, but in olden times the Lord said:
“The prophet, who shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall /die/.
“And if you say in your heart, /How shall we know/ the word which the LORD has not spoken?
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing follows not, /nor comes to pass/, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.”
(Deuteronomy 18:20-22a, KJV2000, emphasis mine)
So for the true prophets of the Lord in olden times, they did not make mistakes (1 Samuel 3:19, 1 Kings 22:28, 1 Samuel 15:28-29, Isaiah 55:11)! If any prophet did make a mistake – if any of their words did not come true – they were supposed to be put to death for speaking things which the Lord had not spoken (Deuteronomy 18:22)!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to “presume to speak” words which the Lord has not spoken…
As I wrap up, I’d just like to give one additional warning: /Even if/ a prophet’s word comes true, that doesn’t guarantee they’re from God. We read in Deuteronomy 13:
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,
“And the sign or wonder /comes to pass/, of which he spoke unto you, and he says, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them;
“You shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
“And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he has spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God”
(Deuteronomy 13:1-3,5a, KJV2000, emphasis mine)
So, friends, let’s be careful in uttering words on the Lord’s behalf. God does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:16-17), so if we speak on His behalf, we best make sure it is His firm and unchanging word we are speaking, lest we find ourselves also among the false prophets.
One of the things that really disturbs me, due to its subtlety in subverting the word of God, is when people reason their theology due to their own logic instead of seeing what God actually says about a matter.
It can be all-too-easy to say that some doctrine “must be” because of some logical excuse, when really God has said nothing to that effect in His Word. Oftentimes, this logic is /based on/ God’s Word, but it is taken out of context or extrapolated beyond what God has actually said (Matthew 4:6).
Jesus Himself had to rebuke His own disciple Peter for using human logic instead of taking Him at His Word… It happened just after Jesus announced to His disciples that He was going to die. Upon hearing Jesus say this, Peter rebuked Jesus and said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matt 16:22)
But what was Jesus’ reply?
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt 16:23)
Do you see it? Peter was thinking with human logic, reasoning about what “must” or “mustn’t” be, according to what he thought seemed right (Proverbs 14:12). But in so doing, He stopped listening to what Jesus /actually/ said. He stopped taking God at His Word.
And that’s exactly what we do today. Sometimes we don’t like the plain reading of Scripture because it goes against our preconceived notions; against what we’ve always been taught; against our human logic… (1 Corinthians 1:19-20)
But I think we would be all-the-better off if we would stop and remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts (and logic) are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
It is in coming to that place in our minds that we can finally stop trying to reason our way into getting the Bible conformed to our own whims and wishes (2 Timothy 4:3-4) and instead simply read the Bible and take God at His Word.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
It’s a good thing! But, I want to caution you to be careful with this word. I feel like all too often these words are taken out of context, as if to mean that God has so much mercy toward people that He won’t judge them.
But the quote, with the context, reads rather differently:
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:12-13
Read this way, we see that God’s mercy is conditional – God is not merely a softie who loves to love everyone (even though He is greatly loving and desires to show His mercy toward us), but rather God is also a just God and will judge those without mercy who themselves don’t show mercy to others.
This becomes very clear in Jesus’ own teaching. For example, you can read the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-35). This parable ends by saying:
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you asked me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
“In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
(Then, chillingly, it reads as follows…)
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” – Matthew 18:32-35
Do you see it? God, as represented by the “master” in the parable, doesn’t just forgive, show mercy, and withhold judgment no matter what. Instead, He requires His servants to show mercy to others.
So yes, it is amazingly wonderful that God is good enough and patient enough to forgive us and show us compassion and mercy when we humbly repent and turn to Him (Exodus 34:6-7).
But that also doesn’t mean we can simply be slack in our holiness and inconsiderate toward others, doing whatever ill we want towards our fellow man (Romans 6:1-2).
In sum, I think it would be very fitting for us to have the same perspective as Jesus when He spoke these words in the Beautitudes:
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.”
– Matthew 5:7
It seems, in my perception, that far too many people in the church today are content with knowing Jesus merely on a secondhand basis…
Let that thought sink in…
Do you know Jesus for yourself? Or is your only knowledge of Him coming to you secondhand because of the insights /someone else/ has received from His Word?
How long can we go on living off of pre-digested food?
If our only source of knowing Jesus, and if our only supply of spirit-food, comes to us from a preacher on a Sunday morning, then (if I may be so bold), we are a far cry short of being real disciples of Jesus Christ.
We are a starving people… starving for the words of the Lord.
It is like Amos 8:11:
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord,
‘when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'”
The only problem is, there is no reason for us to be starving! Most of us have the Word of God right at our fingertips… but we won’t open it!
I believe we would do well to stop eating physical food every now and then, if necessary, in order to make sure we really set aside time to eat true and lasting food (John 6:35,55)…
As it is written, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
And may I pause and interject? It does not say, “but on /some/ of the words that come from the mouth of the LORD.” It says, “but on /every/ word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” We are not allowed to pick and choose and cut out the words we don’t like!
Believer, would you like to know God? To really know Him?
Then why do you not spend time with Him?
Jesus is earnestly desiring to make His home with you; to fellowship with you; to teach you His perfect ways. But as it is, you need to open the door to Him (Revelation 3:20).
And I’m not talking primarily about salvation here. Believers, too, can have cold hearts and lock Jesus out of their lives… And ultimately, if that’s us, we need to repent — to turn away from all that garbage — and let Jesus back in!
Look, we are, as believers, the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), but that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Even the old Temple was defiled time and again…
“‘Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:11)
We can, even as the Temple of God on this earth, live in such a way that our Temple is “defiled” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:18-20) because of sin in our lives… If we live in sin, our communion with God is inhibited (Psalm 66:18, Proverbs 15:29, Isaiah 1:15).
So, what do we do about it?
Well, the first step, of course, is to confess our sins — to God (1 John 1:9) and to one another (James 5:16).
But, more than this, how do we cleanse and sanctify ourselves? How do we give the Holy Spirit a clean and proper home to dwell in?
The Scripture tells us that Jesus cleanses us “by the washing with water through the word.” Through the what? Through the Word!
Indeed, Jesus even told His own disciples, “You are already clean because of the–” what? “–because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
And again, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
So we see it is God’s Word that washes us and sanctifies us.
But we make excuses as to why we won’t read God’s Word… “Oh, I’m just not smart enough to understand it…” “I’d really like to, but I’m just too busy…” “You know, everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible, so why should I even try to understand it?”
Do you not realize? Man’s thoughts and opinions will fail, but God is always true. It is much better to learn from God Himself than to rely on secondhand wisdom from another man (including me).
Now, am I discounting teachers and preachers? Absolutely not! For God Himself appointed preachers and teachers, among other gifted individuals, in order to strengthen and build up the Body of Christ until it reaches full maturity and unity in the faith (Ephesians 4:11-13).
But what I am saying is that God has already given us everything we need to understand His Word and serve Him properly (2 Peter 1:3).
He says in one place, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
And in another:
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27)
Do you see it? His anointing — His Holy Spirit — teaches us all things (John 16:13) so that we have no need for anyone else to teach us. We have direct access to God by faith (Ephesians 2:18, Romans 5:2).
But what is the condition? “Remain in him” (1 John 2:27, as written above).
And if it is hard to seek God — indeed, if it is hard, perhaps, to find Him — do we give up?
But as it is, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
So we see that if we would really desire to know God, it takes seeking Him wholeheartedly… it takes dedicated perseverance.
Yet thankfully, at the same time, we also see that it is not some infeasible task, but it is truly and totally possible, for God has given us His very Spirit.
As it is written, “‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But /we have/ the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
I could quote a number of other Scriptures to this effect, but do you see what I’m saying? There are no excuses for shying away from God’s Word. It matters not how intelligent one is (1 Corinthians 1:20, Jeremiah 8:9); it matters not where one has gone to school; what matters is communion with God and His Spirit, eating of the true food of His Word.
And none of this is because of our own effort, because the Scripture tells us: “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
So, brother, sister, let us not starve ourselves of true food as we gorge upon the wares of this world. But let us rather do the opposite, forsaking this world and its pleasures for the greater prize before us: knowing Christ (1 John 2:15-17, Philippians 3:8, Hebrews 12:1-3)
I hope this post has been an encouragement to you (and perhaps a kind slap in the rear) to read the Word of God for yourself and not rely solely on pre-digested food and secondhand knowledge of Jesus. If you don’t know where to start in reading the Scriptures, do the simple thing: start at the beginning, the book of Genesis. :)
The Lord Jesus bless you in your pursuit of Him!
One of the greatest tragedies I see in this world is an obsession with leaving true reality in favor of seeking to dwell in a virtual reality…
This may seem like an over-exaggerated statement, but “virtual reality” takes a lot more forms than simply the wearing of a special set of goggles connected to one’s phone.
Some people choose to linger in virtual reality merely by diving into the realm of TV programming instead of engaging in thoughtful conversations with their family.
Some people come into virtual reality by means of drugs or other psychedelic or mind-altering substances, unwilling to face the harsh, cold reality of the depression, anger, and emptiness they find themselves in.
Some people are addicted to the virtual reality presented to them on their phones and cannot even come to a restaurant or a gathering of friends without having their gaze diverted every other moment by the notifications their phone presents.
Yet other people linger on past memories or hopeful wishes for the future, hoping that this virtual reality can somehow manifest itself in the real world.
And while there are certainly other ways in which people often desire to escape the confines of true reality in favor of an alternate, virtual reality — a reality that seems more pleasant to them than the true reality all around them — the consequences of all of these various escapes tend to be alike: they take us away from what is right in front of our faces — this world, its Creator, our sinfulness, our need for redemption, and the love we ought to give to our brothers and sisters on this earth.
People, we need wake up.
Our thoughts have oftentimes been morphed and crafted more by the media and our culture than by the Bible or our families or respected elders.
Now, I know not everyone respects what the Bible has to say, but if you are someone like me who believes that God literally speaks /through/ the Bible, we really ought to read it and listen to what He has to say. It’s a tragedy when we choose instead to listen to our “cool” friends, or all the latest “news,” or all the spectacular things we read on the internet…
We’re deceiving ourselves. None of these things amount to even an ounce of what constitutes “true reality.”
As the Word of God tells us, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
It is the Word of God — the Bible — that is the truth which ought to shape our reality — not culture; not escape-ism; not our peers; not media; not drugs; not TV; not the internet…
It is certainly tempting to come to the side of the unorthodox and unusual, the mystical, the dark… I’ve had some voyages there myself, and in the end, I’ve found them terribly lacking.
I had been seeking to create a reality for myself steeped in dark, poetic, unusual, electronic, eccentric ideals, ignoring in many ways the God who was only a simple thought or prayer away.
It was just like the apostle Paul’s concern: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
Simplicity… See, following God is simple. It’s not /easy/, but it is simple. And it requires getting our heads straight — that is, leaving the false, virtual reality often presented to us, and coming to embrace the realness of true reality; coming to find out who we really are, who God really is, and what the eternal fate of our souls will be.
All these things we find in God’s Word.
May we forsake the virtual reality of our culture and come instead to be grounded in the true reality found in God’s inerrant Word.